Superheroes and the Immigrant Experience (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Rafael Ponce-Cordero (Keene State College)

The superhero-as-outsider has been a narrative told for decades since Superman’s parents sent him on a rocket from Krypton to Earth. The immigration narrative is closely aligned with extraterrestrial heroes, including refugees such as the Martian Manhunter and Icon. Yet a superhero does not have to be from another planet to experience the process of immigration: in just X-Men, Charles Xavier, Deadpool, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm all work outside their nations of birth, and Magneto forms Genosha as an international sanctuary for mutants. Recent films such as Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther examine the challenges of being forced out of one’s home and taking on the role of an exile. How has the superhero served as a metaphor for immigration? How have the experiences of immigrant writers, illustrators, and audiences influenced our interpretations of these texts? How have recent works such as Marvel’s Runaways and DC’s Super-Sons depicted experiences of second-generation citizens of extraterrestrial descent such as Karolina Dean and Superman’s son Jon Kent? This session will examine immigration in multiple contexts, including US superheroes migrating to other countries, metaphorical representations of immigrants’ experiences, and how real-life policies and prejudices are addressed in the more fantastical worlds of superheroes.
The superhero-as-outsider has been a narrative told for decades since Superman’s parents sent him on a rocket from Krypton to Earth. Often, with new powers and new identities comes the challenge of adapting to new locations, whether inter- or intra-planetary. How has the superhero served as a metaphor for the experiences of characters, creators, and audiences who are immigrants (or of immigrant descent)? This session will examine immigration in multiple contexts, including US superheroes migrating to other countries, metaphorical representations of immigrants’ experiences, and how real-life policies and prejudices are addressed in the more fantastical worlds of superheroes.