On Saturday, March 16th I ventured out to Pugh Hall to attend the “Is Anybody in the Mainstream?” panel. I chose this panel because the papers that were to be presented sounded the most interesting to me; the Zombie Apocalypse, superheroes, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Sign me up! While I’m not a huge comic buff I have seen “The Fantastic Four” movie and I’ve also seen “The Walking Dead”, as well as “Buffy”, on TV. I found a couple of other UF students hiding among what we termed “the real experts” and happily sat with them to listen to the presenters of the panel.Out of the three papers presented I am going to discuss the two that were most interesting (and understandable) to me.
The first paper was by Chris Gavaler of Washington and Lee University. His subject was that the wildly popular “The Walking Dead” series of comics is in fact a thematic reboot of “The Fantastic Four”. His main argument focused on the main family groups and romantic love triangles of each series. For instance both series initially focuses on the love triangle between a weaker woman figure, Laurie and Sue, and two vastly different male figures, Ben and Shane for the aggressive “macho” males and Reed and Rick for the more cautious leaders. Each group was also complicated by the presence of a weaker male relative: Sue’s younger brother Johnny and Laurie’s son Carl. Gavaler, after presenting these initial similarities, continued to flesh out his argument through examples of how gender stereotypes were exploited in both series. Both series presented the main female as being less skilled in combat then her male swains and also they delighted in traditional tasks assigned to females such as dish washing, doing laundry and sewing. After this he tried to link the series again through how the romantic rivals in each series was dealt with. Here his argument became strained because while both series had the woman choose the less aggressive men in “The Walking Dead” Shane was killed and Laurie professed happiness at his passing while in “The Fantastic Four” Ben is simply rehabilitated and he is able to be accepted into the family group as a friend. Over all I really enjoyed his presentation, he had a lot of cool images of the two comics accompanying his presentation and for the most part his argument made since though I’m not sure they really surpass the general repetition of the love triangle theme and remaining gender issues. It seemed as if though the general similarities were undeniable I could probably find the same similarities in other comic series or graphic novels.
The last presenter was Carolyn Cocca from the University of New York and her paper was “’It’s about Power and it’s about Women’: Gender, Power and the political Economy of Superheroes in Wonder Woman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Quite the mouthful. Over all though I really enjoyed her presentation, I hardly even minded that she went way over her allotted time. She first went through Wonder Woman’s history in comics; from her origins to how her costume shrunk due to increased sales. It was an interesting topic and Cocca was entertaining as she presented it, making jokes and making her presentation less of a lecture and more of a conversation. One thing that I enjoyed was that she passed around the comics that she was using in her paper so that we could actually hold them in our hands while also having them projected. Once she got to the 1990’s in Wonder Woman’s history she turned to Buffy and how she reflected WW and a new wave of feminism. She also went over some of their similarities and how they grew to mirror each other in the 2000s.