Not Just Superhero Stories: an Exploration of Comic Books as a Cultural Object with the Ability to Transcend Space



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As of late comic books are again becoming a significant aspect of popular culture. With this rejuvenation of comic books in popular culture has also come a revived interest in them academically. There are many studies that focus on various aspects of comic books such as culture, content, historical value, use as learning aids, etc. (Beaty, 2004; Bitz, 2004; Belk, 1987; Lopes, 2006; Smoodin, 1992; Wright, 2001). Unfortunately there has been an lack of attention paid to the individuals involved with comic books, both as creators and receivers. I address this oversight by focusing on one of these groups, the receivers, or comic book fans. Utilizing Griswold’s (2008) cultural diamond model as a framework I gain insight into the complex bonds that comic book readers form with this cultural object and the cultural world surrounding it. Using data collected from interviews and participant observation I employ Swidler’s (1986; 2001) theory of culture in action to explore the ways that social actors utilize their cultural toolkit. Five strong themes were identified: fans as community, sense of comfort, proselytizing, insider identification and professionalization. Each of these themes exemplifies the ways in which comic book readers engage with comics and use them in their everyday lives.



Sociology of culture, Comic books, Ethnography, Swidler, Culture in action, Cultural objects, Subculture, Fandom, Social objects