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State of the Field of Ethnic Politics and Conflict



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States, Superheroes and
Storytellers:Human Rights
through Comics and Graphic
Christian Davenport
Exposed as a young child, I came to realize that the Silver Surfer’s story was an
immensely tragic one (you might have seen him: thin guy, all silver, rides a
surfboard through space). Here you have a being whose whole world is threat-
ened with destruction and (s)he alone hold the key to the survival of their spe-
cies. The threat is from none other than the world eater known as Galactus – a
being who feeds itself by moving through the universe(s) eating worlds (most
likely you have not seen him: a guy as big as the Empire State Building, wears
a brown, funny hat). Galactus found the planet that he threatened (the Silver
Surfer’s world) by accident. It merely lay on the way he was traversing. The
world itself was as advanced as one could imagine. This world in many ways
epitomized the best that one could possibly achieve in the area of technology,
politics, economics, education and health (like Superman’s planet). The Silver
Surfer does not simply accept the fate of global destruction. Rather, he strikes a
deal to save his world, which was as Faustian as one could imagine. Galactus
agrees to not swallow the Silver Surfer’s planet if he would serve as a slave for
him and find a different meal – a different planet for Galactus to devour. And
thus began the Silver Surfer’s journey as well as the comic series itself.
While set remotely in some far distant galaxy, the Silver Surfer, Galactus and
the Faustian bargain between the two are quickly brought to the attention of the
reading audience when the Surfer discovers Earth. At that moment the planet is
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threatened with complete destruction. Again, the inhabitants of the world being
threatened attempt to defend themselves, but they are unable to do so as they are
confronted with superior power – this time wielded by the Silver Surfer, but with
Galactus’ impending arrival as backdrop. Unlike the Silver Surfer’s world, how-
ever, on Earth there is a champion that is capable of defending the planet from
the world eater: the Silver Surfer himself. In the series, the Silver Surfer is
reminded of the woman he loves by Sue Storm (the invisible girl) of the
Fantastic Four – a woman that he was forced to leave when Galactus forced him
to do so. In a bold but eventually fatal move the Silver Surfer deters Galactus
from eating the Earth and all earthlings are saved (of course without properly
thanking the Silver Surfer). Unfortunately, however, the Silver Surfer does not
destroy Galactus, and indeed Galactus condemns him to the world that he pro-
tected (but really does not appreciate the effort). Oh, he also then proceeds to
destroy the very world that the Silver Surfer had initially sworn himself to pro-
tect: his own, condemning the very woman that Sue Storm reminded him of.
Now, at no point in the series were the words ‘human rights’ or, in the case of
this chapter, human rights violations ever used, but I will venture to suggest that
they literally and figuratively animate the storyline of not just the Silver Surfer
but of many comics as well – especially, as discussed within this chapter, the
superhero genre, which is by far the most popular of the comic genres available.
Indeed, if one understands human rights (as a category of phenomenon) and
violations of human rights (as the discrete activities related to the worsening of
these categories) as composed of civil and political rights as well as economic,
social and cultural rights as provided as well as protected by political authorities
(for example, Goodhart, 2013), then I will suggest that comics represent one of
the clearest articulations of the principles involved and this is done in two genres
in particular.
On the one hand, there are superheroes (for example, Bongco, 2000; Coogan,
2006; Klock, 2002), a genre that emerges in the absence of political authority
and coercive monopolization by governments. I will maintain that superheroes
come into existence as characters and as a genre because of state failure/incapac-
ity and viciousness. Because of an inability of political authorities to protect
those within their jurisdiction (country or planet in the case of the Silver Surfer),
it is necessary for other entities, other beings, to come forward and to protect
human beings – as a species. In so doing, superheroes become the defenders of
human rights and, as such, superheroes are perhaps the ultimate human rights
defenders (that is, super defenders, if you will). Cue the image of a superman
but not with an ‘s’ on his chest but an AI for Amnesty International or HRW for
Human Rights Watch – cape flapping in the breeze, and you have the idea.
The superhero genre is not the only way that human rights violations find
themselves in comics. More recently and increasingly gaining popularity, human
rights lie at the core of a new genre of comics as well: political graphic novels
like Maus, Palestine and V for Vendetta (Moore and Lloyd, 1988; Sacco, 2001;
Spiegelman, 1973, 1986). More realistic and intricately tied to actual human
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rights violations, this new genre has emerged as a new form of comic meets
journalism meets memoir. These stories are no less tragic than that of the Silver
Surfer but these stories do not originate on other planets. They are very much
human and earthly creations, revealing some of the most violent and tragic
events ever recorded. As above, graphic novels come into existence as a function
of state failure. Because of not only an inability of political authorities to protect
those within their jurisdiction but an outright hostility towards the humans they
come in contact with, governments emerge as the lead characters within this
genre. In this case, the writers and the lead characters become the ultimate
defenders of human rights as they give voice to the horror that befalls the victims
of personal integrity violations.
Within this chapter, I will begin by discussing what human rights violations
are, as popularly conceived. I will discuss what comics are generally as well as
superhero comics and political graphic novels. This is followed by a discussion
of how I believe comics embody human rights violations and then illustrate
diverse ways that comics do so. My discussion of particular cases will be more
thematic in nature. I conclude by identifying what remains to be done with
regards to understanding human rights within comics. As conceived, this chapter
is generally similar to the way that other topics have been covered in comics
such as war (Witek, 1996), race (for example, Davenport, 1997; Howard and
Jackson, 2013) and, of course, superheroes (for example, Klock, 2002). I cannot
find anything explicitly on the topic of human rights and comics, unless one
considers the repression of the comic industry and comics themselves (for example,
Nyberg, 1998).
Why consider depictions of human rights in comics? The reasons abound.
First, there is perhaps no medium that is as popular around the world and with
crossovers being made into film, video and video games it appears that the influ-
ence will only continue to grow. Second, comics’ scholarship lags far behind
film, fine art, literature and other art forms. It is about time to try and catch up.
Third, if the children are the future and comics are widely read by children (as
well as increasingly by adults) and this group is disproportionately involved in
both efforts of social change as rebels, insurgents, terrorists and dissidents as
well as efforts of social control as police officers, military personnel and militia
members, then it might be useful to see what is presented in this medium as well
as why. This chapter should be viewed as a beginning, an opening in this regard.
My selection of comics will be limited as will be the depth with which I discuss
each story.
A definition has been offered by Scott McCloud, for example:
Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information
and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer. (McCloud, 2007: 9)
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 481 05-May-14 5:00:55 PM
AQ1:1993 in
references, which is
correct, or is there a
missing McCloud 2009
CD: 1993 is correct
Unfortunately, such a definition has not been uniformly well received (for example,
Horrocks, 2001). Indeed, some seem to be vehemently opposed to such enterprise
completely. For example, Wolk states that:
I’m not going to define comics here, because if you have picked up this book and have not been
spending the last century trapped inside a magic lantern, you already pretty much know what
they are, and ‘pretty much’ is good enough. (Wolk, 2007: 18)
Wolk is not simply trying to be an artist and vague but he is actually trying to
make an interesting point. As he states somewhat later on the same page:
If you tried to draw a boundary that includes everything that counts as comics and excludes
everything that doesn’t, two things happen: first, the medium always wriggles across that
boundary, and second, whatever politics are implicit in the definition always boomerang on the
definer. (As Horrock points out, although McCloud’s definition counts photo-booth strips and
Hogarth’s etchings as comics, it deliberately excludes single-panel cartoons like ‘Dennis the
Menace,’ and McCloud has tried to distance himself from the idea that it includes illustrated
children’s books. (Wolk, 2007:18)
Clearly the imbalance here between human rights and comics is understandable.
The former quite frequently needs to be defended in court. It needs to mobilize
individuals who must put their lives at risk and thus you would expect a certain
precision and clarity with regards to what was involved. Human rights have also
been discussed for hundreds if not thousands of years. In contrast, comics have
only recently been discussed in a serious and rigorous manner.
This said, there are certain parameters that we can set with regards to what I
mean by comics. First, like Wolk, I am interested in sustained narratives and thus
I am not interested in single panels. Rather, I am interested in visual/written/
sensory storytelling that attempts to develop plot, characters and somewhat
complex themes over a series of pages (time is implied as this must be expended
as one moves from page to page). The way that comics do all of this is distinct
and thus I wholeheartedly support Wolk’s point that:
Comics are not prose. Comics are not movies. They are not a text driven medium with added
pictures; they’re not the visual equivalent of prose or a static version of film. They are their own
thing: a medium with its own devices, its own innovators, its own clichés, its own genres and
traps and liberties. The first step toward attentively reading and fully appreciating comics is
acknowledging that. (Wolk, 2007: 14)
My second point is that not all stories belong to or can be expected within com-
ics. Rather, like other mediums, they borrow from the stories that already exist
around them. In the language of social movements, by drawing upon the most
‘resonant’ themes within a culture, the objective is to tap into some meta-narra-
tive with which people are already familiar and sympathetic (Benford and Snow,
2000). Or, in a different literature (like that put forward by Joseph Campbell),
the objective is to find something like a ‘monomyth’, a basic pattern found
across cultures/people’s narratives. Accordingly, I am interested in stories that
touch upon themes concerning human rights in the broadest sense identified
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 482 05-May-14 5:00:55 PM
AQ3: Should this
be Horrocks?
CD: yes, Horrocks
AQ2:Please add
closing bracket at the end
of the quote, with an
ellipsis before the closing
bracket if the quote is
CD: the "(" should not be
in this sentence.
above. Towards this end, I will not discuss particular genres of comics such as
romance, horror, science fiction or crime. This is not to say that the genres do
not address human rights. For I believe that many of them do. Rather, I wish to
focus my attention on the genres that I believe focus most explicitly on the topic
of interest: superhero comics and political graphic novels.
Hayden White once wrote that ‘so natural is the impulse to narrate, so inevitable
is the form of narrative for any report of the ways things really happen, that
narrativity could appear problematic only in a culture in which it was absent –
or, as in some domains of contemporary Western intellectual and artistic culture,
programmatically refused’ (White, 1987: 1). As such, it should come as no sur-
prise that human rights in general and human rights violations in particular find
their way into comics because both human rights as well as comics are largely
actor and action driven, the core of any good story.
What is a story though? Charles Tilly in a crafty little piece entitled ‘The
Trouble with Stories’ provides the following outline:
To construct a standard story, start with a limited number of interacting characters, individual or
collective. Your characters may be persons, but they may also be organizations such as churches
and states or even abstract categories such as social classes and regions. Treat your characters
as independent, conscious and self-motivated. Make all their significant actions occur as conse-
quences of their own deliberations or impulses. Limit the time and space within which your
characters interact. With the possible exception of externally generated accidents – you can call
them ‘chance’ or ‘acts of God’ – make sure everything happens results directly from your char-
acters’ actions. (Tilly, 2002b)
Now supply your characters with specific motives, capacities and resources.
Furnish the time and place within which they are interacting with objects you
and they can construe as barriers, openings, threats, opportunities and tools – as
facilities and constraints bearing on their action. Set your characters in motion.
From their starting point, make sure all their actions follow your rules of plau-
sibility. Trace the accumulated effects of their actions to some interesting out-
come. Better yet, work your way backwards from some interesting outcome,
following all the same rules. Congratulations: you have just constructed a stand-
ard story! (Tilly, 2002b)
Comics, like all storytelling mediums, involve the same elements. Characters
are essential as they are what the comic is about. They have consciousness,
motives, feelings and much of the comic is about what they do or, for the more
developed ones, why they do what they do. Characters exist in a place and a
time – although these are played with more than in the stories Tilly is discuss-
ing (that is, with alternative universes, different planets, underwater and under-
ground). Most things that happen are the result of what characters do, but acts
of God do occur and, occasionally, the characters are gods. Added to this is the
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fact that the story is read over a period of time, increasingly with an audience
that has less and less attention.
Human rights also have a story as well (for example, Anthonissen and
Blommaert, 2007). Characters are again essential as they are essentially what
human rights are about. Here, governments violate rights or fail to protect them
from some evil actor and innocent civilians are victimized. All have motives, feel-
ings and consciousness but not necessarily consciences. Characters and relevant
actions take place within designated territories (normally nation states). All things
happen as the result of what characters do and if God is involved at all it is nor-
mally believed that he/she/it are/is absent when rights are violated. Time plays an
interesting role here. Although rights violations could persist over long periods of
time, because of something referred to as ‘compassion fatigue’, individuals who
tell these tales attempt to focus discussion to shorter-term bursts of activity in order
to not lose the audience, that is, ordinary citizens, journalists, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), funders and policymakers (Moeller, 1999).
With this orientation, it is clear that some human rights are more likely to be
covered than others and, additionally, some aspects of human rights are more
likely to be found in comics than others.
For example, I would argue that economic, social and cultural rights – especially
those viewed as conditions more than activities (often conceived of as ‘structural
violence’), are less likely to be seen because the actors involved are less clear
(for example, who is responsible for a leak in a nuclear reactor that seeps into
the nearby river), the actions involved are less dramatic (for example, is each
drop a violation of human rights or an event) and the time dimension involved
with their use is slow/drawn-out (for example, it may take weeks, months, years
and/or decades for the different impacts to manifest). These all make for a less
interesting ‘story’ in a relatively dynamic, visual medium such as comics and
thus they are not often found. There are instances of this (as I will reveal below),
but these are normally of secondary interest.
In contrast, civil and political rights – especially those viewed as activities, are
more likely to be seen because the actors are clear as well as familiar (that is,
governments or armed challengers), the actions are highly dramatic and gener-
ally feared (for example, torture and terrorism) and the time dimension involved
with their use is immediate.
From this, we would anticipate that the following would frequently be seen in
comics: that is, taking life, enacting discrimination, violating private life,
restricting thought, belief and education, messing with other people’s property,
engaging in trials and torture, restricting expression as well as abusing refugees
and displaced individuals.
The difference between the types of rights identified above is important for
it signifies something very specific in the political-science literature and it
reveals the centrality to this field of any coverage that related phenomena
would receive in comics or elsewhere. As popularly conceived and frequently
theorized, human rights violations are normally viewed as some deficiency
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AQ4: Moeller 1999
is not listed in
references. Please
add entry.
CD: Moeller, Susan.
1999. Compassion
Fatigue: How the
Media Sell Disease,
Famine, War and
Death. New York:
within the political system, something that signifies that something is wrong.
This applies both to when governments essentially turn on their citizens by kill-
ing, torturing, beating and terrorizing them directly (a context is very state-ful)
or when they allow such behaviours to occur without sufficiently responding to
them (a context that is very state-less – often referred to as state failure). As
such, we find that the government’s interest in as well as ability to provide
political order (that is, subjugation of non-state uses of violence) largely sets
the parameters of not only human freedom but also the types of characters as
well as actions that one would likely come across when they told the story of
what transpired. When states are the predominate/superordinate wielder of
political violence making/using, then they are the lead actor in the human rights
scenario and accordingly they would be the lead actor in any comics discussing
this topic. When states are not the predominate/superordinate wielder of politi-
cal violence making/using, however, then this literally opens the door to a wide
variety of actors and actions to come forward: for example, superheroes and
illustrating/journalistic/memoir-writing authors. In short, state power or the
lack thereof facilitates and even prompts one of the most historically important
comic genres (superheroes) and has seemingly prompted the development of
one of the newest as well as increasingly popular (political graphic novels).
To begin, I would like to talk about the breach and stepping into it. In this regard
there is no better way to start such a discussion than the X-Men, perhaps one of
the most famous comic books and characters in history including Wolverine,
Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey/Phoenix, Nightcrawler and the Beast.
The central characters and thus the core around which the X-Men story is written
concerns a group of individuals in a highly stylized, full colour and tight-wearing
Sports Illustrated model character format that exists on the planet Earth. These char-
acters – called mutants – are very much similar to humans. In fact, one would not be
able to tell any difference – in most cases, except if one explored the genetic struc-
ture of the being. In the comic, mutants are born with something called an X-gene.
This makes them something other than human, giving them supernatural capabili-
ties. Accordingly, some referred to them as ‘homo superiors’, juxtaposing them
against Homo sapiens, who have no powers. Harking back to the description above,
this broadly serves as the random-chance incident or act of God because most of the
characters that are mutants in the X-Men series had no say in whether they initially
became mutants or not. But what they decide to do with their powers is up to them.
And, what humans decide to do with their lack of powers is also up to them.
Confronted with mysterious and different beings among them, humans in the
X-Men series respond as they have quite frequently to those who are different
from them (based on differences of gender, race/ethnicity, nationality, class or
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 485 05-May-14 5:00:55 PM
AQ5: Can
references be
included for these?
CD: No. Not
necessary as I am
not referencing a
single book or
comic but a 40 year
sexual orientation). Treated like circus freaks, strangers, outsiders and those
deserving of derision, hatred and fear, humans begin to discriminate against the
mutants. Indeed, throughout the pages of the X-Men series one is confronted with
a wide variety of discriminatory practices, bringing back to mind everything from
small backhanded comments in bars to political banning for association to outright
destruction. Every origin, every character created for this series ends up emerging
out of some horrifically violent and/or discriminatory past. In a sense, the path to
the X-Men is paved with repression. Perhaps the one that stands out the most for
me is the story of Nightcrawler – a German, athletic individual and transporter that
happens to be blue as well as tattooed with angels (you cannot make this stuff up
or, rather, you can but it has already been done). Nightcrawler was shunned,
abused and found a life as a circus freak to avoid the scorn and weapon-wielding
mobs (like in Frankenstein), which he discovered when he was out and about in
the regular world. Indeed, it was not until the X-Men found him that he felt
human/mutant(ish): whole, respected and safe. Unable to be protected from the
violence of humankind, Nightcrawler found peace amidst the X-Men.
Figure 27.1 Cover of X-Men #209
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The mutant response to all their persecution was twofold but both emerged
from the same inability of political authorities to protect their community. In
short, the X-Men were born in the inability of government to protect mutants as
a species and as sociopolitical beings. Very much mirroring life of the 1960s
(when they were created), the divergent opinions emerged as popularly under-
stood, polar opposites (Cone, 1991). On the one hand, there was the character
that was seemingly based on Martin Luther King – Prof. X, for Xavier. Xavier
believed that those with special powers (like the Spiderman series) had special
responsibility. In this case, they were endowed with great powers through some
freak accident of evolution in order to help mankind and save them from them-
selves. This is done for love of the human race. On the other hand, there was the
character that was seemingly based on Malcolm X – Magneto. Magneto believed
that those with special powers also had a special responsibility, but differing
from Prof. X he believed the principal responsibility was to protect themselves –
first and foremost. Broadly hating the human race, Magneto believed that it was
destiny for mutants to not try to live with humans, fear them and hide in the
shadows so as to try to survive. Rather, he believed that through divine provi-
dence, homo superior was intended to govern the world, lead the humans and
make them rue the day that they ever subjugated the mutants.
Both sentiments resulted in institutions, which provide the main vehicle for
the series to progress as members come and go. In the case of Prof. X, we have
the now extremely well-known X-Men – the title of the series itself. Following
Xavier’s vision, this group (very much like a social movement or gang) identi-
fies, recruits and trains mutants to be a force for good: that is, protecting both
mutants and humans alike. In the case of Magneto, however, we have a different
institutional setting. Here, we have the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Following
Magneto’s vision, this group identifies, recruits and trains mutants as well but
they are viewed as a force for evil: that is, protecting mutants and ignoring or
subjugating humans. Of course, over the 40-year time span of the series the
people and organizations are not so neatly divided. Members frequently change
sides. At some point, Magneto ends up taking over the X-Men after Prof. X is
killed, where he promises to follow in Xavier’s footsteps. Over time, this does
not quite work out (no one really expects it to). Accordingly, Magneto returns to
his old beliefs and the X-Men factionalize upon being confronted with the alter-
native vision – leaving the X-Men to continue Prof. X’s path and X-factor to
follow Magneto’s new/old one.
Is it odd that one of the most important comics concerning human rights
involves non-humans? I do not think so. Stories concerning individuals that
were non-human (that is, the gods, God and aliens) are frequently used to com-
municate and entertain a human audience. Indeed, the foreign nature of the
characters frequently allows the reader to distance themselves from their own
lives and better see the point of the story.
There are, of course, other instances when characters in comics step into the
breach of state failure and incapacity. For example, the Avengers were created as
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AQ6: Should f be
capped in factor?
CD: Yes
a group of superbeings who were capable of defeating ‘the foes no single super-
hero can withstand’, which is something akin to their tag line. Notice of course the
tagline does not mention ‘the foes no single nation state can withstand’ because
that is a foregone conclusion. Only superbeings can counter superbeings.
Governments are simply outmatched and thus all within their jurisdiction are a
potential hostage to every supervillain within reach. As Hobbes ([1651] 1997)
suggests that civilians hand over power, authority and coercive monopolization to
some central governing authority in order to ward off non-state actors who might
potentially engage in destructive behaviour, within the comic world civilians are
once again asked to hand over power, authority and coercive monopolization but,
in this context, to superheroes (Hobbes, [1651] 1997). In a sense, the Leviathan is
substituted for a superman; state failure gives way to human saviour.
Political graphic novels offer something of a different spin on this. For example,
in V for Vendetta, a post-apocalyptic story set in the late 1980s of London, the lead
character (V) was beaten, arrested and imprisoned by a group that represented the
unification of all right-wing hate groups as well as some corporate sponsors called
Norsefire and later experimented upon by a group of doctors at a place called the
Larkhill Resettlement Camp (again cue the image of the partially naked victims of
the Holocaust standing near the barbed wire fence). We do not know exactly why
V is taken but we do know that at the time and place all non-heterosexual
(‘nancyboys’), radical (‘beatniks’) individuals were treated similarly (Moore and
Lloyd, 1988: 28). V does not die, however – differing from most of those like
himself that were placed in the medical experimental area. Rather, V outwits his
captors, escapes and decides how to not only get back at his former captors but
also to free all of the repressed people that lived under the authoritarian hand of
Norsefire. In short, since the government no longer not only protected the people
under its jurisdiction but went out of its way to repress them in diverse ways,
something outside of the state system was needed. Differing from the X-Men
story, however, this time there was no superhero – although it would be reasonable
to say that V was somewhat extraordinary. Rather, V was portrayed as something
of an exceptional Everyman. He was gifted, yes, but something that everyone
(with the proper motivation and training) could become: a freedom fighter.
In Palestine (Sacco, 2001), a graphic novel of recent life within this part of the
world, a similar situation exists where a nation state turns against those within
their territorial jurisdiction because individuals there are subject to monitoring,
harassment, raids, targeted assassination, eviction and bombing at the hands of
Israelis, both officially (as soldiers) and unofficially (as settlers) (Sacco, 2001).
Human life in the situation described is barely liveable. The individuals there have
no integrity of the person as well as no civil and political rights; just memories of
one horrible thing after another. In this black and white, chaotically explosive
cultural-political immersion, the lead character in this story is much less excep-
tional than V; actually this is the point. The character (a slightly ambitious, largely
unsympathetic Everyman) moves around Palestine attempting to find stories that
would be good for his graphic novel and, occasionally, something that would be
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good to sell to a newspaper or magazine. Accordingly, he plunges into the breach
(a stateless zone or rather a stateful zone turned against individuals) in an effort to
make a buck and a name for himself.
As large-scale mass killing, atrocities and genocide are the worst violations of
human rights that can be undertaken – the ‘crime of all crimes’, it makes sense
that they would find their way into comics – becoming the ‘story of all stories’.
Accordingly, one finds large-scale life taking to be a common theme.
Within the X-Men, for example, there are numerous ways that this topic is
addressed. For example, built into the origin of one of the lead characters of the
X-Men – Magneto is a connection with the Holocaust – perhaps the most well
known of all genocides. In a series of flashbacks one comes to understand that
Magneto had direct experience with it, being in a death camp, and as a conse-
quence was exposed to horrors from which he never quite recovers. Most nota-
bly this includes his mother being killed in his presence. At that moment, while
still believing that he is a Homo sapiens, he loses faith in humanity and under-
stands that there is no one to protect the vulnerable beings of the world. Thus
once he discovers he has powers and is homo superior he has no qualms and
acting punishment against those who previously wronged him and seeks never
to be placed in a vulnerable situation like a death camp again.
The Holocaust theme is also seen within the storyline concerning the fictional
country called Genosha – an island somewhere off the coast of Africa but in an
alternative universe. Within this country commune population is enslaved and
used by an individual named David Moreau (the Genengineer). Although clearly
mutants, Genosha introduces ‘mutates’ who are artificially created (to be subser-
vient) and not the natural beings that mutants are. In the Genosha series there are
repeated references being made back to the Holocaust, including the horrific
images of individuals behind fences, juxtaposed against references to American
slavery (the first or second worst human rights violation commonly known to
Americans) with whippings and beatings being employed frequently to motivate
the slave population to work.
Confronted with Genosha there are numerous attempts made by diverse
X-Men to free the population, immediately rescuing those that have been kid-
napped from the regular world and taken but later to liberate the population
more generally. Perhaps one of the more interesting moments is when Genosha
is finally freed and governed by Magneto who, like other black nationalists that
he was modelled on, finally gets to govern a separate territory, exclusively com-
posed of those from his identity group. While protection for the persecuted
resides at the core of the superhero genre as discussed above, it becomes some-
thing completely different when the defender of the persecuted becomes the
government. Here we see a new take on the old adage that power corrupts
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 489 05-May-14 5:00:56 PM
AQ7: Please check.
Some text is
- he has no qualms
with enacting
- Within this country/
commune the mutant
- kidnapped from the
horrible world but
later they attempt to
liberate the
population more
absolutely because in this case we see that superpower corrupts even more so,
but never fear there are more superbeings to remove the corrupted ones – thus
allowing the story to continue and more comics to be sold.
The Holocaust itself is addressed in perhaps the most-awarded graphic novel
in history: Maus, volumes I (A Survivor’s Tale) and II (And Here My Troubles
Began), which won a Pulitizer prize in 1992 (Spiegelman, 1973, 1986). In this
story, the lead character (Art Spiegelman) simultaneously tries to interact with
his father as an old man (Vladek Spiegelman, a victim of the Holocaust) and
recreate his story of survival through the genocide itself. Graphically, Maus
could be no more different from the X-Men. The graphic novel is black and
white, stark and largely simplistic with the Jews as mice, Germans as cats and
Poles as pigs. When one character tries to pretend that they are another (for
example, a Jew attempts to be a Pole), they wear a mask. The darkness makes a
point of the situation but the black and white seemingly betrays any sense of
simplicity as nothing is as it appears.
Jumping back and forth in time, the book is punctuated with many killings of
varied number (for example, within volume I there is the killing of 600 people on
page 61, an untold number on page 80, 4 hung on page 83, 2 gassed on page 87,
an untold number on page 91, an untold number on 109, potentially 10,000 on
page 112 and an untold number on 124). Volume I addresses the earlier part of
the Holocaust where there are deaths, but nothing approaches Volume II, which
addresses the latter period; indeed, by the time Vladek gets into a camp and
smoke moves through chimneys daily up into the air, the reader knows that the
death toll increases. First generation type rights are not the only ones presented
in Maus. The story is also filled with images of the now-familiar death camps and
ghettos, which brought with it slower murders – deprivation of food, water, health
care and housing (like those addressed by other categories of rights).
Perhaps the most prominent discriminatory activity undertaken within comics
recently concerns the Civil War series, published between 2006–07 (Millar et al.,
2008). The set-up was simultaneously simple (drawing from daily life) as well as
brilliant. It starts with a reality television show that is a superhero version of a
bounty hunter show, where a superteam called the New Warriors tracks down
criminals and arrests them on live television. Unfortunately, during one episode a
supervillain named Nitro decides to blow himself up, killing several hundred inno-
cent humans instead of being captured by some ‘idiots from a Reality TV show’
(Millar et al., 2008: 5). The after-effect was significant. This action revealed not
only that amazingly lethal superbeings walked among everyday folk but also that
the government could do nothing to protect the human citizens – especially when
the superbeings went after one another (which was in part determined by the fact
that the government was not able to deal with the superpowers in the first place).
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 490 05-May-14 5:00:56 PM
Interestingly, the citizens started becoming intolerant of the superbeings’ presence
and even occasionally lashed out against them. In response, the US government
decided to register all superbeings and render them government employees (subject
to the accountability and training protocols of all civil servants) or to be considered
criminals and be arrested. In essence, the US government issued a ban on ‘super-
people’ – by their very nature of being a particular type of person/being/entity they
were subject to a restrictive form of legislation which mandated that they be identi-
fied (that is, unmasked), catalogued, trained, certified, paid and monitored as well
as limited in terms of what they can do. Essentially, they were going to create a
federal force of 50 superteams to cover the 50 states. How would you find the
superbeings as well as deal with those that did not want to go along? To do this, the
government had to create a police squad they refer to as the Anti-Superhuman
Response Unit. Who is in this Unit? Well, superheroes – of course. At first just
superheroes but after a while, in an effort to get an advantage, former supervillains
who had been issued a pardon for their participation in the great round-up. Where
are the rebels placed? On the moon. And, thus, the civil war begins with each
Figure 27.2 Cover of
Civil War
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 491 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
character in the Marvel Universe choosing a side. The pro-registration group being
led by Iron Man and the anti-registration group being led by Captain America.
While Civil War (the comic) presented one big human rights violation, which
set the stage for hundreds of others in its wake, Palestine – the graphic novel –
presents itself as one form of discrimination after another (Sacco, 2001). As the
author seeks their stories, they come across an Israeli roadblock, someone who
has been shot by an Israeli soldier or government proxy (Jewish settler). Then
there are the numerous people with wounds. The grittier the better, we are fre-
quently told by the author. In one chapter, ‘Public and Private Wounds’, we are
told of how Palestinians reveal their wounds to an outsider in order to get their
story of government victimization and political violence told, and the author
literally eats it up in some bizarre voyeuristic indulgence. ‘Gunshot injuries!
Broken bones! Amputees! ... The Intifada you can count!’ he bellows at one
point (Sacco, 2001: 30). Over the next few pages one is shown three leg
wounds, someone who had their intestine and liver shot up, someone lying on
their stomach, suggesting that they were shot in the back, and someone shot in
a schoolyard. It does not end there and this is seemingly part of Sacco’s point.
Displaying shot by shot, beating by beating, raid by raid Palestinian victimiza-
tion at the hand, foot, gun barrel of Israeli coercive force, the graphic novel
overwhelms you with horror after horror, human rights violation after human
rights violation with relentless persistence. It does not end, in a sense, until it
does – abruptly and, seemingly, awkwardly because there is no resolution.
In the dark, post-apocalyptic revenge graphic novel V for Vendetta, the state is
as totalitarian as one can imagine, complete with a sophisticated and compre-
hensive repressive apparatus. Here, there are numerous divisions: the eye (the
video surveillance), the mouth (the voice of the dictatorship appropriately
called the ‘voice of fate’), the ears (the phone surveillance unit) and the nose
(the CSI/forensic analysis of the government who conducts investigations)
composing the head as well as the ‘fingermen’ (the policing apparatus which
handles the physical coercion). All work in concert under the ‘leader’ (Adam
Susan), a troubled figure who sits before dozens of monitors that appear to see
all that transpires in the relevant domain – a situation that although seemingly
factual is untrue and serves as their greatest weakness. Citizens are told ‘every
hour on the hour’ by the voice of fate what happened that day as well as what
will happen with incredible precision (for example, ‘the weather will be fine
until 12:07am when a show will commence’ (Moore and Lloyd, 1988: 90)).
Books, films, paintings and all music (but not military marches) have been
destroyed – the means of inspiration, creativity, communication and feeling.
There is one belief: fascism. As the leader explains (being driven in a limou-
sine through empty streets but for the military guards standing around):
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 492 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ8: Please check
this sentence; if the
person who has been
shot is the roadblock,
then it's OK; if not,
then needs rephrasing
CD: "As Sacco pursues
interesting stories, he
comes across an Israeli
roadblock where
someone had been
shot by an Israeli
soldier or government
proxy (entitled "Jewish
The Romans invented fascism. A bundle of bound twigs was its symbol. One twig could be
broken. A bundle would prevail. Fascism … strength in unity. I believe in strength. I believe in
unity (he continues to raised heil Hitlers as he exits the car). And if that strength, that unity of
purpose, demands a uniformity of thought, word and deed then so be it. I will not hear talk of
freedom. I will not hear talk of individual liberty. They are luxuries. I do not believe in luxuries.
The war (there is always some world war) put paid to luxury. The war put paid to freedom.
(Moore and Lloyd, 1988: 37)
Accordingly (spoiler alert), the key to V for Vendetta is how to restore freedom
of thought and belief (that is, how to restore human rights). The key to this
objective is to create hope: a rather elusive idea – especially if one is starting
from scratch after political devastation through war. Despite the difficulty, V
does this, however, through systematically undermining the totalitarian state
piece by piece. Towards this end, he takes away the voice of fate, he destroys the
images of power (for example, statues, rituals), he darkens the state’s vision of
society by taking over its surveillance and he engages in as well as inspires little
acts of anarchy to show freedom and resistance (for example, graffiti over the
government’s sign ‘Strength Through Purity, Purity Through Faith’ and by
blowing up sacred objects). Equally as important, as he takes apart the state, V
also builds the new citizen (Evie) and, accordingly, the basis for the new state.
Evie (like Eve) is the first citizen; she is a woman that is intelligent, aware of the
world as it should be (that is, filled with poetry, thoughts of democracy, music
and fine art), trained in the art of terrorism/liberation and armed to the teeth.
Human rights prevail.
In another graphic novel, NIL: A Land Beyond Belief by James Turner, we find
a strange world of yet another totalitarian system in black and white complete
with odd bland-looking, distorted creatures and a state-sponsored belief in noth-
ing (literally: the nation’s slogan is ‘In Nothing We Trust’), repressive agents
who are demons from hell (again, literally), who are led by the Hypocripope and
his Uncardinals (‘praise nothing’ is their catchphrase as they conduct their ‘non-
prayers’) (James Turner, 2005). The main character (Null) works on the govern-
ment’s ‘deconstruction’ ship Derrida (the pride of the fleet), which is run on the
flatulence produced by someone reading Raltson Saul, Naomi Klein and the
mother lode of rhetoric: Anne Coulter and Noam Chomsky. Directly related to
the topic of thought and belief control, the job of the Derrida is to find ideas
(memes) and, with the huge blades of a buzz saw sitting under the floating ship,
destroy them before they spread. Memes of fascism, communism and other
‘great edifices of false idealism’ such as ‘Lockean arches, Solonian colonnades,
and Jeffersonian modeling’ pop up from nothing into diverse pillars and build-
ings, only to be eliminated by the Derrida (Turner, 2005: 57).
This leaves the citizens with, well, nothing – which is the point. The govern-
ment wishes to eliminate thought and belief itself. The result is a citizenry with
‘No ideology, no beliefs, except unbelief. We all fight the system. We work to
reveal hypocrisy, and remain true to ourselves. Faith blinds, it warps, it distorts;
how can you see if you’re blinkered by belief? I mean, come on, man!’ (Turner,
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 493 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
2005: 95). A bartender adds his two cents to the conversation: ‘Society is an
edifice of exploitation, and civilization the bludgeon of the privileged. To
believe is to endorse hypocrisy, to aspire to embrace it …’ (Turner, 2005: 95).
The conversation then continues as the associates of the lead character try to talk
them out of believing: ‘Don’t lose disbelief, man. Faith, faith in anything,
whether it be religion or secular humanism – just means you don’t want to know
the truth! Don’t fall asleep!’ (Turner, 2005: 95).
Torture is as ubiquitous in comics as the scene in James Bond films where the evil
genius lays out how they plan to destroy the world before being foiled completely.
One such example is that found in the comic DMZ. In this story, a colourful hip-
hoppy explosion where inner-city setting meets insurgent–counter-insurgent
dynamics, a civil war in the US breaks out with militia groups rising in Montana,
the middle states, New Jersey and several other ‘Free States’ to protest against the
foreign activities of the government while the US retains most of the country,
including Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. Manhattan is a demilitarized zone,
or DMZ, as neither the rebels nor the government are capable of taking it. The
story thus takes place again in the breach of statelessness or state incapacity. In this
context, we see torture seemingly anywhere that rebels are captured.
In one scene the lead character (Matty Roth) – one of the rebels and, in fact,
the lead spokesperson for them – is captured after months on the run (Wood and
Zezelj, 2010). As five or six soldiers hold Roth down, they joke about being in
the blog that he has kept since the insurrection began and mention that the ‘ille-
gal weapon’ he had on him constituted ‘a grave threat’ to their safety. He men-
tions that he is press (having just remembered to bring his press pass) and they
proceed to beat the crap out of him, blow up his car and leave him for dead. The
character is not superhuman – simply a participant in the effort to restore order
(and human rights), a victim to an instance of counterinsurgency as well as a
kind of witness/vehicle for the story that at that point surrounds him. In another
scene, another individual, some random graffiti artist who was in the process of
putting up a tag in the DMZ gets caught in a sweep. He declared that he was
‘neutral’ but this did not work. He was arrested, put in an orange outfit, sent to
the detention centre that used to be Shea Stadium and then had all his teeth
bashed in. The authorities were not done with him though. In their efforts to get
information about everything he had seen in the DMZ, they extracted what was
remaining of his teeth (with limited locals) and then put new ones back in. All
of this was done without them uttering a word, but after a while the character
gave up everything: everybody he ever knew, every place he had ever been to,
everything he had ever seen – all of it. And in the end, they released him – busted
up but not completely broken. Immediately back on the block, he found an
empty wall and drew his life story.
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 494 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ10: Is this from the
comic, if so, ok, if not
could it be free states?
CD: Yes.
AQ11: Might you
prefer something less
colloquial? CD: No.
AQ12:a graffiti
artist' would be less
colloquial? CD: I
prefer more
AQ13: Would all
readers know what
this is? CD: You
could just remove
the "(with limited
The graphic novel provides numerous instances of torture as well. There is the
story told about Ansar prison in around 1991. Here, the reader is told of the ‘Iron
Fist period’ where individuals were blindfolded and beaten on the bus taking
them there. Once they arrived they had to pass through a gauntlet of soldiers
who beat them on their way to their ‘cell’, a tent or shack-like configuration
(Sacco, 2001: 83). The reader is told about/shown diverse periods where indi-
viduals are compelled to live in closed spaces (4 by 6 metres) with single bath-
rooms, no beds or not enough beds and inadequate heating. In ‘Carry on Doctor’
we are told of how individuals injured after clashes are interrogated, threatened
and beaten while being assisted by medical personnel (2001: 35) – a sequence
repeated but more violently portrayed later (2001: 199–200); in ‘Moderate
Pressure, part I’ we are told about/shown a beating technique (2001: 94) and in
‘Moderate Pressure, part II’ the reader is told about/shown an individual’s arrest,
restraint in diverse physically strenuous sitting/leaning positions, interrogation,
continued restraint in different strenuous sitting/leaning positions, trial, contin-
ued restraint in different strenuous standing/leaning positions, threats/interroga-
tion, beating, confinement in a small room, interrogation and then release; all of
this being done in an incredibly stark and small-drawn space, re-emphasizing the
confined nature of the spaces involved.
In this chapter, I have attempted to identify why as well as how the subject of
human rights in general and human rights violations in particular are dealt with
in comics. It was my contention that the subject is intricately related to this
medium in large part because it speaks to core elements of both. Human rights
are a good subject for comics because they deal with something that is relevant
to, as well as broadly well known by, readers.
Comics are good venues for human rights because they have generally tended
to reach large audiences. There may be some scepticism here because there is
some data that suggest that readership has been declining over the last 20 years.
This said, the presence of comics in film and video games has introduced com-
ics’ content to a larger and an ever-growing audience that is worldwide.
Although this chapter outlined the broad parameters of what tends to be cov-
ered as well as how, there is a tremendous amount of work left to be done.
Understanding there are many directions that one could go, what should be
done? I suggest three areas.
First, hopefully, discussions like the current one will assist individuals in
acknowledging the presence of human rights in venues that are not normally
considered. This could help increase awareness of the topic for individuals not
generally aware and it might assist educators in alternatively communicating
what they would like to get across. There are some great resources available for
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 495 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ14: Please add
reference for Ansar
1991 story. CD: I
do not have access
to the book at the
AQ15: Is this part
of the book? CD: It
is mentioned in the
AQ16: Please add
which part of the
book. CD: page
numbers are
referenced. For
example, "Carry on
Doctor" is on page
doing this: for example, at one site anyone can easily make multilingual comics
themselves:; at another, there is an interesting dis-
cussion taking place about the utilization of web comics for educational pur-
poses: Some researchers have also begun to consider how
diverse political topics find their way into popular culture as well as how
researchers and instructors can use such information, for example, Dale and Foy
(2010) and Potter and Marshall (2009).
Second, comics should be added to the lexicon of places that people look for
human rights information and a comparative analysis should be undertaken to
see what is covered in these sources relative to that found within the news
media, NGO reports, government records, music, dance and fine artists. It is an
empirical question whether the information found in comics is different or
similar to these other sources, and it is an open question as to which one is more
or less resonant across populations.
Second, like the broader human rights movement there needs to be a general
movement from civil liberties restrictions and personal integrity violations to
economic, cultural and social rights. Exactly how this is done, however, is some-
what difficult. Within the medium of comics, for example, it is pretty difficult to
outdo personal integrity violations as a topic. They are inherently story-worthy,
comprehensible and deemed important across a wide community. How does one
make starvation as interesting visually as a mass killing? Given the visual orien-
tation of graphic novels, this is a major concern for those who would like to
expand the range of human rights discussed. At present, there is some overlap.
The individuals living in V for Vendetta, Palestine and DMZ are significantly
being deprived of the very things that are necessary to sustain life: water, decent
health care, and so forth. This is merely backdrop, however, to the main event,
which is the civil war.
There are some smaller, independent graphic novels moving in this direction,
such as the piece entitled Disaster and Resistance: Comics and Landscapes for
the Twenty First Century, but it is not likely that this is going to catch on like
any of the titles mentioned above (Tobocman, 2008). There is just something
missing. It is like how I feel about rap with a positive message (excluding KRS/
Boogie Down Productions): it is just wrong somehow. This said, one could,
without too much of a stretch, consider the graphic novelization of Studs
Terkel’s Working or the comics of Harvey Pekar’s life in American Splendor to
be de-politicized stories that characterize the human rights violations that ordi-
nary individuals are subject to – especially those concerning economic rights
deprivation (Pekar, 1976; Pekar and Buhle, 2009). These are different but rein-
forcing ways that tell the story of people trying to find a way to survive amidst
economic systems that are largely indifferent to their existence. Neither of these
stories were neglected. In fact, they were each amazingly popular in different
formats: Working as a book and American Splendor as a film. Human rights
were not mentioned in these pieces, but human rights are mentioned on every
page. We just have to be a bit more creative in how we read and/or see. A new
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 496 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ17: Please add
these 2 websites to
references and put
name of the site
here. CD: Not clear
on how to do this
within pageproof
AQ18: Should this
be arts in place of
artists? CD: Yes
AQ19: Is it possible to
be more specific -
although you may not
want to offend the
author. CD: This is not
offensive. It references a
legitimate limitation of
the piece.
AQ20: Is this opinion
relevant to this
chapter? CD: As this
is another
manifestation of
popular culture, yes.
AQ21: Remove as
colloquial? CD: No.
graphic novel, however, represents perhaps the perfect example of what I am
talking about: Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Hedges and Sacco, 2012).
In this piece, the authors look at what they call ‘sacrifice zones’. These are
places ‘that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress
and technological advancement’ (Hedges and Sacco, 2012: xi). That is more
like it.
Anthonissen, Christine and Blommaert, Jan (eds) (2007) Discourse and Human Rights Violations.
Amsterdam: John Benjamin’s Publishing Company.
Benford, Robert and Snow, David (2000) ‘Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and
Assessment’, Annual Review of Sociology, 26: 611–39.
Bongco, Mila (2000) Reading Comics: Language, Culture and the Concept of the Superhero in Comic
Books. New York: Garland Publishing.
Cone, James (1991) Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare. Maryknoll: Orbis
Coogan, Peter (2006) Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre. Austin: Monkeybrain Books.
Dale, Timothy and Foy, Joseph (2010) Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through
American Popular Culture. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Davenport, Christian (1997) ‘Black is the Color of my Comic Book Character: An Examination of Ethnic
Stereotypes’, Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies, 4(1): 20–28.
Goodhart, Michael (ed.) (2013) Human Rights: Politics and Practice, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University
Hedges, Chris and Sacco, Joe (2012) Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. New York: Nation Books.
Hobbes, Thomas [1651] (1997) Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth
Ecclesiastical and Civil. New York: Touchstone.
Horrocks, Dylan (2001) ‘Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud’s Definition of Comics’, Comics Journal,
p. 234:
Howard, Sheena and Jackson, Ronald (eds) (2013) Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation.
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Klock, Geoff (2002) How to Read Superhero Comics and Why. New York: Continuum.
McCloud, Scott (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Kitchen Sink Press.
Millar, Mark, McNiven, Steve, Vines, Dexter and Hollowell, Morry (2008) Civil War: A Marvel Comics
Event. New York: Marvel Comics.
Moore, Alan and Lloyd, David (1988) V for Vendetta. New York: DC Comics.
Nyberg, Amy (1998) Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code. Jackson: University Press of
Pekar, Harvey (1976) American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar. New York: Balantine
Pekar, Harvey and Buhle, Paul (2009) Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation. New York: The New
Potter, Tiffany and Marshall, C.W. (2009) The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television. New York:
Sacco, Joe (2001) Palestine. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books.
Spiegelman, Art (1973) Maus, vol. I: A Survivor’s Tale, My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon.
Spiegelman, Art (1986) Maus, vol. II: A Survivor’s Tale, And Here My Troubles Began. New York:
Tilly, Charles (2002a) Stories, Identities and Political Change. New York: Roman Littlefield.
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 497 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ22: Vol. number
and issue number
required. CD: This
is all the journal
AQ23: Vol and
issue number
missing. Complete
page range is
required. Volume
is 234; Issue is
AQ24: McCloud
2007 in text. CD:
1993 is correct. i
was referencing a
AQ25: Not mentioned separately in text, so
should be deleted, and 2002b should become
`2002', both here in the refs and in the text
Tilly, Charles (2002b) ‘The Trouble with Stories’, Stories, Identities and Political Change. New York:
Roman Littlefield.
Tilly, Charles (2008) Contentious Performances. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tobocman, Seth (2008) Disaster and Resistance: Comics and Landscapes for the Twenty First Century.
Oakland: AK Press.
Turner, James (2005) Nil: A Land Beyond Belief. San Jose: SLG Publishing.
White, Hayden (1987) The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Witek, Joseph (1996) ‘The Dream of Total War: The Limits of a Genre’, The Journal of Popular Culture,
30(2): 37–46.
Wolk, Douglas (2007) Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they Mean. Cambridge,
MA: Da Capo Press.
Wood, Brian and Zezelj, Daniel (2010) DMZ. New York: Vertigo.
27_Mihr and Gibney_BAB1404B0068_Ch-27.indd 498 05-May-14 5:00:57 PM
AQ26: Tilly 2008
Not mentioned in
text. Should be
The Simpsons questions what is culturally acceptable, showcasing controversial issues like homosexuality, animal rights, the war on terror, and religion. This subtle form of political analysis is effective in changing opinions and attitudes on a large scale. Homer Simpson Marches on Washington explores the transformative power that enables popular culture to influence political agendas, frame the consciousness of audiences, and create profound shifts in values and ideals. To investigate the full spectrum of popular culture in a democratic society, editors Timothy M. Dale and Joseph J. Foy gather a top-notch team of scholars who use television shows such as Star Trek, The X-Files, All in the Family, The View, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Colbert Report, as well as movies and popular music, to investigate contemporary issues in American popular culture. Copyright © 2010 by The University Press of Kentucky. All rights reserved.
How can we get inside popular collective struggles and explain how they work? Contentious Performances presents a distinctive approach to analyzing such struggles, drawing especially on incomparably rich evidence from Great Britain between 1758 and 1834. The book accomplishes three main things. First, it presents a logic and method for describing contentious events, occasions on which people publicly make consequential claims on each other. Second, it shows how that logic yields superior explanations of the dynamics in such events, both individually and in the aggregate. Third, it illustrates its methods and arguments by means of detailed analyses of contentious events in Great Britain from 1758 to 1834.
This article investigates the extent to which citation and publication patterns differ between men and women in the international relations (IR) literature. Using data from the Teaching, Research, and International Policy project on peer-reviewed publications between 1980 and 2006, we show that women are systematically cited less than men after controlling for a large number of variables including year of publication, venue of publication, substantive focus, theoretical perspective, methodology, tenure status, and institutional affiliation. These results are robust to a variety of modeling choices. We then turn to network analysis to investigate the extent to which the gender of an article's author affects that article's relative centrality in the network of citations between papers in our sample. Articles authored by women are systematically less central than articles authored by men, all else equal. This is likely because (1) women tend to cite themselves less than men, and (2) men (who make up a disproportionate share of IR scholars) tend to cite men more than women. This is the first study in political science to reveal significant gender differences in citation patterns and is especially meaningful because citation counts are increasingly used as a key measure of research's quality and impact.Daniel Maliniak is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. E-mail: Ryan Powers is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. E-mail: Barbara F. Walter is Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego. E-mail: