New Journal Article: ‘(Fan) Scholars and Superheroes’

mia-155My latest academic journal article has just been published in Media International Australia (No.155, May 2015), and is titled ‘(Fan) Scholars and Superheroes: The Role and Status of Comics Fandom Research in Australian Media History’ (pp.28-37). The abstract (summary) of this article is as follows:

Comic books, eagerly consumed by Australian readers and reviled with equal intensity by their detractors, became embroiled in post-war era debates about youth culture, censorship and Australian national identity. Yet there are few references to this remarkable publishing phenomenon in most histories of Australian print media, or in studies of Australian popular culture. This article demonstrates how the history of comic books in Australia has largely been recorded by fans and collectors who have undertaken the process of discovery, documentation and research – a task that, in any other field of print culture inquiry, would have been the preserve of academics. While acknowledging some of the problematic aspects of fan literature, the article argues that future research into the evolution of the comic-book medium within Australia must recognise, and engage with, this largely untapped body of ‘fan scholarship’ if we are to enrich our understanding of this neglected Australian media industry.

This article was based on a paper I gave at a conference held at Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) in November 2011, while I was writing my PhD thesis on The Phantom comic book in Australia, India and Sweden. The important contribution that fan-authored scholarship can make to the formal, academic study of comic books was only reinforced for me, as I drew upon (and duly acknowledged) numerous fan magazines (“fanzines”), websites and other resources during my research. The original version of my article did contain specific references to The Phantom, and discussed the community-building function(s) of the “Phantom Forum” letters column in the Australian comic book edition, along with the emergence of Australian Phantom “phan” literature, such as comic-book price guides, story indices, and websites. However, due to space limitations, I had to substantially edit the original version of this article, and opted to remove references to The Phantom, given that I’d discussed these in an earlier article for the UK academic journal, Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, which was published online in 2012.

Media International Australia (formerly Media Information Australia) is Australia’s oldest media studies journal, established by the distinguished academic, Professor Henry Mayer, in 1976. Media International Australia is available (in print and/or electronic versions) through most Australian university libraries and some state/public reference libraries (Check your nearest university/public library’s catalogue to see if they carry Media International Australia). You can also purchase individual issues of Media International Australia directly from the publisher, the University of Queensland (Click here for details).

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