Comic heroes were born amidst the tumult of World War II and became pillars of the American century. They reflected the muscular interventionism central to postwar nationalism even as soapy personal dramas internalized an ambiguity toward war, empire, and domestic society felt by writers and their often youthful readership. These seemingly contradictory impulses have defined the comics medium, even as the ubiquity of pulp adventurism in contemporary media drives a new era of US-led cultural globalization. The conference will explore this history by bringing together nationally renowned specialists on foreign affairs and political messaging. It will ask how government priorities shaped four-color responses to global conflicts, and to what extent disruptive events like the Vietnam War challenged their ability to stand for truth, justice, and the American way? Did the late Cold War and 9/11 revive patriotic narratives? And how have multimedia adaptations handled the long evolution of iconic characters while addressing contemporary matters ranging from the War on Terror to new political divisions? These discussions will consider how comics and pulp adventures inform popular narratives of conflict, insecurity, and heroism, and what their long history reveals about cultural attitudes toward U.S. power.
Paul S. Hirsch is a visiting research affiliate at the Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism (Chicago, 2021), which won the Popular Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for Contributions to the Popular Arts and was nominated for an Eisner Award. His work has received major support from organizations including the Robert B. Silvers Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Library of Congress.
Christina M. Knopf is a professor, and the presentation skills coordinator, in the Communication and Media Studies Department at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland. She is the author of Politics in the Gutters: American Politicians and Elections in Comic Book Media (University Press of Mississippi, 2021) and The Comic Art of War: A Critical Study of Military Cartoons, 1805-2014 (McFarland, 2015), along with numerous critical essays on pop culture, military culture, and politics. Dr. Knopf is a John P. Wilson Fellow of the New York State Communication Association and a Distinguished Research Fellow of the Eastern Communication Association.
J. Richard Stevens is an associate professor in media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and is the author of Captain America, Masculinity, and Violence: The Evolution of a National Icon (2015/2018). Dr. Stevens’ research delves into the intersection of ideological formation and media message dissemination, comprising studies such as how cultural messages are formed and passed through popular culture, how technology infrastructure affects the delivery of media messages, communication technology policy, and related studies in how media and technology platforms are changing American public discourse.
Brian Rouleau is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University. He specializes in the nineteenth-century United States, American foreign relations, and the history of childhood. His first book, With Sails Whitening Every Sea: Mariners and the Making of an American Maritime Empire, explored the role of sailors in connecting the early United States with the wider world. Rouleau’s second book, Empire’s Nursery: Children’s Literature and the Origins of the American Century, traced the importance of dime novels, pulp fiction, and comic books in educating young Americans about their nation’s growing global obligations. His current project investigates the life and international exploits of Lee Christmas, an infamous American mercenary. Rouleau teaches courses on early American history, the American Revolution, the U.S. West, diplomatic history, and the history of children and the family. His research explores intersections between the histories of childhood and American foreign relations. Most recently, he is the author of Empire’s Nursery: Children’s Literature and the Origins of the American Century.
Gregory A. Daddis is a professor of history at San Diego State University and holds the USS Midway Chair in Modern US Military History. Daddis joined SDSU after directing the MA Program in War and Society Studies at Chapman University. Prior, he served as the Chief of the American History Division in the Department of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point. A retired US Army colonel, he deployed to both Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Daddis specializes in the history of the Vietnam Wars and the Cold War era and has authored five books, including Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men's Adventure Magazines (2020) and Withdrawal: Reassessing America’s Final Years in Vietnam (2017). He has also published numerous journal articles and several op-ed pieces commenting on current military affairs, including writings in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and National Interest magazine.
Zaynab Quadri received her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University. She is an interdisciplinary scholar whose fields of study include the U.S. in the World, twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. history, cultural studies, and political theory. Her book project analyzes private military contracting and the democratic state during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
R. Joseph Parrott is an assistant professor of U.S foreign relations and transnational history at the Ohio State University. Interested in the intersection of the Cold War, decolonization, and international policy, he is currently revising a manuscript on the global solidarity movement supporting Portuguese African liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s. His next projects look at transnational white political projects during the age of decolonization and how popular media shapes discussions of U.S. policy. He is the co-editor of The Tricontinental Revolution: Third World Radicalism and the Cold War (Cambridge, 2022) and his publications have appeared in Modern American History, Race & Class, and in such popular venues as the Washington Post and Africa’s a Country.
Thursday, November 3 | Virtual
Due to health precautions, Paul Hirsch will be unable to join us in Columbus. We are moving his talk to Zoom and will commence our in-person gathering for the conference on November 4th**
5:30-5:40pm : Opening Remarks
- Jenny Robb, Billy Ireland Library and Museum, Curator
- Joseph Parrott, History Department
5:40-7pm : Keynote: Paul Hirsch, “Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism”
Friday, November 4 | Mershon Center 1186
10am : Opening Remarks
- Dorry Noyes, Mershon Center, Director
- Joseph Parrott, History Department
10:15-12:00pm : Panel 1 – Narratives of War and Empire
- Chair: Ben Towle (Graphic Novelist, Columbus School of Art and Design)
- Brian Rouleau (Texas A&M), Comic Book Panels & the 38th Parallel: The Korean War in American Popular Culture
- Christina Knopf (SUNY Cortland), Veteran-Created War Comics and the Workaday War
- Gregory Daddis (San Diego State), The Pulps at War: Men’s Cold War Adventure Magazines at Home and Abroad
12:00-2:00pm : Working Lunch – Comic Archives, Graphic Histories
- Chair: Sydney Heifler, Ohio State
- Jenny Robb, Curator, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum
- Gary Thompson, Editor, Dead Reckoning, US Naval Institute Press
2:15-4:00 : Panel 2 – The Ambiguities of Heroic Comic Nationalism
- Chair: Jared Gardner (Ohio State)
- Joseph Parrott (Ohio State), Sustaining the Good War: Nazis and American Virtue
- Richard Stevens (Colorado), Real American Heroes: Marvel’s G.I. Joe as Popular Cold War Remediation
- Zaynab Quadri (Ohio State), “I Have Successfully Privatized World Peace”: National Security in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
4:00-5:00PM : Reading Room – The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library
- Participants will be able to view a special display of pertinent material relevant to the conference located at 1813 N High Street; Columbus, OH 43210
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