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Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero

From Superman and Batman to the X-Men and Young Avengers, Supersex interrogates the relationship between heroism and sexuality, shedding new light on our fantasies of both.

Series: World Comics and Graphic Nonfiction Series

December 2020
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384 pages | 6 x 9 | 11 b&w photos, 45 b&w illus. |

From Superman, created in 1938, to the transmedia DC and Marvel universes of today, superheroes have always been sexy. And their sexiness has always been controversial, inspiring censorship and moral panic. Yet though it has inspired jokes and innuendos, accusations of moral depravity, and sporadic academic discourse, the topic of superhero sexuality is like superhero sexuality itself—seemingly obvious yet conspicuously absent. Supersex: Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero is the first scholarly book specifically devoted to unpacking the superhero genre’s complicated relationship with sexuality.

Exploring sexual themes and imagery within mainstream comic books, television shows, and films as well as independent and explicitly pornographic productions catering to various orientations and kinks, Supersex offers a fresh—and lascivious—perspective on the superhero genre’s historical and contemporary popularity. Across fourteen essays touching on Superman, Batman, the X-Men, and many others, Anna F. Peppard and her contributors present superhero sexuality as both dangerously exciting and excitingly dangerous, encapsulating the superhero genre’s worst impulses and its most productively rebellious ones. Supersex argues that sex is at the heart of our fascination with superheroes, even—and sometimes especially—when the capes and tights stay on.


2021 Comic Studies Society Prize for Edited Collection

  • Introduction. Presence and Absence in Theory and Practice: Locating Supersex (Anna F. Peppard)
  • Part I. Comics
    • 1. Tarpé Mills’s Miss Fury: Costume, Sexuality, and Power (Richard Reynolds)
    • 2. Superman Family Values: Supersex in the Silver Age (Matt Yockey)
    • 3. A Storm of Passion: Sexual Agency and Symbolic Capital in the X-Men’s Storm (J. Andrew Deman)
    • 4. Dazzler, Melodrama, and Shame: Mutant Allegory, Closeted Readers (Brian Johnson)
    • 5. “Super-Gay” Gay Comix: Tracing the Underground Origins and Cultural Resonances of LGBTQ Superheroes (Sarah Panuska)
    • 6. Parents, Counterpublics, and Sexual Identity in Young Avengers (Keith Friedlander)
  • Part II. Film, Television, and Fan Culture
    • 7. X-Men Films and the Domestication of Dissent: Sexuality, Race, and Respectability (Christopher B. Zeichmann)
    • 8. Over the Rainbow Bridge: Female/Queer Sexuality in Marvel’s Thor Film Trilogy (Samantha Langsdale)
    • 9. “No One’s Going to Be Looking at Your Face”: The Female Gaze and the New (Super)Man in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Anna F. Peppard)
    • 10. The Visible and the Invisible: Superheroes, Pornography, and Phallic Masculinity (Jeffrey A. Brown)
    • 11. “I Think That’s My Favorite Weapon in the Whole Batcave”: Interrogating the Subversions of’s Gay Superhero Porn Parodies (Joseph Brennan)
    • 12. “That’s Pussy Babe!”: Queering Supergirl’s Confessions of Power (Olivia Hicks)
    • 13. Meet Stephanie Rogers, Captain America: Genderbending the Body Politic in Fan Art, Fiction, and Cosplay (Anne Kustritz)
  • Epilogue: The Matter with Size (Richard Harrison)
  • Contributors
  • Index

Anna F. Peppard is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellow in Brock University’s department of communication, popular culture, and film. She has published widely on representations of gender, race, and sexuality in popular media, including comic books, television, and sports culture. She is a regular contributor to the podcast Three Panel Contrast.


“Insightful...Peppard’s assemblage shows just how varied and multivalent superhero media is, as well as highlighting the diversity of experiences and interpretations of it. Supersex is a broad cultural survey of superheroes, with insights that are beguiling fuel for the critical imagination.”
Foreword Reviews

Supersex has what no other current title has: a multidisciplinary, multifaceted, and intersectional exploration of superheroes and sexuality across media.”
Carolyn Cocca, author of Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation

“This collection of essays is long overdue and very welcome. Well researched and thought-provoking, Supersex provides an enjoyable read and effective observations about gender and sexuality.”
Joan Ormrod, author of Wonder Woman: The Female Body and Popular Culture


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca