Our book is out!

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I couldn’t be more pleased to announce the publication of Special Effects: New Histories/Theories/Contexts, an anthology I co-edited with my good friends and colleagues Dan North and Michael S. Duffy. Inspired by a panel we presented together at the 2008 Film and History Conference in Chicago, the book features essays by the three of us, along with contributions from established and rising luminaries such as Scott Bukatman, Julie Turnock, Chuck Tryon, Lisa Bode, Drew Ayers, Aylish Wood, Angela Ndalianis and … well, read the TOC yourself:

Foreword — Scott Bukatman
Introduction — Bob Rehak, Dan North and Michael S. Duffy
1. Ectoplasm and Oil: Methocel and the Aesthetics of Special Effects — Ethan de Seife
2. Fleshing It Out: Prosthetic Makeup Effects, Motion Capture and the Reception of Performance — Lisa Bode
3. (Stop)Motion Control: Special Effects in Contemporary Puppet Animation — Andrea Comiskey
4. Magic Mirrors: The Schüfftan Process — Katharina Loew
5. Photorealism, Nostalgia and Style: Photorealism and Material Properties of Film in Digital Visual Effects — Barbara Flueckiger
6. Bleeding Synthetic Blood: Flesh and Simulated Space in 300 — Drew Ayers
7. Blackface, Happy Feet: The Politics of Race in Motion Capture and Animation — Tanine Allison
8. Being Georges Méliès — Dan North
9. The Battlefield for the Soul: Special Effects and the Possessed Body — Stacey Abbott
10. Baroque Facades, Jeff Bridges’ Face and Tron: Legacy — Angela Ndalianis
11. Organic Clockwork: Guillermo del Toro’s Practical and Digital Nature — Michael S. Duffy
12. Digital 3D, Technological Auteurism and the Rhetoric of Cinematic Revolution — Chuck Tryon
13. Shooting Stars: Chesley Bonestell and the Special Effects of Outer Space — Bob Rehak
14. Designed for Everyone Who Looks Forward to Tomorrow!: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the 1970s Expanded Blockbuster — Julie Turnock
16. The Right Stuff?: Handmade Special Effects in Commercial and Industrial Film — Gregory Zinman
17. ‘Don’t You Mean Extinct?’: On the Circulation of Knowledge in Jurassic Park — Oliver Gaycken
18. Inception’s Timespaces: An Ecology of Technology – Aylish Wood
Afterword: An Interview with Lev Manovich — Dan North

The book can be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher. And if you should ever be in the Philly area, drop by my office and I’ll sign your copy …

CFP: Making the Marvel Universe

Making the Marvel Universe: Transmedia and the Marvel Comics Brand

Editor: Matt Yockey

What became known as the Marvel Universe in effect began with the publication in 1961of Fantastic Four no. 1, a comic book that redefined the superhero genre with its exploits of a bickering superhero team.  In little more than a year a company that had gone through numerous name changes since it began as Timely Publications in 1939 not only settled on a new one – Marvel Comics – but also embraced a new identity as an iconoclastic “House of Ideas,” overseen by the jocular and familiar editorial presence of Stan Lee and defined by the unique creative vision of artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.  Previously in the shadow of DC Comics, the dominant publisher in the industry, by the end of the 1960s Marvel had completely rewritten the rules of what superhero comic books could be.  Not only did the “Marvel Bullpen” produce a new wave of unusually complex superheroes – including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, and Iron Man – but they redefined the ways in which comic books were read.  The Marvel Universe was constituted by an overall continuity between titles to an unprecedented degree; cross-over stories evolved into a complex meta-text that incorporated every superhero title the company published.  With Lee as the face of the company, Marvel became not only the leading publisher of superhero comic books but (after a few false starts) eventually optioned its properties into successful blockbuster films, beginning in 2000 with X-Men.  This led to Marvel establishing its own film production company that is currently producing a collection of movies that are the film equivalent of the Marvel Universe.  With comic books no longer the mainstream commodity they once were, Marvel has effectively exploited the transmedia potential of their properties and remains more relevant and more lucrative a business concern than ever before.

This anthology will examine the various ways by which Marvel in effect has become Marvel. Essays can focus on a single character, comic book title, film, television series, writer, artist, director, actor, franchise, or era.  They can also take a more global perspective on a particular way in which the Marvel Universe and/or the Marvel brand function.  Various methodologies are welcomed.  Potential topics include but are not limited to:

  • Authorship
  • Creator’s rights
  • Adaptation
  • Convergence culture and world-making
  • Canon formation
  • Rebooting and retconning
  • “Bad” textsand their place in the Marvel Universe
  • Marvel as “The House of Ideas,” the “Marvel Bullpen,” the “Marvel Method,” and production culture
  • Company-created fan clubs (Merry Marvel Marching Society and FOOM) and/or Marvel fandom in general
  • Stan Lee’s persona
  • Marvel’s claims to “relevance” and the political and social significance of its work
  • Corporate identity: the creation of brand identity and values; the role of the corporation in relation to fans
  • Globalization: the marketing of Marvel and the universalizing of brand values
  • Web-comics and the evolution of reading habits
  • Nostalgia
  • Marketing strategies and aesthetics
  • The DC/Marvel binary
  • Disney’s purchase of Marvel and the shifting identity of the company

Interested authors should submit a proposal of approximately 400-600 words.  Each proposal should clearly state 1) the research question and/or theoretical goals of the essay, 2) the essay’s relationship to the anthology’s core issues, and 3) a potential bibliography.  Please also include a brief CV.  Accepted essays should be approximately 6,000-7,000 words.

Deadline for proposals: October 15, 2013

Please send proposals to: matt.yockey@utoledo.edu

Publication timetable:

  • October 15, 2013 – Deadline for Proposals
  • November 15, 2013 – Notification of Acceptance Decisions
  • March 15, 2014 – Chapter Drafts Due
  • June 15, 2014 – Chapter Revisions Due
  • July 31, 2014 – Final Revisions Due

Acceptance will be contingent on the ability of contributors to meet these deadlines and deliver high-quality work.

Materializing Monsters

About a year ago, I began to experiment with using this blog as a space for sketching out research projects and writing rough drafts. One of my first efforts in this direction was an essay on Famous Monsters of Filmland and Aurora model kits, which grew out of a panel I attended at the 2010 SCMS conference in Los Angeles. The panel’s organizer, Matt Yockey, was generous enough to invite me on board a themed issue he was putting together looking at FM and its editor, Forrest J Ackerman; the rudiments of the resulting essay can be found in this series of posts.

Revised and expanded, this material formed the basis of a faculty lecture I gave at Swarthmore in January, entitled “Materializing Monsters: Fan Objects and Fantastic Media.” While the talk and associated essay stand on their own, I plan to turn them into a chapter in my next book project, Object Practices: The Material Life of Media Fictions, which looks at the role of material artifacts in the production and circulation of fantastic media. (My other blog posts on this subject can be found here.)

Here’s a link to a news feature on my talk, including audio of the lecture and the PowerPoint slides that accompanied it. I invite you to check it out and comment!

Jason Mittell’s Complex TV

Passing along this word from my friend Jason Mittell, Associate Professor of American Studies and Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, whose exciting new publication project is now available for open access and “peer-to-peer review.” He is inviting feedback on the pre-published chapters of Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling at http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/complextelevision/. He shares this outline of the plan:

The book’s introduction and first chapter are posted now (as of Saturday evening, in conjunction with an SCMS workshop on digital publishing I Skyped in for from Germany). I plan on posting chapters every week or two over the next few months, serializing the release to allow time for people to read and comment (and me to finish writing). I hope that momentum will build and the conversation will flourish through this process, but this is obviously an experiment. I hope you can stop in and read the work in progress and offer feedback, and also help spread the word to others who might be interested in the topic. I would also love to hear any feedback about this unorthodox mode of publication and review.

Jason blogs at Just TV.

TWC: special issue on fan/remix video

Thrilled to spread word of this new issue, co-edited by two friends and featuring an interview by an old pal from IU, Brett Boessen! A call for my own guest-edited issue, on materiality and object-oriented fandom, can be found here.

Transformative Works and Cultures Vol 9 (2012)

“Fan/Remix Video,” special issue of TWC guest edited by Francesca Coppa, Muhlenberg College, and Julie Levin Russo, Brown University

Table of Contents

“Fan/remix video (a remix)” by  Julie Levin Russo and Francesca Coppa


“Mashup as temporal amalgam: Time, taste, and textuality,” by Paul J. Booth
“Toward an ecology of vidding,” by Tisha Turk and Joshua Johnson
“The rhetoric of remix,” by Virginia Kuhn
“Remix video and the crisis of the humanities,” by Kim Middleton


“Vidding and the perversity of critical pleasure: Sex, violence, and voyeurism in ‘Closer’ and ‘On the Prowl,'”by Sarah Fiona Winters
“Spreading the cult body on YouTube: A case study of ‘Telephone’ derivative videos,” by Agnese Vellar
“Fake and fan film trailers as incarnations of audience anticipation and desire,” by Kathleen Amy Williams


“The two-source illusion: How vidding practices changed Jonathan McIntosh’s political remix videos,” by Martin Leduc
“Abridged series and fandom remix culture,” by Zephra Doerr
“The Star Wars franchise, fan edits, and Lucasfilm,” by Forrest Phillips


“Documenting the vidders: A conversation with Bradcpu,” by Counteragent
“Interview with Eric Faden and Nina Paley,” by Brett Boessen
“Desiree D’Alessandro and Diran Lyons bear arms: Weapons of mass transformation,” by Desiree D’Alessandro and Diran Lyons


“Fred rant,” by Alexandra Juhasz
“Queer video remix and LGBTQ online communities,” by Elisa Kreisinger
“Genesis of the digital anime music video scene, 1990–2001,” by Ian Roberts
“A history of subversive remix video before YouTube: Thirty political video mashups made between World War II and 2005”, by Jonathan McIntosh


“Television and new media: Must-click TV,” by Jennifer Gillan, reviewed by Lindsay Giggey


Talk: The Biology of Virtual Creatures

The Biology of Virtual Creatures: Unconventional Applications of a Science Education in Hollywood Special Effects

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.

Science Center 199, Swarthmore Campus

From Chester the Cheetah to swarming Dementors to the Iron Man Mark-I suit, Bradley Gabe’s (’94) computer graphics skills have been honed by experiences working on high-end digital effects in commercial and feature film productions at Quiet Man, Industrial Light & Magic, Stan Winston Studio, and Janimation.

As an active member of the CG community, Bradley has advanced technical approaches to CG production through consulting, teaching courses, leading seminars, and conducting Master Classes at Siggraph and other venues. In 2009 he was honored by his industry peers with an Autodesk Masters award.

Fan studies network

Passing along this exciting announcement …

We are pleased to announce the formation of The Fan Studies Network.

Open to scholars at all levels, the FSN is concerned with bringing together those interested in all aspects of fandom, in order to engage in discussions and make connections.

We welcome scholars to join the network by signing up to our Jiscmail mailing list: FanStudies@jiscmail.ac.uk.

You can also visit our website, which features CFPs and events of interest at http://fanstudies.wordpress.com, and our Twitter account @FanStudies.

We look forward to making connections with new members: please circulate this message to anyone you think might be interested.

All the best,

Lucy Bennett and Tom Phillips

The Fan Studies Network



FSN Team:
Lucy Bennett
Tom Phillips
Bethan Jones
Richard McCulloch
Rebecca Williams

CFP: Materiality and Object-Oriented Fandom (March 2014)

I’m excited to be guest-editing a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures on objects and artifacts in media fandom! The CfP follows.

Alongside its consumption and transformation of texts, media fandom has always been marked by its consumption and transformation of objects. From superhero figures, model kits, and wargaming miniatures for sale at hobby shops, to costumes and props worn at Comic-Con, material objects and body decoration have functioned as displays of textual affiliation, crafting skills, or collecting prowess, reflecting a long history of fan-created and -circulated artifacts around popular media fictions. While “mimetic” and “affirmational” practices seek to replicate the objects of fantastic media as faithfully as possible, other fan creations result in material mash-ups, expressing transformative impulses in artifact form. Regardless of orientation, object-oriented fandom represents a distinct strand within old and new activities and cultures, one whose intimate and often friendly relationship with corporate branding and ancillary market exploitation make it of central interest to an emerging body of scholarship on transmedia, convergence, and the franchise.

This special issue seeks historically and theoretically informed essays that explore the role of objects and their associated practices in fandom, as instances of creativity and consumerism, transformation and affirmation, private archive and public display. We are particularly interested in work that complicates or transcends the binaries of social vs. solitary, artwork vs. commodity, and gift vs. monetary economies to engage with object-oriented fandom as self-aware and playful in its own right.

We welcome submissions dealing with, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • creating and collecting, buying and selling fan artifacts (production artifacts, memorabilia, reference materials, models, material fan art, and fan crafts…)
  • cosplay (creating costumes and other artifacts, performing cosplay, competitions…)
  • fan enactments, events, and embodiment (Renaissance Fairs, Quidditch competitions, re-enactments, fannish tattoos…)
  • fan objects as paratext and transmedia extension
  • dissemination of skills and abilities (workshops, online blogs, fan meetings…)
  • object marketplaces (con, comic-book store, ebay, etsy…)
  • evaluation and valuation of artifacts across the various economies of fandom
  • impact of digital technologies (including social networking and 3D printing) on object creation, collecting, and cataloging
  • new debates over authorship, ownership, and control

Submission guidelines

TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. Contributors are encouraged to include embedded links, images, and videos in their articles, or to propose submissions in alternative formats that might comprise interviews, collaborations, or video/multimedia works. We are also seeking reviews of relevant books, events, courses, platforms, or projects.

Theory: Often interdisciplinary essays with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offer expansive interventions in the field. Blind peer review. Length: 5,000–8,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Praxis: Analyses of particular cases that may apply a specific theory or framework to an artifact; explicate fan practice or formations; or perform a detailed reading of a text. Blind peer review. Length: 4,000–7,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Symposium: Short pieces that provide insight into current developments and debates. Non-blind editorial review. Length: 1,500–2,500 words.

Submissions are accepted online only. Please visit TWC’s Web site (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) for complete submission guidelines, or e-mail the TWC Editor (editor AT transformativeworks.org).


We encourage potential contributors to contact the guest editors with inquiries or proposals: Bob Rehak (rehak.twc AT gmail.com)

Due dates

Contributions for blind peer review (Theory and Praxis essays) are due by March 1, 2013.

Contributions that undergo editorial review (Symposium, Interview, Review) are due by April 1, 2013.

In Media Res: Special Effects

Somewhere around the introduction of Google+, I developed an allergy to self-promotion, and withdrew my parasocial feelers from Facebook as well as the nascent G+. I mean to cast no aspersions on the active users of those sites; my going dark, or at least dimmed, on the social-networking front stems not from disapproval but from simple overload. I’m returning to teaching from a year of sabbatical, and I’m a new father to boot, making for happy but exhausting times. I could be better about taking the raw material of my life (and the slightly more refined material of my professional activities) and plugging it into a live data feed, but my curmudgeonly suspicion that the public affordances of new media, so often presented to us as opportunities for self-expression and collective knowledge-building, are simply labor under the sexy sign of the digital — the conscripted misrecognized as the voluntary — stays my hand.

All that said, though, I do have news: this week I am co-organizing a set of pieces on special effects at In Media Res, the MediaCommons project devoted to showcasing short audiovisual “exhibits” accompanied by learned commentary. This week’s posts, by Kimberly Ramirez, Drew Ayers, Chuck Tryon, and Dan North, come out of a larger project, an anthology entitled Special Effects: New Histories, Theories, Contexts, co-edited by me, Dan North, and Michael S. Duffy.

You can read more about that project and the week’s curations in our introductory essay, located here.


New Works in Fan Studies

It’s always nice to see friends doing well, and in the case of Kristina Busse, there’s an added reward — seeing her name in print always means that something new and interesting is being said in the world of fan studies. In this case, it’s a double-header: the latest issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, the online journal Nina edits with Karen Hellekson, is up; and there’s a special section of the new Cinema Journal entitled “Fandom and Feminism: Gender and the Politics of Fan Production.” Both are well worth checking out, but I’m particularly excited about the CJ piece, which collects a number of writers I count myself lucky to know — among them Julie Levin Russo, Louisa Stein, and Alexis Lothian — and focuses a critical lens on exciting areas of creative practice in new media. Tables of contents are quoted below. Well done, Nina, and keep up the great work!

Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 3 (2009)


Extending transformation HTML
TWC Editor


The labor of creativity: Women’s work, quilting, and the uncommodified life ABSTRACT HTML
Debora J Halbert
Sex detectives: “Law & Order: SVU”‘s fans, critics, and characters investigate lesbian desire ABSTRACT HTML
Julie Levin Russo
On productivity and game fandom ABSTRACT HTML
Hanna Wirman


Sites of participation: Wiki fandom and the case of Lostpedia ABSTRACT HTML
Jason Mittell
Identity and authenticity in the filk community ABSTRACT HTML
Melissa L. Tatum
The Web planet: How the changing Internet divided “Doctor Who” fan fiction writers ABSTRACT HTML
Leora Hadas


The magic of television: Thinking through magical realism in recent TV HTML
Lynne Joyrich
The future of academic writing? HTML
Avi Santo
Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models HTML
Suzanne Scott
Snogs of innocence, snogs of experience HTML
Dana Shilling
Playing [with] multiple roles: Readers, authors, and characters in
Who Is Blaise Zabini?”
Anne Collins Smith
“A Jedi like my father before me”: Social identity and the New York Comic Con HTML
Jen Gunnels
The Hunt for Gollum: Tracking issues of fandom cultures HTML
Robin Anne Reid
Pattern recognition: A dialogue on racism in fan communities HTML
TWC Editor


Interview with Verb Noire HTML
K. Tempest Bradford
Interview with Mark Smith and Denise Paolucci HTML
zvi LikesTV
Interview with Chris Bouchard HTML
Emma Dollard


“Camgirls: Celebrity and community in the age of social networks,” by Theresa M. Senft HTML
Adriano Barone
“Introduction to Japanese horror film,” by Colette Balmain HTML
Alessia Alfieroni
“Pride and prejudice and zombies: The classic Regency romance?Now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem!,” by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith HTML
Craig B. Jacobsen

Cinema Journal 48.4 (Summer 2009)

A Fannish Taxonomy of Hotness – Francesca Coppa

A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture – Karen Hellekson

Should Fan Fiction Be Free? – Abigail De Kosnik

User-Penetrated Content: Fan Video in the Age of Convergence – Julie Levin Russo

Living in a Den of Thieves: Fan Video and Digital Challenges to Ownership – Alexis Lothian