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:

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.