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Professors to discuss new book, examine race through superheroes at Feb. 18 lecture
Posted 01/13/2020 01:30PM

Allan W. Austin, Ph.D.Misericordia University professors Allan W. Austin, Ph.D., and Patrick L. Hamilton, Ph.D., will discuss their new book, "All New, All Different? A History of Race and the American Superhero," during a Friends of the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library lecture and book signing on Tuesday, Feb. 18 from 5-7 p.m. in the Catherine Evans McGowan Room of the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library. Light refreshments will be available at the free program.

The 392-page book was published by University of Texas Press in November. It is an eye-opening exploration of the relationship between racial attitudes and the evolution of the superhero in America over the last 80 years – from Superman's debut in 1938 through the Civil Rights era to contemporary revisions of the well-known characters of today.

"'Our book enriches the understanding of the complex issues of racial representation in American popular culture,'' Drs. Austin and Hamilton explained. "Our work explores a topic that until now has only received more discrete examination.''

Dr. Austin is a professor of history and the author of two previous books. He published "Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950'' (University of Illinois Press) in 2012, and "From Concentration Camp to Campus: Japanese American Students and World War II" (University of Illinois Press) in 2004. In addition, he served as co-editor of "Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia" and "Space and Time: Essays on Visions of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television." He is a resident of Kingston.

Dr. Hamilton, an associate professor of English, is the author of "Of Space and Mind: Cognitive Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction'' (University of Texas Press). He also has published on "Los Bros Hernandez," "The Walking Dead," and "Westworld." He is a resident of Kingston.

The Misericordia University professors frequently have team-taught the interdisciplinary course, Race and Graphic Narrative in the Postwar United States, at Misericordia University since 2009. It explores multiculturalism and other important societal issues addressed in comic strips, comic books, graphic novels and movies.

The next step in their educational collaboration brought them to their new book, which takes a multifaceted approach to exploring attitudes of race through popular culture – whether it is the characters made famous by Marvel Comics or DC Comics, or lesser known heroes as they also examine diverse characters and the messages contained within their actions and story lines.

In their book, the authors begin with World War II, examining early superhero stories with Asian villains and nonwhite sidekicks, before transitioning to the 1960s and 1970s and the rise of popular characters, such as Black Panther, Black Lightning, Luke Cage, Storm and others that reflected a cultural revolution, according to Drs. Austin and Hamilton.

"The book reveals how nonwhite superheroes remained grounded in outdated assumptions, even as racial reform began to take root'' the Misericordia University authors argue. "Multiculturalism encouraged further diversity with 1980s super teams and the new characters introduced in the 1990s by Milestone, a minority-run company, and others.''

The groundbreaking book concludes with a discussion of contemporary efforts by the industry to make both a profit and a positive impact on society.

The book also has received positive reviews, including one by Lan Dong, Ph.D., an English professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield. "'All New, All Different?' discusses not only mainstream superhero comics from Marvel and DC but also lesser-known texts over a long time span,'' Dr. Dong wrote. "In addition to examining African American superheroes, it also critically engages with Asian/Asian American, Native American and Latinx characters.

Patrick L. Hamilton, Ph.D."Its comprehensive coverage will make a meaningful contribution to the growing field of comic studies,'' she concluded.

To read an excerpt of the book, please search the title online and select a national retailer. It is available for purchase in paperback and hardcover.

Due to limited seating, reservations for the lecture are suggested, but are not required. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the lecture. For additional information or to make a reservation, please contact Susan Lazur at 570-674-6225 or at slazur@misericordia.edu.

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