Black Widow and the Marvel Girls quantitative study

In 2015 I attended a talk by Heather M. Porter, whose real job is/was producing reality shows in LA.

The talk she gave looked at 9 of 10 movies, not Hulk, which featured Black Widow.

Black Widow basics:
First appeared in 1964
Joined Avengers in 1966
8 issues of own comic in 1970s
appearances in other comics until 2010…
In Iron Man 2 in 2010
Relaunched series in 2010
Action figures
Solo movie

Bechdel test
Had to appear in 2 of the films
Bechdel test (2 named female characters, talk to each other, not about a man)
Avengers doesn’t pass.

Many films that pass with poor depictions of women.
Major issue of this test is that it only requires small changes.
Fails to look at bigger issues.

Complete female character
Named, speaking character
Has a back story
Has a personality and skills that define them beyond their looks
Has agency
Has flaws
Has audience relate-ability

Black Widow character development
Spy from childhood, originally Russian KGB
Many espionage skills
Out to make amends for her past
Dark past and is cocky
Can be vulnerable, cares for her team members

Quantity is also important
Screen Time –how long on screen
Scenes—how many scenes appeared in

Black Widow 21% of Iron Man2
Avengers 27%
other 29%

Women in each movie
27%, 38%, 49%, 35%, 41% 26%, 58%, 40%
(through the different movies)

trend of increasing complete female characters
Black Widow carries through most movies.
Not a lot of characters carry through.
Phase Three shows promise of more of these characters with Captain Marvel movie on the slate.

Domestically only $3B

19th movie before woman lead
Black Widow won’t have her own.

Gina Davis Disparity
29% of speaking roles in all movies
2.42 men = 1 woman

Heather M. Porter now has a chapter published in Marvel’s Black Widow: From Spy to Superhero edited by Sherry Ginn. Here is a link to the Kindle version.

Visual Rhetoric of Comics and Graphic Novels: Relevant Posts

Since I am teaching the Visual Rhetoric of Comics this fall for an Honors Colloquium, I thought I would see what posts I have on TCE. There are quite a few, but not as many as I thought.

On Comics and Graphic Novels:
Visual Rhetoric and Comics Honors Colloquium
What I plan to do with this course.

Teaching Comics as Visual Rhetoric
Link to a dissertation on the topic with relevant work identified by section.

Trends in Teaching Composition Conference 2015 notes on Teaching Comics
I have some fun beginning activities from Lauryn Angel’s presentation.

Mental Health and Comics Workshop
I attended this at Nine Worlds in 2014.

MLA notes on “Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books”

PCA Teaching Medieval Lit with Comics

9 Chickweed Lane
Comic I wasn’t familiar with that has a professor as a main character.

PCA Questions on Superheroes 2015

Visual Rhetoric, when I decided I should use Scott McCloud’s book

PCA 2011 Understanding Visual Rhetoric

PCA 2011 Women in Refrigerators

PCA 2011 Supertexts The Waste Land

General Visual Rhetoric Posts:
Benjamin Franklin and Visual Rhetoric

Defining Visual Rhetorics: Emerging Graphical Conventions
A post about a chapter in Defining Visual Rhetorics.

Defining Visual Rhetorics: History of the Visual
A post about a different chapter in Defining Visual Rhetorics.

Defining Visual Rhetorics: Images Construct Memory
A post about a different chapter in Defining Visual Rhetorics.

Defining Visual Rhetorics: Challenging the Visual/Verbal Divide
Notes on Words and Images, Words AS Images, Words over Images, and material practices.

Defining Visual Rhetorics: Rhetoric of Visual Arguments

Says visual arguments can have the same fallacies as verbal arguments: vagueness and equivocation (1002 of 6169).

“[M]ost communications that are candidates for visual arguments are combinations of the verbal and the visual” (1065 of 6169).

“Visual images can thus be used to convey a narrative in a short time” (1106 of 6169).

“visual arguments supply simple, minimalist support” (1131 of 6169)

Defining Visual Rhetorics: Psychology of Rhetorical Images

There are more notes from chapters of Defining Visual Rhetorics that you can find by searching for Defining Visual Rhetorics, but most did not have anything relevant to the class I will be teaching.

Visual Rhetoric: Digital Writing
Since the students will be presenting a digital presentation, I thought this was relevant.

Visual Rhetoric Assignment(s)
Ideas for assignments from Rice in Rhetoric of Cool.

#FYCchat Visual Rhetoric Highlights
Lots of posts from a chat on first-year composition by FYC profs.

Visual Rhetoric, literally
A link to an American Heritage offer that lets you create a picture of you out of your words.

FYC Visual Rhetoric Paper
Long quote and short notes on a Scientific American article.

Visual Rhetoric Essay
How I introduced a visual rhetoric essay.

PCA Tech Comm and Visual Rhetoric
Notes on a panel at 2012 PCA.

CFP: Routledge Comic Studies

Routledge Advances in Comics Studies Series.

The series promotes outstanding research on comics and graphic novels from communication theory, rhetorical theory and media studies perspectives. Additionally, the series aims to bring European, Asian, African, and Latin American comics scholarship to the English speaking world. The series includes monographs and themed anthologies.

For proposal guidelines contact:

Randy Duncan
Henderson State University
Matthew J. Smith
Radford University

Available Now

Reading Art Spiegelman By Philip Smith

The Modern Superhero in Film and Television By Jeffrey Brown

The Narratology of Comics Art By Kai Mikkonen

Coming Soon

Empirical Approaches to Comics Research: Digital, Multimodal, and Cognitive Methods Edited by Alexander Dunst, Jochen Laubrock and Janina Wildfeuer

Batman and the Multiplicity of Identity: The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero as Cultural Nexus By Jeffrey Brown

Immigrants and Comics: Graphic Spaces of Remembrance, Transaction, and Mimesis Edited by Nhora Lucía Serrano

For more information on any of these books or to place an order, please visit:


CFP: Engineered Humans

Organic Machines/Engineered Humans: (Re)Defining Humanity

deadline for submissions:
November 15, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Special Issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities
contact email:
Now that school is OUT, it’s time to do some writing for yourself – and if you are a fan of scifi, or intrigued by the singularity, or the human/machine interface that is currently underway, this is the topic made for you!

From E.T.A Hoffmann’s Tales of Hoffmann and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, authors have been exploring the human/machine interface since before the computer age. Today we stand on the threshold to the lab as the government contemplates microchipping all U.S. military personnel and Swedish office workers are already implanting themselves for convenience ala M.T. Anderson’s Feed. A 2014 study conducted by Cisco System found approximately one-quarter of the white-collar professionals surveyed “would leap at the chance to get a surgical brain implant that allowed them to instantly link their thoughts to the Internet”. We are already experimenting with gene therapy, cybernetics via cochlear implants and many other technical organic enhancements, autonomous self-replicating robots, nanotechnology, mind uploading, and artifcial intelligence.

The Spring 2018 edition of Interdisciplinary Humanities wants to consider topics focused on transhumanism, the singularity, and the arrival of the bio-engineered human/machine interface and what it means for the humanities as we redefine identity, pedagogy, humanity, class structure, literature (past, present, and future) and the diversity of our species. We also want to consider papers on the future of recreation, literature, music, and art. We invite papers in disciplines and areas of study that include but are not limited to Aesthetics, Anthropology, Architecture, Art, Classics, Communication Studies, Composition, Cultural Studies, Dance, Design, Digital Technology, Disability Studies, Education, Environmental Issues, Esthetics, Ethics, Ethnic Studies, Family, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Geography, Geology, Globalization, History, Languages, Law, Literature, Media, Museum Studies, Music, Pedagogy, Performance Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Sexuality, Sociology, Theater, Women’s Studies, and all sciences relevant to the topic. These disciplines will help us understand and grapple with how we will redefine identity and the diversity of our species through the dynamic interplay of humanity and the acceleration of technology.

The Humanities Education and Research Association, Interdisciplinary Humanities’ parent organization, requires that authors become members of HERA if their essays are accepted for publication. Information on membership may be found at:

from UPennCFPs

CFP: Children and Pop Culture

Children and Popular Culture

deadline for submissions:
December 1, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Global Studies of Childhood
contact email:
CFP: Global Studies of Childhood

Special Issue: Children and Popular Culture

Guest Editor: Patrick Cox, Rutgers University

Childhood and youth are always contested notions, but perhaps nowhere more than in popular culture. Popular culture offers representations of children and youth as, among other things, wise, dangerous, evil, innocent, sexual, doomed, and in various states of “in progress.” Popular culture is also the broad site of much child agency, where children and youth produce texts from novels to YouTube channels to websites, blogs, and zines, frequently outstripping their adult contemporaries in technological savvy and communicative capability. Popular culture for children is by turns condescending to the youngest audience, crass, pedantic, and appropriated by adults for their own pleasure. Elements of popular culture are designed to educate and socialize children; others are manipulated by children as political activism. These turns call into question and trouble conceptions not only of “the child” but of “popular culture” itself and propose a compelling nexus of questions befitting both Childhood Studies and Popular Culture Studies.

In this special issue, authors are invited to consider intersections of popular culture by, for, and about childhood, both broadly construed. We will explore both the impacts of popular culture on youth and childhood and the very real impacts of children and youth on popular culture. All disciplinary approaches are welcome, including but not limited to textual and visual analysis, ethnographic work, studies of children’s popular material culture, historical readings, comparative analysis of texts, and consumer and communication studies.

Additionally, contemplations of the interstices between Childhood Studies and Popular Culture Studies as academic endeavors are encouraged. The two fields have been in limited conversation with one another, perhaps separated by epistemological and methodological concerns, yet the available data seems like a rich vein for insight. While both fields are multi-disciplinary and continuously evolving, Childhood Studies maintains very clear traces of its roots in social sciences, while Popular Culture Studies is still found more often housed in the Humanities. The two fields each have at their center subjects that have at times made it difficult for them to be taken seriously as sites of academic inquiry. With different questions at their core, how can the two fields interact? Put another way, how do we study this multitude of texts?

Topics for this special issue might include:

Popular culture and education, whether intentional or inadvertent;
Children’s popular culture as grown-up nostalgia;
Youth vs. adult perspectives on popular culture;
Children and youth as producers of popular culture;
New media as empowering or oppressive;
Capabilities for communication and interconnectivity;
Adult consumption of children’s popular culture;
Children’s consumption of decades-old popular culture;
Definitions of youth in popular culture;
Nostalgia through revivals and reboots;
Social media;
Diminishing space between children’s and adult popular culture.

The guest editor welcomes submissions of articles via the journal submission system on its SAGE Publishing site. See “Submission Guidelines” here:

Deadline for submissions: December 1, 2017.

Please send any queries to guest editor Patrick Cox at

from UPennCFPs

Teaching Comics as Visual Rhetoric

There is a dissertation online called Sequential rhetoric: Teaching comics as visual rhetoric.

The first chapter talks about visual literacy barriers and writing about comics.

The literature review includes definitions of visual rhetoric and comics.

This might be a good resource for the Visual Rhetoric of Comics classes this fall.

Visual Rhetoric and Comics

I submitted a plan for an Honors Colloquium (5-week course) last week and it was approved. I will be teaching it Fall 2017. I am very excited.

My notes are below:

Using Comics to Explore Visual Rhetoric/Visual Literacy

Scholarly sources:
Eisner, Will. “’Comics’ as a Form of Reading,” Comics and Sequential Art, Poorhouse Press, 1985, pp. 7-12.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Harper Perennial, 1994.

Amare, Nicole and Alan Manning. “The Language of Visuals: Text + Graphics = Visual Rhetoric.” IEEE Transactions of Professional Communication vol. 50, no. 1, 1 March 2007, pp. 57-70.

Online sources of comics:
Grand Comics Database = searchable database of comics
Read Comics = online free reading of popular comics
Comics Research = database of research on comics

Additional information:
Writing about Comics and Graphic Novels from Duke University

reading, discussion, online archival research, short response writing, digital presentation

Final project: Students will choose a character from comics, read a scholarly article on that character, and create a digital presentation presenting the visual rhetoric evidence that supports or contradicts the scholarly argument in a 5-7 minute digital presentation.

First version of the ad for students:
Comics aren’t just for geeks. They are used to present technical information (as in PS Preventive Maintenance Monthly)

Have you ever wondered how images create meaning? This class will look at how culture and meaning are communicated by images, specifically images in comics. Comics don’t just include Superman and Wonder Woman, PS Preventive Maintenance Monthly technical communication

Final version of the student ad:
Comics aren’t just for geeks.

Meet fascinating characters from technical communication, film, and contemporary art. Learn their history and how to read and interpret their texts. Join the stream of scholarship on sequential art and visual rhetoric by creating a digital presentation that supports or argues with existing ideas.

The grand finale will be a costume party with food, games, and movies.

C/C End of the World Scenarios

Kathryn Hall, ORU
Graduating senior, English

c/c two civilizations in Alas, Babylon Frank and The Time Ships Baxter

Shades of apocalypse…
American literature mass end of world experience
Age-old question (really?)

One civ traveled back to beginning of time
Other is in the 50s

Both have countries that send nuclear bombs: Russians, German
AB = hydrogen
TS = atomic
Explains bombs. Hydrogen are stronger and can cause blindness.

No safe level of radioactivity.

By both areas there are water.
AB Fish are constant meal source. “If the river were hot, we’d all be hot”
TS Both take cover in body of water. “could do nothing but cower in the water”

Despite terror, both societies flourish.
AB local librarian “requires a holocaust to make her own life worth living”
Randy marries Lib.
Dr. Dan cannot hide his joy when first baby is born.
TS people begin new relationships, practicing polygamy, children are born

Success of these worlds
Neither Randy nor Time Travelers want to leave their homes.

AB town could get along fine, but power would be good
TS regret leaving New London, as if old already

“We get shock proofed. … Standing on the brink of war has been our normal posture.”
“believed in an innate wisdom of humanity… to put a stop to it all”

from ORU 2015

Shift from Utopia to Dystopia

Kelsey Boles, ORU
Senior psych major, graduating in 2 weeks
Paper is overview, doesn’t focus on one book in particular

Darkening Future: Shift from Utopia to Dystopia

Birth of sf, very first stories:
Jules Verne adventure story, outlandish adventures
Tomorrow Land at Disney World
Robot butler to clean your house
Man has conquered universe. Machines help people.

Grit and rubble.
Exploration of universe is escape from destroyed planet.
Some reason Earth destroyed, usually our fault.
Machines are destroyed or have rebelled against us.

Hope in bold Utopic 20th C, American path (not British)
Pre WWI and II, enamored with idea of utopia. Man getting better. Tech would fix problems.

Pulp sf around this time.
Formulaic fun stories
Adventure, futuristic
“sense of wonder” pervading belief that sf was great thing
Bradbury, Clarke got start writing for pulp magazines
Set in space and called it sf.
Pop pulp mags continued into 50s, because of intro of paperback books and changes in taste.

60s hope started to crash

Laser Age late 60s to early 80s
Challenged Utopian ideas
“false utopia involves giving up some aspect of humanity”
Blade Runner, Clockwork Orange,

Dystopian prompt
Dystopia strips freedom from people or has them born after these freedoms are gone.
Oncoming apocalypse “blame… shoulders of humanity for having driven the world to this point of apocalypse”
Planet of the Apes
Explored worst-case-scenario ramifications of actions through fiction
Make Room, Make Room “for your sakes, I hope this is a work of fiction”

Science as downfall: overpop, nuclear war, etc.
Have spent years trying to come up with ways to fix the problem.

Modern sf
Science causes the apocalypse
Terminator, Matrix, I, Robot, The Flame Alphabet

Modern Dystopias
2005-2015 young readers = dystopia
Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent

Wall-E is for 5 yo. All humans off planet, too fat. Robots took over.
Children of next generation will grow up being told humanity is ruining everything.

Main characters of modern adventures are merely hoping to survive.

Scaffolding hope
“open framework which each decade’s writers can fill with their own themes”
“Perhaps some writer will capture the imaginations, force humanity to examine themselves and come up with solutions.”
Same stories (sf) that showed disaster… can be used to retell.

Dystopian never positive, always prod to something bigger and better.

If we can’t imagine a world where we created disaster, shouldn’t we try harder.

from ORU, 2015

Morals and Ethics

Steve (I apologize for not having the last name)
HS ethics teacher


Not the same meaning. Difference between the two.

Draws box
Boundaries of what we consider to be good and to be evil
What defines good and bad?
If using good as descriptor, how do I describe it?
Some people, whatever God says. If goes against what God says, defines bad morals.

Says here’s an action (helping old lady across street, punching stranger in face)
Asks how do I determine, what is my thought process, to decide what box the action goes into?

No one uses just one ethical system to determine action.

Does this action match Scripture?
Nowhere in Scriptures does it say whether you can wear blue shirts for presentation or on a Saturday.

There are actions that don’t really matter.
Wearing a blue or green shirt is a moral action. Don’t need ethical system for that.

Does this action do the most good?
Does this action do the least harm?
Does this action act in my own self-interest?

Different ethical systems to employ at different times.

Descriptive versus Normative Ethics

What we think should happen. How we think the world should work. If everything was working correctly, this is how world works.

Series of Unfortunate Events is horribly depressing. Kids never get a break. We think they should.

“what is”

Sometimes this is a misnomer.
Implies there is ethics, if we say descriptive ethics. But sometimes things aren’t ethical.

Bribery required in some countries. People don’t see as bad or good. Just business.

Sometimes what should happen and what does happen don’t equal each other. That’s an ethical dilemma.

Talking about ethical systems in play in sf systems
Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Ender’s game

Deontological and teleological ethics

when setting ethical standards, can look at act itself. (deontological)

divine command theory = deontological
action is what determines whether something is good or bad

consequences/motives = teleological
Doesn’t matter what the act is, (father steals loaf of bread) trying to feed children. Consequences matter. So give this guy a pass.
Motives in the right place.

All of the ethical systems in science fiction work on teleological model.
Absolutism versus relativity…
Generally you hear from many religious cultures absolutism.
Then you bring up situations that make people think. What if I murder Hitler? What if I murder Stalin?
Murdering is wrong, but… make a detour around relativity and say consequences outweighs the wrong thing of murder.

SF connections:
Star Wars Jedi knights
Star Trek Prime Directive
Battlestar Galactica
Stargate Atlantis
Ender’s Game

ORU 2015 notes