Marvel Entertainment and the Urban Spaces of Superhero Authenticity

From its earliest comics titles to its most recent Netflix series, Marvel Entertainment has distinguished itself from its competitors and branded itself as a purveyor of authentic, even realist narratives through its consistent use of urban settings. This Roundtable explores the many different strategies Marvel has undertaken as horizontally integrated, transmedia company to solidify its identity, from the use of recognizable historical settings in Agent Carter to the evocation of the urban as multisensory experience in Daredevil.

Each of the contributors will offer an initial short essay responding to the roundtable introduction below. Following this, the contributors will offer further responses.

Marvel, the Urban, and Authenticity: An Introduction (January 17, 2017)

In this roundtable introductionMediapolis managing editor Erica Stein introduces the main thematic issues and questions to be addressed.

Branding New York: Marvel Comics and Industry Tradition (January 17, 2017)

In the first essay, Laura Felschow explores the origins and recent history of Marvel’s association with New York City, and how this has helped the company differentiate itself from competitor DC Comics.

Black Metropolis: The Embodied City in Luke Cage (January 19, 2017)

In the second essay, Matt Yockey examines the adaptation tactic used to move the comics’ Power Man to the small (computer?) screen in Netflix’s Luke Cage while maintaining the character’s relevance as a black icon, and the role Harlem played in this adaptation.

Marvel Noir: Agent Carter, the Automat, and Urban Wholeness (January 22, 2017)

In the third essay, Lorrie Palmer discusses the single period-set Marvel television offering, Agent Carter, and its use of locations like the Automat to evoke a unified city.

Rediscovering Bodies in Pain in Marvel’s Netflix Series (January 23, 2017)

In this round’s last essay, James Gilmore argues that Netflix’s Marvel line-up of shows are transmediated texts that encourage us to ponder whose bodies matter, and how they matter, in the contemporary city.

First We Take Manhattan: Marvel Roundtable Part 2 (January 26, 2017)

Erica Stein reflects on trends in the first series of posts and suggests a question to guide the second: what is Marvel without New York?

Excelsior: Reaching Toward Utopia in Marvel’s New York (January 27, 2017)

In the second round’s first post, Matt Yockey argues Marvel links the superhero to the urban, and to New York City in particular, through affect-inducing strategies that belie both Marvel’s, and the city’s, “ever upward” aspirations.

Borderless Worlds, Imagined Places: Bending Time & Space in the MCU (January 29, 2017)

In the second round’s second post, Laura Felschow analyzes Marvel’s expansion of authenticity to the international in world building and marketing.

Resisting the Grid: A Centrifugal Dance in Marvel’s Relocated City (January 31, 2017)

In the second round’s third post, Lorrie Palmer follows Agent Carter off the grid in her discussion of the second season’s unruly spaces and unruly women.

Assembling an Entry Point: Notes on Navigating the Superhero Genre (February 2, 2017)

In the second round’s fourth and final post, James Gilmore suggests that the vastness of the superhero genre defies generalizations and instead requires scholars to take situated “entry points” to the genre.