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Comics and the U.S. South

Brannon Costello

Publication Year: 2012

Comics and the U.S. South offers a wide-ranging and long overdue assessment of how life and culture in the United States South is represented in serial comics, graphic novels, newspaper comic strips, and webcomics. Diverting the lens of comics studies from the skyscrapers of Superman's Metropolis or Chris Ware's Chicago to the swamps, back roads, small towns, and cities of the U.S. South, this collection critically examines the pulp genres associated with mainstream comic books alongside independent and alternative comics. Some essays seek to discover what Captain America can reveal about southern regionalism and how slave narratives can help us reread Swamp Thing; others examine how creators such as Walt Kelly (Pogo), Howard Cruse (Stuck Rubber Baby), Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), and Josh Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge) draw upon the unique formal properties of the comics to question and revise familiar narratives of race, class, and sexuality; and another considers how southern writer Randall Kenan adapted elements of comics form to prose fiction. With essays from an interdisciplinary group of scholars, Comics and the U.S. South contributes to and also productively reorients the most significant and compelling conversations in both comics scholarship and in southern studies.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

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pp. vii-xvi

In an early installment of Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben’s ambitious run on the DC Comics horror title Saga of the Swamp Thing, a mad villain with the power to control plants—Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man—decides to cleanse the earth once and for all of the humans whose...

I. The South in the National Imagination

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Li’l Abner, Snuffy, and Friends: The Appalachian South in the American Comic Strip

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pp. 3-28

The comic strip in the United States has largely been an urban-oriented newspaper feature in terms of setting and character, beginning with the Yellow Kid and his urchin friends in Hogan’s Alley in 1894. During the first few decades of development, only occasionally would the rural South enter the comics...

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Bumbazine, Blackness, and the Myth of the Redemptive South in Walt Kelly’s Pogo

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pp. 29-61

The swamp holds a significant place in the history of American comic strips and comic books ranging from the funny animals of Pogo to the grotesque creatures of Swamp Thing. Always a territory for alternate realities, magic, and carnivalesque social satire, the swamp’s significance in the history of comic...

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Southern Super-Patriots and United States Nationalism: Race, Region, and Nation in Captain America

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pp. 62-88

The concept of the superhero has been closely linked with a patriotic, even jingoistic, vision of the United States at least since Captain America socked Adolf Hitler on the cover of Captain America #1 in 1941. By the time the U.S. entered the war, Superman and his allies were swatting Japanese planes out...

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“The Southern Thing”: Doug Marlette, Identity Consciousness, and the Commodification of the South

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pp. 89-110

On Saturday July 21, 2007, the family of deceased editorial cartoonist Doug Nigel Marlette received another of many letters offering condolences on his passing and praise for the artist’s sharp wit and ability to treat the most serious of issues with insight and humor. Before offering her final regards, Senator...

II. Emancipation and Civil Rights Resistance

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Drawing the Unspeakable: Kyle Baker’s Slave Narrative

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pp. 113-137

Even a cursory reading of Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner (serialized from 2005– 2007 and collected in 2008) reveals two things. First, the story is incredibly violent. Nearly every page features a gruesome act of graphic violence, or, at the very least, some consequence of violence. Second, in telling the story of...

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“Black and White and Read All over”: Representing Race in Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery

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pp. 138-160

This is the crucial paradox of racial categories Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece have inscribed into the pages of their collaboration, Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery—the color line, as with the attendant concepts about race that it seeks to police, is both unreal and deadly real. It is a metaphorical...

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Everybody’s Graphic Protest Novel: Stuck Rubber Baby and the Anxieties of Racial Difference

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pp. 161-183

In any number of ways, Stuck Rubber Baby, Howard Cruse’s 1995 graphic novel, is a mesmerizing text that broke new ground, particularly with its unique marriage of genre and content. A gay cartoonist who, since the 1970s, has created such iconographic series as Barefootz and Wendel, Cruse...

III. The Horrors of the South

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Of Slaves and Other Swamp Things: Black Southern History as Comic Book Horror

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pp. 187-213

Of the many captivating changes that British comic book writer Alan Moore brought to his run on the DC Comics Swamp Thing series from 1984–1987, two are especially significant. He began by reconceptualizing the character’s physiological structure as sentient plant matter, rather than as the mutated...

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Crooked Appalachia: The Laughter of the Melungeon Witches in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: The Crooked Man

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pp. 214-241

To accurately discuss the Melungeons, a group once identified by Library of Congress researchers as the largest “little race” of miscegenated1 people in the 1960s (Pollitzer 722), or even to discuss the accuracy of Mike Mignola’s representations of them in his 2008 comic book mini-series...

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Meat Fiction and Burning Western Light: The South in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher

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pp. 242-265

Published from 1995 to 2000, Preacher is a violent, provocative, and influential series. It was one of the defining titles of the Vertigo imprint, a division of DC Comics aiming at adult readers that emerged from the successes of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Scripted by an...

IV. Revisualizing Stories, Rereading Images

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A Visitation of Narratives: Dialogue and Comics in Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits

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pp. 269-292

In his book of essays The Fire This Time (2007), North Carolina author Randall Kenan writes, “Comic books were my original vice, and they still have more allure to me than sex or drugs. To spend too much time reading was a sign of laziness or worse. Decided evidence of bad character. Surely in my...

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A Re-Vision of the Record: The Demands of Reading Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

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pp. 293-323

Near the end of the graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, the author/artist Josh Neufeld recreates an image that was seared into the public consciousness in the fall of 2005: an overhead shot that approximates the vantage point of a cable news helicopter looking down on a crowd of thousands...

About the Contributors

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pp. 325-327


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pp. 329-342

E-ISBN-13: 9781617030192
E-ISBN-10: 1617030198
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617030185
Print-ISBN-10: 161703018X

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- In literature.
  • Comic books, strips, etc. -- History and criticism.
  • Race in literature -- Congresses.
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