Rescheduled: 5:00pm today!!! 'Flame On!': Nuclear Families, Unstable Molecules, and the Queer History of 'The Fantastic Four'" a talk by Ramzi Fawaz
Fri, February 7, 2014 • 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM • Burdine Hall (BUR) Room 214
'Flame On!': Nuclear Families, Unstable Molecules, and the Queer History of 'The Fantastic Four'"
Released to popular fanfare in 1961, Marvel Comics’ "The Fantastic Four" told the story of four anti-Communist space adventurers who gain extraordinary powers when cosmic rays alter their physiology, respectively granting them control over living flame, invisibility, impenetrable rock-like skin, and physical pliability. "The Fantastic Four" depicted the monstrous transformations of its four heroes as placing them outside the bounds of Cold War gender and sexual norms, their bodies now mutated in ways that destabilized their assumed gender and sexual identification. In this talk, I argue that "The Fantastic Four" offered a key contribution to queer literary history in the 1960s by using the mutated bodies of its four heroes to depict the transformation of the normative types of the 1950s nuclear family - the breadwinning father, doting wife, and bickering male siblings - into icons of 1960s radicalism. These icons included the liberal feminist, the left-wing intellectual, the political activist, and the potential queer or neurotic, all non-normative characters the four came to embody. By depicting the four's bodies as absorbing the physical textures of modern technological innovations, namely the plastics and synthetics that made up the material comforts of normative family life in the Cold War, the comic book reinterpreted the family as a locus of queer proximities, where bodies and objects interacted in ways that potentially unraveled the rigid gender and sexual norms espoused by the politics of containment. While "The Fantastic Four" spoke to an emergent canon of countercultural literature that railed against the constraints of such norms, it ultimately aligned itself with an emergent queer literary culture by materializing alternative kinships between gender and sexual outlaws through the narrative techniques of the comic book medium as a distinct literary form.