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“The Death of Zod”: Ethics in 21st-Century Comics

deadline for submissions:
September 30, 2016
full name / name of organization:
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email:
Avid comic book fans sat appalled in theatres as Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel reached the climax of the film in which Superman kills his enemy Zod. Snyder’s film raises the question of whether this killing and the death of Zod could actually fit with Superman’s traditional moral compass. From Man of Steel to the CW’s Arrow and Flash series to the Avengers franchise, comic book characters are facing new ethical developments in their rejuvenation that both encompass and go beyond the idea of killing one’s enemy.Following a loose Nietzschean trajectory of “The Death of God,” this panel seeks to tease out the issues of superheroes’ ethics. Further, this panel questions the regenerated heroes of the 21st century and the moral and ethical dilemmas these characters face in the contemporary world.

Papers for this panel are invited to contemplate the following questions: Do our generation’s heroes have a different ethic than past generations? What does it mean if they do? How is our modern and post-modern culture reflected in this change? What moral tensions are highlighted in male and female characters and are they different? Should we redefine the notion of the superhero and the vigilante (or perhaps even the villain), as well as their place in society? How are characters’ identities formed through their moral actions?

Papers might focus on comic book adaptations on big and small screens or comic book characters’ revival in print.

Submit papers on NeMLA’s website:

Online Abstract:

For questions email:

Forrest Johnson:

Tracey Thomas: