Reyns, Bradford W. and Billy Henson. "Superhero Justice: The Depiction of Crime and Justice in Modern-Age Comic Books and Graphic Novels." Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control. Ed. Mathieu Deflem. Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance. Bingley: Emerald, 2010. 45–66.
Added by: joachim (8/27/13, 8:29 PM) Last edited by: joachim (8/27/13, 9:06 PM)
|Resource type: Book Article
Language: en: English
BibTeX citation key: Reyns2010
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Keywords: "Batman", "Superman", Empirical research, Justice, Sociology, Superhero, USA
Creators: Deflem, Henson, Reyns
Publisher: Emerald (Bingley)
Collection: Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control
Purpose – Crime, criminals, the criminal justice system, and criminal justice system actors have traditionally occupied a prominent place in popular media. Comic books and graphic novels are no exception to this trend. Despite this, these media have received comparatively little attention from criminal justice scholars. This chapter seeks to explore the depiction of crime and justice in modern-era comic books and graphic novels.
Methodology/approach – Content analysis techniques were used to examine 166 individual comic books from the modern age (mid-1980s to present), including those compiled in graphic novel form. Particular emphasis was placed on issues of crime control and due process.
Findings – Clear criminal justice themes were seen across the sample, including an emphasis on crime control and crime prevention. Further, comic books featuring the individual characters of Superman and Batman portrayed opposing conceptions of justice, such as justified/unjustified use of force and a willingness to follow or break the law.
Research limitations – This research represents an exploration of the depiction of crime-related themes in comic books and graphic novels, but is by no means definitive. It would be useful to extend this research by examining other eras in comic book history as well as other comic book characters and publishing companies.
Practical implications – The public’s perceptions of the criminal justice system ultimately affect societal views of the legitimacy of the system. Since legitimacy is a requisite for compliance, it is important to understand factors that may influence these perceptions. These may include comic books, graphic novels, and other popular media.
Originality/value of paper – Comic books stories and themes have long reflected the times. However, it is unclear how crime and the criminal justice system are portrayed in the comic book world. This chapter is an attempt to fill a gap in the extant literature by examining this often neglected form of popular media.