Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Kathleen Kane

Commitee Members

Louise Economides, Stephanie Burt, Sara Hayden


anthropocene, comic books, ecocriticism, x-men


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America | Other Film and Media Studies | Visual Studies


Scholars such as Amitav Ghosh, Timothy Clark, and Timothy Morton emphasize the importance of and challenge within the task of representing the power, scope, and scale of climate change in art and literature. These interrogations often emphasize the failures of extant works to animate their viewers towards action in a time of environmental crisis, but struggle to find any work that meets their expectations. This ‘game-over’ attitude, I argue, is the direct result of the cruel optimism present in the current scholarship’s attachment to ‘traditional’ forms of art and literature. By interrogating the conclusions Ghosh reaches about the novel’s function as a regulatory imaginative framework, I argue that the novel cannot represent the Anthropocene nor animate its readers to action because it produces an unradical imagination, thus limiting readers’ ability to imagine futures outside the current hegemonic order. Instead, I propose to develop a form of critique that refuses the ‘game-over’ attitude. Invoking Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure and abolitionist theories, I argue that we must resist the urge to become stuck in the cruel optimism of the search for the ‘perfect’ Anthropocene novel. I argue this by moving the critical eye to sites of enchantment within the superhero comic.

To further argue that the superhero comic is a site worth ecocritical focus, I develop a method of reading the superhero comic as a successor to the epic. By emphasizing its hypo- and hypertextuality, I trace how the superhero comic not only radically imagines new worldings and kinship formations between the human and non-human, but arrives there through a collaborative process. This process knots together artists, writers, editors, fans, critics, and history in the creation of comics. In doing so, this transforms practicing the radical imagination from an individual act into a discursive collective experience. If the task is, as Haraway proposes, to become entangled together, imperfectly, then I argue that superhero comics allow us to do so in the making and reading of them. I conclude with a study of the X-Men as a site of collective radical imagination on formal and textual levels.



© Copyright 2021 Reed G. Puc