The virtuous fan : historical identity and modern minority representation in comic book culture.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


Comic books are a powerful communicative medium. Even so, the comic book community--made up of dedicated readers--is a subculture associated with stigmas such as perpetual adolescence or social awkwardness. The comic book community is also stereotypically known to consist only of white, straight males. Despite this, new minority characters emerge as discourses around how minorities should be represented occur within the subculture. This thesis explores a phenomenon that is seemingly contradictory: how can progressive conversations around accurate minority representations be taking place in a community perceived by mainstream American society as only immature, socially inept white men? Ethnodata was collected through a mixed-methods research project and analyzed in the context of cultural history. What emerged were three themes that are identified as 'virtues' due to their moralistic nature in the subculture. These virtues are essential to community identity, and are also helpful in conveying the 'geist' of the culture. Furthermore, because of their permanence throughout the subculture's history, these virtues help inform how seemingly contradictory discussions about minority representations can organically take place in the comic book community.