This project sets out from the assumption that serial narratives are particularly likely to generate creative activities on the part of their recipients. Because of the short intervals between production and initial reception, readers, viewers, and fans of commercial series have always had a relatively large influence on the content, progress, and structure of serial narratives. This tendency of serial narration towards popularization (read: the proliferation and diversification of culture-making acts) creates authorization conflicts. Who negotiates and decides—and by which means—about the legitimacy of unauthorized continuations and variations? How do professional authors promote, control, or channel the participatory acts of their addressees? How do they themselves become addressees of their audiences? How are these negotiations reflected in the aesthetic practice of authorized and unauthorized products? How are established roles of author / reader transformed by popular seriality?
In American serial comics, these authorization conflicts are carried out in an extraordinarily explicit manner. Our main focus is on the genesis of the super hero genre, with Batman and Spider-Man comics since 1962 as case studies. We will investigate how participants in the Batman and Spider-Man universes conceive of themselves as "authors" or "readers" through the production of texts and images. We will identify pertinent role concepts through hermeneutic, discursive, and visual analyses of fan letters, fanzines, fan fiction, blogs, and self-thematizations of professional and amateur producers as well as through a reconstruction of the cultural work of the selected comics series.