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“Cultural criminology and kryptonite: Apocalyptic and retributive constructions of crime and justice in comic books”

Phillips, Nickie D.
June 4, 2015

Source: (-0001) Crime, Media, Culture, 2; 304

The current study utilizes a cultural criminological approach to examine paradigms of
justice portrayed in American comic books. Based on a review of the literature, we
hypothesize that the dominant crimes depicted in comic books are violent street crimes
and that the portrayed responses to these crimes are executed outside the rule of law by
an avenging protagonist. According to the literature surveyed, comic book protagonists
seek to restore public order as a means of returning the community to a constructed,
nostalgic ideal. Moreover, the implied policy message in comic books is one of vigilantism,
in which moral justice trumps legitimate criminal procedure. Based on a content analysis
of 20 contemporary best-selling comic books, themes of organized crime, often involving
complex transnational networks, are more prevalent than street crimes, contrary to our
hypothesis. However, the response to crime remains focused on vigilante methods and on
the restoration of a constructed utopic community that espouses the rule of law.


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