Trine symposium to discuss nukes’ portrayal in comics, manga

Though the gamma-irradiated Hulk is perhaps the most well-known example, nuclear energy or weapons have been woven into many comic storylines since World War II, according to Patrick Ridout, MLS, MIS, assistant director of information services at Trine University’s LINK library.

“Hulk is a part of this, but it also includes Sunfire, the Fantastic Four, Watchmen, Superman and the Sub-Mariner,” said Ridout, who will speak on “The Mighty Atom: Nuclear Energy in Comics and Manga” in the March 19 session of Trine University’s Spring 2019 Humanities Symposia.

Ridout’s presentation will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Wells Theater inside Taylor Hall. He plans to cover how different parties influenced the perception of nuclear usage, and different materials produced that were pro- and anti-nuclear.

“I'm going to give a bit of coverage to a few different aspects, starting with the mystery/unknown and developing into the caution/optimism/fear that different parties see today,” he said.

Ridout said comic publishers in the United States such as DC and Marvel have tended to follow popular opinion, generally showing nuclear usage in a positive light immediate following World War II, and taking a more negative stance through the Cold War and events like Three Mile Island.

“As public opinion shifted, so did American comics' stances,” he said.

Comics in other nations tend to use the same arguments against nuclear energy and weapons as those in the United States, but do so much more strongly, Ridout said. His presentation will discuss manga works such as Barefoot Gen, Ichi-F and Fukushima Devil Fish.

“Manga has largely been anti-nuclear, as you would expect,” he said. “The only positives generally come from propaganda outlets, along with some sneaky professional comics snuck in by the power companies.”

The Humanities Symposia is a series of presentations and discussions that cover a wide range of topics related to the humanities. It was created as a university outlet for scholars and artists searching for a place to present their research outside of academic conferences. The Symposia allows them to share their research with Trine as well as the local community.

Trine’s Humanities Symposia is free and open to the public. Talks usually last about 30 minutes and are immediately followed by time for any questions, which usually leads to a total time of one hour. Wells Theater seats 75 guests, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early if they have specific seating preferences.

For more information about the Symposia, contact Melissa Mayus, Ph.D., assistant professor in Trine’s Department of Humanities and Communication, at mayusm@trine.edu.