Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Chris W. McGee, Ph.D. (Thesis Director)

Second Advisor

Jennifer M. Miskec, Ph.D. (First Reader)

Third Advisor

RhondaL. Brock-Servais, Ph.D. (Second Reader)


The discussion of agency within Young Adult Literature is an extensive topic that includes various criteria, such as power in various types of relationships and social ideologies. In the media form of graphic novels, the concept of agency is taken to a separate level because the primary teenagers depicted in graphic novels are titled as superheroes with abilities that surpass the norm. The role of being a teenaged superhero becomes conditional, depending on whether the teenager demands agency in the form of controlling his/her abilities or are assigned the role by their adult prototypes and society. The texts that this thesis will focus on are Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways, Mark Millar and Chuck Austen's Ultimate X-Men series, Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin series, and Geoff Johns' Teen Titans. These texts were chosen primarily for the casting of well-known superheroes as teenagers and for the conflict of teenagers within the superhero personas. Marv Wolfman's Teen Titan Spotlight: Raven will also be analyzed to examine the conflict of controlling ancient, limitless power within the fragile body of a teenager. In reference to these graphic novel series, additional graphic novels such as Chris Claremont's Uncanny X-Men: The New Age and Craig Kyle's X-Force will be included to analyze the treatment of the new generation of superp.eroes by the classical predecessors. By examining these generational gapped series, this thesis will not only analyze the treatment of teenaged super heroes' figurative and literal powers but also how past adolescent heroes approach new generations when they become the adult authority. However, this thesis will not include a comparison of how the publishing companies DC Comics and Marvel treat the superhero youth, for it includes a mixture of approaches to two primary concepts: the mentor and pupil relationship and the teenagedoriented family unit. In addition, this thesis will explore the pattern of youth superheroes following and rebelling against the legacies of their predecessors. As the thesis explores the individual treatment of the chosen series, it will differentiate the progressive and reactionary elements of the superhero youth. It is my goal to explore and analyze the concept of the figurative and literal levels of power of teenaged superheroes to determine whether or not the role of hero delivers the agency of progressive young adult characters.

saundersjr_abstract_2011.pdf (93 kB)



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