The (re)Collection Agency #13: A Conversation with Anna Peppard

Welcome to the 13th installment of The (re)Collection Agency, our second this year! The (re)Collection Agency is a series named for a term I theorized in my dissertation and where we bring you informal talks with comics scholars about their comics reading and collecting practices and how that intersects with their work. The idea is to open up the discourse a bit to integrate the personal experience of comics reading and material culture with the scholarly side of comics through historicizing, interpreting, and archiving.

photo by Anna Peppard.

Dr. Anna Peppard

Today’s talk is with Dr. Anna Peppard, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral fellow in the department of Communication, Popular Culture, and Film at Brock University. She has published widely on representations of race, gender, and sexuality within a variety of popular media genres and forms, including action-adventure television, superhero comics, professional wrestling, and sports culture. She is the editor of the anthology Supersex: Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero from the University of Texas Press (December 2020).

Readers of The Middle Spaces probably know her best from her brilliant guest essay, “(Behold?) The Vision’s Penis: The Presence of Absence in Mutant Romance Tales” from July of this year, though she is frequently trumpeting her unabashed love of superheroes on Twitter and other corners of the internet. I recall meeting Anna at the Comics Studies Society’s Mind the Gaps conference in 2018, where she was part of a roundtable on teaching long-running serialized comics narratives, and I found a kindred spirit in terms of fascination with serialized stories and their fragmentary nature being a feature—not a problem—of engaging with them. I was so happy she agreed to follow up on her guest post by recently sitting down to talk to me about intersections of collecting.

Osvaldo Oyola (OO): My number one goal for this talk is to not have it deteriorate into arguing the relative merits of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine vs. Voyager…or maybe having said that I am self-sabotaging.

Anna Peppard (AP): Hahaha… I so want to talk DS9. Another time!

OO: You never know, it can come up and be relevant.

AP: DS9 episodes were one of my most intense collections as a teen. I didn’t have cable, but I did have a friend who’d set her VCR to record the 1 am re-broadcasts and bring me a VHS tape of episodes every week. I cherished those tapes. And still cherish that friend.

OO: My mom had explicit instructions to always take a message if someone called for me— no matter who it was­—during TNG/DS9 time.

AP: I never watched any Star Trek during the original broadcast. I’ve rarely done that for any shows, except Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman many years ago, which came with the ritual of a breathless squee-ridden phone call with my bestie right after the episode ended.

OO: My experience with the original Star Trek series was VHS tape centered. I owned a nearly complete collection of the reruns on tapes (this is before the days of The Next Generation!) recorded off of late-night local TV.

AP: I hate surprises, so I usually only engage with stories that have ended or that have some guarantee of continual rebirth (like superhero comics), which generally helps soothe whatever heartache might ensue. And I research how they ended so I know whether it’s “worth my time” to get emotionally invested—that is, whether it’s worth expending the bucketloads of emotional energy I inevitably bring to stories when I fall in love with them.

OO: I hate surprises too—but only in real life! I like surprises in stories but don’t ever get a bunch of people to hide in a dark room waiting for me to come home on my birthday!

AP: Stories are real life! But I’m not kidding about the spoiler thing. Ideally, I’d like to read every episode/issue summary before watching a show or reading a comics series precisely to avoid storyworld surprises. (I realize this is terrible.)

OO: Funny, I think I prefer unfinished/incomplete stories, but I find your preparation quite charming and so different from the “spoiler-averse” culture that seems too prevalent now.

AP: I am flabbergasted by spoiler aversion.

OO: I have a lot of feelings about its absurdity, especially regarding stuff that is decades old.

AP: I honestly don’t feel I understand the basic roots of it. I can’t get my head around wanting to cede that much control to mass market entertainment. I want to feel I have a measure of control over what I’m consuming. Spoiler aversion feels like wanting to have less control, and I don’t understand that at all. I hate being emotionally manipulated by mass media.

OO: For me it depends on the genre. I don’t want a murder mystery spoiler—but telling me the Rebels blow up the Death Star is not a spoiler! It wasn’t even in 1977! Then again, Columbo is my favorite TV detective so maybe I do want a murder mystery spoiler! That said, being manipulated by mass media is something people want and expect from films and TV—“a ride” is a common way to describe an engaging action movie for example.

AP: Well, I hate roller coasters, too, so… I’m mostly coming from a place of being frustrated by melodramatic genre texts that want you to be intensely emotionally invested but often betray that investment through “shocking” twists that are more about generating sales (or, these days, online chatter) than enriching the storyworld (basically: most superhero comics, and even more specifically X-Men comics). But I digress. We should talk about collecting!

OO: It is all connected. I see your prep before consumption and waiting for completion as collecting practices! But sure… I am interested in how your work connects or overlaps with your collecting practices as a fan and/or scholar—curating the Supersex anthology, for example.

AP: Supersex definitely extends from the ways I collect and wanting to legitimize those practices. But the book isn’t just about me and my passions—at least, not in a straightforward way. While the book was partly motivated by my desire to have my gaze represented in superhero scholarship, I didn’t want it to just be my gaze. Everyone’s gaze is limited, mine certainly included. So, I chose to do an anthology instead of a monograph and tried to include as many gazes as possible. I wrote about the female gaze in Lois & Clark. Others wrote about body and gender-swap fanfiction and fan art, Tijuana Bibles and Underground parodies of superheroes, gay and straight superhero porn, and the sexual metaphors underpinning Lois Lane and Lana Lang saving the world by transforming into Kryptonian insects during the Silver Age. There should be something for everyone! Essentially, I was trying to collect as many ways of desiring superheroes as possible.

OO: This is something that stands out to me about your work—including the Vision piece you wrote for us—and that I really admire. It seems engaged with a personal collecting/reading practice but remains rigorous and fascinating— not just an indulgence (not that all indulgences are bad). How do you see your relationship to collecting more generally?

AP: I’m very hesitant to call myself a comics collector. I’ve never felt I was able to find myself in any of the definitions or examples of comics collecting I’d encountered in academia but also within the most visible fan communities. A lot of my collection is digital rather than physical, and while I’m a completist about certain characters (namely: Nightcrawler, Daredevil, and the Silver Surfer, along with a handful of others), I don’t necessarily care about collecting specific titles. I also go a bit against the grain in terms of prioritizing artists over writers. When I do add something to my physical collection, it’s usually images I’m investing in. Specifically, in images I find attractive and whose attractiveness I want to be able to easily return to again and again.

OO: Based on what you describe that seems like a very common form of collecting, at least when it comes to comics—focus on a character, for example.

Nightcrawler and Meggan share an erotic and transformative workout in Excalibur #43 (November 1991). art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Glynis Oliver.

AP:  I agree that character-based collecting is common. But there’s still a lot of variation in terms of the ways different people collect based on characters. Like, I need trade paperback versions of every time Alan Davis has drawn Nightcrawler, regardless of the quality of the plot. There’s an academic aspect to this inasmuch as I’m trying to “prove” or “justify” my preferred version of the character through this approach to collecting. But also, I just want to look at lovely pictures of my faves. I often flip through Excalibur trades or Bendis/Maleev Daredevil trades just to sigh at all the pretty men. Speaking of Bendis: I know some people don’t care for him for various reasons, but he wrote one of my favorite depictions of collecting, appearing in Alias #11-14. Jessica Jones is searching for a runaway and spends time perusing the girl’s scrapbooks, featuring drawings and clippings of Daredevil, Elektra, and the Punisher, collaged with personal reflections. She eventually finds the girl at an open mic reciting a poem about her love for Daredevil and being embraced afterwards by her girlfriend. I loved that depiction of fandom and collecting so much—the way it showed and celebrated different ways of expressing one’s love for comics and superheroes, and the complex identifications these things can engender.

[from Alias #14 (December 2002)- art by Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth. letters by Richard Starkings. words by Brian Michael Bendis] [click to enlarge]

OO: It strikes me that what you’re describing resonates with a claim that I made in my dissertation (and other people have made) that what gives a collection “value” is the collector’s framework for collecting they construct for themselves—establishing categories and denoting ways of seeing. That explanation of “why these things” and how they rank or fit within the matrix of our collections is part of the work of collecting.

AP: Yes, that makes sense to me. While I do collect many Nightcrawler things, I only spend money on the ones I really like. And the ones I really like I like for very specific reasons. I wish there was more explicit conversation about the erotics of collecting. I feel it’s often present in the background of personal accounts but is rarely approached directly.

OO: Yes! This makes me think of Barthes. The role of desire in collecting, the liminality of incomplete/complete-ness is where pleasure resides, etc…

AP: The physical connection to objects is sometimes discussed but the erotics are so much bigger and more diffuse than that. Interacting with “floppies” is erotic. I do love touching a beloved comic book knowing that someone else has touched it before me, and feeling the ink outlines of my favorite characters with my hands (I often try to reproduce this visceral-ness by making silkscreens or paintings of favorite panels). But interacting with trade paperbacks is also erotic. And digital comics. And comics fanfiction. And fanfiction/fandom communities. All of these things involve coming up with reasons to spend time with the object of your desire, whether socially or in isolation.

OO: I think the sexual charge you describe in reading about and looking at characters like the Vision or Nightcrawler only seems unusual because of its explicit female desire in a genre seen by many as foremost masculine and perhaps homoerotic, but putting aside the specifics of who is desiring what, sexual desire itself is a common (if frequently sublimated) motive in engaging with superhero forms.

AP: I definitely agree, but it is, as you say, often sublimated. I wish people would be a bit more honest about it sometimes? Here, I’ll go first: Much of my collecting—and the personal-ness and diffuseness of my collecting practice—is primarily an excavation of desire. Why did this image or concept turn me on? This is very masturbatory, of course. But it’s also part of my larger academic project of understanding different ways of looking and how comics are a particularly useful medium for re-thinking how we think about looking. Superhero comics are always feminist to the extent that they lend themselves so well to discussions about looking.

OO: Wow, that is quite a claim! I can get behind it, but I can imagine pushback even at the carefully framed assertion that superhero comics are always feminist.

AP: The comics themselves may not be feminist (at least, not consciously or intentionally), but they’re a fabulous invitation to feminist-informed reading practices. “The personal is political” maps very well onto superhero comics’ presentation of the body as a text.

OO: Certainly, how you read is more important than what you read.

AP: I think both are important, but the “how” has been neglected in superhero scholarship despite there being an emphasis within non-superhero scholarship on comics as an almost uniquely subjective medium. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this, but… Part of why I’ve only really “seen” myself in personally driven academic essays on comics by women and gay men is that I find straight men have so much guilt about the erotics of collection, they refuse to discuss it except as a negative. “Superhero comics are so obviously sexist, which is why I stopped reading them when I ‘grew up.’” But when people write things like that, they’re often not forthright about the appeal of that sexism. Did they find the images sexy, or not? And even the sexism is complicated. If you’re a straight guy reading superhero comics as porn, you’re specifically interested in looking at sexy women in certain types of fetish wear who can break you in half or turn you to goo with their minds, which is a dynamic worth exploring.

OO: This actually links up with something from the introduction to Supersex (which I read last night and loved) that I was going to bring up. You write “virtually all the most famous superheroes openly invite erotic possibilities.” This got me to think about  examples, which brought to mind that scene in Mall Rats where Jason Lee is peppering Stan Lee with questions about the Thing’s penis and stuff… You know that scene?

AP: Yes, I know the scene. I would have asked Stan: “Do you think Alicia prefers Ben as the Thing because he doesn’t have a penis in that form?” Alicia’s other major romance is with the Silver Surfer, another potentially penis-less man… I like to imagine her being attracted to both men’s sculptural beauty (since she is a sculptor, after all).

OO: So the questions are played as a joke—and it is funny and stupid—but I think what makes it funny is not only the fact that any of us has wondered about the Thing’s dick or what Reed Richards’ sex life is like, but how it is used in the movie to represent an immature sexuality: an embarrassing adolescent thing. So, I think the degree that the erotics are dismissed by straight male academics is a desire to distance themselves from that figure. This potential embarrassment makes me think of my very favorite part of the Supersex intro, when you discuss Batman’s penis in that Black Label comic and then use the slabbing of the comic by a collector as a beautiful metaphor! The thing that is seen and unseen…

AP: That gets us right back to the neglected erotics of collecting, doesn’t it? Batman: Damned #1 is collectable because it features the only—and quickly censored—on-panel appearance of the bat-penis. The person who bought it is buying it for that reason. Yet they dramatically renounce actually looking at the penis that makes the comic valuable.

OO: …which to me resonates with that discussion of embarrassment—denying/admitting the thing that is nevertheless obvious. It also makes me think of Ramzi Fawaz’s read on the Thing in The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (2016), which your hypothetical question to Stan Lee above seems to be riffing on…how he reads Ben Grimm’s performance/undermining of hard masculinity and queers his embodiment…

AP: Yes, I liked that reading. It resonated with a lot of the things I enjoy about the Ben/Alicia relationship in the Lee/Kirby era and the Thing in general. Fawaz is much more upbeat about Sue Storm’s subversive qualities than I am, though.

OO: She is actually one of my all-time favorite characters.

AP: Oh, I love Sue dearly. I also dislike nearly every story featuring her. She’s the Marvel character I would most want to write, because she’s the character I most want to “fix.” (James Sturm and Guy Davis’s Unstable Molecules was a good start, though.)

OO: Ha, she is on my list too for similar reasons.

AP: I want to write Sue Storm more than Kurt Wagner—that says something about how badly Sue is written!

OO: I wrote about my hunt for the “Sue of my mind” in “Girl, You’ll be an Invisible Woman, Soon: Defining Serial Characters,” for The Middle Spaces.

AP: Ooh, I haven’t read that! Will do!

OO: Speaking of Ramzi, he was the keynote at ICAF 2017 and as a kind of throwaway line during his talk he commented that he felt that superhero violence was “under-theorized” and its meanings taken for granted. This came to mind when reading the introduction to Supersex and some of your other work that makes a case for itself by arguing that superhero sexuality is also undertheorized. Since violence and sex are both (though not always or only) embodied experiences, I was wondering if you had thoughts regarding possible connections made apparent by both being under-studied.

AP: I agree that violence is under-studied. There have been a couple of recent anthologies that included interesting analyses of depictions of violence in individual comics, but I wished there’d been a bit more theorizing about the general historical/formal relationship between comics and violence. I’ve done a bit of work on violence in comics (sexual and racialized). To me, part of why sex and violence are under-theorized is that excess as a mode of expression in comics (especially superhero comics) remains under-theorized. And I think guilt is once again a factor. Many of the people who have written about comics have done so from a position of shame. “I’m ashamed of these terrible things I (used to) like.” And excess is usually part of that. The shame position says: superhero comics aren’t “stories.” They’re “just” fights. But if fights are stories, and if excess is a mode of expression in its own right, we might be able to read these things differently. The violence in superhero comics isn’t always or primarily “positive,” any more than their depictions of sexuality are. And yet, if we’re going to properly understand how these things make meaning—and if we’re going to accept that the ways they make meaning have value—we’re going to need to do more investigation of excess. When I wrote about the excessive styles of Todd McFarland, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld, for example, I argued taking the work of these artists seriously can enrich comics studies as a whole, by getting us to look more seriously at the meaning of excess and the specific facility of comics to exploit excess as meaning (in defiance of, say, literary traditions). It might sound counterintuitive, since much of the excess in superhero comics definitely is problematic and offensive, but taking excess seriously is necessary to make comics scholarship more inclusive, I think. Because excess also creates spaces of possibility. Look at how many Liefeld-created characters later got retconned as queer… Here is a shorter answer: I think comics studies remains ashamed of excess because it’s still very invested in proving its seriousness. I also think comics studies would be wise to embrace the things that make comics unique, and excess is one of those things.

Shatterstar in an early appearance drawn by Rob Liefeld (1992) and Shatterstar and Rictor’s first kiss in X-Factor vol. 3, #45 (2009) by too many artists to list.

OO: Can you give us a good succinct definition for how you are using “excess” here?

AP: Oof, that’s tough, because I like that it’s a bit slippery. But mostly, I mean a lack of moderation… excess in terms of not being remotely bound to reality, or even accepted standards of superhero house style. The much-lampooned 90s superhero artwork, for example, is excessive to the extent that character modelling can be wildly inconsistent and the artists prioritize those things they want to draw—like biceps—and just eliminate the things they don’t want to draw—like feet. But comics are also so tied to emotional excess. For instance, Frederic Wertham and the framers of the Comics Code were very afraid of the way readers are able to control the pace of reading in comics, and imaginatively fill in the gaps between and within suggestive images. So, they actually tried to regulate excess, by saying comics needed to employ less exaggeration. I’ve always been fascinated by that. I think comics are an inherently excessive form. And that this is one of the best, most powerful and dangerous things about them. But “excess” is a bit like “queer”—its slipperiness is its blessing and its curse.

OO: I think the excesses of masculinity present in superhero comics undermine the very notions of masculinity those representations often seem to want to assert. I think someone arguing that a Liefeld manly-man can’t be queer is like being confused that there is a cowboy in the Village People. But, let’s move to discussing collecting logistics: tell me how do you know what you are looking for and how do you keep track?

AP: I don’t “keep track” of anything, re: collecting. I collect very haphazardly or on a whim—I’ll pick up something if I happen to stumble across it while I’m in a certain mood.

OO: Wow. So, do you end up with lots of duplicates of things? Or worse, not getting something you think you already have?

AP: I do end up with lots of duplicates when it comes to digital comics. But of course, that’s not really an issue when physical storage isn’t involved (or money, when the digital comics are from torrents). I actually find the idea of keeping lists of one’s comics very strange. Specific scenes and stories are important to me, but I always remember whether I have those and where they are, without lists.

OO: I’m impressed. I am all about my lists and notebooks for collecting. I even have a tumblr where I share them. And I’m not sure I could go on without spreadsheets! So, all your single issues are digital?

AP: I have a lot of single issues, mostly from when I was still buying weekly comics (which I did for about a decade, before lots of moving and being broke forced me to stop). Honestly, money has always been a huge barrier to my collecting. I think this also needs to be talked about more. I have no idea how anyone can afford to be a collector in the traditional sense. And while I don’t want to generalize or essentialize, I think it’s often harder as a woman to find the disposable income for collecting. The pink tax is real.

That said, there have been times when I spent substantial money on comics. I used to spend about $50/month on weeklies, and the first time I had a salaried job, I spent hundreds of dollars on trades of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics and that Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil. I had cold sweats about those purchases but have re-read them all so many times—no regrets.

OO: My dissertation advisor, Jennifer Stoever has written about being a woman and a record-collector and the foundational but overlooked roles of Black and Latinx women in establishing the collections from which DJs created the sound of hip hop. But money is a big hurdle too… As a kid, and through into my 30s, I had very limited income for comics. For a while I got most of them from yard sales and flea markets, and budgetary concerns still shape my collecting—as when I was trying to get my “complete run” of X-Men a few years ago.

AP: I care about having all or as many pieces as possible of a story I love. But those pieces include comics as well as fanfiction and conversations I may have had with people about comics. So, my collecting includes physical objects but isn’t solely located in physical objects, and definitely doesn’t stop with the “original” object (fanfiction and fan art often improve on the original, in my opinion). When I did buy records or physical comics, it was often a bit performative, as well. I liked to put on a cool outfit and go down to the record shop or comic bookstore in the hopes of being validated by those (male-dominated) cultures. I don’t think that was particularly healthy and am glad I don’t do it anymore.

(1965)

There have been times I’ve been excited about original physical objects, though, and have found value in pursuing them. I collect Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, for instance, because I like reading them, and it’s the only way to do so but also simply because it’s fun to have a piece of a thing you love from a time before you were born and feel that connection through the object. But I’d really prefer to just have all of my favorite comics as trade paperback reprints, because I like re-reading so much and because my re-reading is so often image-focused. I just want to see that one drawing of Daredevil being videotaped while lying in the street, bloody and unconscious and trussed up in chains after being roughed up by Gladiator for… reasons. But I don’t want to re-read the whole issue. And I don’t want to dig through a long box to find it.

OO: That makes sense…practical use determines the form in which you want the media.

AP: Can I ask—why is it important to you to have a “complete run”? What satisfaction does it bring? (I know that’s a huge question.)

OO: Well, when I say, “complete run,” I mean based on the criteria of what I have determined to be a complete run of X thing…not the publishing reality…if that makes sense.

AP: So, the act of collecting is sort of like an act of creation—creating your version of the story through what you choose to put in the collection?

OO: Kind of… for the X-Men example the “complete run” I mean was “the complete run of X-Men comics that corresponds to when I became aware of X-Men until I stopped buying comics for nearly 14 years in about 1988.”

AP’ I’ve often wondered whether my approach to collecting is different because of my different relationship to nostalgia. I didn’t read many comics when I was a child or teenager, so I’m not necessarily trying to  recapture an object or emotion from that time.

OO: But that is only one way I have of determining what I am collecting…Other times it is like, “I want every Brother voodoo appearance through the Bronze Age,” b/c I am interested in racial representation and depiction of minority religious ideas in that era.

AP: I like that—I’ve hunted down every Marvel title starring a female superhero for similar reasons (though I did most of that collecting digitally before Marvel Unlimited made it easy). Also, I want to backtrack a bit on my previous statement about nostalgia. I am trying to recapture emotion through collecting. I re-read to recapture things like the thrill of when I first realized I was attracted to Nightcrawler and wondered what that meant (about me, about him). Re-visiting my favorite images of him is an ongoing journey toward understanding my own desires; that’s at least a bit circular. But I still want to ask: why is it you wouldn’t get the same satisfaction from digital issues of the same comics?

“Daredevil being videotaped while lying in the street, bloody and unconscious and trussed up in chains after being roughed up by Gladiator” (from Daredevil vol. 2, #67 [January 2005] – by Bendis, Maleev, Stewart, and Petit)

OO: Because I’m old?

AP: Is that the real reason? You simply don’t like digital comics?

OO: I read some digital comics, but mostly I just like to sit down with a stack of comics. I like to turn the whole comic and flip back and forth and hold up two-page spreads. I just can’t do that with a tablet or laptop. I like all the original ads and letters to be there, too. Paratexts are a big way of how I read comics.

AP: I think the closest I’ve ever been to being a “traditional” collector was when I used to collect digital comics via torrents. I really prided myself on my ability to figure out how and what to search to find certain rare issues and get complete sets.

OO: I have never done the torrent thing. I just have to accept some comics will forever be out of my reach as a physical object, and I am okay with that. I like existing in that incomplete/complete space. Collecting is tantric.

AP: I do enjoy having the paratexts, as well. I have trades and digital copies of Excalibur but only the floppies have the letters. So only the floppies let me read historical thirst odes to Nightcrawler, which is its own kind of thrill. I’m glad you agree there’s a physical thirst to collecting. I’ve felt that a lot when trying to frantically read every appearance of my favorite characters. I’ve locked myself in a room for days reading X-Men comics, unable to come up for air until I’d read everything. That’s a form of collecting.

OO: Oh yes! I take great pains in my work to argue that you never need buy or even own a thing to collect it. We collect memories and emotions and fragments and transformative reactions…

AP: I agree with this wholeheartedly. I would very much like it to become more normalized to talk about collecting in that way—that it’s so much more than just objects, and there are so many ways to build a collection besides issue numbers. You might collect character appearances. You might collect based on a theme. You might collect based on a character ship.

OO: This is what I meant earlier when I said the collector determines the framework for asserting the collection’s value. This is true even of pure speculators.

AP: I think society is a long way from accepting that view of collecting, unfortunately. But acknowledging the complex erotics of collecting (which I think is at least implicit in your presentation of frameworks of collecting as deeply personal) would make me feel more included in the idea of collecting. . .for sure.

OO: I want you to be included!

AP: I feel more included than I used to, certainly, though I’ve had to do a lot of proving myself to get here (I literally had to write a PhD thesis on Marvel comics before I felt confident enough to publicly share my superhero opinions). But I always felt included in “unofficial” spaces. I’ve always connected with female-gaze welcoming comics fans within fanfiction communities, for instance.

OO: Those spaces are important and deserve to be centered more. That’s why stuff like Flame Con is so important too.

AP: I certainly think so! When someone pictures “an X-Men” fan, they still don’t picture a lot of my friends, I don’t think. And by “someone” I mean “certain someones who have cultural capital,” of course.

OO: Even our language centers their views…

AP: Yes. I said “someone” like it was some universal subject. I hate that.

OO: What non-comic things do you collect, if anything?

AP: I would consider my clothes a collection… I often keep shoes I can’t wear because they’re too pretty to part with. But here’s a fun one. As a teenager, I was obsessed with Tim Roth. So, I collected “rare” Tim Roth movies. I threw out all my VHS tapes recently but kept the Tim Roth tapes.

A stack of collected Tim Roth movies on VHS.

OO: Do you still have a way to watch them? And does that matter?

AP: Yeah, I have a VCR. But I bet I’ll never watch them again. I kept them mostly as a record of the past—in case anyone doesn’t believe me about that Tim Roth obsession, here’s the physical evidence! But also because I remain somewhat charmed by the ridiculous passions of my teenage self. And, once again, there’s an erotics to why I kept this collection. Having the tapes (and touching them) reminds me of watching those movies and the particular scenes I would focus on and rewind to re-watch again and again. I don’t necessarily need to re-watch the movies to remember those things. But to be honest—if the scenes I particularly loved were as easily accessible as my favorite comic book images, I probably would flip through them. Which probably says something about why I eventually landed on comics as a preferred erotic space. Because comics are composed of fragments, they have rewinding built in. The shirtless scenes or moments of sexual or romantic tension can last as long as you want them to, no remote control necessary…

OO: That makes a lot of sense! And with comics no one asks you why the family copy of Purple Rain is always cued up to when Apollonia is bathing nude in what she thinks are the waters of Lake Minnetonka (or maybe I am just telling on myself). Well, thanks so much Anna for agreeing to take part in this talk and exploring some ways to think about comics that I think are both ubiquitous and too easily disregarded or taken for granted. Aside from Supersex, which we’ve talked a bit about, any other forthcoming work or other projects our readers should know about?

AP: It’s past work now, rather than forthcoming, but I think anyone who enjoyed this discussion would probably also enjoy my chapter about the Marvel Swimsuit Special from the recently released Routledge Companion to Gender and Sexuality in Comic Books (and lots of other great essays besides!). While the pandemic has slammed my productivity pretty hard, when I manage to stop worrying long enough to concentrate, I’ve been doing a few different things. I’m currently writing a “TV Milestones” book about The Man from U.N.C.L.E., focusing on representations of race and gender and how the show helped pioneer what we now call “convergence culture” (i.e. transmedia storytelling that encourages especially participatory fan practices). I also co-host a monthly comics podcast, called Three Panel Contrast. And I’ve got another comics podcast in the works with a couple of friends and fellow comics academics, which is going to be a weekly, issue-by-issue re-read of Marvel’s Excalibur. It goes by the very in-joke name of The Oh Gosh, Oh Golly, Oh Wow! Podcast. The site is still under construction, but we’re hoping to officially launch it early in the new year and you can already follow us on twitter @GoshGollyWow.  Podcasting is another form of collecting, obviously :)

OO: Yes! Yes, it is.

Thanks again to Dr. Peppard and we’ll keep our ears open for the new podcast. Supersex: Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero is now available for ordering!

One thought on “The (re)Collection Agency #13: A Conversation with Anna Peppard

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