Beyond Heroes and Villains

Investigating the nature of good guys and bad guys in fiction and real life

Cortex Crusaders Put Comic-Con on the Convention Couch

A league of extraordinary psychologists answer the Rorschach signal in San Diego

Left to right: Psychologists Andrea Letamendi, Robin Rosenberg, and Travis Langley discuss superhero trauma with Len Wein.
WonderCon, 2012. Photo by Alex Langley, used with permission.
 

Shine the Rorschach signal! Call the cortex crusaders! The league of extraordinary psychologists dispense Jung justice to educate, elucidate, and even entertain at 2013's San Diego Comic-Con International celebration of comic arts and the wide world of nerdiness this July 17-20. Are they Pavlovian paladins or fantastic Freuds? Find out who shrinks the shrink men and the shrink woman, too. Eight psychologists, three psychiatrists, one neuroscientist, and assorted co-conspirators delve into the minds of people both fictional and nonfictional, both living and undead. 

Comic-Con is a nonprofit devoted to education. Its mission statement: "Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture." As noted previously ("Comics Arts Conference Brings Psychology to Comic-Con 2013"), Comic-Con offers several panels with psychologists in its scholarly conference-within-the-con, the Comics Arts Conference, but psychological professionals have even more to say as part of this year's SDCC. 

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The psychologists: Drs. Josué Cardona (@GeekTherapy), Frank Gaskill (@DrFGaskill), Ali Mattu (@AliMattu), Travis Langley (@Superherologist), Andrea Letamendi (@ArkhamAsylumDoc), Patrick O'Connor (@Comicspedia), Robin Rosenberg, and Dave Verhaagen (@ShrinkBlog).

The psychiatrists: Dr. H. Eric Bender, Praveen R. Kambam, and Vasilis K. Pozios (@BTDocs).

The neuroscientist: Bradley Voytek (@bradleyvoytek).

THURSDAY, July 18

12:00 noon

Comics Arts Conference Session #2: Geek Therapy: How Superheroes Empower All of Us

Psychologist Patrick O'Connor (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; Comicspedia) and licensed psychotherapist Josué Cardona (Geek Therapy podcast) discuss geek culture, the psychology of superheroes, and the therapeutic value of comics. Laura Vecchiolla and Elizabeth Smith (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology) and licensed psychologists Frank Gaskill and Dave Verhaagen (Southeast Psych) join them to provide the ultimate expertise on the healing power of superheroes. Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight) moderates. Room 26AB

1:00 p.m.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Witness the next installment in the blockbuster videogame franchise. Developed by WB Games Montréal, Batman: Arkham Origins features an expanded Gotham City and introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before the events of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. Taking place before the rise of Gotham City's most dangerous criminals, the game showcases a young and unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crimefighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, players will meet many important characters for the first time and forge key relationships. Get the latest reveals from a panel headed by WB Games Montréal creative director Eric Holmes and actors Roger Craig Smith (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite), the voices of Batman and the Joker, respectively. Batman: Arkham Origins will be released worldwide on October 25. Room 6BCF

Batman: Arkham Origins (video game screen capture).
Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

Moral Panic and the Birth of the Comics Code

CBLDF proudly debuts Comics on Trial-a new lecture series covering the history of comics censorship and the court cases that changed the medium. In part 1, witness how comics were under attack from the very beginning! Attacks in the popular media gave way to comics burnings in the 1940s. This sparked a wildfire of moral panic culminating with the U.S. government investigating comics before a national audience in 1954 where the face-off between [psychiatrist] Frederic Wertham and William Gaines changed the medium forever. CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein tells the sordid tale. Room 30CDE

4:30 p.m.

Geeks Get Published-and Paid!

Trouble finding a book publisher? How about a literary agent? Do you really need your own publicist? Is getting into print different when your book's topic is particularly geeky? Hear how these bookworms got their works into print, how they made money at it, and how you might, too: S. G. Browne (Breathers: A Zombie's Lament), Bonnie Burton (The Star Wars Craft Book), Katrina Hill (Action Movie Freak), Alan Kistler (Doctor Who: A History), Alex Langley (The Geek Handbook), and Dr. Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight). Moderated by Jenna Busch (Fanhattan). Room 26AB

7:00 p.m.

First Look: Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics

Behind every great superhero is an even greater rogues gallery, and that's where the spotlight lands in the all-new documentary Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics. From the Joker and Deathstroke to Lex Luthor and Darkseid, the film investigates the inner workings of the most nefarious collection of baddies in comics history. Join Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DC Entertainment for a first-look at a Comic-Con exclusive teaser version of the film, then hear from some of the experts themselves on a panel that will feature bestselling comic book writer and DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff JohnsEntertainment Weekly editor Geoff Boucher, and distinguished representatives of DC Comics's storied history, including Kevin Shinick (Robot Chicken, MAD), Andrea Romano (Batman: The Animated Series), and other notable comics creators, filmmakers, actors and more. Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics is narrated by everyone’s favorite villain, Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings and Star Warsfilms), and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on October 25, 2013. Room 6DE

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013 documentary film).
http://www.nrm.org/alexross/selectedworks/justice/

8:00 p.m.

Not Guilty Due to Zombification? Law and Forensic Psychiatry in a Zombie Apocalypse

During a "zombie apocalypse" humans play by a new set of rules-or no rules at all. Zombies kill humans, humans hunt zombies, and humans murder other humans-with no legal repercussions. But suppose the zombie apocalypse ended after eradication of the zombies or the discovery of a cure that rejoined the dead with the living. When society's laws are restored, what would happen if humans, zombies, and former zombies alike stood trial for their actions? Would any of them be found guilty, or would the circumstances of the apocalypse excuse crimes like theft, breaking and entering, misuse of a corpse, murder, and cannibalism? What legal defenses might apply? The forensic psychiatrists of Broadcast Thought-H. Eric Bender, M.D., Praveen R. Kambam, M.D., and Vasilis K. Pozios, M.D.-along with an attorney from Law and the Multiverse, James Daily (The Law of Superheroes), and attorney and professor Jeff Trexler examine the legal issues faced by a post-zombie-apocalyptic world. In a mock trial, the lawyers will be the prosecution and defense, the doctors will be the expert witnesses, and you will be the jury. Will the walking dead be found guilty or will they walk free? Room 7AB

FRIDAY, July 19

10:30 a.m.

Comics Arts Conference Session #5: Legends of the Knight: Batman and the Inspirational Power of Heroic Stories

The most important Batman tales are not in comic books, TV shows, or Hollywood movies. They are within the people for whom the Dark Knight has become a symbol. Brett Culp will premiere segments from his documentary film Legends of the Knight and speak with Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight), Vasilis Pozios (Broadcast Thought), Patrick O'Connor (Comicspedia), and Alan Kistler (Comic Book Resources) about how the modern myth of Batman inspires real people in areas of creativity, education, and overcoming adversity. Room 26AB

Watch the "Legends of the Knight" documentary preview trailer.
"Legends of the Knight" documentary screen capture (Brett Culp Films, 2013).

7:30 p.m.

Psychology of Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Episode II

Dr. Andrea Letamendi (UCLA; Batgirl) and Dr. Ali Mattu (NYU) bring their popular intergalactic sci-fi battle to SDCC! These two geeky psychologists will debate the science behind the characters, universes, and fandom of two of the most legendary franchises in pop culture. Special guest panelists include John Champion (Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast) and Bryan Young (StarWars.com). Join a side and cast your vote to choose the winner! Refereed by Brian Ward (Shout! Factory). Room 24ABC

SATURDAY, July 20

10:30 a.m.

Comics Arts Conference Session #9: What Is A Superhero? Professional and Scholarly Views

Contributors to What Is a Superhero? (Oxford University Press, 2013) explore the definition of the superhero and the role of the supervillain in the genre from a range of disciplinary, scholarly, and professional perspectives. Co-editors Robin Rosenberg (Huffington Post) and Peter Coogan (Washington University in St. Louis), are joined by contributors John Jennings (University at Buffalo), Stanford Carpenter (Institute for Comics Studies), and Dana Anderson (Maine Maritime Academy). Room 26AB

1:30 p.m.

Comics Arts Conference Session #11: The Poster Session

The CAC's poster session gives attendees the opportunity to interact directly with presenters.Comics and Psychology Group -- Brian Lott (Henderson State University) looks into the psychological aspects of the Black Widow, asking what cognitive processes are involved in her behavior and how well these fictional representations reflect real-life manifestations. Benjamin Graves (Henderson State University) uses Alfred Adler's theories of individual psychology to examine the links between Ant-Man's size manipulation and his inferiority issues. Tiffany Pitcock (Henderson State University) determines if the "birth" order of the Robins affects their characterizations and relationships with Batman and with one another as pseudo- siblings. Halee Smith (Henderson State University) asks if Bruce Banner's refusal to accept his alter-ego the Hulk as an angry facet of himself is a Freudian defense mechanism or a case of dissociative identity disorder. Samantha Hunter (Henderson State University) investigates if the X-Men's Jean Grey qualifies for posttraumatic stress disorder, how the repression of her memories affects her ability to cope, how her childhood resulted in her choice to join the X-Men, and how Xavier has helped her mental stability over the years. Room 26AB

7:30 p.m.

YOE! Books: Pre-Code Comics' Worst Horror: Dr. Fredric Wertham!

Join the award-winning comics historian Craig Yoe, his pal Steve Banes from "The Horrors of It All" blog, and additional panelists for a lively discussion and Q&A session about the comics that gave you night terrors, before the U.S. Senate and Dr. Fredric Wertham shut them down during THEIR OWN reign of terror! Hi-jinx, fun, and thoughtful discourse will abound! Room 26AB

SUNDAY, July 21

10:00 a.m. 

The Nerd in the Classroom: Sci-fi as an Educational Tool

Education's all-things-nerd networking resource returns to Comic-Con. This year's edition features Travis Langley (Henderson State University, Batman and Psychology) and Eric Bruce (Western Oregon University) joining Patrick Murphy (Fremont High, Weber State University). Topics include curriculum development strategies, national standards, and increasing student engagement. Room 32AB

3:00 p.m.

Turning Your Left-Brain Power into Drawing Skills

Dr. Wei Xu (artist/mathematician, author of Drawing in the Digital Age) explains how simple math and science knowledge can be utilized to make observational drawing much easier to learn. Room 30CDE

4:00 p.m.

End Bullying! Responding to Cruelty in Our Culture

Have you or someone you love been a target of bullying? Join this life-changing discussion on how to overcome bullying, and learn strategies to create witnesses and allies out of bystanders. NOH8 makes its first-ever Comic-Con appearance, with founders Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley along with Jane Espenson (Once Upon a Time), Brad Bell (Husbands), Chase Masterson (Doctor Who: Big Finish), Bonnie Burton (Girls Against Girls: Why We are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change), Jenna Busch (entertainment editor, Fan TV), and Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Special topics include geek bullying, LGBT bullying, cyberbullying, and analyzing how media and entertainment affect attitudes toward bullying and aggression. Moderated by author (and mother of Katie the Star Wars Girl) Carrie Goldman (Harper Collins' Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear). Room 4

 

Travis Langley, Ph.D. is the author of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.

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