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Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-3232
  • E-ISSN: 2040-3240



This article analyses Marvel Comics’ Marvel Noir franchise, published between 2009 and 2011. Taking as its starting point the promise in a 2008 press release that in the comics, Marvel superheroes would ‘meet’ film noir in a new continuity set in the ‘roaring 30s’, the article considers the advertised ‘meeting’ from three different angles: (1) Marvel Noir’s relationship to ‘classic’ film noir; (2) intertextuality in Marvel Noir; and (3), the franchise’s engagement with space and history. In the first instance, drawing on recent film noir scholarship, the article argues that for historical reasons, Marvel Noir manages only to evoke a pastiched ‘image’ of noir drawn from a popular conception of what noir is. Second, it highlights how the heterogeneity of the franchise’s intertextual orbit further defers the ‘meeting’ and that, ultimately, because it builds upon and anticipates the seriality of regular superhero fictions, the real content of the stories is neither film noir nor other historical popular culture, but rather earlier Marvel stories. Third, it looks at how space and history are figured. Although a few exceptions that deal with racial formation are discussed, space appears as largely anonymous ‘images’ that deepen the image of noir while history is generally connoted through a vague sense of ‘pastness’. By way of concluding, the article notes that the postmodern depthlessness of the franchise’s ‘meeting’ with film noir is to be expected, given the style’s historical progresses. Rather, while Marvel Noir perhaps represents an attempt to escape the present through a postmodern play with nostalgia, intertextuality and surfaces, the choice of setting and the recurrent confirmation of the superhero genre’s primacy betrays a return of the repressed, in which the past becomes an unuttered hope for the future.


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