How different media shaped the story of Superman

Superman Between Seriality and Transmedia Storytelling


Transmediality, Cross-media experience or media convergence are en vogue, as strategies of cultural production and as a subject of critical research. In Convergence Cultures, Henry Jenkins has developed a concept of “transmedia storytelling” which explicitly focused on the last two decades. The phenomenon of Superman, who started his extraordinary career in 1938 and who has since enriched the iconic universe of popular culture, shows that Jenkin’s approach has to be modified in two aspects: First, transmedia storytelling and the convergence of media has not been an invention of post-Reagan economics or the internet age. Strategies of mutual story completion or continuation as well as economic strategies of cross-media franchising and marketing have been developed by companies such as DC since the 1930s and 1940s. Second, telling a story such as that of Superman across several media and over a period of more than 70 years makes transmedia storytelling a process which is always threatened by centrifugal forces trying to expand the hypertext. Instead of a harmonic choir following a concerted marketing score, transmedia storytelling rather follows an ever increasing polyphony of voices which allows for dissonance or counterpoint.

The phenomenon of Superman thus hints that a planned and structured form of transmedia storytelling, such as Jenkins proposes, is a very unstable form. Instead, Superman shows that even more complex forms of transmedia storytelling are possible, in which centrifugal and centripetal forces are opposed in a dialectic play.

Kulle, Daniel (2012): «Superman Between Seriality and Transmedia Storytelling». Vortrag auf der Konferenz Echo et reprise dans les séries télévisées, ERIAC/Université de Rouen, GRIC/Université du Havre, Rouen, 13.9.2012.

  • Echo et reprise dans les séries télévisées, Rouen
  • 13. September 2012
  • Tagungsüberblick