Negotiating the Nation Through Superheroes

Making the Canadian Shield Visible


  • Lee Easton Mount Royal University
  • Kelly Hewson Mount Royal University



identity, comics, cultural studies, multiculturalism, popular culture


This case study focuses on Canadian students’ responses to our invitation to imagine their own nationalist superheroes whose costumes and powers represent a nation. We provide a close reading of 34 student artifacts to show how they draw on discourses that position Canada as a benevolent, multicultural country—a rhetorical formation we call the Canadian Shield. We also reveal how some artifacts negotiate tropes of the Shield, adapting or revising them in distinctive ways. We conclude, however, that when invited to create Canadian superheroes, many of the student creations reaffirm dominant visions of the country, and such habits of thought, we venture, are best considered as ideological bottlenecks.


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Author Biographies

Lee Easton, Mount Royal University

Dr. Lee Easton is an associate professor at Mount Royal University. He teaches courses in composition, film studies and comics. He and Kelly Hewson have published articles related to film studies, Canadian identity and the Canada US border. With Richard Harrison, he is the co-author of Secret Identity Reader: Essays on Sex, Death and the Superhero (Wolsak and Wynn).

Kelly Hewson, Mount Royal University

Dr. Kelly Hewson is Professor Emerita in the English, Languages, and Cultures department of Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta where she spent many years teaching courses in postcolonial literatures, global film, and composition.  Her interests in critical pedagogy, border studies, reception theory, ice hockey and the nation, and white writing in south Africa found outlets in numerous solo and collaborative projects, several of which are on-going.