Up, up and away: Superman, classical Hollywood, and the historical development of transmedia storytelling

Freeman, M (2012) Up, up and away: Superman, classical Hollywood, and the historical development of transmedia storytelling. In: Contemporary Screen Narratives: Storytelling’s Digital and Industrial Contexts, 17 May 2012, University of Nottingham, UK.

Official URL: http://cstonline.tv/cfp-contemporary-screen


If this conference seeks to trace connections between the narratives of contemporary screen media and their contexts of production, distribution and consumption, then this paper traces mostly unexplored histories of contemporary transmedia storytelling by examining contexts of production and consumption in the era of Classical Hollywood. Most explicitly theorised by Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling involves the telling of ‘stories that unfold across multiple platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the storyworld’ (2006, 134). While the concept of transmediality is often discussed in a twenty-first century context of the media conglomerate and technological convergence, this paper serves to examine an historical occurrence of transmedia storytelling, drawing on the intellectual property of Superman as it appeared across a multitude of media industries throughout the 1940s – that is, on radio, in comics, novels, and theatrical cartoons. This paper will thus examine historical transmediality as an industrial practice formed by licensing agreements and copyright control, using the Superman intellectual property during this period of Classical Hollywood to demonstrate the ways in which its company author, DC Comics, exploited the interindustry relationship between film and radio as a means of successfully steering their marginalised juvenile property across multiple media outlets. The paper will demonstrate how DC Comics adopted a strategy of transmedia storytelling during this historical context, circularly guiding audiences between the pages of Superman comics and the character’s licensed appearances in other media, narratively integrating such cross-media appearances as part of one singular transmedia Superman storyworld. This paper illuminates the importance of engaging with the Superman intellectual property of the Classical Hollywood period as an historically specific transmedia production – and one that informed many of the industrial practices now exploited by contemporary conglomerates.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 12:27
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:22
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/6309
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