Speculation names the faculty through which we allow comics to defy the laws of nature and reveal the rules of reading. Comics share a queer kinship with speculative fiction—that is, the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror—but speculation means much more to comics than the tropes they have in common with other media. Totemic figures like Flash Gordon, Asterix, Little Orphan Annie, and Astro Boy emerged in comic strips, and their stories have fashioned the medium into a venue where the print and visual cultures of disparate societies entertain flights of fancy. Speculative fictions featuring time travel, magic, horror, mystery, and technological wonderment took up residence in the popular imagination alongside the romance, the Western, and the superhero adventure in the interwar period that gave rise to the critique of mass culture, and they have been a mainstay of the medium ever since. In “The Myth of Superman,” semiotician Umberto Eco (1972) surmised that the modern comic strip managed to overcome the risk of absurdity inherent in the way the superhero’s life accumulates spectacular moments on a weekly or monthly basis by exploiting the oneiric (or dreamlike) quality of the experience of reading. The sui generis temporality of narrative...

This essay may be found on page 197 of the printed volume.

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