Table of contents

But I Don’t Want to Cure Cancer
I Bodies, Cancer, and Death
Editor’s Note
1 | Death and Cancer
Immortality and the Problem of Limits
2 | Living with Cancer
Medical Narratives and Superheroes
II Cancer, Power, and Responsibility
Exploring Four Superhero Stories
Editor’s Note / The Death of Captain Marvel
3 | This Whole Business of Death
Cancer and Captain Marvel
Editor’s Note / Ultimate Spider-Man
4 | Cure as Poison
Cancer and Spider-Man’s Moral Battle
Editor’s Note / The Mighty Thor
5 | Cancer as Fatal Opportunity
Thor and the Question of Worthiness
Editor’s Note / The Despicable Deadpool
6 | “Welcome to the Freak Show!”
Deadpool and Perpetual Remission
The End That Is Not the End
Appendix 1
Marvel Characters
1.1 Marvel characters who have had cancer but did not die of it
1.2 Marvel characters who have had cancer and died of it
1.3 Marvel characters who have had cancer and died attempting to cure it or destroy their enemies before succumbing to it
1.4 Marvel cancer deaths by decade
Appendix 2
DC Characters
2.1 DC characters who have had cancer
2.2 DC characters with an unnamed terminal condition
2.3 DC cancer and terminal condition by decade
Works Cited

The Cancer Plot examines the moral, symbolic, and critical role of cancer in Marvel comics.


The Cancer Plot examines the prevalence of cancer in Marvel comics. Reginald Wiebe and Dorothy Woodman engage literature in comics studies, the medical humanities, and graphic medicine to explore representations of this disease in Marvel, focusing on four character case studies: Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Thor, and Deadpool. Cancer, the authors argue, thematically destabilizes moral binaries and symbolizes that which cannot be overcome within a genre replete with magic, mutants, and multiverses. Further, Wiebe and Woodman draw from gender theory, disability studies, and cultural theory to demonstrate how representations of cancer in comics enables an examination of power and responsibility, key terms in Marvel’s superhero universe. As the only full-length study on cancer in the Marvel universe, The Cancer Plot is an appealing and original work that will be of interest to scholars across the humanities, particularly those working in the health humanities, cultural theory, and literature, as well as avid comics readers.


“The Cancer Plot gives an incisive and engaging analysis of the prevalence of cancer in Marvel comics with specific attention to how the representation of disease in these works enables an examination of power as it relates to citizenship and civic duty. This is a timely study that will enrich readers' understanding of the complexities of storytelling in this genre.” Kelly McGuire, Trent University

“Wiebe and Woodman take on a fascinating subject: the representation and significance of cancer in Marvel comics. They explore the paradox of cancer: how in a fantasy setting of extraordinary diversity and ‘miraculous’ feats, it alone remains immune from all cures -- a sort of zero-degree realism which vouchsafes the genre’s connection to the real world.” José Alaniz, University of Washington, author of Death, Disability and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond