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


In The Cancer Plot, Reginald Wiebe and Dorothy Woodman examine the striking presence of cancer in Marvel comics. Engaging comics studies, medical humanities, and graphic medicine, they explore this disease in four case studies: Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Thor, and Deadpool. Cancer, the authors argue, troubles the binaries of good and evil because it is the ultimate nemesis within a genre replete with magic, mutants, and multiverses. They draw from gender theory, disability studies, and cultural theory to demonstrate how 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

"Through those case studies and others—as well as their broader observations about the Marvel universe and the superhero genre—Wiebe and Woodman give readers much to contemplate.... They explore the social meaning of health and sickness both in the stories themselves and the world at large, revealing that behind the masks and alter egos, many of Marvel’s characters can tell us a lot about ourselves. The result should convince more than a few readers that we should leave plenty of room for superhumans in the medical humanities." Matt Peters, Graphic Medicine, November 16, 2023 [Full article at]