Photo: João Paulo Serafim

Social Stratification in Comics: Representations of Status and Class to the Growth of Genre

Stephen Poon

Abstract | This paper offers a critical examination of comics’ role in constructing, establishing, and giving meaning to the system of social stratification through status and class representations. Literature presents a spectrum of scholarly critiques on theories related to social class and status, and to align the principles of justice, morality, and equality to cultural symbolisms in comics. Primary research comprises a textual analysis of social stratification in the study of cultural artefacts and characters from Spider-Man and Batman comics. Case studies demonstrate how social class, power, wealth, and status are explicitly personified in comics through symbolic elements found such as equipment and technology which embodies the ideals of class and power, and through elements of status conflict such as the structured social relationships between masters and employees. Findings, established the relevance of stratification of status and class in the symbolically constructed social conditions that fictional characters live in. Partly due to popular media, audiences are shown to increasingly identify with comics’ symbolic messages and are aware of meaningful visual narratives of justice and social equality in their formation of cultural worldviews. The paper’s conclusion urges researchers and educators to undertake further exploration on the sociological function of comics as an accessible discourse tool to encounter cultural differences in global societies.

Keywords | Comics; Social Class; Status; Stratification; Textual Analysis