CAMDEN -- Legions of comic book fans will be in the audience when the film “Watchmen” is released on March 6, including a Rutgers–Camden undergraduate who will be busy taking notes for his research.
Senior Robert Repici has earned college credit and a grant to study comic books while at Rutgers–Camden. But his research is far from kids’ stuff: he examines graphic novels through eschatology – the study of ideas about the end of the world. Something Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man know plenty about. Not to mention “Watchmen,” in which the threat of doomsday looms large as it has in many films derived from comic books.
According to Repici’s manuscript – a 100-page visual document – titled “Who Saves the Superheroes?: An Examination of Eschatology in Comic Book Literature,” comic books reflect cultural themes that have been present in religion and literature for centuries.
“Throughout history, scholars, theologians, and writers have talked about the end of the world,” explains the Burlington Township resident. “My research project considers what happens when the superheroes realize there are some forces, perhaps divine or powered by God, that will cause happenings to bring about the end of the world, and what happens when the superheroes cannot stop them.”
Repici began his research last fall in a three-credit independent study, and continued expanding his project with the support of an Undergraduate Research Grant from the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences. This grant funded his attendance to the nation’s largest comic book convention: Comic Con.
“I attended the Comic Con convention in New York – to interview creators and artists, writers, publishers and the most important component of the comic book community, the fans,” the theater arts major explains.
While at Comic Con, the Rutgers–Camden undergraduate had the opportunity to discuss his research with Dan DiDio, senior vice president and executive editor of DC Comics, publisher of “Watchmen,” among others.
While Repici began his serious research in college, his interest in comics started in childhood, when his father and aunt introduced him to their own comic book collections. The process of identifying archetypes and concepts common to most super-hero stories ensued. As a Rutgers–Camden student, he connected the historic fascinations with apocalyptic stories with the comic book genre.
"Look at Michelangelo. His last works depicted the end of times. Nostradamus' works continue to influence civilization," explains Repici. "Right now, many people believe that the world may end on Dec. 21, 2012, because of an ancient Mayan prophecy."
A student-teacher in the theater program at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, Repici is considering continuing his comic studies in graduate school. His research mentor Robert Emmons, who directs the Rutgers-Camden media studies program, in which Repici minors, praises the young scholar’s work.
“(Repici) is someone who can probably get into an Ivy League graduate school,” says Emmons. “His grades are excellent and his mind is superb, and his drive to discover is great,” says Emmons, a documentary filmmaker who did his own master’s dissertation on comics.
So, who does save the superheroes? “It’s not a ‘someone’ who saves the superheroes,” Repici notes. “But a ‘something’: the eternal power of hope and redemption. While the superheroes do serve as icons and inspirations for our society, the human race plays a prominent role as well.”
Media Contact: Michael Sepanic