Shawn Gilmore is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and writes on comics, prose, film, and the like, and teaches the same. His work on the Vault of Culture can be found here. Examples of his work before this site can be found at the Narrative String Theory tumblr and the Tower-ing Fiction tumblr.
Jillian Tamaki’s “SexCoven,” originally published in Youth in Decline’s Frontier #7 in 2015 (now appearing in her collection Boundless (2017) presents a complex narrative of nostalgia and loss over a shared cultural moment, for a time when an .mp3 with the potential to alter consciousness was passed around networks and social circles.
The heart of the John Wick franchise (2014- ), The Continential is a mercurial hotel chain, catering to the world of hired killers that populate the series. Expanding and shifting with each film, New York City’s Continential is an intriguing example of tower-ing fiction.
In book one of My Favortie Thing is Monsters (2017), Emil Ferris establishes a unique means of juxtaposing and interconnecting the worlds of comics and the fine arts to reconcile the problems her main character, Karen Reyes, faces.
A look at The Aerium, the mega-skyscraper that dominates the main plot of the first season of Altered Carbon (Netflix, 2018- ) and the visual style of the show, which borrows heavily from iconic science-fiction films.
Shawn Gilmore connects two works that seem to be from very different regimes of comics: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ Red: A Haida Manga (2009) and Alan Moore & JH Williams III’s Promethea #32 (2005), both of which have formal elements that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of the page or bound codex, requiring readers to imagine another, larger level of comics organization.
Evan R. Ash
Evan R. Ash is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Maryland. His work concerns the cultural history of the 1940s and 1950s in America, with special interests in the American anti-comic book movement, the development of the liberal consensus ideology, and moral/decency crusades. He can be reached on Twitter @evanthevoice and by email at email@example.com, and his work on the Vault of Culture can be found here.
Contributor Evan Ash corrects the simplistic narrative that focuses on the 1950s panic over comics, examining an earlier anti-comics movement from 1940-1944.
Evan R. Ash reads the supposed educational Hanna-Barbera cartoon “Make Mine Freedom” (1948) as presenting a variety of rhetorical devices that deployed its anti-communist propaganda, offering a vague antagonistic collectivist vision that very carefully attacked communism without ever uttering its name.
Allan W. Austin
Allan W. Austin is a Professor of History at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. He writes about race and popular culture in modern American history. His work on the Vault of Culture can be found here. His book with Patrick Hamilton, All New, All Different: A History of Race and the American Superhero arrives this November.
Allan W. Austin argues that post-9/11 superhero films—particularly the Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and the many Iron Man and Captain America appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—stand as cultural signposts directing us to deeper understandings of the ways in which Americans understood and responded to 9/11, revealing both conflicting and shared attitudes that continue to shape the ways in which Americans interact with the world.
Ryan Sherwood is a PhD Candidate in English and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He writes on issues of authorship and medium specificity. His work on the Vault of Culture can be found here.
In the final (for now) entry in his Digital Ghosts series, Ryan Sherwood argues that in the “Mechanic/Realtor” episode of Nathan for You, the chimera of infinite filmability meshes fruitfully with a bold performance style—a gelid numbness that suggests itself as the only suitable response to the apprehension of the otherworldly via digital technology.
Ryan Sherwood argues that Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000) and Steven Soderberg’s K Street (HBO, 2003) work in tandem, both obliquely associate celluloid’s acquiescence to video with some sort of filial betrayal, warranting visits from beyond the grave.
In this first entry in his Digital Ghosts series, Ryan Sherwood examines the ways in which the slippery essence of the 21st-century still image—not technically “photographic” and only ever temporarily immune to some animating force—serves as the Twin Peaks: The Return’s foundational aesthetic principle.
David Taylor listens to plenty of music and occasionally writes about that. His work on the Vault of Culture can be found here.
David Taylor provides an entry to Fennesz’s recent albums, in particular Agora (Touch, 2019): his “approach to the musical past is to transform and disfigure it in flight toward new forms of expression, then these records demonstrate a similar approach to geography, as the coordinates and specificities of place get dissolved and flow out into oceans of pure sound.”
A truly great example from Simon Sellars’ Applied Ballardianism (2018), with great nods to William S. Burroughs, from the start of chapter 95 (pages 340-341).
In the final (for now) entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that Alien: Covenant (dir. Ridley Scott, 2017) presents a radical rejection of the human, via its commitment to radically speculative alternatives to the human – or, in other words, to posing and, possibly, answering the posthuman question in substantive terms.
In this penultimate entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that Prometheus (dir. Ridley Scott, 2012) presents a fully-realized version of astronoetic pessimism, denying the human-centered search for meaning, ultimately contructing a world in which humans exist as an afterthought, a byproduct barely worth acknowledging.
In this entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2014) enlarges the anthropocentric vision of Contact (1997) into a full-blown anthropological myth of human dominion over nature that founds itself upon the primal self-creation of the human.
In this entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that Gravity (2013) complicates the invocation of astronoetics, instead presenting space as an inhumane, terrifying place, totally indifferent to human concerns or scales.
In this entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that Contact (1997) is structured around a desire or need to direct one’s earthly senses toward the skies – indeed, toward the cosmos as a whole and one’s place in it – in order to achieve both emotional resolution and scientific assurance.
In this entry of his Astronoetic Cinema series, Michael Uhall argues that the relationship between the human and technics is often at the heart of both 2001 and astronoetic cinema in general, as seen throughout the film and its contemporaries.
A theoretical introduction to Michael Uhall’s series, “Astronoetic Cinema,” in which he explores how representations of the human encounter with outer space embody, propose, and work through various submerged claims about specifically human agency, identity, and purpose, across a range of films.
Sony’s 2018 film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dirs. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman), is quite well aware of its comic-book origins and place within the milieu of superhero films.
Kelly Williams argues that both BioShock (2017) and The Evil Within 2 (2017) use the archetype of the mad artist and the mandate to “appreciate the art,” demanding complicity from players, who are forced to comply with a system created by their respective artists (the game developers), following a scripted plot progression, inhabiting a virtual world with prescribed limits, and using mechanics that are all designed by the developers.
Kelly Williams argues that elements of the original Dark Phoenix Saga in its comic-book form—namely the presence of Jason Wyngarde/Mastermind and the illusions he casts to control Jean Grey—continue to be missing from film adaptions, such as the upcoming Dark Phoenix (dir. Simon Kinberg, 2019), suggesting that women cannot handle cosmic abilities and that once they gain power, corruption is inevitable.
Kelly Williams argues that the “Sonnie’s Edge” episode of the Netflix sci-fi animated anthology series Love Death + Robots (2019) both invokes, and ultimately falls prey to, problematic tropes that limit its ability to consider female agency, in ways that serve as commentary on the struggle of the sci-fi genre more broadly.
From Power Man & Iron Fist vol. 3 #10 (Marvel, January 2017).
Thor’s figuring it all out in Team Thor: While You Were Fighting: A Thor Mockumentary, a short set after Captain America: Civil War (dirs. The Russos, 2016).
Entries to be added.