It could be argued that, since the claim that “You’ll believe a man can fly!” made for the 1978 Superman film, the history of special effects has been married in no small way to the history of the comic book film. But is this true of superheroes from outside America? And what of superhero films and television with smaller-than-blockbuster budgets? Recent American superhero franchises have helped to push the boundaries of computer generated technology on a global level, but the same could be argued for local production; for instance in Krishh(2006) or Ra.One(2011) in India. Ra.One provides a fascinating example of a film heavily showcasing CGI stunts, which were produced by a company owned by its star actor, Shahrukh Khan. In overlooking such connections, we might risk missing the power relations between the companies responsible for realising the “super” within superhero films.
Moreover, within television the international, or even global, language of visual effects is complicated by local companies vying for recognition within local, regional and global industrial communities. For example, UK series Misfits (2009-) uses The Bluff Hampton Company, based in London, for its remarkable effects that include prosthetics and visual effects work. However, these effects mirror the kinds of work undertaken within Hollywood productions; for example, producing onscreen doubling of characters, erasing wires used to hold actors mid-air, creating explosions and so on (http://www.specialeffects.co.uk/news/misfits.html). While these effects may have been localised within the show’s London-based diegesis, they still conform to the uses of effects within US films and television, and thereby enable The Bluff Hampton Company to showcase its global standard production work. Of course, more experimental work exists, and these can help to create different kinds of aesthetics, and can work to challenge the dominance of a Hollywood-centred narrative of special effects production.
Neither route is seen as “better” in this collection, but we are concerned to engage with how the techniques of production can alter or adhere to aesthetic techniques used to produce the “super” of heroes on screen. Consequently, special and visual effects, as well as stunts, performance capture, prosthetics, animatronics and make-up are all areas we would be interested in receiving proposals on.