Justin Wigard, PhD (pronounced “Why-Guard”) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Distant Viewing Lab at University of Richmond, where he works and teaches in the areas of popular culture, game studies, comic studies, children’s literature, and digital humanities.
He is co-editor of Attack of the New B Movies: Essays on SYFY Original Films (McFarland Press, 2023), the first academic treatment of SYFY Channel’s original films, including Sharknado (2013), 2 Lava 2 Lantula (2016), Frankenfish (2004), and more.
Since its inception in 1992, the Sci-Fi Channel (later rebranded as SYFY) has aired more than 500 network-produced or commissioned films. Campy and prolific, the network churned out one low-budget film after another, finally finding its zenith in the 2013 release of Sharknado. With unpretentious charm and a hearty helping of commodified nostalgia, the Sharknado franchise briefly ruled the cultural consciousness and temporarily transformed SYFY’s original films from cult fringe to appointment television. Naturally, the network followed up with a steady stream of sequels and spin-offs, including Lavalantula and its sequel, 2 Lava 2 Lantula!
This collection of essays is the first to devote critical attention to SYFY’s original film canon, both pre- and post-Sharknado. In addition to unpacking the cultural, historical and critical underpinnings of the monsters at the heart of SYFY’s classic creature features, the contributors offer a variety of approaches to understanding and interrogating these films within the broader contexts of ecocriticism, monster theory, post-9/11 criticism, and neocolonialism. Providing a further entry point for future scholarship, an appendix details a thorough filmography of SYFY’s original films from 1992 to 2022.
His article on visual parody and pulp signifiers in Calvin and Hobbes was awarded a 2021 Honorable Mention for Best Article from the Comics Studies Society. He has further published on popular representations of race, representation, gender, and sexuality in visual forms, including the Hallmark Channel’s Garage Sale Mystery film series; professional wrestling and Street Fighter; chronotopal representations of feminism in Marvel’s Jessica Jones; monstrous motherhood in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline; and the transmission of ludemes across video games in the Jurassic Park and X-Men: The Animated Series properties.
Justin’s dissertation, Level 101: A Video Game About Video Games, is a video game that he has developed which explores, explains, and interrogates the medium through a methodology of play.
He can be reached at: