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Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: Thinking about the Marvel/Disney Union

The four billion dollar acquisition of Marvel Entertainment Group by Disney naturally has me thinking about comics in a new light. I can see a Marvel Team-Up with Steamboat Willie and Spider-Man looming in my future....not. Seriously, for academics and comic fans alike, there is something to be said about the mighty merger of brands. Disney got a lot out of this deal. If you have kids, sign your house over to Disney now, soon they will have your little boy just like they have your little girl (cue evil villain laugh:)

That may be extreme, but the merger of corporate culture will be key to the success of this deal and that will create unique opportunities for both companies. I doubt many people remember Disney's decision to license characters for the Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts. Produced by Square Enix, the creator of the Final Fantasy franchise, the game was a crazy blend of Final Fantasy game play and Disney characters and worlds. The result was surprisingly playable. …

Turn Your Eyes Toward March

Don't worry if the title doesn't make sense, give it a minute.

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men is coming along. Our contributors are finishing up the last touches and the editors are making our list and checking it twice. As I have mentioned in the past, the book's contributors offer a complex and interesting look at comics and comic culture in the United States. Nonetheless, sealing the deal in regards to this book is keeping me working during my summer "vacation." I'm starting to miss the regular grind of grading papers and hearing student complain (I'm kidding...mostly). Anyway, I think the key to this process is to stay focus and work the process. The book exists, it just not in its final form. As it always the process, there are some people sending things in late, but most people have the their submissions done. We are a little concerned about length (the problems of a down economy, everything is more expensive--shaving a few pages from each submi…

Working the Edges of a Problem: Comics and Race in the United States

I recently got feedback on Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men from a prospective publisher. It a tough process, getting feedback from someone who doesn't know all the work you have put into something. It is honest feedback and I will take it and make sure the final product answer the editor's questions. We have done a lot of great work on the book, but publishers are a cold and objective bunch slow to hand out praise (and contracts). As I scramble to reply to the press, I realize I have not done much with one of the chapters I am writing for the book. My chapter looks at the introduction of African-American superheroes to the Marvel Universe in the 1960s and 1970s. The decision to introduce minority characters to a fictional universe may seem petty compared to the titanic struggles occurring over Civil Rights during the 1960s, but those struggles drove the decision to incorporate minorities into comics. The question for me is what does the Marvel Comic experience integrating pers…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men or Art in Society

One of the things that proves to me the new Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men edited volume will work for a broader audience is that I see evidence of comics and comic culture in everyday life. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival is a big annual event in Winter Park, FL. I discovered this artist's display on a visit this year and had to take a picture. The artist is Unmarid Eitharong. I do not know much about the artist, but clearly the use of Superman set against a picture of the D-Day landing gives one pause. Comic book influences are everywhere. Look for more information on comics and society and the book coming your way.

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: The Classroom Tool

I'm sold on the idea of a critical anthology about superhero comics in the United States. Part of the reason I am so high on the project has everything to do with teaching. As a history professor, I am always looking for ways to get students interested in history.





Much of that innovation (if you want to call it innovation) is to consider different material for historical analysis. Music, movie, television, and political cartoons have found their place in the academy. Yet, as I began teaching comic books as part of my U.S. history classes I realize this uniquely American creation, the superhero comic, has not gotten the kind of academic examination other pop culture receives on a regular basis. There is not much available for classroom use. When I and my colleague William Svitavsky created American Graphic Media, we recognized gaps in the literature that needed filling and wanted a collection like the one we are creating for weekly reading assignments. While we found some great…

Keep to the Cutting Edge in More Ways Than One

There is no doubt that academics have a very particular view of the world. The public can be dismissive of academic writing and thought because they "live in an ivory tower." People tend to forget the purpose of the "ivory tower" is to allow some small part of society to think and write without fear their words will lead to reprisals. Why do I mention this? Well, like any other subject that get a critical appraisal, comics, under the right critical lens, can be a source of contention.


Above you see Michael Lecker at the 2009 Florida Conference of Historian. Mr. Lecker's “You Made Them Strong, We’ll Make Them Army (Avengers) Strong: How the Marvel Universe’s Story Arc and Ad Usage are Propaganda for Army Recruitment," is one example of how Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men applies cutting edge scholarship. Lecker's work is heavily influence by French theorist Michel Foucault. Specifically, he is using Foucault's Biopower concept to explore how the st…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men--The Pop Culture Question

Does popular media shape your belief or does belief shape media? It is a good question, and of course, comic books are one way to consider the problem. Think about it, comic books have for many decades, offered their readers a self-contained world with detailed character histories and evolving circumstances. If you read Superman in the 1940s his dress, ideas, language, and surrounding reflect that time. Today, they reflect contemporary life incorporating radically different social, political, and economic circumstances. The writers update the characters and their world so that readers feel a connection to the story. Thus, we can make the argument strongly that comics reflect culture incorporate new ideas as they come. On the other hand, when comics introduce readers to concepts such as challenging political corruption in the 1930s, attacking the fascism in the 1940s, or challenging racism in the 1960s they do so ahead of mainstream opinion. Therefore, those comics help to shape the re…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: Superman Comics and Masculinity

Above, Micheal Goebel from George Mason University explore dual identity and question of gender in Superman comics at the 2009 Florida Conference of Historian meeting. One of the most interesting things about Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men is how the contributors have applied the latest academic theory to the comic medium. Mike's contribution asks us to consider the implication of the blending of Clark Kent and Superman's traits in comic publications over the last decade and how that decision reflects deeper questions of changing views about masculinity in the United States. It should come as no surprise that such an analysis is possible, but two few cultural studies text has examine Superman in this light. Yet, a quick survey of Superman's iconic history reveals the link between the character's depictions and evolution of United States' social, political, and economic fortunes. Superman and other mainstream characters receive serious consideration in the pages of…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: A Question of Themes

One question that must be answered when considering a critical anthology like Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men is how, especially for the broader public, will you (editors) address crucial issues. The decision to focus on comics and comic book culture alone creates resistance, thus it is important to have a strong thematic framework to guide the construction of the volume. For Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men our aim is to examine the the superhero genre because it highlights the struggle between American ideas and shifting social, political, and economic realties. Without question some points touched on in this volume, such as Superman’s class and ethnic symbolism are the gist of academic debate. Yet, this volume differs because of its innovative examination of race, gender, and ideology in comics through a wider examination of comic characters and comic forms. If you question the importance of comics, the success of recent comic book movies and the perception that “comic book values” are p…

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: Contributor Claire Jenkins

"Nuff Said is gearing up for the Spring by changing its colors. Regardless, we are still focused on comic books and comics culture in all forms. This week's update, and I hope to keep the update coming on a weekly basis, is about Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men. As I mentioned, the 2009 Florida Conference of Historians conference was the first ever face to face with contributors to the volume. So, for those of you who made it, great to meet you:) For those you who did not, here are some of the people you missed.

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men--FCH Contributor Interview: Claire Jenkins
Education: PhD Film Studies, Warwick University, UK
MA Film Studies, 2005, Reading University, UK
BA (hons) Media Arts, 2003, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK


WATCHMEN

How can I connect WATCHMEN to Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men, how much pointless self-promotion can I engage in and still look myself in the eye? Well, let see shall we:)

In the last two decades, comic books and comic book heroes have experience increased scholarly interest. This attention has approached comic books and characters as myth, sought context of the superhero archetype, and used comic books as cultural markers for postwar America. All of theses efforts share an acknowledgement that comic books and superheroes offer a distinct means to understand U. S. culture. If the mania over WATCHMEN explains anything, it that comic are our culture's mythology. American comics and comic culture provide a window into the way we understand our place in the postwar global experience. The WATCHMEN stands as testament to heighten Cold War tension in the 1980s. The recent success of comic inspired films reflect both the maturity of generation X and the power of visual media to effect t…

On the eve of this momentous occasion...

I wish that I could've referenced the Doomsday Clock and titled this post something awesome like "Five minutes to midnight" but at that very time I will, in fact, be only moments away from seeing Watchmen with so many other drooling fangirls and boys (and you kinda lose that cool double meaning when this wasn't actually published at 11:55, you know?)...

When we started reading the graphic novel in American Graphic Media, I'd heard of it but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into... A single-story comic series that you can study in depth for several weeks? Not possible, right? Needless to say, I was mistaken.

It's funny because the last issue of Watchmen came out a month after I was born. Yes, that's right - it's taken the lifetime of a college student for this groundbreaking graphic novel to finally be made into a film. And, like most epic cinematic productions, there was much squabbling, except this time it was for the very right of this …

FCH 2009 Media Arts and Culture

These are big days for comics fans. WATCHMEN is coming out and Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men, the edited volume I am working on with William Svitavsky and Thomas Donaldson has reached a major milestone. This year's Florida Conference of Historian(FCH) meeting in Fort Myers, FL marks the contributor's first meeting. Some very smart people came from across the country and around the world to present their research at the FCH. This is not surprising because the FCH has been a welcoming forum for everyone interested in any area of historical inquiry for nearly 50 years. This year, the board voted to create Special Interest Sections (SIS) designed to attract scholars interested in specific subjects. One SIS of interest to me is Media Arts and Culture. This special section will be forum for everyone interested in comics, movies, television, film, and radio who might be interested in presenting research with a historical dimension. The creation of this SIS is linked to Professor Svi…