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Showing posts from April, 2009

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…