Posted by: Doc Comics | May 24, 2012

Super-Summer pre-school primer!

As we count-down the days until UNT‘s course on the MYTHIC RHETORIC OF THE AMERICAN SUPERHERO, it may serve to offer a pre-school primer on why study comic book superheroes at all.

“…even the lover of myth is in a sense a lover of wisdom…” ~Aristotle

How do superheroes communicate, persuade, and influence us? In lots of ways, some obvious and others less so. Superheroes often inspire children and even adults to social action (like the charitable “Route 29 Batman” and Seattle’s ‘real life’ vigilante Phoenix Jones) in ways that may raise intriguing problems and paradoxes. Yet these iconic symbols also function as social allegory: Wonder Woman storms the cover of Ms. Magazine, the hacker collective Anonymous and #OccupyWallStreet use V for Vendetta masks, and superhero protests sometimes celebrate these vigilante outlaws as defenders for the oppressed or Avenger agents for the status quo. Superheroes are political, but these questions go beyond reductive ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ labels to deeper issues of conflicted American values and thorny political or policy issues as well as sobering economic realities. From gay Green Lantern to the marriage of Marvel’s first gay superhero Northstar, these fictional heroes can have real-world impact. We may discover these spandex-clad stories can spark reflective inspection and deliberation over important questions and contemporary debates!

If Rhetoric is both the study and practice of persuasion and constitutive identifications across texts that are also sites of struggle over both meanings and power, then these superhero narratives operate as influential mythic culturetypes. For these reasons, these fictional comic book superheroes are a multifaceted American mythology that expose numerous ideological dimensions of utopian ideals, cultural identity, ambivalent values, and historically evolving socio-political issues or themes. We’ll begin by examining the historical evolution of superheroes from their Golden Age, the 1950s moral panic of the Comics Code Authority, the Silver Age rebirth and ‘Modern’ Bronze Age changes into ‘Postmodern’ graphic novels of the 80s and 90s. I’ll contend that we’ve entered a post-9/11 Heroic Age Renaissance reflective of this “Superhero Zeitgeist” in comics and films, but is it a return with a difference? What can we learn from superheroes, about where we’ve been been and where we should be going?

SuperHero Worship? One group’s charismatic superhero can be another’s demonized supervillain.

The graphic novels required for the class are available at MoreFun Comics on the Denton Square! Go see Tim with your super-syllabus and get a discount!



  1. Superheroes Unmasked documentary!

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