Posted by: Doc Comics | November 29, 2011

Post-9/11 Superhero Zeitgeist? Week 14



All Star Superman offers a remythologizing message of hope.

Our post-midterm genealogy of the SuperAntihero culminates in a look at post-9/11 superheroes and their thorny cultural and socio-political issues. As we continue to reflect upon Marvel’s CIVIL WAR storyline (and aftermath), we will also be examining Grant Morrison’s award-winning and critically acclaimed run on ALL-STAR SUPERMAN to discuss “Does Superman still matter?” (some of my thoughts are here about Kal-El refuting superkillers like AzBats).  Meanwhile, we will also be looking ahead to your final paper’s analysis of a graphic novel!

Are superheroes inherently fascist, or anti-fascistic symbols? Maybe the medium matters and comics are more reflexive than Hollywood formula?

swipe_file_the_boys_supermanAlso: Superman’s evolving looks, reading too much into Batman (and other weirdness), Action Comics #1 breaks records, The Avengers poster gets gender-flipped, Superman‘s movie make-over, and the evolution of monsters!

Posted by: Doc Comics | November 21, 2011

SuperAntihero Civil War: Week 13

Marvel’s epic crossover event CIVIL WAR will inform this week’s explorations into post-9/11 politics and issues animating superhero comics. It’s a free-for-all as we seek answers to: Whose side are you on?

“The failures and successes alike show that if comics are to succeed as modern political allegory, comics writers cannot simply transplant real controversies into their fictional worlds. They also face the daunting task of inventing a grammar and a vocabulary for a new sort of superhero narrative — one capable of telling us that, sometimes, great power comes with the responsibility to NOT use it.”

#OccupyTreatsOffice struck on Nov. 7

Bonus Material: strangely prescient conversation between Daredevil and Captain America from Daredevil #283 (August 1990)… and memes a’plenty!

Posted by: Doc Comics | November 12, 2011

Racial SuperMinorities: Week 12

The troubled history of the African-American “Black Superhero” is our focus this week, since it draws attention to the persistent problems in racial representations for comics minoritiesMilestone Comicssuperman in ICON: A HERO”S WELCOME will be discussed as a tragically-brief success for the African-American superhero amidst the ‘norm‘ of Whiteness in comics.

Meanwhile: Holy Hypocrisy! Comics legend Frank Miller goes off and then gets called out by the comics community because of #OccupyWallStreet comments!

Posted by: Doc Comics | November 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street superheroes?

Yep, #OccupyWallStreet has its own superheroes joining the fight for truth, justice, and a more equitable American Way… among other things. And other superheroes get in on the action-oriented political issues and opinions!

Posted by: Doc Comics | November 7, 2011

GenderQueer Mutants & Monstrosities? Week 11

The new Batwoman returns with a difference…

With their secret identities and flair for drag performances, superheroes have always been a bit queer in their subtexts (or overt commentary) for homosexual social issues (perhaps a legacy of the Marvel Age). This week’s selections of readings explores the homoerotics and homophobia that haunts these comic bookdraped crusadersnarratives. The history of GLBTQ superheroes is as problematic as all mediated depictions of minorities, but perhaps doubly so since the lines between gay and straight blur when contemplating the inherent Gender Troubles of representation (even Ultimate Spider-Man isn’t immune to predictable homophobic hysterics).

This week’s comic is BATWOMAN: ELEGY, which sparked both controversy and triumph in it’s groundbreakingmainstream’ success of featuring a gay superheroine. Batwoman’s history is as checkered as one might expect, but Greg Rucka’s bold storytelling has proven wildly successful. Explains Rucka:

“Kate Kane is her own person. She’s got a distinct personal tragedy, as is requisite to wear the mantel of the bat. You have to go through some personal hell to decide that you want to put a bat on your chest and beat people up at night – that you’re beating people up at night other than the reason that you get off on it. I’ve said this before, and you’ll see it early on – for everybody else, when they put on a Bat costume, it’s a costume. For Kate, it’s a uniform. That influences everything she does, and it tells you volumes about her…. You know, nobody wants to read, and we certainly didn’t want to write an after school special. But as you’ll see in the origin, there is a moment when she has to pay a huge price for the fact that she is gay. She has to sacrifice something of incredible value to her just to be true to herself… But she is the first mainstream superhero who starts out of the box gay. And arguably she’s going to be the most prominent gay superhero.”
To tease out the HERstory of Queer themes for wonder womyn and supergrrrls, we’ll have a distinguished guest lecturer discuss her scholarship! Meanwhile, check out MoreFun Tim’s take and remember that SUPERPAPER #2 is due next week!
1) How does the story of BATWOMAN markedly diverge from the Superhero Monomyth, or does it instead offer some important innovations on the formula as a fantasy culturetype?
2) In terms of both narrative and art, how else is this superheroine different? Are there any surprises in her interactions with male characters for this ‘superheroine on trial‘? As a GLBTQ protagonist?
3) In terms of Queer Theory, what are some of the problematics and possibilities of BATWOMAN for representing gay superheroes and superheroines?
Posted by: Doc Comics | October 31, 2011

Feminist Superheroines? Week 10

Superhero comics have long had much difficulty in their representations of superheroines and Wonder Women. This week we’ll be exploring Feminist rhetorical criticism and issues of sexism within the gender representations of comics and in the comics industry as we consider a history HERstory of the superheroine. Our graphic novel of the week is PROMETHEA, Alan Moore’s bold experiment in re-writing a Womyn Wonder that won accolades and mainstream attention for sparking more discussion of persistent Gender Trouble in comics representation (the infamous WIR problem).

Also discussed will be Wonder Woman’s altered origin in DC’s new 52 relaunch.

The latest in a long line of failed attempts to address gender inequity and minority representation.

Posted by: Doc Comics | October 24, 2011

Evolution of the SuperAntihero

This satirical look at “The Evolution of the Superhero” (by Ryan Dunlavey) nicely summarizes our turn to surveying an alternate genealogy of the Comic Book SuperAntihero across the Marvel/DC divide. This week’s comics selection is the British firebrand volume  V FOR VENDETTA, Alan Moore’s controversial 1990 meditation on superheroic terrorism between Anarchy and Fascism as we contemplate the hegemonic resistance and reification in comics ideology… and in the streets. As #OccupyWallStreet embraces Moore’s iconic Anarchist SuperAntihero, are V and The Joker comic book doppelgängers?!? And what to make to the Wachowski Bros. 2006 cinematic translation when read against Nolan’s “agent of chaos” Joker in The Dark Knight? Perhaps they have more in common than a chilling smile? And what happens when Marvel’s CIVIL WAR pits post-9/11 superantihero against superantihero to ask you “Which side are you on?

On a related note, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror shakes things up, SUPER gets analyzed, and the Revolt of Superheroes. In other news, a (tragic) piece of superhero history revealed and a Q&A about women and comics with Marvel talent!

Posted by: Doc Comics | October 17, 2011

Interrogating Ideology with Red Son: Week 8

This week’s comic is RED SON, an Elseworlds alternate reality that imagines the consequences of Kal-El‘s rocket crashing in the Soviet Union rather than Kansas. The 2003 graphic novel caused some controversy and won awards even as it gave Scottish writer Mark Millar more fame and acclaim. Still, the comic raises intriguing issues about superheroes and American exceptionalism outside of simplistic moral binaries. Has Superman always been a class warrior? We will be interested in examining the risks of political comics as we also review some of the superhero scholarship readings!

As a bonus, see what creators think about writing superheroines and Wonder Woman’s altered origin!

The SUPERMIDTERM is Tuesday 10/18! Bring a skinny green scantron and a #2 pencil along with your journal. According to USA Today, it’ll be one of the “easiest” college courses you’ll take 😉

Posted by: Doc Comics | October 10, 2011

Kingdom Come and Superteams: Week 7


This week we’re reading Kingdom Come as we further contemplate the comic’s “monomythic credotainment” and pseudoreligious commentary on the superhero mythos. Is there a more democratic and egalitarian ethos possible in these tales of superheroic redemption? Can these “Elseworlds” tales explore an interpretive ‘multiplicity‘ that challenges the ‘monomythic’ formula, and to what effect? What kind of “Better World” do these alternate realities imagine?

Behold! The new AVENGERS Assemble in a new preview trailer! SUPERPAPER #2 guidelines!

Posted by: Doc Comics | October 3, 2011

Nostalgia for MARVELS: Week 6

Finishing our exploration of “The Myth of the American Superhero,” we will examine Lawrence & Jewett’s critique of crusading fascism, redemptive violence, and the anti-democratic invitations of monomythic credotainment. In class, we’ll balance this critique with our other readings as we ponder more egalitarian and democratic possibilities of a “Better World” that comic book superheroes may reflexively offer thanks to the ‘multiplicity‘ that Jenkins posits.

The Grim-and-Gritty 90s ‘Dark Age’ would spark a nostalgic Renaissance from creators and fans yearning for a return to superheroic nobility. The readings for this week and next, MARVELS and KINGDOM COME, are works that are a very deliberate interrogation of the ends and means, meanings and values championed by superheroes during cynical times. As the comics take a Postmodern Turn of critical reflexivity, so too shall we consider how superheroes reflect, adapt, and respond to changing cultural conditions and challenges… sometimes for better or worse.

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