English | Projects in Reading & Writing: Behind the Mask
W170 | 21667 | Beatty

TOPIC:  BEHIND THE MASK:  Reading Comic Book Superheroes
•21667	TR		2:30-3:45pm		TBA	Beatty
In this course, students will develop critical reading and
analytical writing skills through the exploration of comic books in
their historical and contemporary contexts. Each unit of this
classes will practice the vital skills and stages in the process of
writing a research-based term paper for college classes, culminating
in just such a research project for this class.  As a vehicle for
achieving this goal, this class will investigate a history and
evolution of  comic book superheroes throughout the twentieth
century that culminates in the decidedly anti-heroic heroes of
contemporary graphic novels.  We will begin by looking at the
earliest superheroes of the “Golden Age” of comics in the original
Superman, The Bat-Man, and Wonder Woman comic books of the 1930s and
40s.  Next we’ll look at how the social politics of the superhero
evolve to reflect—and influence—social change during the “Silver
Age” of comics in the 1960s and 70s, driven by Stan Lee’s work in
Spider-Man and original  The X-Men as well as the reinvention of The
X-Men in the mid-1970s, introducing most characters familiar to us
today (perhaps most notably Wolverine).  We’ll look at the
relationship between a more socially conscious superhero and these
less simplistically wholesome, often more violent superheroes.
We’ll end the class by investigating how these more violent
superheroes transform into the graphically violent anti-superheroes
written for “mature readers” in the modern graphic novels Batman:
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (who also wrote Sin City and
The 300) and Watchmen, created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (the
team also responsible for V for Vendetta).   The appearance of these
two works in 1986 forever changed the idea of the superhero—and the
comic book industry as a whole.  Our final unit in the class will
consider how they draw on the tradition of the comic book superhero
they are trying to destroy in order to understand what this
revolution in popular literature implies about the culture that both
derides comic books and consumes them in massive numbers.