A History of Superheroes
This course acts as an introduction to media studies, specifically to comics and graphic novels. The industry of comics has been dominated by superhero comics since their inception in the early 1940s, and these will be our primary concern in this course. As such, we will read many superhero and action comics, such as Bob Kane's Batman, Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, and Mark Millar's Kick-Ass, amongst others, as well as theoretical works that help us to question comics as a form of literature, such as Umberto Eco's "The Myth of Superman," Geoff Klock's "How to Read Superhero Comics and Why," and Dylan Horrock's "Inventing Comics." We will also screen a film adaptation of one of the works every week in order to interrogate the intersections of the differing media of film, television, and comics.
Some questions we will investigate are: How is a comic a text? Who is its author? What decisions (both technical and narrative) must be made in the composition of a page, and who makes them? Why have comics and graphic novels, historically, received little academic attention? And how have they been adapted to the screen?
By the end of the quarter, you will be able to recognize and identify the various historical periods of comics (The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Revisionary Age) and the works that issue from them. Moreover, you will be able to cite specific events, such as the publication of Fredric Werthamâ€™s Seduction of the Innocent, as turning points in the history of American comics. From a technical standpoint, you will be able to speak comfortably about the construction and layout of comics.