Thursday, December 15, 2016

Superheroes as Literature: Research Paper

Choose ONE of the following options to write a thoughtful, persuasive essay using several of the books in class as well as other secondary research (handouts, articles, books, websites, etc.). In this paper, your goal is to educate readers who have not taken this class and/or do not regularly read comic books. With that in mind, consider what they assume about the genre, and why they might not appreciate the basic tenets of your argument.

Option 1, The Ethics of Supermen: For this option, I want you to discuss how comics explore the moral convictions and ambiguities of the superhero. It’s no longer enough to have a hero battle it out with his or her villains; modern-day readers want to explore the man or woman behind the mask, and understand what motivates someone to use their powers to save the world—and the consequences of such salvation. Are heroes always heroic? Or does becoming a superhero necessitate ‘villainous’ actions for the greater good? Consider, too, how superheroes are an evolution from the heroic ideal of ages past. How has our world/time reshaped them in our image? And what does it even mean to be a super human? Is the emphasis on the “super” or the “human”?

Option 2, Who Wears the Mask?: For this option, I want you to discuss the growing struggle of diversity and representation in superhero comics. As a traditionally male-dominated form, how have comics since the 1960’s been attempting to make superheroes reflect the social reality of 20th and 21st century America? Related to this, why might comics be the ideal medium for showcasing such diversity—even more than more traditional forms of literature and art? You might also discuss the obstacles that still face this branch of literature, and why (or when) even well-meaning attempts fall short of inclusion. Does representation always have to be literal—or can metaphors be just as (or even more) important?

Option 3, Comics in the Classroom: For this option, I want you to discuss how superhero comics could be effectively used in the classroom at any level (your choice). What, specifically, is the advantage to using (a) the medium of comics as a reading tool, and (b) exploring the abilities and conflicts of superheroes? How can superhero comics work in tandem with more traditional forms of literature? Should they merely be looked at as “bridges” to take students to more important/challenging forms of reading? Or can they be seen as engaging works in their own right, which pick up where older works left off? How could you convince a skeptical administration (and doubting parents) that comics are a (largely) untapped intellectual resource for students?

  • At least 6 pages, double spaced, but you can do more  
  • You should use at least 2-3 comics in your discussion
  • Additionally, you should have a few secondary sources to help illustrate the conversation surrounding your topic
  •  All quotations and sources should be cited properly, using MLA format, or another standard format of your choice (APA, etc.).
  • DUE NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30th by 5pm (via e-mail): you can e-mail it to if you're worried about ECU blocking your e-mail. 

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