Where I am, and Where I Want to go

I thought long and hard about where I’d like to take my Inquiry Blog. I flip-flopped through a few concepts, wracking my brain to find something that

  1. I knew something about but could still research further,
  2. Ties into the readings of adolescent literacy and what that means – there must be some sort of literary or educational side to it

and finally,

3. I can’t get bored with the subject a week from now and find myself committed to a topic I care very little for.

In the end, I landed on something deceptively simple: Superheroes.

Comic books fundamentally manage to cover a lot of bases because of their drawn and written format. Mixing images and text create a complex form of storytelling all its own. Not to stop there though, superheroes have grown from those pages, and have seeped into almost every form of art and entertainment known to man. This resonated with me as the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction defined Disciplinary Learning as “content knowledge, experiences, and skills merged with the ability to read, write, listen, speak, think critically, and perform in a way that is meaningful within the context”, and when you start to translate and adapt these characters and stories to different mediums, that’s exactly what you are doing.

Having grown up with comic books, they mean a great deal to me. I do know a fair amount of the long and sorted history, including the “Seduction of Innocence” legal battles of the 50’s (an emerging art form being labeled as dangerous, where have I heard that one before? Oh yeah, every emerging art form in history has been labeled as dangerous at one point or another).

I’ve always loved subjects that can work on two levels: the surface level for simple entertainment or for younger minds, and the deeper level with headier topics and denser content. Something like Pixar’s “Up” where children can see physical gags and colorful balloons, while adults can see Mr. and Mrs. Fredrickson are unable to birth children, and Mrs. Fredrickson passes away leaving no one else in Mr. Fredrickson’s life. This duality allows almost everyone to draw some enjoyment out of it, and I feel superheroes can walk that line quite clearly.

Where I would like to take this topic, is to delve deeper into the history of superheroes to see just what about them exactly is so engaging, and how they manage to resonate with almost anyone. Also, I would like to see just how superheroes are used in an educational context to teach more than just drawing skills and story writing, but also conceptual and emotional skills as well.

A few resources I have found thus far are:
A brief history of comic books

What is a superhero?

A book on what heroes can teach us about being human (I already own it)

–  The benefits of comics for reading skills

How to draw comics

and, whether or not I’ll actually use it for this class, I did quite like the title of this text

“Without Comics there’d be no me” Teachers as Connoisseurs of Adolescents’ Literary Lives

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6 thoughts on “Where I am, and Where I Want to go

  1. What a fun topic to do more research on! I just read an article in one of my other classes about the student response rate to reading books that they are more interested in, rather than assigned texts that they cannot relate to. The research findings were amazing, showing that students responded and read so much more when the context was in comic or magazine format. I think you could find some great research on this topic.

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  2. Hi Chris,
    This topic is very interesting. As a kid, I was never really interested in comic books, but as I got older I realized that a lot of the boys/men in my life were. My uncle has a massive collection of comic books. He used to skip school when he was in high school and hide in his closet reading comic books, according to my grandmother. He eventually dropped out. I wonder if things would have been any different if he had a teacher in school that incorporated texts, like comic books, that he was interested in. Good luck with your research! It definitely does not sound like something you will become bored with in a week.

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  3. Hey Chris,

    I like where you’re going with this topic. As a comic book fan myself, I’m fascinated to see what you’re going to find in the future. Since my grandpa was a WWII veteran, he always mentioned how Captain America was a huge hit in his unit because Captain American was, at that time, a symbol for patriotism.

    I remembered seeing Stan Lee talk at a panel (what a charming, feisty old man), and he even mentioned how comics were once deemed as “distracting” and “silly” by parents during the “Golden Age” of comic books. He explained how during the late 30’s to 50’s, comic books were the “video games” of those eras. It’s crazy how much the perception and cultural impact comic books has had over the last few decades. Perhaps it’s because comic books played a large role in our grandparents’ and parents’ lives. It’ll be interesting to see what you uncover, as well as how you’re going to incorporate your findings into your pedagogy.

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  4. I really appreciate how your framed the study of super heroes and comics within and adolescent literacy frame AND a disciplinary literacy frame. Well done. This topic is sure to provide you with an array of texts to choose from for a variety of purposes. I’ve had students explore this topic in the past as well. Let me know if you’d like me to share their links with you.

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