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Superheroes 101

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How to effectively use comics and manga in the classroom to engage students in challenging topics, ignite their creativity, and get them thinking critically. …

How to effectively use comics and manga in the classroom to engage students in challenging topics, ignite their creativity, and get them thinking critically.

Co-created by M. Brandon Robbins and Tom Garrou.

Published in: Education

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  • Students debating who would win in a fight. Appears to be wasting class time. Taking a stance on an issue with opposing viewpoints, supporting their stance with examples from the text, responding to arguments made by somebody taking the opposing view.
  • Comics and manga collectively are graphic literature: narrative works that juxtapose text and sequential art to tell a story (panels and balloons).
  • Genres tend to mix and mingle, even more so than with comics. Also, because there’s a more diverse audience, there are countless other genres and subgenres (again, more so than with comics). We’re only scratching the surface here.
  • For purpose of this presentation, we will use GN as it often is--a bound volume of graphic literature. This is only for informative purposes and to indulge my comic shop snobbery. :-)
  • Comics and manga are populated with familiar characters that students have probably grown up with, if not from the source material then from movies, video games, and TV series’. They provide an instant connection that engages students readily.

    Batman=psychology
    Ironman=STEM
    X-Men=minorities/civil rights
  • Follett, the main vendor for WCPS Media Centers, often has complete collections of manga. This is handy for making sure you get all the books in a series to keep your students coming back for more.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Superheroes 101 Using Comics In the Classroom Tom Garrou M. Brandon Robbins Dude! I trained with Ninjas! Oh yeah! Wonder Woman is my girlfriend! You win!
    • 2. Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk
    • 3. Comics and Manga ★ Comics ○ American or British in origin ○ Major genres ■ Superhero ■ Crime ■ Horror ■ Western ■ Sci-Fi ■ War ○ Straightforward stories with traditional narrative structure ○ External conflict with internal conflict being an overarching theme ○ Primarily written for teenage and adult males
    • 4. Comics and Manga ★ Manga ○ Japanese ○ Major genres ■ Magical ■ Mecha ■ Comedy ■ Sports ■ Drama ■ Daily Life ○ More expansive and contemplative stories ○ Both external and internal conflict at core of most stories ○ Written for a wider variety of audiences
    • 5. A Word About Graphic Novels ★ A graphic novel is a work of graphic literature with a definitive beginning, middle, and end within a single volume. ★ Most of what are popularly called “graphic novels” are reprints of stories originally told in serial format as issues of a comic book series or installments of a comic strip which appear in a periodical. ★ Comics readers call these by their physical format (trades & hardcovers) and understand them as collected volumes. ★ Single issues are episodes while trades/hardcovers are full seasons on DVD.
    • 6. Classroom Strategies ★ Discussion and Debate ○ Who would win? ○ Are the superheroes justified in their actions? ○ What skills and knowledge would the superhero need to develop in order to fulfill their mission?
    • 7. Classroom Strategies ★ Let’s Talk about Archetypes, Baby! Who is Bruce Wayne? Who is Tony Stark? Who is Oliver Queen? Who is Lex Luthor? Is Lex a villain, a hero, or an anti-hero? But archetypes aren’t only heroes/villains. They are places, abilities, themes, minor characters. Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, what two things do they have in common? Why are they so alliterate? Google it!
    • 8. Classroom Strategies ★ At a Time when we needed them most… Discuss superheroes, their origins, and what they mean, for example: Captain America-- When, why, where, who? The Flash-- Spiderman--
    • 9. Classroom Strategies “Flash” forward to modern comics and DC’s “New 52” Courtney Whitmore (a.k.a. STARGIRL) -- Typical teenaged-girl-turned-superhero. Joins Justice League America, but is “held back” by her teammates in order to “protect” her. She ends up saving them all (including Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman). Oh, and she saves the world, too. Why is having a discussion about this character the BEST idea EVER?
    • 10. Classroom Strategies History - Research a superhero and describe the social outlook of that era. Why was the creation of that hero important for that time? English/L.A. - Research your favorite superhero. What archetype does he/she fit in? Science - What would happen if a person was blasted with Rubidium? What abilities would they have? Create this character, but use the element abbreviation as the initials in their name (Ray Barone, Reggie Brown, Rahjeev Balakrishnan, etc.) Language - Did you know that there is a Spiderman in India? A Batman in Japan, and a Captain Britain? Research them and create your own from France, Spain, Mexico, Africa, etc. Mathematics - Have students brainstorm ideas on how a problem might pertain to real life applications and have them make a comic that sets up the problem and shows how it is solved.
    • 11. Classroom Strategies “The potency of the picture story is not a matter of modern theory but of anciently established truth. Before man thought in words, he felt in pictures.” W. Sones (1944)
    • 12. Classroom Strategies What could you have students do with an comic creator in your content area? (i.e. exemplify the theme of a text, create a 3-cell comic that summarizes a point, etc) Comic creators online: Chogger - www.chogger.com Read, Write, Think - http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/comic/ Make Believe Comics - http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/ Pixton - http://www.pixton.com/for-fun Toon Doo - http://www.toondoo.com Strip Generator - http://stripgenerator.com/strip/create/ Pikistrips - http://www.pikistrips.com/user/login
    • 13. Suggested Reading Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire Gus is a hybrid, a human with animal features, many of which populate a post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by plague. Alone in the woods, he one day meets Tommy Jeppard, a grizzled drifter, who promises to take Gus to “The Preserve,” a safe place for hybrids. Their adventure will take them all across the country and lead to the terrible secrets behind the hybrids and the plague that destroyed humanity. THEMES: Coming-of-age, the quest/journey, decay of society, the nature of family and relationships GRADE LEVEL: High school, possibly limited to Junior-Senior Honors/AP English classes where more challenging/mature content is the norm.
    • 14. Suggested Reading Civil War by Mark Millar and Steven McNiven When a superhero inadvertently causes the death of hundreds of civilians, the United States government requires that all superheroes register their secret identities and submit to official accountability for their actions. Ironman leads a faction of superheroes who support and comply with this act; Captain America cites reasons of privacy and safety-- especially for the loved ones of superheroes--as reasons for resisting it. The result is an all-out war between the superheroes. THEMES: Rights of the individual vs. rights of society, good of the many vs. the good of the few, justifiability of vigilante justice, privacy, role of government in the personal lives of citizens GRADE LEVEL: 7-12, with awareness that there is some violent content equating to roughly a PG-13 movie
    • 15. Suggested Reading The Prince of Tennis by Takeshi Konomi Son of the legendary tennis player “Samurai Nanjiroh,” Ryoma quickly rises in the ranks of his new school’s tennis team. His goal is to not only hone his own technique and be a champion tennis player, but to lead his team to the national championships. THEMES: Rivalry, following in your parent’s footsteps, bonding through common interests, the nature of competition, setting goals GRADE LEVEL: All ages, with a broad appeal for all genders and enough human drama to entice even those who are not sports fans.
    • 16. Suggested Reading Batman: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jock A year ago, Batman captured the Joker and turned him over to the Gotham City Police. While the Joker sat in his cell, a deranged new villain called the Dollmaker cut off his face and nailed to the wall before releasing him from prison. Now the Joker is back in Gotham City, wearing his face as a mask, and is targeting Batman’s allies and friends one-by-one. THEMES: Obsession, trust, the nature of family, mental/emotional disorders, criminal psychology GRADE LEVEL: This book is very dark, and should be limited to only the most mature students.
    • 17. Suggested Reading Amazing Spider-Man: 24/7 by various writer and artists Spider-Man has long been a thorn in the side of J. Jonah Jameson, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Bugle newspaper. Now that Jameson is Mayor of New York City, he has made it his first (and possibly only priority) to bring Spider-Man to justice. In a show of heroic protest, Spider-Man ramps up his game, staying on duty around the clock. THEMES: Ethics of vigilante justice, abuse of power, qualities of an ideal political leader, forms of protest against the government GRADE LEVEL: Appropriate for all ages
    • 18. Suggested Reading Otomen by Aya Kanno Asuka is the big man on campus: captain of the kendo team, a star in judo and karate, an all-around cool and popular guy. However, he has a secret: his true loves in life are for cute things and he loves to cook. Asuka keeps this part of himself hidden, but when he meets a girl named Ryo, he finds it hard to do so. THEMES: Gender identity, gender roles, ideals of masculinity and femininity, social acceptance of those outside the norm GRADE LEVEL: High school, possibly also 7th-8th grade
    • 19. Suggested Reading All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely On a desperate mission to save astronauts from disaster, Superman absorbs too much radiation from the Sun. As a result, his cells are slowly breaking down, leading to his eventual death. With the time he has left, Superman dedicates himself to a new level of heroism, making sure that he has done as much good for humanity as possible--including finally defeating his archenemy, Lex Luthor, once and for all. THEMES: Death and dying, the idea of a legacy, morality, good vs. evil, fate, charity GRADE LEVEL: While the themes are very heavy and much of the content is deeply philosophical, the content is all-ages appropriate; best used in middle or high school
    • 20. Suggested Reading Azumanga Daioh by Kiyohiko Azuma The drama and comedy of the everyday lives group of high school friends, both in and out of school. There’s the smart girl, the genius elementary-aged student, the shy and quiet girl, the clueless dingbat, and the transfer student. THEMES: Friendship, school and student life, major life events, how different personalities come together GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school, especially for female students
    • 21. Kids Love Comics Too! ★ There are lots of quality comics out there for kids. ★ Comics based on TV shows and other intellectual properties such as: Adventure Time, My Little Pony, Sonic the Hedgehog, Megaman, Samurai Jack, and many others. ★ Kid-friendly versions of superhero comics. ★ Many publishers of children's literature have licensed Marvel and DC Comics characters and done storybooks and chapter books featuring them--including many kid-sized graphic novels.
    • 22. Where to Go ★ Talk to Your Media Coordinator ★ Visit your local public library ★ Drop by and see your friendly neighborhood comic shop! Heroes Are Here 208 S. Berkeley Blvd. Right outside the Seymour Johnson AFB Gate
    • 23. There’s No Limit to The Hulk’s Power ★ Comics and manga lead way to various other worthwhile pursuits. ○ Fans tend to want to be creators. ■ Art ■ Writing ■ Cosplay ■ Film & animation ○ Comics and prose have a symbiotic relationship ■ Works are adapted back and forth ■ Writers work in both mediums ■ Genres overlap ● NEVER BAIT AND SWITCH! ★ If you have a student who loves comics and manga, encourage that love and let it grow!
    • 24. Thanks! QUESTIONS?
    • 25. Thanks! thomasgarrou@wcps.org brandonrobbins@wcps.org We’d love to hear from you!