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Understanding Diversity in Comics: A look at Marvel Comics' Echo: Deaf, Female and Biracial
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Understanding Diversity in Comics: A Look at Marvel Comics' Echo- Multilingual, Biracial and Deaf


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Poster Presentation at International Reading Association

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Understanding Diversity in Comics: A Look at Marvel Comics' Echo- Multilingual, Biracial and Deaf

  1. 1. Understanding Diversity in Comics: A look at Marvel Comics' Echo: Deaf, Female and Biracial Sharon Pajka-West, Ph.D. Gallaudet University Conclusion •Realistic Abstract Methodology •David Mack‟s character Maya Lopez, also It was crucial that my students find books that known as Echo and Ronin, debuted in •The benefits of comics with diverse •Included prior research on the portrayals and interested them and begin a close relationship Daredevil as a love interest for Matt Murdock. characters are extensive for reluctant perceptions of deaf characters in adolescent with reading. The format of comics is visually This character now appears in the arc of the readers who seldom find characters like literature as a catalyst appealing and certainly has the potential to grab most recent issues of The New Avengers. •Collected titles of nearly a dozen comics & themselves. the attentions of deaf individuals, who are often •Students held impromptu gatherings about graphic novels considered quot;visualquot; people. •Analyzed books applying the Adolescent Book the comics they were reading in their spare time. As an acknowledged useful teaching Content Analysis (ABCA) Check-off form (modeled Despite the unrealistic portrayals of deaf after Schwartz‟s (1980) „Criteria for Analyzing tool and clearly of interest to my students, I characters throughout graphic novels and comics, Books about Deafness‟) to differentiate between investigated using comics and graphic a more realistic deaf character has emerged within novels in my classroom. the pathological and the cultural perspective of the last decade. Through issues such as diversity, deaf characters communication, isolation, technology and identity, • Interviewed Marvel Comics Research Questions: comic book readers learn a great deal about Maya •Are deaf characters being presented as artist/creator David Mack (right) Lopez, her place in the Deaf World, and how the •Reviewed and discussed data culturally or pathologically deaf; and, character‟s experiences can foster an open •Are there any portrayals of diverse comic with students using the ABCA dialogue for students regarding the similarities and book characters? Check-off form differences between Deaf and Hearing individuals. Echo featured in Marvel Comics‟ Daredevil. I used the ABCA Check-off form to analyze the Mack includes ASL handshapes in the background characters, interviewed the creator of the Marvel Diversity Findings Background Comics character and concluded that although •biracial Latina Native American Indian who Maya‟s character is not perfect, nor is she •Limited to characters who had lost their hearing, not embraces her multiple languages and •Since the 1930s, comic books have been idealistic, in many ways her story is a realistic those who had been born or become deaf in infancy heritages popular reading for young people (Morrison, account of a deaf child growing up isolated from •Characters were mostly white. Bruan, & Chilcoat, 2002). other deaf people and then later finding her Deaf •Unrealistic portrayals Communication •Several researchers have investigated the identity and self-confidence to be herself. Creator •For example, one deaf character, Manuel Gomez, •equipped with several ways to communicate effectives of using comic books to engage and artist, David Mack conducted extensive communicates with special glasses in Avatar Book including art and performance, Indian Sign students in language arts classroom and research regarding both American Sign Language 1: A Look into the Abyss by Juan Miguel Aguilera Language, American Sign Language, and lip- emphasize the positive effects of including and Indian Sign Language in order to make the SAF Comics (2003). reading. comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons in character well-rounded and as culturally accurate the classroom. as possible. •Limited Role of the Deaf Character Isolation •Goldstein‟s (1986) study on vocabulary •Elizabeth Laird and Pauline •feels resentment towards being abandoned by instruction resulted in student improvement Literature has often stigmatized minority culture Hazelwood‟s graphic novel, The loved ones; yet her feelings of isolation on standardized test scores when students individuals based upon race, ethnicity, disability, Listener (1997) includes a minor certainly do not limit her. She appears to be a studied vocabulary from comics & cartoons. gender and/or sexual orientation. While readers deaf character. The story is strong, independent woman who functions •Wright and Sherman (1999) postulated that might recognize the negative depictions and about a boy who enlists the within the larger culture teachers should include comic books and dismiss them as harmless stereotypes, these help of his deaf neighbor when cartoons in the language arts classroom portrayals can potentially become a part of the his grandmother is hurt. Technology because they are cost effective, have low- collective subconscious of members of society. •writer lacked knowledge about the available readability levels, and most importantly, are •Deafness as a form of punishment. technology that deaf individuals use of great interest to students. Since this character, Echo, has been picked up by •The Amazing Allegro, a famous The New Avengers, it will be interesting for Russian musician became permanently deafened Participants Identity students to follow her story arc in upcoming by one of Green Arrow's sonic arrows in the •Deaf, Native American Indian Deaf students who: issues. original Justice League series. The act of losing •viewed themselves as members of a his hearing puts him over the edge and he turns References linguistic cultural minority, not members of a evil. •Juan Miguel Aguilera, Avatar Book 1: A Look into the Abyss, SAF Comics (2003). disability; group/various minority populations •Batman Beyond: Hear No Evil (2002) Random House Books for Young Readers (May 28, 2002) Echo in Marvel •DC Comics, (1979). Justice League of America #163. •used American Sign Language and •Elizabeth Laird and Pauline Hazelwood (illustrator), The Listener (1997) Graffix. Comics‟ Daredevil. •Shriek, the villain who uses his •Marvel Comics Daredevil (1999-2003) (v2) #9-15 and #51-55. ******************************************************************************** •Berke, J. (2005). “Deaf Culture- Deafness in Comics”. Retrieved on February 25, 2007 from participated as members within the Deaf Echo concentrates on deafness as a shield in Batman •Goldstein, B. S. (1986). Looking at cartoons and comics in a new way. Journal of Reading, 29(7), 657-661. •Morrison, T. G., Bryan, G., & Chilcoat, G. W. (2002). Using student-generated comic books in the classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vibrations instead of Community 45(8), 758-767. Beyond: Hear No Evil exploits •Pajka-West, S. (2007). The portrayals and perceptions of deaf characters in adolescent literature. (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 2007). •were accepted into the university but had not sound. ProQuest Digital Dissertations UMI No. AAT 3238142. •Schwartz, A.V. (1980). Books mirror society: a study of children‟s materials. Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 11(1,2), 19-24. sound as his weapon •Svendsen, V. (2006). “Deafness in Comics”. Vidarland. Retrieved on July 23, 2007 from •Wright, G., & Sherman, R. (1999). Let's create a comic strip. Reading Improvement, 36(2), 66-72. qualified for credit-bearing English courses