Understanding Diversity in Comics: A Look at Marvel Comics' Echo- Multilingual, Biracial and Deaf
Understanding Diversity in Comics: A look at Marvel Comics' Echo: Deaf, Female and Biracial
Sharon Pajka-West, Ph.D.
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
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
•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
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
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.
•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”. About.com Retrieved on February 25, 2007 from
participated as members within the Deaf Echo concentrates on http://deafness.about.com/cs/culturefeatures2/a/deafcomics_2.htm.
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 http://www.vidarland.com/?q=/en/node/48
•Wright, G., & Sherman, R. (1999). Let's create a comic strip. Reading Improvement, 36(2), 66-72.
qualified for credit-bearing English courses