I’m short on blogging time, so I’m just going to link you to this great summary of a Superheroes Seminar that was taught by English Studies Associate Professor Charles Hatfield (author of Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature) at CSUN Northridge last semester.
Educational institutions have been embracing comics like never before over the last decade, and it’s really exciting to me. It’s actually something I’ve been heavily looking into and reading Hatfield’s thoughts on how his first superhero-themed seminar went, and how his students responded to the material, was really fascinating to me.
The superhero genre today, and certainly superhero comics and the market that supports them, have earned their reputation for gender asymmetry; they’re lopsidedly male-dominated, and their values, with some exceptions, crushingly masculinist. I say these things not to denounce, but simply because they’re true; just as romance fiction is generally considered “for” women, superhero comics are generally considered “for” men. In any case, this gender lopsidedness represents a challenge for the genre and in teaching it. Out of the eighteen students in the course, eight were women, representing a variety of backgrounds, dispositions, tolerances, and interests, and the discussion of gender in the class, from literally the first day to the last, was a vital part of our conversations.