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As a child, my favorite superheroes were Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Hulk.  I think what attracted me to them more than heroes like Superman, was that Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner were all normal people before becoming heroes.  As it turns out, their creator Stan Lee thought up many of his characters in response to what was going on in the world.  Spider-Man and the Hulk were created in response to radiation being in the news after World War II, and Iron Man as a way for Lee to show what he thought technology would one day make a normal man capable of.  As the year progressed, many Marvel authors including Lee used their comic book characters to help people deal with tough real world issues.  In my essay I'd like to examine what issues the authors of superhero comic books chose to deal with, why they picked those issues, and if it still happens today.  I am still not sure if I will only focus on Stan Lee but I am almost certain I will stay in the Marvel Comics realm.  I've already found many images online that I want to be a part of my essay, and I feel that this is a topic I could easily write twelve pages on.  I am also very interested in why we don't see superheroes fighting in the battles our country is in today.  Captain America was created specifically to fight the Nazi's, so where is Captain Shock and Awe?  A few other issues I plan on talking about are homosexuality, the war on drugs, and AIDS.  I've also seen a graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 comission report, so if I do stray away from Marvel this is probably what I'll include.  This essay needs to be more focused, but I feel confident I can find plenty of interesting sources and create a solid thesis about this topic.

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3 Comments

  1. Unknown User (mle4)

    This is a great idea.  I think you could do a lot with the creation of graphic novels as a means to deal with global issues.  The graphic adaptation of the 9/11 comission report would be a great example of how this is done in today's society.  However, you may not have enough time (or space) to focus on homosexuality, the war on drugs, and AIDS unless it is through an examination of whether these issues are present at all in graphic novels today.  Overall, this is a really broad topic that you can do a lot with, you just have to keep it focused.  As for suggestions specific suggestions, I would be interested in why Stan Lee used the method of a "normal human" characters transforming into superheroes to respond to global issues.  Also, can you find any current examples or is another medium used today to convey the same concerns?  You've got a great start already...good luck!

  2. I agree with Megan both as to the possibilites of your topic and her concern that it might become too broad, even for an essay of this length.  "I'd like to examine what issues the authors of superhero comics chose to deal with, why they picked those issues, and if it still happens today" -- WARNING! WARNING! CORE MELTDOWN IMMINENT!  To be totally subjective, I found the musings at the end of your abstract to be the most interesting and workable.  It might be worthwhile to juxtapose the bombing of Pearl Harbor to 9/11 (a frequent comparison), and show how pervasively comics went to war during the 1940s.  Captain America is a good example.  I guess where my knowledge runs out is with the subsequent history of comic book characters dropped into current geopolitical crises/wars -- Korean War?  Vietnam?  Gulf War?  I feel like Watchmen is undertaking some sort of commentary upon comics & propaganda when they put Dr. Manhattan & The Comedian in Vietnam, or amidst American urban unrest.  A conflict of cultures.  What's been done in the wake of 9/11 (now several years in the past) would be interesting to consider.  I've heard about but have not read the graphic adaptation of 9/11 report.  I think it's still possible, even desireable, to use the Marvel universe as a way of narrowing your topic and collection of texts.  Those titles seem a little less iron-jawed and patriotic than DC, don't you think?  I feel like an important crux will be how Marvel dealt with Vietnam -- flawed characters? "realistic" portrayal of war and its traumas? etc.  Looks promising to me....

  3. Unknown User (mkf2)

    Sounds like a really interesting topic. Using superheroes as a way to provide commentary on social issues is, in my opinion, an intriguing concept that probably doesn't get an appropriate amount of attention. As already stated, it might be worthwhile to read up on some of today's prominent comic book authors to see if they have incorporated the same type of message in their current heroes. Along the same lines, you could delve into the recent chapters of Stan Lee's characters, seeing if their current authors have done anything to alter these messages to fit in with today's values and social issues. For example, an author starting a new Spider-Man comic might have the spider that bites Peter Parker be a product of illegal nuclear waste instead of radiation poisoning. You definitely have a solid foundation here, and like you said, at this point it seems to be a matter of deciding what to focus your efforts on.