Superheroes the Focus of New Contemporary Issues Course
What does the word “Superhero” bring to mind? Fictitious characters jumping out of the pages of comic books or from a movie screen? First responders? Loved ones?
A course being offered by the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences during the fall 2021 semester is devoted to superheroes, both real and imagined. The course (CTI 499) comes under the umbrella of Contemporary Issues classes within the Gold Core Curriculum and is offered to students who are in their junior or senior year, when they are required to take a Connections class and a Contemporary Issues class.
Dr. Katherine Wyma, the course’s instructor and a self-professed comic book fan, created the course and initially offered it online. This time the class will be open to traditional students on campus.
“I had this course designed for several years; it was just in my back pocket waiting for the opportunity,” Wyma said. “The way I structure it is we actually talk about a superhero, an antihero and a villain. Finally we end up with ‘What is an everyman hero?’”
As students are reflecting on what makes a hero, they read comic books and graphic novels. One such novel is The Book of Revelation, a graphic novel version of the final book of the Bible. Another novel, Maus, is sort of a postmodern story of good versus evil rooted in actual history and the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. The course will also explore Black Panther and Batman graphic novels.
Students enrolled in the class also bring their own superheroes to life through digital storytelling.
“They have to write a script; they have to bring in music, they have to use video clips and still photos to bring it all together and communicate an idea or define what a hero is,” Wyma said.
Wyma looked back on some stories students enrolled in her first class submitted. One student wrote about her grandfather and was able to get in touch with her heritage as a result. Another wrote about Mister Rogers, a gentle, yet powerful hero to generations of children.
“Even though my academic research and my Ph.D. is Sixteenth-Century Devotional Literature—really old stuff—I really like comic books and superheroes,” Wyma said.