American Graphic Media

The History of Superhero Comics in the United States


The importance of the comic book in U.S. popular culture cannot be denied. By an measure, comics and related media have grown in popularity.  This course is an exploration of the superhero comic book genre from its pulp origins to the multimedia present in the United States. Seeking to contextualize the superhero comic narrative within the U.S. experience, this course requires  students to consider the underlying symbolism link to the American superhero narrative and deconstruct the meaning of comic art, story, and character.

Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men: Superheroes and the American Experience

White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in American Comic Books

Through interviews with prominent artists, scholars, and cultural critics along with images from the comic books themselves, this film examines the degree to which early Black superheroes generally adhered to common stereotypes about Black men. From the humorous, to the offensive, early Black superheroes are critically considered.

Available through California Newsreel.

FUTURE BEAR: A collaboration with Rachel Simmons Associate Professor of Art at Rollins College, Future Bear is my exploration of the art and craft of comic writing. While participating in TEDx Orlando in November 2010, Rachel and I discussed the mixed symbolism represented by Future Bear. From my perspective, crafting a narrative for her character has been both instructive and challenging.  As any fan or scholar of comic books understands, the superhero has a long tradition of environmental commentary linked to the tension between a rural past and an urban future.  This struggle informs superhero comics and those ideas inspire my thinking about Future Bear’s adventure.