UI starts new course about ‘super’ heroes and villains
Heidi Heilbrunn/Staff Costumes at an event at Borderlands Comics promoting the Marvel Universe Live! show demonstrate how super heroes permeate popular culture. People attend an event promoting Marvel Universe Live at Borderlands Comics on Thursday, October 9, 2014. (Photo: Gannett File Photo )
The fall semester already is half over and soon students will begin planning their schedules for the spring. A new course that will be found on the University of Iowa’s course list will be a “Super” Heroes and Villains class.
The course, offered by the university’s English department, is a three credit hour elective literature course and requires that students have completed The Interpretation of Literature and Rhetoric.
“This has always been a course I’ve wanted to teach,” said Zachary King, the primary course instructor for the class. “I grew up with comics as a kid, and when I got to graduate school, I was still interested in what makes superheroes tick. I wanted to know what continues to draw people to them.”
King, a doctoral candidate in English, is writing his dissertation on comics in postmodern fiction. His dissertation discusses how comics are used as tools to develop identity in characters that are excluded from the communities they live in.
When King was given the opportunity to teach a class on the superhero subject, he was excited to get to work. He isn’t the only one anticipating the upcoming course; students already have heard about the class and are waiting to sign up.
“I’m often intimidated by the thought of doing literary or character analysis because, in my experience, the classical examples scrutinized are especially hard to relate to,” said George Daniel, a junior at the university with a major in musculoskeletal bioengineering. “Using superheroes and super villains for examples is definitely more accessible to students than, say, ‘The Iliad.’ ”
Gaining analytical skills is an important part of a student’s education and the English department aims to provide students with these skills.
“It’s very important that students can analyze and interpret literature for the future,” King said. “This class gives students a chance to look at characters over the years and determine why they are still important to us now.”
Other heroes and villains courses the department has offered in the past include a focus on scientists and cyberspace characters. With this semester’s focus on superheroes, the course will cover comic readings such as “All-Star Superman,” “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Batgirl,” “Miss Marvel” and more. The course also will look into superhero movies such as “The Incredibles” and “The Rocketeer.”
This view of modern superheroes is one aspect of the course that draws students to the class.
“I am interested in this course because I’ve grown up watching cartoons and superhero movies,” UI sophomore Katie Benson said. “So to be able to take a course on what I’ve grown up watching would be a lot of fun.”
The course accepts only 25 students for the semester and will cover the development of superheroes and villains through the years. However, if the superheroes course fills up, a “Cyberspace” Heroes and Villains course also is being offered in the spring. Both of these courses can be found on UI’s course listing, for those interested in participating.