Title: Heroic Representation
Junior High and Younger
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- McKeever, S., & Landro, V. (2006). Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. New York: Marvel Comics.
- Wilson, G. W., Alphona, A., & Amanat., S. (2014-). Ms. Marvel. New York: Marvel Comics.
- Vaughan, B., & Alphona, A. (2003-). Runaways. New York: Marvel Comics.
- Bendis, M. B., Bagley, M., & Immonen, S. (2000-2011). Ultimate Spider-Man. New York: Marvel Comics.
- Giffen, K., Rogers, J., Hamner, C., & Albuquerque, R. (2006-2009). Blue Beetle.
Brief Description: This is a weekly group for tweens and teens in junior high and high school to come, talk about superheroes, read about superheroes, write about superheroes, design their own superheroes, redesign other superheroes, and just generally geek out about superheroes. Sessions will give teens opportunities to analyze superhero mythos in general and individual superhero stories in specific, offer opportunities for kids to celebrate diverse superheroes and/or create their own, and, in discussion, treat the story formula with literary seriousness and acknowledge its significance but still having a good time.
Program Plan: Six weeks of two-hour sessions, each focusing on a different aspect of the superhero mythos and construct in media.
Week One: A discussion of general superhero mythology and the typical form of superhero stories in mainstream media. Think of this as the discussion for finding out where everyone stands on the subject: who reads comics, who watches the movies or television shows, who has been to conventions, who’s completely new to this. The instructor will primarily lead this discussion and steer it as needed.
Week Two: A discussion of popular superheroes in culture. Students will be encouraged to come ready to discuss their favorite superheroes (and villains, of course) and what about those characters earns them that “favorite” spot. Be prepared for teens who may not have a favorite superhero, who may have more than one favorite superhero, and who may know what they want out of a superhero but are still looking.
- A list of current superhero titles featuring diverse (i.e. female, POC, queer, etc.) protagonists will be compiled by teens and instructors during the discussion.
- A list of things teens want to see in superheroes will also be compiled.
Week Three: A discussion of how to reinterpret superheroes. Iterations of canonical superheroes, film and television adaptations, and fanworks will all be used as examples of possible reinterpretations, and students will be encouraged to start plotting out their own reinterpretations as they see fit. Some topics of discussion will include:
- The Batman and Superman question: why have there been so many iterations of these two characters when countless, more diverse superheroes remain uncommitted to film
- Racebending for representation: portraying characters who are white in their original comics as POC in screen representations (Agents of SHIELD‘s half-Chinese Daisy Johnson [Chloe Bennet], Supergirl‘s black Jimmy Olsen [Mehcad Brooks], the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s black Nick Fury [Samuel L. Jackson], etcetera).
- Female superheroes and the ways their screen counterparts can actually increase their comics popularity.
- Fans and “shipping,” particularly as it pertains to supporting and lobbying for queer relationships between characters.
Week Four: A discussion of how to create your own superheroes, using royalty-free web information and basic fictional creation theory. Students will be encouraged to start creating their own superheroes, inspired by what they are interested in.
- Is their superhero for a comic book or graphic novel? Or is their superhero for a cinematic medium?
- What are their superhero’s powers and interests?
- What are their superhero’s goals?
- Does their superhero have a support team?
- Does their superhero have an archnemesis?
- Does their superhero have an alter ego?
Week Five: A discussion of how to start visualizing your own superheroes, utilizing information from web generators, free web information on drawing people and designing superhero costumes, and advice from a local art instructor. Most of the session will be given to letting the students create, either digitally or with pen and paper.
Week Six: A sharing session for whatever work students have come up with over the past weeks, student-led. Teens will be encouraged to keep on creating beyond the program. They will also be encouraged to come to this session dressed as either their favorite superhero as the one they’ve created, and prizes will be given to each costume (Best Attention to Detail, Best Reimagining, etcetera).
- 4:00 pm. Greetings, etcetera.
- 4:10 pm. Discuss the teens’ reading that week. What have they been interested in? Can they offer recommendations to each other? Have they been watching any television programs or films that are part of the superhero genre, and do they want to discuss those as well?
- 4:45 pm. (approximately). The discussion topic of the week, led by the instructor but with input from the teens as appropriate.
- 5:45 pm. Begin winding down the discussion.
- 6:00 pm. Say goodbye for the week, encouraging students to create superheroes and keep viewing them with a critical eye.
Marketing: The focus will be on academic and social youth outreach.
- Posters in the library and in local junior high and high schools, as well as local bookstores and comic stores.
- Outreach to English teachers, drama teachers, and staff leaders of theatre, literature, social justice, and LGBTQA clubs.
- A Facebook event.
- Marketing on the library website and Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest pages.
- $200 for printing/copying (posters and bookmarks).
- $200 for creative materials like paper and pens (students can bring their own and contribute as needed).
- $300 for snacks ($50 per week, with room for students to contribute more as needed).
- $100 allotted for guest speakers (students can contribute more as needed).
- Student fundraising as needed for licensed materials, outside speakers, copyrighted materials, etcetera.
- One to two librarians/volunteers should be sufficient to run the program, with the option to engage more volunteers if the program grows in size
- Drop-in potential, registration ongoing
- Plan for about 20 kids, with the option of moving to a bigger room if the crowd grows substantially
- Parental permission slips not required but parental guidance sheets available
- The meeting room will need to be equipped with either a board or projector to write on
- Copyrighted material will likely be discussed, and licensing concerns and fees will be dealt with as needed
Program Evaluation: Google surveys will be available and printed surveys will be give.
- A series of ratings questions (1-5) will be presented.
- Did the program meet your expectations?
- Was the instructor helpful?
- Did you learn things from the program?
- Did you enjoy the program?
- Would you recommend this program to a friend?
- Open-ended questions will be presented.
- What was your favorite part of the program?
- What was your least favorite part of the program?
- What would you like to add to the program?
- Is there material you would like to add to the program? If so, what?
- How could the program have been more inclusive?
Goals: To offer and create representation for teens within the superhero genre; to encourage teens to use superhero stories to bolster themselves; to encourage reading in a very casual setting; to encourage creativity from kids and involvement in the future of the superhero genre.