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Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20-21, 2013: Crowd-sourced Comic Books

[The week’s series has featured AmericanStudies takes on some of our most popular comic book characters. This super-powered weekend post is drawn from the responses and thoughts of fellow AmericanStudiers—add yours to the super-group, please!]
Throughout this week, Darren Reid has been sharing Tweets and thoughts on American superheroes, including this article on gender in early Superman comics. Thanks also to Steve Sarson for connecting me to Darren’s posts!
Virginia Clemm Poe responds to Wednesday’s Wonder Woman post, writing, “TV folklore has it that before the Wonder Woman show with Linda Carter aired the show was originally written and (legend has it) that out there on the magic of youtube there's a pilot as a comedy of a young wonder woman living with her cantankerous mother in a retirement village in Florida. Think Golden Girls, but without the two other chicks, and Bea Arthur's way younger... and has superpowers... not to say that Bea Arthur doesn't have superpowers... I'm sure she did. Anyway, thanks for writing about the female superheroes. She taught us young girls a lot about life. Like if we want to be taken seriously, we should walk around in a strapless bathing suit. An American theme inspired strapless bathing suit!”
I also saw a bunch of references (on Twitter and elsewhere) to this great PBS doc on Wonder Woman and superheroes.
Irene Martyniuk shares these thoughts on Iron Man: “When I was working on a paper on Afghanistan at the movies, you suggested I look at Iron Man, and that has turned out to be a gift that has gone on giving. Iron Man, as you suggested, complicates the already complicated Tony Stark story. I was completely ignorant of the Tony Stark-Iron Man history and still am, for the most part, but placing him in Afghanistan and having him selling arms to the US, right at the beginning of the movie, immediately creates a weird situation (remember, he demonstrates The Jericho--an incredibly destructive mix of mortar and missile). Stark then becomes Iron Man after being kidnapped and finally discovers that his partner is selling their weapons to our enemy in Afghanistan. But wait--it's not the Taliban. It's the Ten Rings. A blond, happy reporter tells us in the film that ‘they are on a mission’ but what that mission is exactly is never explained and while Stark eventually wipes them out--he destroys a small part of Afghanistan in doing so and even lets the villagers become bloodthirsty vigilantes. Now skip ahead a year or two. I brought all of this up in my Afghanistan class and we watched Iron Man together. Then, as one of their mid-term questions, they had to imagine that Hamid Karzai was delayed in JFK and noticed at least three of the people or characters we had read and/or talked about that half semester and had asked his security team to bring the people over. My students had to imagine the conversations. Not surprisingly, nearly every student chose Tony Stark as one of their three for the exam. But what made me real proud were the nuances of their imagined conversations. In nearly every answer, Stark is his usual slick self, and he tries to charm Karzai. And Karzai is a little tempted by the firepower Stark represents as Iron Man. But Karzai then admonishes Stark, usually quite sharply, as an elder would in Afghanistan, over the destruction he has caused. Most of the students pointed out how the real Karzai frequently deplores the NATO/ISAF civilian death toll, without mentioning the damage and deaths caused by the Taliban, and they had him do the the same for Stark. By the end, Stark is flummoxed. All of his snappy comebacks have dried up, and Karzai moves on to the next character. My students also dealt with the issue of the Ten Rings and the Taliban. I had posited that the scriptwriters had not wanted to name the Taliban since, within the plot, Stark industries was selling arms to them, and this would clearly imply that American-made weapons were being used against American soldiers. Also, I explained, both in the paper and to the students, how films that use American military props--being bases, materiel, etc.--must be cleared by the military, and perhaps they objected. However, my students were much more knowledgeable about Tony Stark/Iron Man and explained that within the comic book series, Stark had been taken captive in Vietnam and held by a group called the Ten Rings. I don't think it totally destroyed my argument--they could have updated the name--but it does show the mythology of the comic book story (and the students looked it up during class to verify it). I miss that class.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think?

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