Dr. Mark Raider

Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays, 1:25-2:20 pm

Superheroes and comic books are integral elements of America’s social and cultural fabric. Indeed, scholars today argue that comic books (like jazz music) constitute a truly indigenous American art form. Starting in the 1920s  superheroes rapidly developed from their comic book origins to become a part of nearly every aspect of American culture and society.

In the golden age of radio, superheroes filled the airwaves. In the ensuing decades, they emerged as a Hollywood staple and thereafter became ubiquitous subjects of TV programs and video games. Major American artists like Andy Warhol and  Roy Lichtenstein also revealed the lasting influence of comic book themes and figures in their comic book-inspired art which can be found in museums across the country. More recently  Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark (2010) even became a Broadway sensation! 

This course investigates the ways comic book superheroes illustrate key developments in American social, cultural,  and political history. It is designed as an exploration of modern American society from roughly the 1920s to the present. Special attention will be paid to the medium of comic art as well as a variety of themes (heroism in Western culture  American exceptionalism, symbolism in American art,  satire, and parody in American literature, etc.) and important topics (gender, youth culture,  multiculturalism, nationalism,  etc.). In addition to scholarly literature, the course will utilize a broad array of primary materials and introduce students to relevant archival materials in the UC Special Collections Department and the American Jewish Archives (AJA). Students will have the opportunity to conduct closely supervised individualized research projects using archival materials.