Leader: Erin Copple Smith and Peter Marks
Author: Kurt Busiek
Description: Marvels, created by one of the best comic book writers and one of the best comic book artists of the late twentieth century, explores the early history of the Marvel superhero universe from the perspective of everyman Phil Sheldon, a photojournalist tasked with chronicling the exploits and impacts of extraordinary heroes and villains. What does it mean to live in a world in which gods walk among men and engage in epic and unimaginable battles for control of entire cities? What was it like to raise a family in a world of terrifying mutations, knowing that your own child might grow up to be a mutant? How can we go to work when the literal end of the world is upon us? And, when the world doesn’t end, how do we go on the day after?
Marvels is a central reading in the Marvel Universe course that Erin Copple Smith and Peter Marks have taught for multiple JanTerms, and provides one of the most accessible examples of superhero-comics-as-literature in the course. The graphic novel provides a microcosm of comic books published by Marvel– it is easily accessible to those who have never read a single issue, but rewarding to those who understand decades of continuity. It addresses 40 years of Marvel Comics publishing through a tight, character-driven narrative. It features some of the best (award-winning) art ever used for visual storytelling. It exists at the crossroads between popular culture, history, literature, and vulgar pulp storytelling.
Faculty who have experience with comic books will have the opportunity to read a true modern classic of the form. Faculty who enjoy the Marvel films will see recognizable characters presented in a new way and from a new perspective. Faculty who have no experience with the genre will get a sense of the best of what comic books have to offer. And the group as a whole will get to talk about art, dialogue, story structure, history, fantasy, metaphor, intersectionality, and the way that a genre designed for, and marketed to, kids and teens can reflect, explore, and elucidate our world.