What is a superhero? Itâ€™s a simple question but one that is deceptively difficult to answer. Must a superhero have special powers? What does â€œspecial powersâ€ even mean? Where does the idea of special powers come from? There have been over the eons of human existence lots of creatures and human-like figures that are imagined as having special powers but few if any of them would be considered superheroes. What are the other characteristics and qualities that a superhero must have?
Questions about definitions are often also questions about origins because origins often establish parameters and set the boundaries of inquiry. Law as a field of practice and as an ideological pursuit is often bound up in questions of definitions. Those who have the power to define also necessarily possess broader social and political power. Other scholars have already weighed in on this issue and you will be asked to read through some of this material. However, you are being asked here to come up with your own definition and then argue for why this definition is meaningful and encompassing. You must define your parameters and explain with reference to specific examples why some characters are or are not superheroes according to your understanding.
Assignment Format: This is an argument-of-definition paper. Your essay should be between 5 and 8 typed and double-spaced pages long, contain source notation and a work cited page. In working on your definition, you should draw on the readings for this unit. I expect you to quote and/or reference the authors we have read for this unit. You may also conduct some outside research (an internet search of â€œwhat is a superheroâ€ might be interesting) though it is not a requirement for this essay.
This essay has three distinct components or sections. You should have an introduction that clearly presents an overview of your paper. Then, you should make certain you address each of these in distinct sections of your paper:
- Section I: Where, when, and why did the superhero come into being? Of all the many historical antecedents, which is the most important precursor to the modern superhero?
- Section II: Define with precision what a superhero is. If you list a few to serval qualities or characteristics, make sure to detail which of these is the most important or essential feature of a superhero.
- Section III: Conclude your essay by coming up with â€“ or creating â€“ your own superhero or supervillain. This superhero/villain must have a particular politics that reflects an important component of your personal politics or makes a comment on contemporary politics in some meaningful way. Ideally, this will be a reflection of something you feel strongly about. You should include in the creation of your hero/villain a discussion of their origin story. This concluding section can be written up in the normal way as 1 to 3 pages as part of your paperâ€™s conclusion OR you can be more creative with this section and submit drawings, graphic designs, or make your own comic book using any number of web-zine applications.
Course Readings that you should consult:
NOTE: Your paper should quote and cite several of the following authors, and where appropriate, indicate where and why you agree or disagree with them.
- Aldo J. Regalado, CH1, â€œSecret Origins,â€ and CH2, â€œJungle Lords, Haunting Horrors, and the Big Cityâ€ in Bending Steel: Modernity and the American Superhero
(this reading is available online via the Lemieux Library)
Additional Reading you may want to consult:
- Chris Gavaler, On the Origin of Superheroes: From the big bang to Action Comics no. 1.
- Chris Gavaler, Superhero Comics
- Chris Knowles, Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes
Style and Citation: You should write your essay in an authoritative voice (the neutral, 3rd person). Your essay should have a clearly laid out argument (answering the question: what is a superhero?) expressed clearly somewhere in the first paragraph. Your claims should be backed up with reference to specific details and examples from the pages of comic books or movies. In the last section of this paper, you may switch to a more informal prose and use the first person to narrate your story if you wish.
Your paper must include citation of source materials discussed and used in your paper. You should use the form of citation that you use in your major field of study. Internal citation is expected but endnotes are also welcome. You must cite both course materials assigned and outside readings, films, and comic books and internet sources, if these are discussed. When in doubt about whether to use a citation or not, err on the side of using more citations than you think you need Regardless of the format your citation takes, you must include a â€œWorks Citedâ€ or â€œBibliographyâ€ page at the conclusion of your essay. This does not count towards the overall required length of your paper.
Citation Guidelines â€“ You should use citation in the following instances:
1) When you have a direct quotation [NOTE: try and keep quotes short, under 3 lines long]
2) When you are paraphrasing the work of another scholar
3) When you are citing information, data, and facts that are not common knowledge