To round off my recent series of posts on comics and education, I’m joined by Professor Mark D. White of CUNY; Master’s student Tom Miller of McMaster University in Canada; Australian critic and screenwriter Martyn Pedler, currently completing an interdiscplinary PhD thesis on superhero stories at the University of Melbourne; and Nick Sousanis, an artist-educator and doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University.
The discussion was prompted by a piece on the Batman: Arkham City computer game on the Overthinking It website.
In it, John Perich argued that ‘Superhero comics are rarely a good medium to talk about real-world issues’:
Nothing about Arkham City is subtle. But then, nothing about superhero comics has ever been subtle.
Whenever superhero comics try to get “edgy” and “real,” they bump against the limits of the genre. Superhero comics are meant to have action and thrills. That’s why people read them. So when a writer introduces a problem in a comics storyline, it has to be a problem that can be solved through thrilling action.
I used the article as a leaping-off point to ask Mark, Tom, Martyn, and Nick whether the need for fisticuffs prevents superhero comics from exploring deeper issues.