Smithsonian & Stan Lee: “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture”

A free online course will begin on 5 May 2015, entitled “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture.” The course will use the popular edX platform.

This course is presented by the Smithsonian Institute, and will be taught by Stan Lee, legendary creator (with Jack Kirby) of many of Marvel’s most well-known superheroes; Dr. Michael Uslan, Professor of Practice at the Indiana University Media School and an Executive Producer of Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of JusticeThe Lego Movie, and the Dark Knight trilogy (Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises); Dr. Christopher Robichaud, Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and David Uslan, who has been involved in various aspects of the entertainment industry for many years.

UPDATE 5/4/2015:

We are excited to announce a new addition to our community. Phil Jimenez, the award-winning writer and artist has agreed to create our exclusive piece of original art for everyone who purchases the Verified Certificate and completes the course. The art will include the official Smithsonian brand and Stan Lee, Michael Uslan, David Uslan, and Phil Jimenez’s signatures.

Phil has worked for DC Entertainment and Marvel Comics for the past two decades and is best known for his work on New X-Men, Wonder Woman, Infinite Crisis, and the Amazing Spider-Man. Jimenez has also worked in film and television, created large-scale artworks for schools and museums, and lectured at universities and the Library of Congress. We are thrilled to have him join us. Click here to see more of his work.

According to the website, the course will explore:

  • Why did superheroes first arise in 1938 and experience what we refer to as their “Golden Age” during World War II?
  • Why did the superhero genre ebb and flow in popularity over the decades?
  • How have comic books, published weekly since the mid-1930’s, mirrored a changing American society, reflecting our mores, slang, fads, biases and prejudices?
  • Why was the comic book industry nearly shut down in the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s?
  • How did our superheroes become super-villains in the eyes of the government, clergy, educators, and parents of the mid-20th Century?
  • When and how did comic books become acceptable again, and eventually become valid teaching tools in universities and schools?
  • When and how did comic book artwork become accepted as a true American art form as indigenous to this country as jazz?
  • Finally, when and how did comic books become “cool” and the basis for blockbuster movies, hit TV series, top-selling video games, and acclaimed animation, while also impacting fashion and style- and even the moral and ethical codes of children- around the globe?

Students will learn:

  • The history and origins of the first superheroes and comic books, and how they changed over time;
  • The evolution of American society from the Depression to today, as viewed through the lens of the comic book genre;
  • How the current globalization and diversity of the next generation of superheroes impacts our storytelling across all mediums;
  • How to apply historical examples to create superheroes for the present day.

Though regular admission is free, a Verified Certificate is also available for $50. The Verified Certificate uses photo identification to verify a student’s identity throughout the course. The Verified Certificate for this course “will feature original artwork with both Stan Lee’s and Michael Uslan’s signature.”

For more information and to register for the course, visit the course page on the edX website.

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