A superhero fan since age 10, Associate Professor of History Julian
Chambliss not only enjoys comic books for entertainment but also for
their social and historical value. By co-teaching “American Graphic
Media,” he’s encouraging his students to do the same. His class offers
an in-depth study of U.S. history as seen through the comic-book lens.
Using Iron Man as an example of how shifts in perception often transform the views of comic book heroes, Chambliss cites the current incarnation of Tony Stark as a man who propagates the American viewpoint that weapons should be used in the “right” way as opposed to the view that they shouldn’t be used at all.
“Stark is characterized as a cool executive with a heart of steel fighting for justice in a high-tech suit of armor,” says Chambliss. “The irony is that Stark is a weapons manufacturer who designs tool to kill, yet he is still lauded as a ‘hero.’”
Iron Man, suggests Chambliss, depicts America’s approach to conflict, how we use our weapons and how we justify their use.
It’s discovering and analyzing these types of threads that exist between comic books and American culture that make Chambliss, his research and his class so fascinating.
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