Comic books are not just for kids.
The stereotype that they are solely for children is one that has been around for decades, but this semester, senior Mike Fischetti is taking a stand to fight off that stereotype.
Inspired by a guest speaker, Michael Uslan, last semester, Fischetti has chosen to create an independent study this semester in which he is designing a class to hopefully be taught at Fairfield in the near future, based on the study of comic books.
“This semester I’m going to be putting together a syllabus and figuring out exactly what kind of class I would be willing to teach,” explained Fischetti. “I think I’m going to be leaning more towards the superhero comics, the American superhero, things of that nature.”
Typical independent studies in creative writing consist of students writing a section of a novel, or a portfolio of poems; however, when Fischetti approached Kim Bridgford, a professor in the English Department about such a project, the unique idea was enthusiastically welcomed.
When approached about such a project Bridgford said, “I wanted to say yes immediately and applaud him for doing it.”
“As with anything in life, I encourage out of the box thinking and risk taking,” said Bridgford. “Mike’s on fire when he’s talking about comic books in a way we all should be about our own passions.”
“I love comic books, I love graphic novels, I love this whole visual and literary medium and I wanted to do whatever I could to get it exposed to as many people as possible,” said Fischetti.
“I’m going to be working with students to see what they like, what they don’t like. What they think works and what doesn’t,” he continued.
“Ultimately I hope to discover from talking to students what kind of class would be best to attract the largest group of students.”
Although a course on comic books is not currently available at Fairfield, they have been successfully executed elsewhere.
For example, a course on the philosophy of comic books in comparison to other mediums is currently being taught by Brian Michael Bendis, a professor at Portland State University who is best known for his tenure as the lead writer for the Marvel series Ultimate Spiderman and he has also written for The Avengers, and X-Men.
Fischetti said that as a whole our culture is not as welcoming to comics as a serious medium and tend to think of them as childish.
“Comic books can go just as deep as any piece of literature, and they can be just as visual stunning as any film, and that’s the sort of thing I hope people will see and will embrace in this course,” said Fischetti.
“I hope students would gain an appreciation of it and maybe we’ll become more embracing of the lessons comic books have to teach us as a culture and maybe then the stereotype will change,” he said. “Comic books can teach us anything literature can teach, only in a new and different way.”
A goal of this course that Fischetti hopes to accomplish is a paradigm shift in the way people relate to comics.
“I would look for students to gain an appreciation for this new medium. Something such as graphic novels that have a way of combining literature and visual elements should really catch on and I hope potential students as well as society as a whole would see the magic of comics that no other medium has,” Fischetti said.
“People believe comic books are just for children and they’re not. I hope students would find that they’re more than that and would embrace them.”
Joe Zagami ‘10, who Fischetti has called on as a source to work with to help design the class, confirms Fischetti’s belief that comic books are a valid form of literature.
“The biggest stereotype of comic books is that they are only for little kids. Traditional stereotypes include people who are considered “nerds.” But even if that’s the case, I don’t think in my heart that that’s true,” said Zagami.
“Comics books are for everyone and it really comes down to who takes that leap.”
Fischetti finds that comic books provide a sense of escape that can be applicable to everyone’s lives as a way to draw in readers of all ages, not just adolescents.
“They’re where we find epic heroes in modern literature,” Zagami said. “And although it might be a little radical for this school, it is a valid form of literature that has been successful elsewhere.”
“Growing up I know I didn’t get my morals solely from comic books, but they deal with contemporary issues that can teach people of all ages important lessons from things as simple as good versus evil, as well as contemporary social issues,” he said.
So who might take this class?
“I think comics speak to a wide variety of majors. Comics that deal with contemporary social issues — sociology majors. Comics that are made into movies that rapidly become popular — could be a new media class or communication class. Comparing old comics to new ones — could be an anthropology class,” Zagami said. “But ultimately, I think it would most easily fit an English or arts course.”
Fischetti said he thinks people will take the course either because they’re already into comic books or think they might breeze right through the class.
“It’s probably going to be geeks like me, but at the same time it’s gonna be a lot of kids who are like ‘oh it’s comic books, I’ll just float through it’ and they won’t. But I’m really hoping to get students who haven’t read the material and will bring fresh eyes to it and would hopefully grow to love it,” he said.
“If I had to try and convince people to try and take the class, I’d want them to know there’s a lot more to comic books than they think. It’s not just about guys in tights. It’s just as much about people, feelings, and art. It’s something deeper … it’s just magic.”
Contact Fischetti at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate in his pilot classes.