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Super Heroics: Adolescent Literature and Identity as taught through Marvel's Young Avengers

E632 Final
by

Ian Blake

on 6 May 2013

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Transcript of Super Heroics: Adolescent Literature and Identity as taught through Marvel's Young Avengers

“Super Heroics”—
Adolescent Literature and Identity as taught through Marvel's Young Avengers Ian Blake
E632 Background Unit Rationale Lesson 1 Lessons 10-11 Lessons 2-7 This unit—aimed for a 9th grade English course—is an exploration of literary elements utilized in the traditional genre of super hero comics. The choice of Allan Heinberg’s original 12 issue limited run of Young Avengers was chosen not only for its award-winning writing, but because of the issues addressed in it as well. Unlike other superhero teenager books, the characters in Young Avengers are teenagers who happen to be superheroes, not the reverse. Issues of sexuality, sexism, racism, drug use, family dynamics, and adolescent identity are not new to young adult literature, and each are explored in this series with the same tact and artistry as any adolescents’ novel. The unit will begin with asking students if they could be a superhero, what kind they would be. When students are finished the teacher will ask if the students have any idea as to how they would be able to balance their super heroics along with their everyday lives. When students are finished considering this, the teacher will transition into a review of the basics of the graphic narrative form—drawing upon the work of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Focus will be given to how to read graphic narratives, how one can critically read a panel, and traditional conventions of the graphic narrative form. This sub-unit focuses on the first real adventure of the Young Avengers and the issues that arise from having this diverse cast coming together. Guiding questions and themes addressed in each issue are the following: This sub-unit provides the biggest opportunity to discuss the connection between how an author chooses to characterize a character and how that character’s identity is formed. As each of the core members is given a chance to tell their back stories and how they each developed their desire to be a hero This sub-unit focuses on the final arc of the mini-series, which also brings to a head the issue of adolescent identity—primarily through Hulkling learning his true parentage and Wiccan and Speed discovering that they are the children of the Scarlet Witch. Young Avengers is a 12-issue series published by Marvel Comics in 2006, written by Allan Heinberg.
Awarded the 2006 GLAAD Media Award for Best Comic Book and the 2006 Harvey Award for Best New Series.
Named one of the ALA's "Best Graphic Novels for Teens" in 2007 The Young Avengers Hulkling Wiccan Stature Hawkeye The Vision Patriot Characterization is another major aspect to Young Avengers that will be focused on, given the diverse nature of the principal cast: Patriot (African-American), Wiccan and Hulking (gay), Stature and Hawkeye (young women), The Vision (android), and Speed (juvenile felon). The level of diversity allows for students of almost any group to connect with the characters not only on a superficial level, but hopefully on a deeper level as well as they track the growth of the characters through the twelve issues of the collection. *Not Pictured: Speed Students do not need a major background in Marvel comics’ canon in order to understand the series, as Heinberg has made it so brand new readers can easily follow along with little-to-no prior exposure to the Marvel comics. Unit Standards: Reading: Literature Grades 9-10
•Key Ideas and Details
oCCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
oCCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
•Craft and Structure
oCCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise. Common Core State Standards Writing Grades 9-10
•Text Types and Purposes
oCCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
•Research to Build and Present Knowledge
oCCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9a: Apply grades 9–10 Reading standards to literature CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RQC.6-12: Students in grades 6–12 apply the Reading standards to the following range of text types, with texts selected from a broad range of cultures and periods. Unit Goals
& Objectives Goals G1.to demonstrate grade-level reading skills
G2.to analyze characterization over the course of a series
G3.to compose a 5-7 page critical essay with textual support Objectives O.1. Students will be able to justify an interpretation of literature using support from the text
O.2. Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the essential elements of the graphic narrative form.
O.3. Students will be able to defend their personal views on discussed issues civil and academic manner Lessons 8 & 9 This sub-unit focuses on the topic of secret identities—not only those used by super heroes, but by all young adults. These issues also feature the first glimpses into the Young Avenger’s home lives and how that affects their development as characters. The reader sees three different types of family settings and the students will analyze how these family environments have impacted their characterization and development. The students will also be given an introduction to the Marvel Universe and the Avengers mythos—particularly the founding of the Avengers, the Kree-Skrull War, and the disbanding of the Avengers. This is the time period in which Young Avengers takes place, and while Heinberg makes it easy for non-Marvel fans to follow the plot, a little extra would not hurt. The members of the Young Avengers team are introduced—Patriot, Wiccan, Hulkling, Stature, Hawkeye ,Iron Lad/The Vision, and Speed. One of the primary strengths of the series is its depiction of a wide-variety of teens as superheroes, while still treating them as teenagers who have to deal with adolescent issues. As that is the driving force behind this unit—discussing the issue of adolescent identity—the teacher will explain the unit’s project—the characterization paper in which students will choose one of the Young Avengers and trace how their character is depicted and grows throughout the course of the series. Lesson 2: Issue #1 At what age should adolescents no longer be considered children? What responsibilities are adolescents prepared and not prepared to take on? Lesson 3: Issue #2 "Sidekicks" How do our actions impact how our identities are formed? Lesson 4-5: Issues #3 & 4 Lesson 6-7: Issues #5 & #6 Are our identities self-constructed or socially constructed? How do the perceptions of others affect how we form identities? If you had the chance to change your fate, would you take it? Who ultimately decides who we are? "Secret Identities" Lesson 3: Issue #2 Wiccan has two professional parents Stature has a step-father Patriot is raised by his grandparents Another focus in this sub-unit is the use of drugs. The symbolism of Patriot having to use drugs—in this case Mutant Growth Hormone—in order to be on the same level as his friends. This allows for a discussion on peer pressure and why someone would subject them to that treatment. Young Avengers Special #1 Wiccan was driven by a desire to no longer be a victim "Family Matters" Lessons 12-15 Hulking discovers the truth about his mother...she's a Skrull. Wiccan and Speed meet face-to-face By this point, students will have selected which character they will be doing their character study paper on, and will be asked to answer the same questions that were brought up during the first six issues. The comparison between the two will help to shape their final interpretations of the character. Conclusion Given the decision to place this in a 9th grade general English course, Young Avengers would fit alongside traditional texts read during the freshman year of high school. Many of the pieces students read during that year tend to focus on major life issues that they may yet encounter—such as Romeo & Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice & Men. The 9th grade year is a pivotal year in the development of adolescents, as it marks the transition from late childhood to young adulthood, not just the transition from middle school to high school. The inclusion of Young Avengers not only follows the canonical themes of the grade level, yet in a manner that is not patronizing or trite. The Common Core State Standards also requires that students read a wide-range of literature, including graphic novels, and Young Avengers would fill that requirement easily. There are few pieces in adolescents’ literature that appeal to as broad a population as Young Avengers, presenting a rare opportunity where all readers can find themselves in the text. This only leaves only one thing left to say... Works Cited "2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens."
American Library Association. N.p., 2007. Web. 02 May 2013. <http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklists/greatgraphicnovelsforteens/annotations/07ggnt>. Heinberg, Allan, and Jim Cheung. Young Avengers.
New York, NY: Marvel Pub., 2008. Print. Yang, Gene. "Graphic Novels in the Classroom."
Language Arts 85.3 (2008): 185-92. Print. Assessments Pre-Assessment
Students will create a list of traits that authors use to make a three-dimensional character. Formative Assessment The “Young Avenger” action figure project: in which students would create their own Young Avenger and develop a written “secret origin” of about 3-4 pages in the vein of the ones presented in Young Avengers Special #1.. Summative Assessment Students will compose a 5-7 page paper analyzing the character development of one Young Avenger through the course of the mini-series.
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