Last week we talked about MMORPGs and MOBAs. This week we embark on a different multiplayer experience, the MOOC, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Class is in session for Christina Blanch’s (Ball State University) Gender Through Comic Books MOOC, and the best part of it all is that homework equals reading comic books. 7000 students are enrolled in this class that does not seek to define the comic book or gender roles in comic books, but gets students thinking critically about the subject.
It has been a few years since I’ve been to a classroom for any reason, but I have been enjoying the free iTunes U to learn about some basic computer science. The most convenient part of the iTunes experience is that I can move along at my own pace and watch videos in my down time. When I had first heard of Christina Blanch’s course at Canvas.Net on John Siuntres’ Word Balloon podcast, I signed up, because I was intrigued by not only the platform but the subject matter. The course is free with open enrollment and students are allowed to join in at any time. The course will be archived on the site and students can go at their own pace. Also, the level of engagement is entirely up to the student.
If you wish to just watch the videos and skip the homework, you can do that, but you won’t get the cool certificate at the end.
I’m often already thinking about gender and women in the industry. I hope to come out of this humanities course better understanding what the playing field is out there. The initial course goals are to identify how gender issues affect our day to day relationships and actions. Stereotypes about sex and gender are addressed in the reading assignments in the first week. We’ve been assigned books by one of our favorite creators, Terry Moore: Strangers in Paradise, and his most recent, Rachel Rising, explore gender stereotypes in different ways.
The first arc of Strangers in Paradise considers nonsexual love relationships between women, stereotypes of male characters ranging from the moustachioed cop to the sensitive artist friend, and, of course, the guy obsessed with sex.
If the class has any questions for Mr. Moore, we’ll be able to ask him when he ‘visits’ all 7000 of us, online!
Besides defining gender and roles, the course has other distinct modules dealing with gender in comics. Next up is gender and culture, followed by femininity, masculinity and more. Special guest speakers will include Brian K. Vaughn (Y The Last Man, Saga), Gail Simone (Batgirl), Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire), Mark Waid (Daredevil, Hulk, Kingdom Come), Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Steve Wacker (Editor, Marvel Comics), and Sana Amanat (Editor, Marvel Comics).
I’m beside myself over the prospect of being able to hear these creators and editors talk about these issues, just as I am while listening to comic book podcasts or sitting in on convention panel discussions. Kelly Sue and Gail are defining strong characters for The Big Two, and Marc and Brian also balance their hunky heroes with strong females. The Saga family has strong men, women, babies and space cats!
This MOOC combines my love of comics with my love for sitting in my room listening to comic book writers talk craft; if the side effect is learning something along the way so be it.
No doubt we’ll also be talking about your new favorite tumblr blog, The Hawkeye Initiative in the class.
The site, who’s mission statement is “to draw attention to how deformed, hypersexualized, and unrealistically dressed women are drawn in comics” was started by webcomic creator Noelle Stevenson in 2012. By posing Marvel’s Hawkeye in the same sexy poses as Black Cat, we’re getting a meta commentary on gender that’s been praised by The Onion AV Club, The Daily Dot and Gail Simone herself.
All of the material for the course is found on a special site at ComiXology for a discount. Someone else please sign up I have to get a note to someone 616 desks over from me and I can’t do it without you! One of our classes assignments to create a comic book about gender will be published on Mark Waid’s creator owned digital comic site Thrillbent after the course is completed.
SAT. APRIL 20, 6-9PM
LEAGUEPODCAST 4TH ANNUAL BOSTON COMIC CON AFTER-PARTY.
911 BOYLSTON STREET
BOSTON MA (ACROSS FROM HYNES CONVENTION CENTER)
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT THE NEWLY REDESIGNED WWW.LEAGUEPODCAST.COM — BOSTON’S COMIC BOOK AND POP CULTURE PODCAST — “Thinking about Comics … ALWAYS”!
This week, all the best parts of G.I. Joe Retaliation!
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