“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?” – The First History of Man, a fictional book from the Mad Max universe
Most people have encountered a work of art—a book, a film, a song—they relate to. On Ohio State’s Columbus campus, Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor Frederick Luis Aldama teaches a course on the way media, specifically comic books as seen in print or on film, relates to and portrays the many facets of society, such as race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and disability. English 3378: Special Topics in Film and Literature—Film and Comics, taught at the Gateway Film Center, encourages students to take a deeper look into the familiar content of comics and encourages them to consume said content on a broader, more universal level.
One of the texts the class examines is Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that has sparked conversations about everything from climate change to feminism to disability in action films. In both small and large group settings, students discussed questions like, “Does the past repeat itself?” and “Can the knowledge of history prevent that from happening?” Students examine why the comic was made, what it is doing and how it is doing it, examining everything from shapes, layouts, perspectives, lines and text.
These are just two of the many discussion topics that Professor Aldama introduces in his class, and Mad Max isn’t the only franchise covered. Wonder Woman (2017), Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, Pacific Rim (2013), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) and Persepolis (2007) are just a handful of the films on the syllabus that Aldama encourages students to compare to their graphic novel counterparts.
Students who find this subject matter interesting might consider attending reading Professor Aldama’s latest book—hot off the presses!—Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics. They could also attend SÕL-CON: The Brown and Black Comics Expo on campus tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 29. The event, now in its third year, was co-created by Professor Aldama and brings comics artists and creators from around the world to share their work via an expo, workshops and academic panel discussions. The event is free and open to the public and will feature workshops for K-12 participants as well. For a complete schedule, visit the official event page.