Did you know comics have themes and can be educational? As a teacher and author of multiple genres I can attest to the educational value of comic books in many areas of learning, including science, law, and academia. Take for instance the Superman character and comicbook created by two first-generation Americans of Jewish immigrants before WWII, since both Siegel and Shuster were born in 1914, the first in Ohio and the second in Toronto. The Superman Exhibit in the Jewish Museum of Florida owned by FIU in Miami Beach consists of the phone booth where Clark Kent, the journalist, turned himself into a life-saving, evil-stopping force in less than one minute of viewer’s time on the TV show. I visited the Museum with my Museum Education Elementary School 5th grade class of 2007 and couldn’t pull the kids away from the booth where they stacked in a never-ending line avoiding having to sit and listen to the moderator’s exposition of the Holocaust supported by grim, black and white photos with no sound track added. But they did listen nevertheless, thanks to strict control tactics known to be used by teachers which includes uses and gratification theories in practice. Superman responded to the post-war times theme of social good versus evil wrongdoers and thieves. It can also be compared to the Greek heroes and the Gladiator novel, as well as other religious heroes. All for the sake of fun and games.
The recent much famed new film Black Panther which was based on a cartoon written in 1966 by Stan Lee, also a first generation American born to Jewish-Romanian immigrants in New York has wrongly impressed audiences into thinking they are watching an imaginary Africa without the colonial branding. Movies usually differ to some degree from its original. Not knowing how much Black Panther the comic book plot differs from the 2018 movie, we can go by the movie in saying that this movie is another retelling of the Western World’s concept of kingdom and conqueror for liberation theme. Black Panther, the movie, does have a strong female leadership role, which was probably thoughtfully added for the times, but in no way does it reflect a realistic evolution of the African kingdoms unless they were indeed ‘tainted’ by Western Civilization’s values. Just change the race of the characters and it could be any fantastic Western-based culture plot. I understand it’s great to see all the cast be other than the usual white, but it’s core principles are the same cultural ones as that of the white supremacist who thinks they must liberate the world and base their wealth on a metal or mineral.
Instead, why not seek out Africa’s real past values and principles? You’d be surprised how modern they are in their thought processes. For example, the First Gods, title of a graphic novel, by T.A. Terga, depicts the true nature of the African Yoruba ideals as they were passed down to descendants during America’s colonial times in the Caribbean and South American diaspora. These Gods took on many forms, including both female and male forms. Their principles were not based on war and possession of riches but in freedom and liberty of expression.