[I submitted this to my department this week. Let's see what what happens.]
This course will focus primarily on one man’s vision of Batman: Frank Miller. You might know Frank Miller as man behind such blockbuster movies as Sin City (2005), 300 (2006), and The Spirit (2008) but he is most famous for a series of Batman comics he created. We will begin by looking at Understanding Comics to learn how to interpret the comic book page, followed by an interactive lecture on the history of Batman from 1939-1985. After that two-week introduction we will reach the center and largest part of the course, as we read and discuss Miller’s Batman comics: Dark Knight Returns (1986), Year One (1987), Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001), and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder (2008). We will explore their relationship to the earlier generation of comics and their relationship one another – Frank Miller makes radical and controversial leaps as both an artist and a writer during these years, and his Batman reveals a very questionable politics. Students will learn to articulate these developments – and learn how to write about the comics medium -- through an essay on his early years, and another on his later years. In the final part of the course we will look at Batman in the movies. Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) would not have been made were it not for the excitement Miller created for the character in the mid-eighties. The recent mega-blockbusters Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), the first of which is founded in a loose interpretation of Miller’s Year One, are very much in the shadow of the man who defined what Batman is. A third and final essay will evaluate the influence of Miller’s Batman in the movies – possibly including Sin City, 300, and The Spirit, which in many ways are Batman movies that are only superficially something else.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: Year One
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
Paper One, 1000 words (30%) – On Miller’s Dark Knight Returns or Year One
Paper Two, 1000 words (30%) – On Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again or All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
Paper Three, 1500 words (40%) – On Batman, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Sin City, 300, or The Spirit
The problem with teaching a course on comics is that comics have a poor ratio of expense versus material for discussion. Even with books on reserve and used books I cannot teach a class on superhero comics generally or even the Batman character generally without students running up a bill of more than $100 or having limited access to the material. My solution: a course on one creator’s vision of Batman, in which I will do a Power Point presentation on the Batman character from 1939 to 1985. The course books will cost, according to Amazon.com less than 70 dollars. Because of Miller’s recent turn as a film director, and the reliance of the recent Batman movies on his work, going to film is an easy way to flesh out the class with easily available material that can be cheaply rented and/or shown in class.