CSU Students Study Art of Marvel's Cinematic Universe

Dr. Chris McCollough, Associate Professor of Communication at CSU, is piloting a new course that explores the critical cultural and political topics found within Marvel Cinematic Universe films. The course, ITDS 1145 Comparative Arts, is underway during the mini I session this summer and allows student to earn credit towards core curriculum requirements.

The class will look at the first 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as students consider how Marvel's comics and current film series provide commentary and provoke critical thought on politics, culture, and citizenship in society.

McCollough has good reason for working with the source material and engaging his students in the critical examination of the media. He says of Marvel Comics and the MCU, "When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby developed this mythology, they were commenting on 1960s America, and trying to help young people figure out how to be a part of that world. At the time, we were dealing with many of the same issues around race, class, gender, war, and citizenship that we see in society today. To the credit of today's filmmakers, they are keeping those themes and applying many of them to today's concerns."

As students engage in discussion online each week, they are also writing 2-page reflection essays on key themes ranging from citizenship to racial inequality to power and responsibility. The final project is for students to produce a five-page treatment for a Marvel Comics character not yet included in the MCU who will be encountering social and political issues important to each individual student.

For those interested in the future of the course, there will be new life for the material in an upcoming Special Topics course in Communication, which will be available in Spring 2020. McCollough plans to expand the catalog of characters discussed, as well as the connection to current events students and engage with.

McCollough said of the next iteration, "I spent a lot of time reviewing 22 films in preparation, and had to make some tough calls on characters and themes to make a 5-week course work at the 1000-level. I'm eager to bring in characters like Peter Parker, specific Guardians of the Galaxy, Nick Fury, Captain Marvel, and spend more time on villains in a way that will help students focus more deeply on the artistic process in filmmaking that resonates with community, gender, and political communication for a 4000-level Communication course."