Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fumetti influenza

So, one day a while back, my buddy, our Executive Director of College Relations at the campus, tells me she wants to chat with me in person over something. Me being an ex-dean and tenured faculty member and all that, I have no idea what this might be about, but I'm always there for a pal, so in to her office I go a day or so later.

She wants to ask me about superheroes.

And not just in a general, teach-me, chatty kind of way; no, more in a what are the tropes and conventions and commonplaces of the genre kind of way. It seems she's working on the next big publicity campaign for the school, and she wants it to be superhero-themed. She's looking for stuff like origin stories and catch phrases and other recognizable elements of the idiom that she can adapt to illustrate how a community college education can give a person superpowers.

We chat for a while, and I give her some ideas, filtering out the more recondite and/or complex scenarios and trying to isolate those elements that would be instantly recognizable. I think her idea is pretty cool, of course, and she's actually consulting me in a more-or-less professional capacity, since studying comics is part of what I do as faculty, but it's still fun. We talk, she takes notes, and as we're closing, she tells me not to expect too much - that she's going to start this off slow, with just hints and suggestions.

I forget about it for a couple of weeks, but then opening the website I see a photo of a well-known former student staring off into the distance, hands on hips in the classic Superman pose, with Super-Politico floating behind him in an Ira-Schnapp-esque font and a word balloon that says "It all started at at Cascadia..."

Holy branding! It happened!

That particular photo has moved out of rotation, but the campaign is still going strong. Here's the Roll Call, as we used to say in the Justice League:

This is the big banner photo now - same idea, different superhero

This is the origin of Mind Melder - who she is and how she came to be.
(I wonder how that "Shazam" snuck into the clip art there.)

Here's the First of Them All, complete with obligatory "kapow" burst.

Every super-group needs a weather-based hero!

Brainiac 5, look out!

Every party needs a cleric, too.

I think this campaign hits just the right note: it captures well the optimism and elan of superheroes and the cultural position they hold in the public consciousness, and the banners convey this without going overboard and being too camp, too arch, or too obscure. Of course I am biased toward the conceit, but I think it will also work to convey what the college has to offer: the possibility of reinvention, self-actualization, and success. (As indeed we do.)

So why is this post here in Epicurus rather than on Thark? Maybe because I think (or choose to believe) that this infiltration of superhero iconography into our college website has something to do with me. Not just in the small, subject-matter-expert role I played in that opening conversation, but just by helping make the idea itself a viable one that would make it past the spitballing stage and into production. Maybe the references and metaphors and allusions that pepper my own correspondence have made some impact on the collective consciousness of our campus; maybe my use of comics in the classroom and my presentations at conferences about that praxis have had some ripple effect; maybe I am contributing in some small way to the geekification of society.

Or maybe it's just that The Avengers made a gazillion dollars last year.

See these ads in situ at the Cascadia Community College website.

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