Superheroes-Canada: Memories of a Mild Mannered Newsboy

Recently returned home from Toronto with my family, where we enjoyed some time at the Fan Expo and CNE. More on those visits coming later on the the DarkPines Photo -blog. In the meantime here some valuable links for media literacy teachers. The first one is Girls Gone Geek. It is a useful site to explore contemporary issues relating to current comic-books. It provides a view of comics from a youthful female perspective. Some material may not get school board approval, but sometimes that is what makes it the most useful to a teacher.

The other web resource is Comic Book Legends Revealed. It is a history / urban legend site concerning comic book and comic-strips. For example, a recent post includes information on Joe Shuster’s Canadian roots.  This is the link to the Historica Minute  on Joe Shuster and Superman online that is referred to in the post.

“There it is,” Shuster says, pointing to a picture of Superman descending toward a Metropolis skyline. The caption on the comic panel says the Man of Steel has landed near the Daily Star building.

“Sure! The Star!” Shuster exclaims, wheezing slightly. “Not the Planet. That came later.

“I still remember drawing one of the earliest panels that showed the newspaper building. We needed a name, and I spontaneously remembered the Toronto Star. So that’s the way I lettered it. I decided to do it that way on the spur of the moment, because The Star was such a great influence on my life.” Great Krypton! Superman was the Star’s Ace Reporter (Joe Shuster’s final interview)

Joe Shuster was born in Canada and his cousin was Frank Shuster, as in Canada’s Wayne and Shuster comedy team.

Their style, which consisted of a mixture of slapstick, pantomime, and groan-inducing jokes, depended heavily, at times excessively, on sets and props. Many or their early sketches were take-offs on classic situations, such as putting Shakespearean blank verse into the mouths of baseball players. In their first appearance on Ed Sullivan, Wayne played a Roman detective investigating the murder of Julius Caesar in “Rinse the Blood Off My Toga.” His use of “martinus” as the singular of “martini” quickly became a catchphrase (some New York bars began advertising “Martinus Specials”), as did the line “I told him, ‘Julie, don’t go’,” uttered several times by actress Sylvia Lennick playing Caesar’s wife. Even Marshall McLuhan complimented them on their word games, as when the hero of their western version of Hamlet refused a drink from the bar and ordered “the unkindest cut of all.” From the  Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC)

Some Media literacy Questions &Topics to Consider with your students when using these resources:

1. How does exposure to to media influence our: a) self-expression and creativity b) self-worth and sense national identity c) gender roles ?

2. All mass media have business interests. How do large mass media companies enable creative artists to flourish and also restrict/limit their ability to share in the wealth? Why does this happen ? Can it be changed ?

3. How does the large output of American Media  create both positive and negative effects on other countries and cultures ? Why is Canada so vulnerable to this influence ?

4. Is there a distinctive Canadian culture ? Is it effectively expressed in the Canadian media and media outlets ?

5. Are comic-book superheroes uniquely American ?  What would the characteristics be of a Canadian superhero ? How do American comic book companies and other American media  treat Canada and Canadian characters ( constructed reality:values, beliefs, and ideologies; intended and unintended messages) ?


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