Monday, February 22, 2016

Paper #2 due March 3rd by 5pm (see below)

Paper #2: Samples in the Jar

“How could you do that, Braniac? What kind of monster would trap an entire civilization inside a sample jar? It’s the most grotesque thing I’ve ever seen…You took away what made them human and there’s never an excuse for that.” (Superman: Red Son)

In both Superman: Red Son and the movie Never Let Me Go (based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) we see the past reshaped by a ‘future’ utopia. In one, Superman and Lex Luthor decide to protect people from themselves, ultimately placing them in a ‘sample jar’ that gradually dehumanizes them; and in the other, a special group of children is carefully raised (in another ‘jar’) to offer salvation for the rest of the world. Both works raise an important question about modern society: are we already closing the lid on ourselves in a utopia of our own making? And if so, who are the ‘supermen’ who decide what our ideal society should look like, and what people get to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the others can live?

Remember that science fiction is always a metaphor for ideas we can see in our own world: superheroes, clones, aliens, an alternate past—they’re not just predictions, but they help clarify what has already come to pass. So for your second paper, I want you to respond to the conversation: if 21st century America was a science-fiction novel, what are the issues or concerns that make humanity look like specimens in a sample jar? To answer this question, you must have a conversational primarily with Superman: Red Son and/or Never Let Me Go and use them to highlight something potentially dangerous or dehumanizing in our own society. How might Superman’s Russia or the halls of Halisham remind us of gray areas in our own quest for prosperity and happiness? Some ideas to consider are health care, education, the environment, politics, entertainment, security, the media, technology, etc. Try to be specific and choose one aspect to discuss in your paper (rather than skimming over three or four). Find sources that can help you discuss this issue and understand its ‘science fiction’ potential.

  • At least 4 pages, double spaced
  • Uses one or both of the books from class in your conversation (more than simply quoting one line of the book or film)
  • 2-3 secondary sources: articles, legitimate websites (not or Wikipedia or, or books
  • Quotes integrated into your paper using MLA (or other) format along with a Works Cited page.
  • DUE THURSDAY, MARCH 3rd by 5pm (note: this a class day later than the syllabus stated)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

For Tuesday: Millar, Superman: Red Son (Book Three: Red Son Setting)

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: Once Luther takes control of the US, Lois fears that he has become just another Superman—and possibly an even more dangerous one. To which her sister responds, “very possibly, darling, but at least Lex Luthor is a demagogue who speaks English” (113). What do you think she means by this? How might this explain how people like Luther and Superman get elected in the first place?

Q2: Why does Superman resist so long using military force to subdue the US, even when it’s clearly going down the drain? What event finally shatters his resolve? Do you think this is where Superman becomes a true ‘villain,’ or has this happened long ago (or perhaps, does it never happen)?

Q3: How can a letter with a single sentence (which Luther gives to his wife as a last resort) destroy Superman when an entire army of Green Lanterns and Wonder Women couldn’t? Is Luther correct—or is he just playing on Superman’s fear and guilt?

Q4: Science fiction stories and even shows like The Twilight Zone love surprise endings which turn the entire story on its head. What is surprising, confusing, or aggravating about the ending of this book? How does it change how we read the events of the story, and/or what might it say about the nature of Luther’s “success”?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Comp 2 Conference Schedule for Next Week

NOTE: If you missed class on Thursday, be sure to e-mail me about one of the available times below. If you miss your conference, it's the equivalent of missing an entire week of class. CLICK below to see the entire schedule...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

For Thursday: Millar, Superman: Red Son (Books 1 and 2)

NOTE: Comics are tricky to read if you’re not used to them, mostly because they seem so busy with all the images surrounding the dialogue. The trick is to read slowly and re-read whenever possible. If you’re having trouble, look at all the images on a page first, then go back and read the words. Make sure to appreciate how the words and images work together, since each of them tell a slightly different story that comes together in the frames.

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Why does Superman decide to become the Supreme Leader when he earlier refused it? What makes him change his mind? Would the “real” Superman make the same decision? Why or why not?

Q2: Science fiction loves to ask “what if” and Superman: Red Son asks the ultimate what if question: would ‘Red Superman’ be a universal hero and icon for humanity? Is heroism beyond politics, or does being a hero depend on which side he’s on? How does the book explore this question?

Q3: At one point in the comic, Pyotr tells Superman, “that’s easy to say when you’re streaking through the skies, Superman. Not so much fun when you’re down here working in the gutters like the rest of us” (33). In some ways, is this an anti-superhero comic? Is this partly why the Soviet Batman wages war against Superman and what he represents?

Q4: How does the book reinterpret the Cold War and US/Soviet rivalry through the war between Luthor and Superman? Why might changing history in this light help us appreciate what really happened, or help us see the invisible forces behind politics itself?