“The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture” – A FREE Class from Stan Lee & The Smithsonian

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The Smithsonian, in partnership with Stan Lee, will be offering a free 6-week course “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture.” This course is a must for comic book fans, and could benefit those who have interest in pop culture, history, and art. Did I mention it’s free?

Starting May 17th, the 6-week course begins and can be done on your schedule. It estimates that each student will generally spend 1-2 hours per week on the lesson. Seems relatively easy, right?


Though it costs you nothing, upon completion of the class you have the option of adding a Verified Certificate for $50. EdX, the non-profit running the course, relies on the purchases of Verified Certificates to allow them to continue to offer free classes. So it’s totally up to you. But as a bonus for those that do, check out the offer being made:

Complete a verified certificate in this course and receive digital artwork from comic book artist Dennis Calero (X-Factor, X-Men Noir), digitally signed by Stan Lee and Michael Uslan, and created exclusively for this course!

Plus, be one of the twenty top verified students at the end of the course and you will be eligible to apply for fanboy-oriented company internships, including one with the Smithsonian. Companies to be announced during the course.

THIS IS THE ULTIMATE COURSE FOR COMIC BOOK FANS EVERYWHERE! Plus it’s FREE from the Smithsonian! Check out this brief video and further details below.

If this looks like something you’d be down for, click here to see how you can register. But hurry, the classes begin May 17th!

About this course

New week 6 content has been added in the fourth iteration of this popular course!

Join the Smithsonian, and comic book industry legend Stan Lee, to explore the history of the comic book and the rise of superheroes.

The ancient gods of Egyptian, Greek and Roman myths still exist, but today, they have superpowers, human foibles and secret identities. They come from comic books and graphic novels, and have taken over pop culture on the stage, screen, video games, and animation.

From Superman® and Spider-Man®, to The Avengers® and The Hulk® and beyond, who are these heroes? And, how have they evolved from folklore and myth, across all cultures and religions?

Learn from Smithsonian and industry experts including:

  • Stan Lee, who was one of the creators of the modern superhero template. His early comics featuring Spider-Man, Iron Man®, The Hulk, Thor®, and The Avengers led Marvel to success. He continues to reinvent himself to create modern global superheroes and appear in cameos in superhero films and TV, such as Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • Michael Uslan, executive producer of top grossing, award winning movies, including The Dark Knight series, Lego® Movie, the animated Batman films and Batman® VS Superman.

In this course, we explore the following questions:

  • Why did superheroes first arise in 1938 and experience what we refer to as their “Golden Age” during World War II?
  • Why did the superhero genre ebb and flow in popularity over the decades?
  • How have comic books, published weekly since the mid-1930’s, mirrored a changing American society, reflecting our mores, slang, fads, biases and prejudices?
  • Why was the comic book industry nearly shut down in the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s?
  • How did our superheroes become super-villains in the eyes of the government, clergy, educators, and parents of the mid-20th Century?
  • When and how did comic books become acceptable again, and eventually become valid teaching tools in universities and schools?
  • When and how did comic book artwork become accepted as a true American art form as indigenous to this country as jazz?
  • Finally, when and how did comic books become “cool” and the basis for blockbuster movies, hit TV series, top-selling video games, and acclaimed animation, while also impacting fashion and style- and even the moral and ethical codes of children- around the globe?

For the first time ever, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is excited to offer the opportunity to go into the collection and see why superheroes are a dominant cultural force in today’s world.

As you learn about how cultural myths, world events, and personal experiences shaped the first superheroes, you will apply these frameworks to create your own superhero– or you can choose to do a deeper analysis on existing comic book heroes. This original project is required for certification and anything created by you as part of the course is the intellectual property of you and you alone.  At the end of the course, you will have the opportunity to take your final project work and participate with other current and alumni students in a two week “team track add-on” to the course.

At last, fans, students and seekers of knowledge have the opportunity to enroll in the ultimate comic book course.

What you’ll learn

  • The history and origins of the first superheroes and comic books, and how they changed over time
  • The evolution of American society from the Depression to today, as viewed through the lens of the comic book genre
  • How the current globalization and diversity of the next generation of superheroes impacts our storytelling across all mediums
  • How to apply historical examples to create superheroes for the present day

Meet the instructors

  • bio for Stan Lee

    Stan Lee

    Chairman and Chief Creative Officer POW! Entertainment

  • bio for Michael Uslan

    Michael Uslan

    Professor of Practice Indiana University Media School

  • bio for David Uslan

    David Uslan

    Entertainment Executive

  • bio for Dr. Christopher Robichaud

    Dr. Christopher Robichaud
    Lecturer, Ethics & Public Policy Harvard Kennedy School of Government

About Jason Bennett 8217 Articles
Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ's chief editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. One with the Force. Browncoats Unite! So say we all! Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett