Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani American; Spider-Man, aka Miles Morales, is a Black Hispanic teen; and Faith is a plus-size crime fighter.
Comic books and graphic novels can engage students in history and current events, says Tim Smyth, a Pennsylvania social studies teacher.
“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy,” said Art Spiegelman, creator of the graphic Maus books on his parents’ experiences as Polish Jews who survived Auschwitz. That inspired Smyth to think how he could teach social studies using comics.
His students can identify with “a female Thor (who is also fighting breast cancer), a black Captain America, a gay Iceman, a strong (and now fully dressed) Wonder Woman and Batgirl, a Korean-American Hulk” and more traditional characters, Smyth writes.
Spider-Woman’s storyline focuses on her pregnancy and whether she will need to abandon her superhero role. It brings up the point that male superheroes never have to struggle with the question — can I have a career and a family?
Recently, his class discussed the March issue of “Spider-Man” in which superhero Miles Morales says he doesn’t want to be “the black Spider-Man.” He just wants to be Spider-Man.