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University of Colorado Boulder

Comic Books, Geek Culture, and the Fandom Imaginary

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


"Comic Books, Geek Culture, and the Fandom Imaginary" explores some of the conventional framings of “fandom” (from comic book obsessives to cosplayers) and the cultural histories that sustain it. It also explores the dark side of these dynamics, looking at what can happen when fandom turns toxic in pop culture spaces. You will continue to apply frameworks of self-reflection and close reading/analysis to the study of contemporary popular culture, and explore how those frameworks provide tools for understanding the self as much as our cultural surroundings. The course asks the fundamental question: how can what we love - what we read, what we watch, what we share - contribute to making the world a better place? Along the way, you’ll continue to develop your skills in honing and representing your fandom, specifically engaging in activities designed to help you find your fellow fans, help you find your people, and connect with them outside and beyond the course.

Course-Level Learning Outcomes

* Define and describe the dynamics of geek culture (fantasy, science fiction, comic books, graphic novels), as well as its relationships to fandom, popular culture, and digital media
* Apply critical self-reflection and close reading frameworks through analytical writing and creative expression
* Engage with pop culture and fandom communities by leveraging online platforms to make connections and synthesize learning
* Reflect on your personal relationship to geek culture (fantasy, science fiction, comic books, graphic novels), and how popular culture intersects with memory and nostalgia

Course 3 Skills:
* Analysis
* Self-Reflection
* Critical Thinking
* Communication
* Culture
* Close Reading


  • Framing Fandom in Imaginary Spaces
    • In this module, you will dig into the dynamics of comic books and geek culture and how both are rooted in the exploration of imaginary spaces (both fictional, and internal). We will introduce these topics and concepts, continue to apply our frameworks of self-reflection and close reading to them, and start preparations for the final project.
  • Superheroes, Identity, and Answering the Call for Representation
    • In this module, you will explore the contemporary evolution of the comic book superhero and their complex identity dynamics. Applying what you’ve learned about comics history and the fandom imaginary, you will encounter superheroes as characters, imaginative mirrors, and fans all at once. You will also apply your self-reflection skills to excavate your own relationship (or lack thereof) with comics and geek culture.
  • When Fandom Turns Toxic
    • In this module, you will explore the darker sides of fandom and fan culture, what happens when fans turn on each other, or on outsiders, and in/out dynamics start to determine engagement and interaction. You’ll also continue applying your frameworks of analysis and reflection to shape your positive contributions to your fandom, and connect with that fandom community directly through the “Find Your Fandom” project.

Taught by

Christopher Haynes


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