Studying with Stan Lee

Oh, Internet, you truly prey on my Fear of Missing Out. A few weeks back a friend mentioned to her brother that Stan Lee would be participating in a free online course courtesy of The Smithsonian entitled: “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture.” Yes, free. FREE STAN LEE! With a price tag like FREE I let my fingers do the walking before my brain could talk me out of it. I have been itching to get back into regularly educating myself. I have even considered going back to school part time, but until I am completely certain that it would be a beneficial move for my professional future, I would prefer easing myself back into learning with something a little gentler on the old bank account.

A much flashier version of my undergrad studies!

As I was finishing up at UF, courses on newer media and literature began cropping up in the English department. I would have loved postponing graudation so I could take another semester or two of film, writing, and popular culture theory classes. I also realized that I could simply go to a library, check out some books, and learn on my own for a fraction of the cost. Lately, the reading bug has crawled back under my skin, demanding I learn new material and give my brain a workout. Returning to school isn’t an option for the time being, so I might as well be proactive and take control of my personal media consumption. With SmithsonianX, learning is accessible on a variety of topics around the world, including comic books and their impact on popular culture.

Individual Course Goals
There was a time as a co-ed when I would actively trek to the local comic shop and pick up a couple of pieces to take home. The hardest part for me was “being a chick in a comic shop.” When I lived in Gainesville, there was a single comic shop, and every time I walked in I was either bombarded with unwanted leering or ignored all together by the staff. Jump forward nearly fifteen years, and I finally found A Comic Shop that I not only like, but feel welcomed to boot. I might be stimulating the local economy in the near future as the preliminary “must read” for hardcore fans caught my imagination by the throat! In order to earn that miniature shopping spree, there are a few goals I wish to achieve.

  1. Sharpen the Brain Matter – the combination of history, mythology, sociology, and literature presented in the course title alone pushes me to dive deeper and take a hard look at the impact of comics on modern day America.
  2. Amp Up Trivia Cred – Full disclosure, I am a little insecure about my nerd card eligiblity after attending a few trivia nights over the last year. I’m fed up with the “it’s on the tip of my tongue” approach to popular culture.
  3. Creative Calisthenics – There is a creative component involving the creation of one’s own Superhero(ine) and accompanying Villain(ess)! I cannot remember the last time I actively flexed my creativity, especially with the fantasy-science fiction genre!

When I achieve these goals and complete this course, I would like to invest in a few of the collections recommended. Sitting pretty at the top of the DC Comics versus Marvel Universe: Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told (DC; Volume I; 2007) and X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (Marvel; X-Men Issues #129-138; 1980). Yes, over fourteen years later, my Women’s Studies courses are demanding their needs are fulfilled first, with the urge to deconstruct, analyze, and reconstruct two of the more famous leading ladies in comic history: Wonder Woman and X-Men’s Jean Grey. I celebrated my first birthday while the original Dark Phoenix Saga ensued (and Jean’s been around the Marvel Universe since 1963), and WW Vol I traces her mythology back to her arrival on the comic scene in the 1940s!

edX Student Profile
I snagged Kahrenheit user handle over at edX, and there is both a series of community discussion boards as well as six different Facebook groups related to this course.  As my profile is solely related to the Comics Course, I felt an Avengers-themed photo was best suited for this purpose. Plus, I felt the need to show off my S.H.I.E.L.D. running shirt I made for the Avengers Half last November. (Thanks, runDisney, for making me look legitimately official as Maria Hill!)

IMG_9880Agent Maria Hill Reporting for Duty… Again…

“My name is Karen, and I call home. I am a sassy Southern geek girl and long time fan of all things nerdy. I am a child of the 80s, a devourer of film and literature, and a world traveler. I am a champion of intellect, street smarts, common sense, and the value of hard work. I speak fluent Japanese as a result of living there for over five years, and I would love to be a full-time freelance writer.”

Benefits of Distance Learning
I love the portability of the course work with the edX App, but my tired eyes prefer the larger screen experience. Conversely, depending on the time of day in which the course work is released, I may be able to enjoy my education while dining al fresco at work. Having no desire to schlep my computer to and from work, I daydream of the prospect of having the access to the course materials on my phone. I elected for the “Honor Code” (meaning: free) option which is akin to auditing a class. While the “Verified” (read: paid) does come with a fancy certificate signed by the course module instructors, I simply cannot justify dropping fifty dollars on a piece of paper. Very few future prospects will take this certificate seriously, unless I were applying to work for Marvel or perhaps some funky (and exceptionally generous) department in the Smithsonian Museum.


  • History and Mythology + Literature and Media + Theory and Analysis
  • Discussions include Carmen Sandiego and Archie (not just DC/Marvel)
  • Free to all with Honor Code* memberships
  • Lectures taught by industry insiders
  • Opportunities to participate in online discussions
  • Attending class in my pajamas


  • Six Week Course, 1-2 Hours required per week
  • Vague details about course work assignments
  • Signed certificate only available with Verified Certificate* track
  • Worried about the overload of ridiculously inappropriate questions (like Brody’s chat with Stan Lee in Mallrats; NSFW)
  • Peer review of creative assignments (Boo, Internet Trolls)

My biggest challenge will be scheduling the weekly appointment and committing to “showing up” for class. Looking at my calendar, Tuesday evenings are regularly free, so I am claiming a block of time after dinner and before bed for this. I am curious to see how the course develops over the next two months. I can barely contain my excitement! This evening, I completed my introductory requirements of completing the interest inventory, polishing up my bio, uploading a photo, and posting my introductory message on the discussion board. See ya on the flip side, Y’all!

Note: This is not a paid endorsement for SmithsonianX, Marvel, or any of the brands mentioned in the edX course. I am simply taking a class by my own volition on a subject which greatly interests me.  

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