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The Ethics and Moral Dilemma of Superheroes

Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

 

Both Batman and Superman refuse to kill their enemies, thus allowing them to cause even more havoc in the future. Batman pushes away those who care about him the most, Superman hides his true identity by lying to his friends and loved ones. Superheroes face a slew of ethical dilemmas, not the least of which is the fact that most of them are vigilantes—breaking the law even while saving the day.

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We often view comic book stories as simple cases of hero vs. villain, but such a perspective takes for granted the idea that superheroes are the good guys. In fact, moral virtue is a complicated concept, and what doing the right thing means depends on your perspective. There are nonetheless two main schools of thought on what makes an action right or wrong:  deontology, which categorizes actions as good or bad in themselves, and consequentialism, which classifies each action based on its results. Essentially, the question for every superhero is whether the ends justify the means.

There was quite a bit of controversy around the amount of destruction caused by Superman in the film Man of Steel. Many felt such destruction could have been avoided, and it was also left unclear how many people perished as a result of his battle with Zodd, whose death also left people questioning Superman’s moral foundation. This issue will probably inform the plot of the upcoming film Batman v Superman where Batman will question Superman’s regard for human life.

Superman destruction

 

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Take Oliver Queen on Arrow, for example. He starts out as brutal vigilante who kills his enemies without hesitation. His mission is to avenge his father by taking out the criminals who had plunged Starling City into lawlessness. After the death of his best friend, Oliver decides to rededicate himself to saving the city, but he believes that in order to do so, he must become a hero called the Arrow and give up killing.

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On the show, this shift is presented as a positive decision, but is it really? He no longer murders people, but many of the criminals he puts away end up escaping and hurting more people. Is it more important for the Arrow to provide a positive example or for the villains to be stopped permanently?

Oliver himself realizes the shortcomings of his no-kill rule: when faced with a choice between allowing a villain to harm one of his loved ones and killing the culprit, Oliver invariably chooses to compromise his principles in the name of protecting his family and friends. This inconsistency reflects the tricky questions superheroes face as well was the difficulty of putting ethical principles into practice.

What do you think? Should superheroes strive to do the right thing or focus on protecting innocents no matter the cost? Or should they try to find a balance between the two?

future

The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

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The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

 

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

 

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

Jem movie reboot

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

rick walking dead comic reboot

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.

future

The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

Jem-and-Holograms-Movie-Aubrey-Peeples thumbnail

The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.

future

The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

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Let’s Get Viral: How to Make a Vine Sensation

Vine has made it easier to upload videos to their network. This opens up more options to put something out there on your Vine account with video special effects. Now it’s your turn to get out there. 

King Bach. Nash Grier. Zach King. Curtis Lepore. Jerry Purpdrank. Okan Yargici. All of these people are rising to fame because of six second videos they put together with their smartphone. They are Vine superstars! The short videos on Vine are looped over 1.5 billion times every day — it’s a powerful tool to get your work seen. It is also a very competitive community. With over 40 million users, if you want people to notice your video, it has to stand out.

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Vine has some pretty extreme limitations for a video sharing application: You have to get your message across in 6 seconds or less; the video has to work well as a loop; and it isn’t easy to edit the footage outside of the few edits you can make within the app. These limitations have led people to create videos with a lot of special effects that aren’t that far from what the pioneering filmmakers were creating in the late 1800s. Eadweard Muybridge was the first to take still photos and put them into motion. With his series of photos of animals in motion, he proved that animals, like the horse, lift all four legs off the ground at one time, while they are running. This was a magical discovery for people, and proved to the world that things were not exactly as they seemed.

 

Muybridge race horse animated

 

Georges Méliès took early film a step further by making things disappear and playing with the audience’s perception of reality.

 

Le Voyage dans la lune

 

Recently, Vine has made it easier to upload videos to their network that weren’t only shot within their app. This opens up more options to put something more flashy out there on your Vine account with video special effect software like After Effects.
Now it’s your turn to get your own viral Vine loop out there. If you’ve ever wanted to make a Dragonball Z video, a surreal comedy, or something that makes people ask “How’d you do that?” Then try your hand at the lesson below.

future

The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

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Marvel Civil War: Whose Side Are You On?

 

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Captain America 3: Civil War was just released. Since Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has carefully started to shift the story towards one of the greatest conflicts in comic book history, Marvel’s Civil War. In a sure sign that comics were getting awesome again, Marvel built in a story arc where the Avengers fought each other. This has happened before in comics, usually because one superhero gets mind-controlled by a villain. In the Marvel Civil War, though, the Avengers were instead fighting because they had different interpretations of rights. Both sides’ views were supportable by some interpretations of the Constitution. But would either have stood up in court? If the Avengers had taken their differences to court, instead of to the streets, which way would it have gone?

Which side are you on? Try the quiz below to find out!

The Plot of the War The Marvel Civil War was told in seven comics, released from 2006-2007. It takes place after most mutants have been killed, or have fled in secret to Xavier’s school. Having dealt with mutants, the United States government turned their attention to superheroes. The government wasn’t a big fan of superpowers. Untrained superheroes kept stepping up to villains in crowded areas, getting themselves and others killed. In one case, a couple of new superheroes tried to fight Nitro in a mall, leading to the deaths of over 600 people. In addition, superheroes, especially the Avengers, were also interfering in politics. Nick Fury was fired because he led a coup against one of the United States’ allies (in fairness, that ally was an evil cyborg). Finally, the government decided to act. Congress passed the Superhero Registration Act, forcing all superheroes to take off the masks, register their abilities, and work for federal law enforcement. They hired Tony Stark (Iron Man) to help enforce  the law. Captain America violently resisted. Both sides escalated in force.


 

The Arguments

The pro-registration arguments, supported by Tony Stark and Mr. Fantastic, include:

  • Superheroes cannot veto a Congressional decision
  • Regulation of use of powers will be required by law
  • The government may restrict the rights of some to protect the rights of many

The anti-registration arguments, supported by Captain America, include:

  • Privacy protects superheroes and superheroes have a right to it
  • The majority should not legislate against minority rights
  • The government should not restrict rights in the present because of possible events in the future.

Do either of these arguments carry legal weight? This lesson below explores the legal precedents at play.

future

The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.