Caped Crusaders: Character Development and Comic Book Heroes

Your lesson will take place in the American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good vs. Evil exhibit. What makes a character like Wonder Woman™ or Batman™ jump off the page? Students will transform flat, blank-slate characters into round, fully-developed characters using details, story elements, and their imaginations. Choosing between good and evil, students will pair up and discover the importance of conflict to character development.

Classroom activities for before or after your visit

The following activities are designed for your class to enjoy before or after your museum visit. Familiarizing students with the lesson concepts can enrich your museum experience.

What makes a superhero?

Try the following with your students to learn more about superheroes:

  • Select a variety of superhero comic books and stories for students to read.
  • Invite students to bring in superhero books from home to share with the class.
  • Ask students to look for superhero books in the local library.
  • Have students learn about superheroes by searching on the Internet.
  • Watch an age-appropriate superhero cartoon together as a class.

After exploring superheroes in books, online, and in video, ask students to define a superhero. Have students create a chart listing the attributes they think characterize a superhero.

Making text-to-text connections

Comic books typically have stories, settings, and characters that continue from one issue to the next. To help students pinpoint the connections between characters, settings, and events from one story to another, have them look for connections between what they are currently reading and other books that they have read.

Print the following sentence starters on hand-outs for students to fill in as they read. Include a line at the top of the page for students to print the name of the story they are currently reading.

The character in this story is like the character in...

The setting in this story is the same as the setting in...

This event is like the event in...

Discuss the connections students made between the stories.

Create a “round” superhero character

Flat versus round characters: Flat characters are uncomplicated and do not change throughout the course of a story. By contrast, round characters are complex and undergo transformations, sometimes as dramatic as a superhero. Have students create their own round superhero by drawing him or her. After drawing their character, challenge students to tell the story of their hero’s transformation. How did their character become a hero? What aspect of the character changed—their physical body or their mind? Why does their character transform? What powers does their character possess?

Ask students to discuss other characters, not just superheroes, who have changed in a story that they have read.

Create a “round” three-dimensional superhero

Distribute two pieces of construction paper to each student. Tell students to draw another picture of the superhero they created in the activity above. Have students cut out the character and use it as a template to trace the same image outline on the second sheet of paper. Cut out the second superhero outline. Line up the two pieces of paper evenly. Staple the edges of both pieces together, leaving the head open. Stuff the character with soft tissue or cotton balls. Finally, close the top of the superhero with staples.