Chair of the Communication Studies DepartmentDr. Mike Robinson has been a fan of comic books and superheroes for a long time, so it’s not surprising they often make it into his classroom at Lynchburg. Robinson, chair of the communication studies department, even teaches a class called Culture Industries, Audiences, and the Superhero.Although loath to name just one, he’ll tell you Spider-Man is his favorite member of the Marvel Universe — the center of it, in his opinion.
“Spidey has the best rogues’ gallery of villains and the best supporting cast,” he said. “The tragedy of his origin story gives him a compelling personal mission of redemption. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is a powerful theme.”
With a police officer dad and mother who was a nurse, Robinson believes he came by his passion honestly.
“As my real-life superheroes, they taught me a lot about power and responsibility,” he said. “I certainly think of Spider-Man in that context. I also learned a lot about leadership from characters like Superman, Captain America, and Cyclops.”
He thinks his students can learn from superheroes, too.
“Stories are important,” he said. “Superheroes show us our highest aspirations. Supervillains show us our greatest fears. Studying superheroes also teaches us a great deal about the modern practices of our culture industries. … [It] gives us a sense of the power of fandom and the ways that industries truly need to understand their audiences.”
Robinson talked about the power — and future — of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the video series, “A Smarter U: Essays by Experts,” where Lynchburg faculty and staff share what they’re passionate about.