Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh how I love teaching at the Art Museum. Let me count the ways...


I've been doing a comics class at the Worcester Art Museum called Villains Rule! for 11-13 year olds on Saturday mornings. It's a class I am very pleased to say I helped to create along with it's counterpart Create Your Own Superhero.

I think this is either my second or third Villains class I've done since it was created. And that's a big thing I love about teaching youth art at the Museum is that they're opened to class suggestions like that which give students something a bit out of the ordinary (and not to mention more fun) than the normal art class.

Where else outside a college class can you go and take a class in Cartooning, Comic Art, Claymation, Traditional Drawn Animation, Create Your Own Graphic Novel or Pop Art Painting and receive instruction from some of the best teachers I have the pleasure to know? The Art Museum has been offering classes like this for years and years at a price where you don't have to mortgage your first born to get some really top-notch art instruction.

Well, this weekend I had decided to show the students movies and television shows which had great examples of great arch-nemesis's. The reason for that was to show how a great villain was a character that you like nearly as much as the hero. Historically, you will find that the best villains are the ones you want to see return in movies, television shows, novels or comic books.

The shows and movies I chose to show clips from were The Final Problem from The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett, Star Wars: A New Hope, The Laughing Fish episode from Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man 1, Doctor Who The End of Time Part I and The Horror of Dracula.

Before each clip I gave a bit of a history lesson behind the clip and a description and what makes this villain so memorable.

From The Final Problem I showed them the confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. Which I feel has become the archetype for the modern villain. Moriarty is an interesting case. You would think from all the books and movies written with the character that he returned in every Sherlock Holmes tale. But in actuality he only appeared in two stories The Final Problem and later in The Valley of Fear. But Holmes only physically faces him in The Final Problem and only really appeared as a shadowy figure in the later story.

The I showed the confrontation between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: A New Hope. Which I described as having shades between the Holmes Moriarty confrontation as well as a little bit of Flash Gordon and Lord of the Rings.

From there I showed one of my favorite episodes from Batman: The Animated Series called The Laughing Fish. I had debated between showing that one, the Tim Burton Batman movie or The Dark Knight. As much as I liked and enjoyed Heath Ledger's Joker from Dark Knight, I chose not to show that one only because I felt the violence might be a bit too much for the 11-13 age group.

Sure they probably watched worse things on television, but I didn't feel like having the Art Museum getting angry calls because of me.

From there I showed them the climatic battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin from Spider-Man 1. Which is taken almost note for note from the original comic book story. This one I showed to show how there has to be some sort of physical and intellectual match for the hero. Which you get in that scene between Spidey and and the Goblin.

Then in a decision to indulging in my own uber-nerd tastes, I showed them a clip from ending of Part One of the Doctor Who episode The End of Time. To my great joy I immediately hear one of the students in the back row exclaim "YES!!" when I showed them the DVD box. I explained a history behind the characters of the Doctor and the Master and how the character was pretty much created in the 1970's to be a Professor Moriarty type character for the Doctor. I also chose it as an example of a villain attempting world domination. Here's a snippet from the clip:

I stopped right before the camera started to pull away from the earth and immediately my entire class exclaimed together: "Aww! Don't stop it!! We want to find out what happens!!"

It was probably my proudest moment. I feel like I have secured another generation of nerds like myself ;-)

Finally I showed the class the climatic fight between Peter Cushing's Dr. van Helsing and Christopher Lee's Count Dracula from The Horror of Dracula. A particular favorite film of mine. This was to show them how you can take characters out of classic literature and add a superhero and super-villain dynamic to them.

On an interesting side note, the last two Dracula films in the Christopher Lee Hammer series which were set in the 1970's were written by Doctor Who writer Don Houghton. And for a fan of Doctor Who, there's a definite Doctor/Master angle added to the characters of Professor Van Helsing and Count Dracula.

I've also been using this book my friend Rori got me How to Be a Villain as the textbook for the class. It's a lot of fun and I'm sure you can get it quite inexpensively on Amazon.com!! But a lot of the descriptions and activities in the book have been great for getting the students to create their villains. Especially the name generator, which is loads of fun!!

For any of my Art Museum chums who don't have the book but would love to teach the class at some point, I would be very happy to let you borrow it.

But it's doing classes like this that has made working at the Worcester Art Museum such a pleasure since I started there back in 2003. And getting to do classes like that and working with some of the greatest people on earth continues to make the Art Museum one of the best jobs I have ever worked.

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