Pluto 2

How do historical and social forces influence the production of art, including comics? How do comics respond?

Welcome to Pluto 2! You’ll be expected to finish this unit between Tuesday April 14 and Sunday April 19, when you’ll upload your “Pluto 2 Weekly Journal” to GoStudio.

NOTE: My planning assumes you’ve finished reading Pluto vol. 2 by Tuesday.

We have two objectives for this lesson plan:

1. To understand Pluto from the perspective of New Historicism.

2. To continue analyzing the book’s ethical and existential questions about humanity and technology with the added questions of war, violence, and power as we discuss Pluto vol. 2.

Let’s look at the steps and activities you’ll complete:

  • Day 1 (begin Tues April 14)

    1. Watch the A/V lecture on New Historicism and read the Purdue OWL’s page on it (link below).

    2. Watch a brief video about the history of Astro Boy.

    3. Apply a New Historicism approach to Pluto through an exploration of various media.

    4. Read what’s due for Thursday and contact your group.

  • Day 2 (Thurs April 16)

    Take part in our live class meeting and post your responses (see below).

  • Final Step (Sun April 19)

    Upload your “Pluto 2 Weekly Journal” to GoStudio.

Let’s get started….

Day 1 (Tues April 14)

Step One. Watch the New Historicism A/V lecture and make sure you’ve read the Purdue OWL page on New Historicism here. After you’ve done both things, answer the question below.

Here’s the script for the lecture:

Reflection Question 1: Aside from the theme of artificial intelligence, in what ways does Pluto interpret other world events of the late 20th century and early 21st century, such as terrorism, war, the internet, and technology in general? Please include Pluto vol. 2 in your response.

STEP TWO. Watch the videos below about/featuring Astro Boy and answer the Reflection Question.

This is a “motion manga” released by Tezuka’s estate to Dark Horse Comics, which has published Astro Boy in the US.
This is the first American version of the Astro Boy anime, broadcast in 1963.

This link will take you to “The Greatest Robot on Earth,” the original Astro Boy story on which Pluto is based. Fair warning, it takes a long time to load. You don’t have to read the whole thing, but give it a look.

Optional: This is the “Atomic Pop!” essay about Atom/Astro Boy by Alicia Gibson that I reference in the presentation:

Reflection Question 2: Atom becomes a key character in Pluto vol. 2. Based on what you’ve learned about the history of Atom, a.k.a. Astro Boy, how do the ideals he represents show up in Pluto? How are they different from previous versions, if at all? In other words, how is Urasawa’s Atom different from previous versions in comics and anime?

STEP THREE: Explore the sources below, each of which help fill in the historical situation, influences, and forces that led—in the long-run—to the creation of Pluto. I certainly don’t expect you to read or watch all of them, but perhaps get the flavor of each. After you’ve done that, respond to the reflection question.

This is called “NHK Tokushu Tezuka Osamu: Sosaku no Himitsu” (1985).

This is a good article about Tezuka, referenced in my presentation (See the script).

This is a fun and fascinating interview in translation with Naoki Urasawa. They begin discussing Tezuka and Pluto around 20:40.

Reflection Question 3: If we expand our scope beyond the character of Atom/Astro Boy, how does Urasawa use Pluto to create a dialogue between the culture of manga, Tezuka’s enormous influence, and our contemporary moment? You might think about its characters or plot, art style, the practice of making manga, manga as a cultural phenomenon in both Japan and the United States, etc.

HOMEWORK for Thursday’s class

By Thursday’s class, post your responses to the three Reflection Questions above in the forum on GoStudio.

Additionally, I’d like you to post one Critical Question of your own. It doesn’t have to involve Pluto vol. 2, but hey, why not?


Day 2 (Thurs April 16)

Today we’ll meet via Zoom from 4:00-4:45pm. I’ll post the link on GoStudio in the weekly section.

By then, post your responses and your own Critical Question in the forum I’ll create on GoStudio.

During our discussion you can respond to each others’ posts. We’ll chat about them as you do this.

If you can’t meet at that time, no problem. Just make sure you participate in the forum.

Read the requirements for the Weekly Journal below so you know what to be working on between now and Sunday.


Final Step (Sunday April 19)

Today you’ll need to upload your Pluto 2 Weekly Journal. Here’s what it needs to include:

1. Your responses to the three Reflection Questions.

2. Your Critical Question, your response, and your reflection on any discussion we had about it (either chatting or posted in the forum).

3. NEW: Answer the following: As an artist or designer, what social forces and ideas influence you? Are you always aware of them? How much power or agency do you have compared to those social forces and ideas? How can art and design resist them?

4. NEW: If I gave you a billion dollars to reinterpret a famous work in your discipline, i.e., something that is already revered, what would you choose and how would you approach it?

Upload this to the GoStudio dropbox in the weekly section.

You’re done!!

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