Lesson of the Day: ‘Kids Need Superheroes Now More Than Ever’


Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 2021.

Featured Article: “Kids Need Superheroes Now More Than Ever” by Megan Margulies

In the featured article, Megan Margulies, granddaughter of the creator of Captain America, writes about how comic books and “magical thinking” can help children get through hard times.

In this lesson, you will learn more about the origin of Captain America and the power of comic books to offer relief, escape and hope during difficult times. In a Going Further activity, you will create your own superhero to help kids get through the pandemic.

Are you a fan of superheroes? Do you have a favorite?

Take a few minutes to write about a superhero that has made a lasting impression on you: What are the qualities that draw you to them? Is it their costume? Their superpowers? Their personality? Their origin story? The villains they fight?

If you aren’t a big fan of comics and superheroes, tell us why. What kinds of characters and stories are you drawn to instead?

5. What criticisms have comic books and superheroes faced over the years? How persuasive do you find these critiques? How does Ms. Margulies counter these arguments?

6. What is your reaction to the article? Which lines or ideas were most surprising, memorable or provocative? Does the article change your views on comic books and their positive role for readers — especially young children? Tell us why or why not.

Option 1: Share your thoughts.

  • What role have comics or superheroes played in your life? What life lessons, if any, have you ever learned from a comic book or superhero?

  • After reading the article, do you think you might use a talisman, superhero or some form of magical thinking to help you now? If so, tell us how.

  • What advice or activities would you recommend to others who are struggling through these tough times? What lessons or resources, if any, have you discovered during the pandemic that might provide other students hope, strength or a beacon of light?

If you are interested in exploring your thoughts about life during the pandemic further, you can read and comment on our related Civil Conversation Challenge forum on the coronavirus.

Option 2: Create an original superhero.

Create an original superhero to help readers through the pandemic — including with a name, costume and of course, a superpower!

Your superhero can be a fairly literal take on the pandemic: Vaccine Man fights the Germ-Meister, or the masked Social Distance Woman tackles the dreaded Zoom Robot … (OK, we know you can do much better!). Or, you can create a metaphorical or allegorical story of fear or hope or resilience or quarantine, the way that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America to make “little Jewish kids around the world feel safer in light of the rise of Nazism.”

Before you brainstorm ideas, consider the specific struggles children and teenagers might be dealing with. What kinds of talismans or special powers do you wish you had? Keep in mind some of the concepts you learned in the article, like “magical thinking” and “The Batman Effect.”

You can find some helpful general tips for creating a superhero here, or for coming up with specific aspects like: name, costume, superpower and origin story.

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