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Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers

Lockjaw and the Pet AvengersLockjaw and the Pet Avengers
by Chris Eliopoulos, Ig Guara, and Humberto Ramos
Marvel Comics
ISBN: 978-0-78514-123-5

Built on a clever plot and some excellent action-comic artwork, Marvel's LockJaw and the Pet Avengers seems destined to become an immensely popular series for young adults. 

With animal superheroes that range from a Frog modeled after the legendary Thor to a time traveling dog, young adult readers will find that some familiar superheroes are about to search for some very important, and potentially dangerous, gems. If found and brought together, the six Infinity Gems can be used to, as Mr. Fantastic points out, "corrupt and influence anyone," human or animal. But there's no need for readers to worry! The Pet Avengers are teaming up and on the move, traveling through space and time, even to the depths of the ocean, to save the day.

Adding to the excitement of this superhero origin story, the smart people at Marvel also provide young adults and teachers with resourceful back matter that will support using this graphic novel in libraries and classrooms. Individual comic stories that focus on each of the Pet Avengers and their unique skill sets offer readers further insight into this unique superhero team. And, as if that is not enough, Marvel has also provided readers with the following resources: a brief history of the evolution of Marvel Pets to a superhero set of Pet Avengers, a profile of some of the more significant Marvel pets, listings of both the comic book cowboy horses of the old west and further Marvel miscellaneous pets, and various cover ideas.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Six infinity gems of "immense power" are separated from each other and missing. Who will recover them first? Those who will use them for good, or those who will use them for evil? The race is on. And instead some of the most familiar human superheroes taking the lead (such as Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), their pets will team up and rise to the occasion. Led by Mr. Fantastic's dog LockJaw and a frog entrusted with the powers of Thor, this team of pet avengers will show that they might just have what it takes to rival the forces of evil. 

Setting: It's challenging to really pinpoint an exact setting in this case. This graphic novel moves across significant distances of time and space. One location that might generate some reader interest is the White House in Washington, DC.   

Characters: Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt, Medusa, LockJaw, Throg, RedWing, HairBall, Ms. Lion, LockHeed, Zabu, secret service agents, Thanos

Themes: Identity, Teamwork, Problem-solving, Good and Evil, Relationships

Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions:

  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Call of the Wild or White Fang by Jack London
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. 

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

4. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Suggested Guided Writing Lesson Plan

Since this story emphasizes rethinking traditional and familiar comic characterization, I recommend that teachers emphasize a similar line of thinking with their own students. The following guided writing lesson plan asks students to practice rethinking characterization in their own writing.

Note: Because this is a writing lesson plan, the following steps should take place after students have read LockJaw and the Pet Avengers (and any accompanying literature).

Step 1: Planning

Teachers will not only need to plan ahead for this guided writing lesson plan, but also be ready to share that plan with students at the beginning of class. 

In order to plan for this particular guided writing lesson plan teachers will need to:

- group students according to their writing abilities (which can be done by either grouping similar ability-level students together, or by grouping students with diverse ability-levels together). 

Step 2: Mini-Lesson

Next, teachers can present their mini-lesson plan. Either as a class or in individual groups, students should be asked to think about the different Pet Avengers (ideally, teachers would also give students a handout that lists the various Pet Avengers and their abilities). After reviewing the various Pet Avengers and their abilities, ask students to brainstorm some new ideas for animal characters that could join the Pet Avengers. These lists can be shared on the board, as a class, or be kept by the individual groups. 

Once the lists are complete, the teacher can then model what students will be asked to do in their own writing.  With a prepared example, teachers should present their own idea for a new Pet Avenger, which includes three paragraphs:

Paragraph 1: The new Pet Avenger's identity: What type of animal? Why? Significance of new Pet Avenger's name.

Paragraph 2: The new Pet Avenger's role within the group: significant abilities, personality traits, and perhaps even some key sayings.

Paragraph 3: Rational for why the student choose this particular animal as a Pet Avenger. 

Step 3: Write

At this point, students need time to write their three paragraphs.

Step 4: Conference

When students have had enough time to write about their new Pet Avenger ideas, teachers should move from group-to-group, listening to student ideas and offering advice.

Step 5: Share

Finally, students can share their new Pet Avenger character ideas with the rest of the class. 

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.