gimmick ˈɡimik/ noun
a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.
synonyms: publicity stunt, contrivance, scheme, stratagem, ploy;informalshtick
Every Marvel movie features snappy quips, and one of my favorite lines from Captain America: Civil War comes from hero Falcon, when he and Bucky first run into Spider-Man:
Gimmicks have a long history in comic books. Specifically, let’s look at comic book gimmick covers. Like any good “publicity stunt,” gimmick covers draw attention to sell more comic books. Typically these specific issues celebrate milestone anniversaries, debut series, or other special events.
The good folks at Comic Book Resources (CBR) recently shared their “All-Time Greatest Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” and you can read about it right here.
In this list, you’ll learn all kinds of neat history and trivia, including what made these gimmicks special. Behold covers with poly-bagged pop-ups, glow-in-the-dark skeletons, embossed chromium and/or foil, die-cut claw marks, bullet holes, and more.
My favorite is the Superman “Colorform” cover, where you can create your own battle scene using the reusable plastic pieces. (iPad got nothin’ on Coloforms.)
Gimmicks are fun, but they can also go horribly wrong. To wit, CBR contributors also compiled the “All-Time Worst Comic Book Gimmick Covers,” which you can read here if you dare.
These unfortunate “shticks” include lenticular artwork, face-shaped die-cut covers, duplicate monochrome colors, Magic Eye illusions, body heat-sensitive “thermochrome,” and more bullet holes.
Gimmick comic book covers have mostly disappeared, but new ideas (or old revivals) pop up from time to time. The same is true for educational gimmicks. Teachers must be vigilant in protecting their students (and themselves) from too many gimmicks, fads, and ploys.
What are some of these educational gimmicks? For a start, take a look at the following graphic highlighting “20 Years of Educational Fads,” put together by Te@cher Toolkit (“the most influential blog on education in the UK”).
You can read more here about each gimmick, myth, fad, and/or hearsay, and see how much you agree.
Such new (or repackaged) educational ideas begin as noteworthy or eye-catching. A financial boost often jumpstarts such initiatives. But eventually the dollars dwindle away, followed by fading enthusiasm and support. Given the effort and time spent by various stakeholders, you can imagine the subsequent feelings of resentment and distrust.
Please note that I am not poo-pooing all gimmicks. After all, I’m the guy who forked over cash to get this hologram-highlighted wrap-around cover:
And this foil embossed beauty:
And even this one:
(Yup, that’s a special #0 issue mini-comic glued to the cover of the #1 issue regular-sized comic.)
Gimmicks can be good for a laugh. And sometimes they are a breath of fresh air. Used right, gimmicks can make cute mementos, quick distractions, and useful object lessons.
Nevertheless, it’s important to distinguish between a novel trick (that’s fun for a little while) and a credible research-supported practice (that stands the test of time).
What about you? What educational gimmicks have you enjoyed, advocated, and/or suffered?