A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May 2009 bring many blessings and great comic art! (Pictured: Baby New Year gets a security upgrade)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen? Maybe No one..

Would Fox just tell Warner Bros how much money it wants so we can get this film out to the public already? Somebody powerful, start up the threat of a boycott, will ya? I'd do it, but I can't even get my oldest son to stop "Dog Whispering" me. (Seriously, "Psshht!" is his favorite thing to do now when we tell him something he doesn't like).

(This is where I would post a yellow frowny face with some red blotch on it if I had access to my editing software)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Poverty and the Brain

It took me a long time to realize we grew up poor. My mother, like so many other Americans, would tell me, "Well, there are people who surely have more than we do, but there are people who have a lot less than we do too, so we must be middle class" once I got around to asking questions, and I believed her for a long time.

As an adult and as an academic, though, I now see the impact that being raised in poverty has had on my development and on my world view. A growing body of evidence is suggesting that poverty has a major impact on the brain development of children. Partly because children in poverty-stricken homes have so few quality verbal and reading interactions, areas of their brains don't function as well as they should.
Now, how does this possibly tie into a blog focusing on comics and education? Perhaps in the past you've been , or at least you know or have known, a teacher who did or does not allow certain types of literature in his/her classroom, under the ideology that not all text can be considered literature. One thing I glean from these types of studies is a greater appreciation for accepting all texts, comics included, in the classroom, because the textual interactions we allow our students to have may be among the best or only ones to which some of them have access.

Me Tarzan; You Hooked Reader!

Graphic Novel Reporter has a great little ditty from Bill Willingham (Fables) detailing the text that made him an avid reader. Think "loincloth" and enjoy!

Good Sign or Harbinger of Trouble?

The excellent graphic novel publisher First Second (:01) has been absorbed into MacMillan's children's publishing line. Just as did Tom Spurgeon(follow link embedded in this post's title), I noticed that the most recent catalogue from :01 lacked significant graphic novels marketed to more mature audiences. This is a real shame, as some of :01's best books have been best suited for teens and up.

Is this good news or not so great information? On the one hand, if publishers are pushing kid-friendly graphic novels, they may be "building the gateway" for more mature titles to make a comeback as these readers get hooked and want more sophisticated material.

On the other hand, as has been noted in this blog and several others, we're seeing stand-alone original graphic novels for older readers take a bit of a hit as publishers move to younger audiences and marketers keep pushing the "graphic adaptation" route (which has its place but represents "one step forward, two step back" thinking, in my opinion) to teachers.

I implore you, motivated readers!: Support good graphic novels for their own merits and move beyond the "easy" work of thinking you're progressive because you're letting kids read a graphic adaptation of the Iliad. Sure, you're on the right track as far as comics integration go, but you're only at step one. Go read some great titles like Good-bye, Chunky Rice, Bone, or even Persepolis or Deogratias if you want to see some new and exciting epic journeys unfold!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bring in '09!

I just finished my first real semester at UTEP (not counting a summer session course), and my comics offerings were slim but good. Students in my "Dramatic Modes of the English Language Arts" were asked to read from Big Fat Little Lit and/or the Smithsonian Collection of Comic-Book Stories. Students on my "English Lab" course had the opportunity to craft lesson plans from excerpts from Will Eisner's "Izzy the Cockroach" and the web-comic version of "After the Deluge." I also had an article on graphic novels and the "Genre vs. Format" debate published in The ALAN Review, was part of an NCTE web seminar on teaching graphic novels, was part of 4 presentations on sequential art and literacy at the NCTE national convention, and was a keynote or guest speaker at several state-level NCTE conferences (New Hampshire, Iowa, Oregon and North Carolina).

As full of comics goodness as 2008 was for me and those willing to listen to me, Spring semester and the first half of 09 look to really be buzzing with Carter-crafted graphic novel pedagogy excitement!:

1. I'll have an article on graphic novels in a journal with major circulation that should finally extend the conversation on GN's and education beyond the "phase 1" mode of defining and listing. More on that when it is available, but expect something in March in a journal that reaches almost 110,000 readers.

2. I'll be teaching my "English Lab" course again and will touch on graphic novels in the same ways as mentioned before and in asking students to consider full definitions of text, reading, literacy, and the English Language Arts as defined by NCTE.

3. I'll be offering a special topics graduate-level course entitled "Teaching the Graphic Novel" which will explore research and scholarship on teaching GN's in k-12 settings with multiple student populations. And, of course, we'll be reading great graphic novels -- standards like Maus and Persepolis -- and newer titles like La Perdida, American Widow, and The Education of Hopey Glass. We'll throw in some comics scholarship, some critical theory, and some process assignments and hopefully have a blast.

4. In that class, we'll be reading Watchmen, and I hope to be able to work with an area theatre to host a special viewing for my class and maybe even do a talk on the novel before or after the viewing. Let's hope all the red tape clears and the movie actually makes it to the box office!!

5. I'm hosting a mini-conference on "The Comics in El Paso" which I should have subtitled "Border Issues" since the folks who will be speaking, Jaime Portillo, Julian Lawler, and keynote Jai Nitz will all talk about how El Paso and Juarez influence or influenced their recent work, and one reads comics by literally crossing borders from panel to panel.

6. I have had major positive news from my publisher about my second edited collection on teaching graphic novels and will be very busy getting the manuscript prepped for an Autumn 09 debut.

7. Number 6 happened in part because my first book on the subject, Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel, continues to do well. It is in its second printing and has broken the 100,000 rank at Amazon.com several times over the past few months. That might not ever top the time I saw it in the top 15,000 titles, but that's still pretty good.

8. There's the possibility that a chapter in a book on teaching graphic novels at the college level might finally get published and also coincide nicely with the release of the Watchmen movie, and I have at least two other chapters or articles accepted on comics and pedagogy for further-down-the-road ventures, and I have three entries for the upcoming revised edition of an encyclopedia of comic art to get to the editor.

9. I'll also be continuing work on the conference front: I'll be a keynote speaker at the first-annual Graphica Conference in NYC, assuming the parties involved can get some things sorted out, and I'll be workshopping on comics and literacy elements in Missouri at the big "Write to Learn" conference.

And that's just what I know for now. I'll keep looking for new possibilities and doing scholarship/research on SANE issues 'till it drives me crazy, or 'till it tenures me. Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I'll keep at as long as I'm able, which I hope will be a long time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Graphic Novel Reporter Goes Live!

A new resource for news and reviews and more on GN's. They've got a kids section and look to be somewhat student-friendly, but it's just up, so it will take some time to truly figure out their identity. But, it is another outlet for info, and the more the merrier!

"Best Of" Round-up

Dick H. is gathering up many of the "Best Of" lists on the year's notable graphic novels and making them available on his blog. That is tedious work, so thanks to this brave and resourceful soul!

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Year in Review" Stuffs Popping Up

Along with all the "Best Of" lists populating comics blogs as of late, "Year in Review" articles have been bountiful as well, particularly as folks compare this year's "finally we call it a recession" market to those of recent years past.

I was glad to see Heidi at the Beat notice something about graphic novel publishing that I too had noticed after visiting the exhibitor's booths at this year's NCTE:

"Plus, if you look closely, most of the books coming out from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hill & Wang and so on, are beginning to slide into two camps: non-fiction “teaching” comics, such as the bestselling 9/11 Report graphic novel, (which had a little-noted, low-selling sequel this year), and bestselling fiction adaptations, like Tokyopop/HarperCollinsmanga adaptation of Erin Hunter’s The Warriors, which have sold thousands and thousands of copies."

Heidi is speaking generally, of course, but her conclusion was one I reached at NCTE. There were some great exceptions. The :01 booth was chocked full of great books, and I know of many wonderful graphic novels that weren't being marketed to the ELA educators at the convention. But, if one looked at what was there and excepted the :01 excellence, one saw exactly what Heidi noticed.

Heidi goes on to say that the graphic novel tidal wave has bottomed out but not been destroyed.

I worry that companies will continue to market graphic novels that were made specifically for "teaching purposes," because those books are usually of the worst quality.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: what we need are graphic novelists being graphic novelists. Art Spiegelman has no obligation or responsibility to create comics for the middle or high school classroom. He should simply go about creating his art as he sees fit. It's up to educators to learn about the graphic novel and look at those excellent works and find the pedagogical potential in them. (caveat: Spiegelman and Mouly have been doing some excellent comics work for kids, though. But they're doing it because they want to and can do great work. I'm not suggesting comics artists shouldn't create kids or teens-centered work if they want to, just that they shouldn't feel bound to in any regard.) Teachers teach. Artists create art. Informed teachers know how to integrate art -- and everything else of relevance -- into their classrooms.

Recently I was interviewed by someone who asked me how important lexile scores were when it came to teachers using comics. I told the interviewer that if I were looking for graphic novels, and I saw some with lexile scores and pre-packaged with associated AR points or grade levels, I'd be very dubious of their quality. I'd know they were made and marketed directly to me, the teacher, playing off what marketers thought of as "flash points" to draw my attention and "make my job easier" rather than crafted with quality of material in mind. I told the interviewer, good teachers already know how to level texts.

Better for teachers to look at the sort of themes or big questions they are exploring in their classrooms and look for the high-quality comic art that can help their students further explore said themes and questions. Otherwise, what will happen is eventually folks will catch wise to the poor quality of graphic novels marketed to teachers, and the backlash against them will gain considerable ground, consequently mask marketing to teachers the idea that no comics art is worth teaching, which is the thinking that many already have anyway.

I maintain that only good comics material will have what it takes to help teachers and students build learning connections. If I were a teacher and saw a company trying to sell me graphic novels based only readability or lexile score rather than on theme, big ideas, and excellence of story-telling, I'd be wary.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good Golly, Mrs.Molly! Kids Sure Love the Bone (Series)!

Not near as nasty as it sounds: A volunteer at a public school library talks about how popular Jeff Smith's Bone series is and how kids who read comics seem to actually be gaining a bit of literacy by doing so. Seems having an environment that is friendly to their interests helps their motivation for learning. Whoodathunkit?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NCTE and 21st Century Skills and Help for Educators

From recent NCTE Inboxes:

P21 Offers Free Guidance for English Teachers: "This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st-century education system," said Kylene Beers, NCTE president. eSchool News, December 3, 2008

This Fair-Use Guide Offers Copyright ShelterNCTE worked with media and legal experts to develop the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. eSchool News, December 8, 2008

NCTE Takes Stands Against Scripted Curricula and English-Only Mandates"
At the 98th NCTE Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, NCTE members adopted resolutions against one-size-fits-all, scripted curricula and against curricula that do not provide English language learners with the best learning opportunities. See the Resolution on Scripted Curricula and the Resolution on English-Only Instructional Policies.

Media Bombardment Is Linked to Ill Effects during Childhood:A meta-analysis of studies on the effects of media on children and adolescents has shown that the number of contact hours with the media and/or the media's content impact the health of children and adolescents. The Washington Post, December 2, 2008

So What Is 21st Century Learning, Anyhow?:
Teachers can use the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment to gauge whether they are providing their students with 21st century learning experiences and assessing these in 21st century ways.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills Debuts:
"21st Century Skills and English Map"NCTE has joined The Partnership for 21st Century Skills to produce the "21st Century Skills and English Map," a framework for integrating 21st century skills into the K-12 English curriculum. T.H.E. Journal, November 24, 2008

Nickelodeon Magazine Wants Kids' Votes For Fave Comics, Strips, and GN's

Heidi at The Beat has the list of categories and titles nominated. An interesting one that is popping up on other lists as well: Brian Selznick's excellent book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It's actually a hybrid text combining prose, illustrated story, sequential art, and film elements. If folks want to call it a graphic novel, that's OK. I may have done so myself. But, it's an excellent book no matter how it is categorized.

Harvard's English Department Moves Toward Thematic Units?

For all the shit educators and teacher educators take from other folks in other departments and from the public at large, it's good to see that, maybe, just maybe, our "crazy" ideas about how students actually learn is useful information.

Undergraduate English courses at none other than Harvard are being reconfigured:

"We are diminishing the role of chronology as the absolute, as the only organizing rubric ... to combine it with genres and with geography as equally viable ways of thinking about literature and studying literature,” says one Crimson representative.

Before craggy traditionalists start bemoaning the degradation of an Ivy League education, let us all take a moment to say "Woot! Woot!"

CBR Previews Offerings for Free Comic Book Day 2009

May 2, 2009. Mark it on your calendars. That's Free Comic Book Day! Comic Book Resources has posted some previews of books you can snag for gratis. And, remember, if you have a generous comics provider or hit up the sales associate in the days after the event, you might be able to score a class set or two of certain titles.

For more information on Free Comic Book Day, type the title into this blog's search box. It's in the upper-left corner. See it? No, over a bit. The far upper-left corner. There ya go. ;)

Just So You See it Coming: Fables TV Show

Many news outlets are reporting that popular Vertigo/DC Comics series Fables is coming to television soon. This is important to teachers for several reasons, so let me break it down for you:
Fables is a wonderfully written and mature title that deals with popular and obscure figures from various fairy tale mythoi, mostly European, but not exclusively so. My wife and I are big fans. We have at least 6 of the trades. Along with Strangers in Paradise, it is one of the few comics titles to capture my wife's attention, and many of my female students seem intrigued by it.

Basically there's the non-magic world of our everyday existence, and then there are the Fables, as they are called, the fairy tale folk of old who have been ran out of their homelands and forced to live in our world. But, they're not all on the same side all the time. There are plenty of self-serving characters that stay true to their roots, but the "special sauce" of the series is how these traits get revisioned in ways that represent the character accurately but with intriguing twists.

As a teacher you probably know that students' knowledge of core fairy tale stories (note I don't say "core fairy tale texts" because that gets a little messy) has trailed off dramatically, especially if you've been doing this for a while. There was a time when we could expect students to have a base understanding of certain tales or fables or parables. Then Disney came along. Then He-Man. Then Mutant Ninja Turtles, and then the Internet, and soon it seemed like making a fairy tale reference left us with as many blank stares from students as if we'd just mentioned the Hindenburg or Mary Wilkins Freeman (inside joke, there).

If Fables is a hit on TV, you can expect teachers everywhere to clamor over it, sing its praises, and start to dust off or recreate their fairy tale units or at the least their fairy tale repertoire of references. And that will be just great.

But, Fables, wonderful as it is, well, it really, really, makes its characters real "people," with real people desires and urges and flaws and appetites. It wouldn't surprise me if TV schmucks turned Fables into "Desperate House Wives with Cinderella, Snow White and Rose Red." So, heads up.

That being said, I have encouraged students to make use of the excellent material that Fables the comic offers, but some folks will need to use it in excerpt due to nudity and sexual situations (or bestiality in the case of the manipulative and kinky Goldilocks, who is sleeping with Boo, or Baby Bear). And it is definitely a series that I recommend to folks. The quality of the story-telling and the creativity with and respect for the core material is striking.
So, get excited! Read these books! Integrate them into your classrooms as you feel you can. And keep your fingers crossed that, if it makes it to the airwaves, the Fables television show will be as good as the comic, and for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Duke University Press Publishes Comic on Fair Use

It's probably not as good a resource for teachers as NCTE's recent fair use document, but Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain looks like an interesting read. Thanks to M. de la Iglesia for drawing this to my attention. A PDF download is possible by following the link and scrolling down a bit.

Loving the ClustrMaps App, Loving my Readers

I have had this blog for over 2 years now and just added a counter in June. My unique hits have never been outstanding, but in the blogosphere -- hell, even in education -- I have a niche audience.

But lemme tellya, being able to see my ClustrMaps clusters makes me very happy. I can see that I have a lot of readers in the Midwest and in the Northeast, for example, and that the message of comics in education is slowly being spread in even areas of the country where progressive education sometimes has to fight tooth and nail. That's invigorating!

And I'm especially excited to be getting hits from folks in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America!

Thanks to everyone who reads EN/SANE world! I'll keep the links, notes, news and ideas coming, and ya'll keep visiting (and telling your friends about the site as well!)

NY Magazine's Best Of Graphic Novels

You can't go one step in cyberspace this time o' year without tripping over one of these "Best of" lists. With book sales and now even graphic novel sales showing declines from last year, knowing what books multiple sources say are the year's cream of the crop can't be such a bad thing, though.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Lots of New Content at Diamond's Bookshelf...

...including a new article by Peter Gutierrez in which he asks educators who do work with comics to offer their "elevator pitch" to reluctant educators. Yours truly and a host of other good folks are quoted.

From The Jewish Daily: "Graphic Confessions of Jewish Women"

Friday, December 05, 2008

SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade

It seems all girls are asked to be supergirls nowadays, to want it all (Capitalism's take on feminism), expect it all, and do it all. So, maybe there will be a captive audience for the new Supergirl comic, featuring the title character as "an awkward teen heroine struggling to find her place in a boarding school full of friends and foes."

This Supergirl seems to be less eye-candy and more struggling everygirl with superpowers. Perhaps she'll bridge the gap left by The Powerpuff Girls, a television show and comics featuring three adorable elementary schoolers with an array of heroic talents. But, this series can also explore the "puberty set" of issues, something that would have been rather disconcerting to see from Blossom or Bubbles.

Here's hoping the series is a sleeper hit. It looks like the type of comic -- fun, hip, and finally audience aware -- that Supergirl has needed for years.

NPR's Best Graphic Novels of 08

Marvel at folks finally fighting back in the comments section in regards to the overuse of the line "comics aren't for kids anymore!" Ah, my brethren!

Andrew Lorenzi's Robin in the Rye

Looking for an interesting way to delve into or review Catcher in the Rye? (I'm certainly not. This remains a book that I just can't get into no matter how hard I try. Holden's a whiny little bitch, in my opinion). Try Lorenzi's take on key scenes using characters from the cast of Batman comics.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Parable for Early Career Teachers

After a student of mine who is graduating this week adamantly informed me that she was a good teacher (though I hadn't suggested otherwise; she was sore because I have not been grading her work as highly as others have, apparently) and knew it because she has been in the schools -- "I just completed my internship!" she demanded -- and did well, I started to reflect on what it means to be a success in certain school districts. I came up with this parable for early-career teachers with the caution not to get too haughty and to always reflect on the micro and macro issues that define one's successes.

Top 20 Graphic Novels of November 2008

I don't usually link to ICV2's posts on Bookscan's sales rankings, but since it's almost Christmas and we've been seeing "Best of" and "Great Gifts" lists, I thought it might be nice for folks to see what other people are buying as the holidays inch ever closer. Two -- count'em two -- versions of Watchmen are on the list. I have an old version with the original coloring, which I love, and I also have the Absolute version, so I'm set, but with the movie looming, if I knew a mature comics reader (high school and up; 18+ if you're gift-giving to a kid whose reading habits are highly censored by others), I'd recommend picking up any edition.

More Rumination on "Choose Your Own Adventure"

Some thing that I didn't get to in yesterday's review of Nightmare on Zombie Island:

* The degree of interactivity in choose your own adventure-style text matches well with Reader Response notions of the individualistic reading experience.

* According to closure theory, comics also require readers to fill in the blanks and make decisions about what has happened between panels or off-panel.

* This isn't a weakness, nor is it without precedent. Many Greek tragedies let the heinous stuff happen off-stage, letting the scenes become as horrific as they could be in the mind's eyes of each spectator/participant.

* This higher degree of overt participation and interaction, if not control, situates choose your own adventure-type texts well into 21st century literacies and those considered Multimodal.

* The concept of alternate or simultaneous realities essentially exists in these texts, tying them to string theory and some pretty high-level physics concepts. As I reflect, I wonder if my interest in these texts, while possibly being part of the reason I became a little neurotic about decision making, also helped develop my sense for seeing multiple points of view and considering problems from different angles. I also wonder if some of the magic I found in mulling over multiple and alternate realities resurfaced as I decided on some of my favorite graphic novelists/comics writers, like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, both of whom deal with issues of time, space, and multiple and alternate realities and dimensions in their writings.

All this from those "worthless little paperbacks" -- they had so much in common with that other "trash" reading from the get-go. Adding the sequential art element to them? Brilliant!
(Left: The marriage of comics and choose your own adventure-style texts drives these two to drink -- for celebration)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Review of Nightmare on Zombie Island

First off, I hate zombies. Can't stand them, don't like the sub-genre of zombie horror, am appalled by all the comics out there doing zombie versions of super-heroes, and just don't get the whole psychosexual thrill of "humans" wanting to consume other humans.

But, for the sake of lauding Graphic Universe's fifth book in its "Twisted Journeys" series, I'll tolerate the fact that Nightmare on Zombie Island is chocked full of the undead.

The book is a "choose your own adventure" text that calls itself a graphic novel but is actually one of those hybrid texts like The Invention of Hugo Cabret or the recently-cancelled Abadazad series. It combines illustrations and pages of traditional print text with full-on sequential art pages and panels.

I should tell you that if it wasn't for Choose Your Own Adventure books and Encyclopedia Brown -- and especially an Encyclopedia Brown Choose Your Own Adventure book -- I probably would have never fallen in love with print-based books. Well, I have to add the 1959 World Book Encyclopedias to that list of early influences too.

So, what I've detailed to you above is a love of facts-based and logic-based texts (making me typical of boys and their reading interests), but you already know me as a lover of comics as well.

The thing about comics and choose your own adventure-style books is that they also represent some of the most abhorred forms of text by many traditionalist teachers. But, I thoroughly relished in having control of the story. I would speculate and predict what would happen based on my choices, and I took them seriously. I had one Choose Your Own Adventure book featuring the Transformers, and I remember that the fates were often pretty damn harsh, like slowly melting or rusting or being ripped limb-for-limb (I think that folks thought that since the main characters were robots, young readers wouldn't be as stunned by the ravages -- this can also be seen in some of the brutal covers of the 1980s Marvel Transformers comic books. Consider the sample image and remember that this series was really for kids. If that had been people getting shot, the 1950s would have started all over again!). I built up my inference skills and my logic by trying to get into the writers' heads and using what I had learned about the twists from previous texts to help me craft my decisions. And, honestly, if I still screwed up and killed Optimus Prime, I felt deep guilt.

Something else about those texts: they had moral and ethics education undercurrents in them. Many times, your fate was tied not only to the decisions you made, but the type of decisions you made. For example, if one was a good boy or girl and kept a strong sense of moral code, one would usually end up OK, usually. But, if was selfish or committed one of the deadly sins, one often suffered for it.

That's the trend in Nightmare on Zombie Island as well, as you and some friends find yourself on an island with a pirate ship's hidden treasure deep in its bowels. The treasure remains undisturbed, and you escape the zombies or have little trouble. If, however, you take the booty without permission (insert terrible sardonic thought of bridging this text to Speak here), you're not going to have many happy endings.

This book is fun. It's not amazing, or jaw-droppingly written, but it's a nice romp through a hybrid text that puts the reader in charge of the reading experience. And the zombies are pirate zombies, which seem to be the best kind nowadays.
(Right: Jack Sparrow loves zombies, and pirates, but he really loves zombie pirates. And Pilate's, and 21 Jump Street because it launched his career -- well, not as a pirate, but as an actor. Someone with great Depp of character. That's a joke, not as tasteless as the Speak reference, which I still feel guilty about even writing, but the sad thing is that it came to me so quickly -- I didn't have to think about it as a "joke" -- that I'm a little disturbed by it and had to write it out as a form of confessional. Speaking of booty, though, based on the thoughts of many of my students, Jack Sparrow loves booty and booty loves Jack Sparrow, and the good captain will never suffer from a lack of booty no matter how much booty he gives away.)

Review of Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics

Another great piece from the folks at Comixology.

Get Comics Previews on your iPhone

Michael Chabon on Comics

Though this article from Idaho Mountain Express has "genre" in the title, Chabon craftily discusses comics as a medium and a form (you go, guy!). Some folks just love it when "legitimate" writers talk about comics, and Chabon has to be a leader in this regard as he's been unabashed in talking about them as an influence for his work. He's not one of those writers who "admits" to loving comics but who embraces their impact, which is how it should be.

School Library Journal's List of Adult Books for Kid Readers

This link will lead you to the article, where you'll no doubt note that graphic novels are given their own section. Lots of familiar titles in there if you've been keeping up with various "Best Of" or "Favorites" lists this year.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Comics and Conflict: An Audio Podcast

Since comics and contact zone pedagogy are taking up a lot of my scholarly interest right now, I was very pleased to see a link to this podcast featuring some great names in comics and comics scholarship. Thanks to Tom Spurgeon of Comics Reporter for drawing my attention to this very useful resource that has direct pedagogical implications.

Monday, December 01, 2008

10 Comics that Made a Great Writer Cry

Well, not great like Whitman, but I've just discovered the lucid writing of Shaenon K. Garrity of Comixology.com. Thanks to this link posted over at The Beat, I'll be adding Comixology to my links section over there on the right, because the site has some good writers. In this particular feature, Garrity reminds us of the strong pathos associated with the comics art form.

Review of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories V.2

Ivan Brunetti's second anthology promises stories that comprise more of a family of sequential art tales rather than keep the singularity of theme and individuality of the first collection from a year or so ago. "Family" really comes off as another word for the more accurate phrase "diversity of styles and themes but still all bound as sequential art," but one can hardly fault Brunetti for his phrasing. His last anthology was a little too centered on the theme of loneliness, in my opinion, so it is good to see him branching out.

The best things about this anthology are that the stories come not only from a multitude of artists but a multitude of generations as well and that many of the stories are highly readable.
This is not like the "Best of 2008" anthology reviewed here in early November in that here one can read works from Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Jaime Hernandez and Phoebe Gloeckner in the same volume.

However, I find at least a fourth of the volume to comprise dubious choices for inclusion. Some are simply unreadable, either via clarity of style (I'm just not one of those fellows who likes intentionally messy cartoons), reproduction size, or the element of neurosis the selection reveals. (Am I the only one who is starting to feel like he got kicked in the head every time he reads another sequential art narrative that illustrates how depraved cartoonists seem to be, or at least how depraved they think we are as a species?).

There are some real gems in the anthology, to be sure. The last quarter of the book is a delight and includes some heavy hitters of cartooning. And I must say, as I flip back through the book, there are some stories I just don't remember reading -- they just didn't stick with me -- but there are others, like the selections from Lynda Barry and Jessica Abel, that I'm thinking I must have glossed over. They seem fresh and exciting. But how did I miss them the first time?

So far, my favorite selections are Mack White's parable "The Nudist Nuns of Goat Island" and Jim Woodring's "Particular Mind," which has a great scene where an uppity young female artist tells a cartoonist (unbeknownst to her) that creating comic art is "different" for her -- she really sees it as an art form. I also appreciated being exposed to artists like Gloeckner whom I hadn't paid much attention to in the past.

Overall, this is a good, but not really jaw-dropping, anthology. It is a bit pricey but probably worth the having simply because so many others will have seen it. I prefer the Best American Comics of 2008 anthology to this one but admit that not giving it higher marks is more Brunetti's tastes being different from my own than my drastic disenchantment for the bulk of its material.

My Blog in Wordle as of December 1, 2008

If you're not familiar with the Wordle application, you've got to give it a try. Just type in some text or the address of your favorite blog, and it creates a customizable word cloud letting you know which words are most dominant in your writing. What a great visualization for budding writers and veterans alike! Visit http://www.wordle.net/

Friday, November 28, 2008

Link to Some Graphic Novel Shopping Guides

As for my own suggestions, you can't go wrong with anything Alan Moore for those with sophisticated and off-kilter tastes. For younger readers, Bone, American Born Chinese, Goodbye Chunky Rice, Electric Girl, or any of the Toon Book titles, especially titles in the Little Lit series, are excellent choices.

More for older readers? Anything Eisner, something from Joe Sacco, Deogratias: A Tale from Rwanda, the latest "Best American Comics" anthology, and the new Brunetti anthology is OK too.

But don't just take my word for it, follow the link to The Beat and find additional links to guides from Tom Spurgeon and Comic Book Resources.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving; just hide the last item on that list if this guy knocks on your door:

UK Marketing Studies on Kids and Comics

Click here and here and here for some stories compiled by Hedi over at The Beat dealing with how numbers show that British youngsters are reading to comics in excitingly large numbers. Hey, I know there are some lit snobs out there, some gaming snobs, and surely some film snobs as well, but we all have to admit it is great to see kids holding something in print and having a great time with it.-- even if these particular kids do talk all funny and remind us of those Harry Potter kids. ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath

Alexis E. Fajardo, illustrator at the famed Charles M. Schulz studio, is on a mission to retell the epic tales of civilization. His main characters as he begins this quest? Beowulf and Grendel, who are revealed to be tied together more closely than anyone could imagine in the book to start the series of revisionist tales, Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath.

As it turns out, the story behind Beowulf and his foes has been a misunderstanding, a twisting of the truth over thousands of years. That's what you get when you're relying on an oral tradition, I guess. In Fajardo's "truth," the dragon, Grendel's mom (Gertrude), Beowulf and Hrothgar are all blood relatives after a power-hungry Hrothgar makes a deal with the dragon to ensure that he'll rule his father's kingdom someday. Of course, no one wants anyone else to know who is related to whom, so the story is full of political intrigue, manipulation, and conflict. Add to the equation more macro-level politics as diverse bands squabble with other tribes over land, food, women, and loyalty, and the plot gets thick pretty quickly.

There is no shortage of Beowulf-inspired comic adaptations on the market right now. What sets this title apart is that it works from a level "one up" from the bulk of its contemporaries. It does not seek a simple retelling of the Beowulf story so that struggling readers can gain access to the story through alternate or complementary means; it retells via a revisioning of the story, taking classic characters and timeless themes and revamping them to craft a completely new and exciting narrative that is inspired by the original but by no means bound by it, unlike how Hrothgar is bound to his oath, which acts the impetus for much of the destruction and dissonance in the title.

It builds interest in the original text by honoring it but playing with it; it builds student motivation to read the original without necessarily having that as its ultimate goal. Those who read Fajardo's revisionist romp may be moved to the canonical poem Beowulf or John Gardner's Grendel because they've developed a love for the characters as they have been more fully examined in the graphic novel. Surely surprises await those who have never read the poem when they do so, and I'll bet that when those readers get to certain spots often read as victorious, they'll have a deeper reaction than most readers who see certain de-limbings and dragon-slaying as par for the course for the epic form.

Marketed to readers in grades 9 and up, Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath is a fun, character-building extension of the Beowulf mythos and illustrates how great art continues to inspire other great art from generation to generation, century to century.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blue Beetle Cancelled

Unfortunately, El Paso's resident hero will no longer have his own title after issue #36. DC has pulled the plug on Jaime Reyes' solo book, but just because the series is cancelled doesn't mean the title character has to die. Expect Jaime to become a very prominent member of the Teen Titans as new writers integrate him better into that team book. So, though the series that tackled border issues, immigration, and what it meant to be Hispanic in the largest border town in the nation may be signing off for now, I'm willing to bet that the Reyes Blue Beetle is too important a figure to go unused for too long.

I wish I could find an image from a recent Blue Beetle comic where Jaime is dealing with being named an honorary border patrol agent by a savvy politician taking advantage of the hero's teenage naivety. As Jaime learns more about what being able to cross borders means for people in the region, he starts to reconsider the "honor" bestowed upon him. Residents protest the Blue Beetle. One sign reads, "I'm an illegal immigrant, just like Superman."

As a DC official states in the interview linked in my title for this posting, immigration was intended to be a major issue of the book but lost an audience as our presidential candidates focused on other issues. I have to wonder if being progressive in its outlook caused some sort of backlash against the series, but it will remain a tender favorite of mine for some time due to my new connection with the people of El Paso.

Life magazine Archives of Photos from the 50s Senate Hearings, Etc

Some great photos from Yale Joel have been released chronicling the comic book scare phenomenon that took place during the 1950s. Publisher's Weekly has some posted (follow the link in this post's title) and has the main link out to other photos as well.

Heidi at PW, thanks for drawing our attention to these images from dark days for comics, when common folks though that comics were a gateway to juvenile delinquency. Of course, research has shown they are gateways -- to more and more varied reading, but not to criminal records.

Success at NCTE 08!

Thanks to everyone who came to my session with Doug, Nancy, and Diane, to the High School Matters round table, to the YA Lit in the 21st Century round table, and to my demo at NCTE Central! It was great talking with you all -- maybe I'll see you in Philly, if not before, and we can continue our discussions on sequential art narratives in education!!

And if you're visiting the blog after picking up one of my fliers, welcome! I hope you'll find plenty of interesting resources, articles and reviews as you consider using comics in your classrooms.

As well, thanks to the publishers or distributors who let me take some review material. Hopefully I'll get reviews up on the site soon. I'm actually a little backlogged on that, but the restful holiday season (ha!) should give me some time to catch up. I was especially thrilled to talk with the rep from Diamond and a very sessy representative from :01! Ya'll keep up the great work!

It was also nice to see so many folks and to realize how my network is growing. I appreciate every opportunity I am given and try to have a "pass it forward" attitude when encountering new NCTE members or burgeoning professionals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My "The Graphic Novel in the 21st Century" Strip for NCTE 2008

Crafted at Toondoo.com:

And in another format:

Stan Lee Earns National Medal of Arts

President Bush recently honored several with a lifetime achievement honor for their work in the arts, and comics creator extraordinaire Stan Lee was among one of the recipients. "His complex plots and humane superheroes celebrate courage, honesty, and the importance of helping the less fortunate, reflecting America’s inherent goodness," said Bush.

He then asked Lee if he could get Tony Stark to build one of those "neat-o Iron Man heart protectors" for Dick Cheney. OK, he didn't, but that would have been hilarious.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Twist on the Comics as Language Learning Devices

There is a substantial volume of work out there detailing how comic strips and comic books can help students classified as ELL, but there are books out there using cartoons to help native English speakers learn other languages as well! Thanks to MH for drawing my attention to a book first published in 2000, The Oxford Spanish Cartoon-Strip vocabulary Builder.

Authors Monica Tamariz and Claire Bretecher suggest that following the strips and exercises can help one learn to speak Spanish not as it is taught in high schools, but how it is actually spoken by native speakers.

Teaching Graphic Novels in Canadian Schools

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bridging Activities with Comics Stories

Recently, my ENG 3349: "The Dramatic Modes of the English Language Arts" class spent three weeks considering how to use sequential art in their future middle and high school English classrooms. Readings and discussions culminated with several activities, including making a mini-comic via Comic Life software or similar programs.

Another activity, based on ideas associated with Young Adult literature (See Joan Kaywell's Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics series) and more recently with comic art (See my collection Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels) asked students to come up with a bridge that would link a comic story thematically with a more traditional text such that the comic piece could help build prior knowledge, pre-reading strategies, and text-to-text connections between the texts.

Students had read either Big Fat Little Lit or The Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Stories, both anthologies, and chose their comic stories from them. They had some great ideas!

Greed emerged as a major theme. Victor felt that the Big Fat Little Lit story "The Baker's Daughter," adapted by Harry Bliss, would make an excellent bridge to other works that dealt with greedy characters and the effects of avarice. Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," for example. Victor also noticed what became the second most -explored theme in the class: judging by appearances. He thought that because of this theme, the comic story might also be a neat bridge into Henry James' novella Daisy Miller.

Victoria found greed to be central to another Big Fat Little Lit expert, "It Was a Dark and Silly Night" by J. Otto Seilbod and Vivian Walsh. Because of how desire for money doomed its penguin characters, she though it would be a great match for Chaucer's "Pardoner's Tale."

Beyond Victor/Victoria, Sophia dealt with issues of greed and jealousy in Dan Clowes' interpretation of Sleeping Beauty from the Little Lit anthology. Clowes' version involves a mother who wants power for herself but knows that if a fair lady who married her son but now sleeps for years on end ever awakens and produces children, they will inherent the kingdom instead. So, she plots to make sure things go her way, only to be ruined by her own plotting and lust for control. Sophia noted direct connections to characters from Shakespeare's Othello, especially between the scheming mother and Iago.

On the theme of appearances, Jennifer wrote that "Pretty Ugly," by Ian Falconer and subtle genius David Sedaris, would be a nice pairing with Sandra Cisneros' "Chanclas" from The House on Mango Street. In the Cisneros, a young girl is embarrassed by her clunky old shoes and is afraid people will think poorly of her, but an uncle makes her the center of positive attention by getting her to dance with him, and all the anxieties melt away. Jennifer says that in the end of both these stories, the characters become comfortable with who they are.

Sara also thought "Pretty Ugly," collected in the Little Lit book, would be a good story for classroom use, especially if used to bridge into Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, in which certain humans are considered lesser beings because of the genetic make-up, just as the main character of "Pretty Ugly" is ostracized before making a sudden transformation. Mary Jenny though "Pretty Ugly" would be a good bridge into Batsy Byars' Summer of the Swans because both feature characters who feel different, like they don't fit in.

Rounding out ideas associated with Big Fat Little Lit choices, Erick thought Claude Ponti's interpretation of "The Enchanted Pumpkin" might be a quick little bridge into Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix because both stories might deal with characters who want to be something they aren't, or want to change themselves or others into something that allows them to escape from traits they'd rather not acknowledge.

Andrew was drawn to one of the collection's editors, Art Spiegelman, and his short comic "The Several Selves of Selby Sheldrake." The multiple emotional representations of Selby acted as a perfect visualization of the multiple emotional personas that Holden Caulfield seems to manifest in Catcher in the Rye.

The Smithsonian collection got some love from my students as well. Lynda Barry's "San Francisco" drew the attention of Liana. She thought it would fit well as a way to introduce Anne Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Both reveal the silliness and emotional roller coaster that is the life of young girls, Liana claims.

Lauren thought that the Fantastic Four reprint featuring the classic villain the Hate Monger would be a neat way to build connections concerning racism and fanaticism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, especially with its allusions to the Klan and other fanatical groups.

Dani enjoyed the R. Crumb selection "I Remember the Sixties" and thought she could use it to help students learn about alternate or underground scenes like those the Beat poets inhabited and created. She also felt she could extrapolate themes from the story into discussions on the poetry of feminist poets like Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, an idea that surely makes many Crumb critics grin from ear-to-ear as they see the oft-considered misogynist cartoonist's work appropriated for the serious study of feminist ethos. Dani admitted to having to pick and choose from the panels carefully but was excited about the bridge potential.

Esteban enjoyed a classic Spider-Man story where the arachnid kid continually runs into trouble, from one obstacle to the next, and found connections to the constant trials of epic heroes, especially Odysseus from The Odyssey.

Nicole enjoyed the Will Eisner short story "Izzy the Cockroach and the Meaning of Life" and felt it a smart bridge into the play Death of a Salesman. Both Willy Lohman and Jacob from the Eisner deal with feelings of uselessness and contemplate their place in the world after losing employment, she mentions.

Perry Moore's YA Novel May Get Small Screen Treatment

Hero, a Young Adult novel about a gay superhero, is being considered as a Showtime TV series produced by comics legend Stan Lee, according to IVC2.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NCTE, Others Collaborate on "The Code of Best Practices for Fair Use of Media Literacy Education"

So, you've got this great comic that you want to share with the class, but you've only got one copy and an opaque projector. Or, you want to share scenes from a graphic novel in excerpt, but you don't know how much is too much to share. Or, you've noticed that Watchmen seems to have a soundtrack, and you'd like to have students listen to the songs mentioned in the text, but how much of the song can you play? Your principal keeps telling you all these stories about lawsuits and is giving you one more reason to be paranoid. What to do?

Well, I've been teaching my students about fair use and using the advice found on page 228 of Mary T. Christel and Scott Sullivan's NCTE-published collection Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms, but now NCTE and other media organizations have joined together to bring greater clarity and ease of mind to classroom teachers who want to make the most of media resources.

(and Traci Gardner of NCTE is blogging about fair use this week too, if you don't have a copy of the Christel and Sullivan handy).

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Use of Media Literacy seeks to help by offering explanations, resources, definitions, and myths about Fair Use. Should I be able to embed the following video from the Center for Social Media without worry? Well, it gives me the option to embed, just like some comic strip sites are now offering, so it seems OK... but guess I'll have to read the new NCTE code to better know...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My New Home State Set To Impress Me -- and Take a Lead in Gaphic Novels in Education

The Diamond Bookshelf reports that the Texas Library Association will soon release a "Maverick Graphic Novel List" to help librarians get graphic novels in their collections and in their schools.

Not too shabby for a state that sometimes seems behind the times when it comes to progressive pedagogy! As history has shown us, once the librarians get going with graphic novels, more and more teachers will follow.

Typically, this is how it seems to go:

1. Librarians take the lead and get graphic novels in their collections

2. Librarians note amazing interest and huge gains in circulation numbers.

3. Librarians start talking with teachers, or visa-versa, about how graphic novels can engage reluctant readers.

4. Teachers come to see graphic novels as good for reluctant readers.

5. Hopefully teachers read more about graphic novels, learn that they are good for all sort of readers, from ELL to gifted student populations.

Review of Cleopatra: The Life of an Egyptian Queen

Another in Rosen's series of graphic biographies/graphic nonfiction, Gary Jeffrey, Anita Ganeri, and Ross Watton's Cleopatra: The Life of an Egyptian Queen is an impressive text.

It blends prose exposition, graphic storytelling, vocabulary and character charts, glossary and art in such a way as to really give the reader a complete feeling for the history of this enigmatic Egyptian.

It's an excellent complement to any prose textbook or encyclopedia entry on the subject of the Roman Empire and has well-rendered sequential panels featuring characters, clothing and auxiliaries that look historically accurate.

The graphic novel is not going to win an Eisner any time soon, but I was truly impressed by its breadth, its use of multiple formats, and the sincere effort and craft behind the book. One doesn't always expect much from these types of graphic novels, but this one, intended for upper elementary and middle school readers, delivers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Verily, so sayeth me, in yon scroll resembing fair word balloon"

Thanks to P. Coogan and J. Tondro for reminding me that the use of word balloon technology goes back a long way, even if the balloon itself has done some evolving:
Click here, scroll a bit, and enjoy.

"Tis your day to dispose of the refuse via trans-
port to yonder corner!"

More on Vocabulary

What to call sequential art narratives, especially comics and graphic novels, has been on the mind of various populations who study or who have recently "discovered" the form. I prefer sequential art narratives, obviously, but the term hasn't caught on because of its length and, my guess is, because it has the word "art" in it, and that tweaks literary-minded folks (I sort of laugh at this. Literature isn't art?). Others don't want nonfiction labeled under the heading of novel. We see "graphica," "graphic nonfiction," "poetry comics," etc. popping up to try to distinguish one form of comics-based sequential art from another. A recent discussion on a comics list serve brought up a redefining of the term "comics" as a shortening of the verb "co-mixing" since comics mix together words and images. Very cool idea, I think.

More Comics-Making Software and Programs!

so, you might know about ComicLife, but there are many other comics-making applications out there as well! One is Pikistrips, a web-based application that allows folks to upload their own photos and make photo-essays using the comic strip format. Comeeko is apparently very similar, if not the same thing as Pikistrips. Lou Novachek recently drew my attention to this article, which details a new program called Pixton. Pixton even offers a virtual classroom sort of cartooning!

And thanks to Meera for mentioning toondoo, yet another exciting application!

Friday, November 07, 2008

PCA/ACA looking for Proposals

CFP/Press release from Wendy Goldberg:

Conference: PCA/ACA 2008 National Conference (www.pcaaca.org)
Place: New Orleans Marriott, New Orleans, LA
Dates: April 8-11, 2009
Submission Deadline for proposals: Friday, November 21

This is the national meeting of the Popular Culture Association andthe American Culture Association, and this submission is under thearea "Asian Popular Culture."

Panel #1:Title: Horror Anime and MangaThis panel invites papers on any aspect of horror anime or manga.Essays may use texts that can be classically defined as "horror"(i.e., ghost stories) and may also explore the use of horror figures(i.e., vampires) in other genres (i.e., shoujo).

Panel #2Title: Anime and MangaOpen call for papers on any aspect of anime and manga studies.

We welcome submissions from a variety of academic and criticalapproaches.Submissions should be sent in the form of a 150-250 word abstract,outlining what you would like to present.

Include contact information,any audio-visual needs, and a CV.Submit by Friday, November 21, 2008 to Wendy Goldberge-mail: wendy.d.goldberg@uscga.edu

or snail mail:
Wendy Goldberg
Dept. of Humanities
United States Coast Guard Academy
27 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320

"Looks Good to Me": The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey

My students recently finished a 3-week stint learning about graphic novels and their pedagogical uses. One of the activities they had to do was bring in reviews of graphic novels they thought kids would find interesting. The Rabbi's Cat, a great series, was a popular choice. Well, here's a book about a Rabbi who doesn't need a feline to run his household. The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey is described as a combination of Jewish and American folklore.

It looks like a good read to me. It also helps me remember just how much sequential art in America owes to Jewish Americans. So, I'm glad to see some graphic novels exploring Jewish history, customs, and folklore directly.

Amazon and PW "Best Of" lists

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Election's Over. Now what?

Well, we've seen comic book creators and character supporting nominees, and we've seen comic book biographies of the candidates. Now that the race is over, what does sequential art have to offer us? How about a recap of the whole thing? That's what Dan Goldman's upcoming graphic novel appears to offer. A piece of history in the making, dealing with the topic of history in the making!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Drive to Focus more on 21st Century Literacies

From the latest NCTE INBOX:

School Leaders: Focus on New-Age Skills
A new survey says that 21st century assessments should be at the top of policymakers' lists. eSchool News, November 4, 2008

NCTE recently changed its "move toward a definition of 21st century literacies" statement to an actual "definition of 21st century literacies," so it is good to see these sort of articles in the inbox.

"Yes We Can" Engage in Visual Literacy

So, after the electoral votes tallied in favor of Obama, you immediately turned off your televisions and radios and eagerly awaited the transcript of Obama's victory speech and McCain's concession, right? It was hypertext that moved you to tears when you read about the 106 year old lady voting in Atlanta. It was the print out that inspired you more than you've been inspired in years, correct?

Not for most of you. Admit it: it was the visual, the auditory experience that made this so critical a moment. SEEING him take the stage, hearing his words, noting the expression in the audience's faces. Noting how the press visually represented the votes, the results, and how they framed the speech events that came shortly thereafter. If only for a moment, admit that on this day, listening, speaking, visualizing and visually representing made up the bulk of your READING experience. Sure you went straight to CNN afterwards; sure you blogged and e-mailed and twittered once you heard the news. You engaged in a complete, multimodal literacy experience. As the nation rediscovered its potential for change in the 21st century, you pulled from all of your critical literacy skills and fully read it, savored its visual cues, its print, and its auditory stimulus.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CBR Examines Comics on Their Cell Phones

Graphic Novel Reporter to Debut Soon

Another entity wanting to bring you information on comics and graphic novels for the teen set.

Publishers Weekly "Best Of" List

Scroll down a bit for the list of best comics. Good to see Lynda Barry and Jaime Hernandez on the list.

Monday, November 03, 2008

CBR Story/Collection of Images Connecting Comics and the Campaigns

A couple of my favorites gathered from the story at Comic Book Resources. Check out the link!

Must Read: The Best American Comics 2008

Guest-edited by Lynda Barry, this installment of the Best American Comics series is just as good as the previous two and better than Brunetti's An Anthology of Graphic Fiction volume 1 (I hear a second volume is underway). Barry introduces the text with an ode to comics and cartoons that inspired and confused her and with wording that makes an educator think of Louise Rosenblatt's thoughts on poetry and Reader Response theory.

Barry essentially espouses a transactionalist theory of reading comics when she states, "No matter how carefully a comic strip is constructed, the reader's experience of it cannot be predicted/ There are as many version of each comic strip as there are readers./Where is a comic strip located?/Reading a comic strip more than once seems to change it as well, but of course, it's not the conic strip that is doing the changing." Rosenblatt says of the transaction that takes place between text and reader: "emphasizing the essentially of both reader and text, in contrast to other theories that make one or the other determinate....'Transaction'...permits emphasis on the to-and-fro, spiraling, nonlinear, continuously reciprocal influence or reader and text in the making of meaning. The meaning — the poem — 'happens' during the transaction between the reader and the signs on the page" (source).

Rosenblatt says of reading in general (particularly in reading poetry): "The special meaning, and more particularly, the submerged associations that these words and images have for the individual reader will largely determine what the work communicates to him. The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment, and a particular physical condition. These and many other elements in a never-to-be-duplicated combination determine his response to the peculiar contribution of the text."

She defines two forms of reading, efferent and aesthetic, and mentions that most reading is done via a sliding scale between the two types:"despite the mix of private and public aspects of meaning in each stance, the two dominant stances are clearly distinguishable: someone else can read a text efferently for us, and acceptably paraphrase, but no one else can read aesthetically—that is, experience the evocation of—a literary work of art for us."

Barry says in her introduction, "When we notice new things in a story, something is being forgotten that we don't notice./Sometimes not getting the story the way it was intended can be the very thing that makes it usable." Time, experience, lack of both those things, and emotional state are just some of what affects one's reading of a comic, Barry asserts.

The comics Barry has selected certainly lend themselves to aesthetic readings, from those of-the-moment (or of-the-age) works like the selections on war and politics by Alison Bechdel and David Axe and Steve Olexa, to the parables and fables, to Pablo Picasso's naked penis and the wounded bird syndrome of Sarah Oleksyk's copy girl in "Grave-Yard," the collection drips diverse pathemata but never gets so saturated that one has to get away from it from time to time (a weakness of the Brunetti collection, which might as well have had 'insert your own cartoon character here' screaming on an otherwise empty page, "I'm so fucking lonely!!!!" Still, though, the Brunetti is worth purchasing as well).

Besides for "Salon," in which Picasso and friends attempt to find a new essential art, the most enduring comic of the collection for me, beating out the Ware and Yang and Bechdel contributions, is Joseph Lambert's "Turtle Keep it Steady," a retelling of the tortoise and the hare fable and a surprising choice for inclusion due to its simplicity and surface-level lack of seriousness. Full of tender art and little text, the economy of its message makes it all the more powerful: some are great but burn out on their own weakness for success. Better the slow burn, baby, the slow and steady beat.

The Best American Comics 2008 is a must-read for comics fans who like their sequential art with a little less capes and drapes (though it has those too!) and enough diversity of substance to keep one engaged but not overwhelmed with emotion or by common theme.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What Could Have Happened....

Go Kill Some Aztecs, Why Don'tchya?

Nothing says "Halloween" more like the bloody massacre of an indigenous people with land and abundant natural resources and precious ore.

Just ask Hernan Cortes, who, according to the graphic novel Hernan Cortes and the Fall of the Aztec Empire, used Montezuma like a stooge and then cleaned up the mess his Number 2, Pedro De Alvarado, made when Alvarado staged an attack on the Aztecs that really just sort of pissed them off. How'd he clean house? By taking his armored men with their guns and swords and essentially killing off an entire city and culture. Tenochtitlan fell, but Cortes built Mexico City on the site. Politics, money, land -- that's frightening stuff.

Yeah, it's simplistic, but this is a graphic novel for younger readers. It's a good supplement to a traditional text book, but oh does it does need supplementing. Did Cortes call the city Mexico City? Why, if the land was considered New Spain? A glossary of terms and a timeline are in this text and help younger readers, but this graphic novel isn't one of those sources that can stand on its own. Sometimes things are simplified to the point of raising more questions than they resolve.

But, hey, if you're still looking for a scary Halloween costume and want to be original, try going out as a conquistador. Having just read this tiny graphic novel on Halloween, I think Cortes would make a fine addition to your trick or treat parade.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Conference on "Graphica" in the Classroom

Graphica in Education: Bringing the Discussion of Graphic Novels Out from Under the Desk

January 31, 2009
Fordham University
Lincoln Center Campus: New York, NY

Hosted by the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University
General Information

The inaugural Graphica in Education conference is designed to open a discussion among educators about the place of graphica in the field of education. It will serve teachers, instructional designers, administrators, librarians, and other interested individuals who would like to explore the use of graphic novels and other graphica in the classroom. Participants in the conference will have the opportunity to hear from authors, teachers, and researchers about the nature of writing, reading, and teaching graphic novels. The conference will offer a full day of workshops to complement a keynote address and panel discussion. The conference will also include sponsor presentations and exhibits. Lunch will be included with conference registration.

Invitation to Respond to the Call for Proposals
The Graphica in Education Conference planning committee seeks interactive and engaging proposals for presentations in the breakout workshops of the conference. Workshops will be approximately 60 minutes in length. Paper presentations may be combined into panel discussions. Proposals from practicing teachers about pedagogical methodologies and from researchers about application of graphica in the classroom are encouraged.

Proposals should include:

* The type of presentation (e.g., paper presentation, teaching demonstration, panel discussion)
* A brief description (50 words or less) of the presentation or workshop
* A summary (500 words or less) of the workshop, including rationale/theoretical grounding, practical application, and participant involvement (the benefit to participants)
* The name(s), contact information, and affiliation of presenter(s)

Proposal submission deadline: December 1, 2008

Proposals should be submitted electronically to krturner@fordham.edu.
Conference Registration Presenters for accepted proposals will receive free registration to the conference.

For More Information For more information on the proposal submission process or the conference in general contact Kristen Turner at krturner@fordham.edu.
(Yours Truly just accepted the keynote role for this conference!)

Nate Fisher Back To Work Teaching Kids

Thanks to The Beat for posting a "resolution" link about Nate Fisher, an English teacher who was let go after asking a student to read Eightball #22 (do a search of this blog of his name and the comic title for more info). According to this story, he's found another teaching gig and is doing well. Good for him, and even better for his students! Yay, happy endings and new beginnings!

PAPERCUTZ Brings Back Classics Illustrated

Below are a series of press releases from the past year or so detailing Papercutz publishing's attempts to revive the Classics Illustrated series. They look like they're doing it up right too, but on to the official press release barrage:

Good News for Students:

Classics Illustrated returns after a 10-year hiatus -- just in time for the new semester

In January, kids will reluctantly return to school. Luckily, Classics Illustrated will join them. Generations of students have been introduced to the great classics by this legendary series of comics, their appetites whetted for the real thing.

These comic-book editions of great literature sold about 200 million copies from 1941 through 1998. Papercutz -- publisher of graphic-novel series such as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tales from the Crypt -- is reviving the series in two formats. Classics Illustrated presents abridged versions of classic novels, while Classics Illustrated Deluxe features longer, more expansive adaptations.

The last few years have seen quickly growing recognition amongst librarians and especially educators of the power of comics to bring kids to reading and away from video, video games and the internet. Many publishers, including in the educational field, have successfully launched expansive graphic novel programs with widely varying degrees of quality.

The works from Papercutz are not for hire but loving adaptations by top artists. The line begins with Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, adapted by Michel Plessix. Later volumes will include Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations by Rick Geary, followed by Grimm’s Fairy Tales and The Invisible Man. Each adaptation will come from an artist with a special expertise in the book’s tone and topic. Great Expectations’ Geary, for example, is the writer-artist of the Treasury of Victorian Murder graphic-novel series and an expert in Dickensian England.The 144-page book is available in both hardcover ($17.95) and trade paperback editions ($13.95).

Plessix’s elaborately painted pages, precise storytelling, and style that can best be called “detailed impressionism” have earned shining reviews such as “adds dramatic flair to the beloved story” (Publishers Weekly), “brings to mind the best storybooks of our childhood” (Memphis Commercial Appeal) and “Excellent! Lively and fun!”(Children’s Bookwatch).

**F.Y.I., 2008 is The Wind in the Willows’ 100th anniversary!**

Classics Illustrated was the creation of Albert Lewis Kanter (1897-1973), a visionary publisher. Kanter believed that comics could introduce young readers to great literature. In 1941, he launched Classic Comics (changed to Classics Illustrated in 1947). For thirty years, Kanter produced more than 200 Classics Illustrated and Classics Illustrated Junior publications. They introduced young readers worldwide to fiction, history, folklore, mythology, and science --

In 1990, the Berkley Publishing Group and First Publishing revived Classics Illustrated as a series of graphic novels featuring new adaptations by such top graphic novelists as Rick Geary, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker, and Gahan Wilson.

Papercutz will reprint many of these books. Papercutz has also obtained rights to new adaptations of the classics by some of the world's finest graphic novelists. Published under the Classics Illustrated Deluxe imprint, they devote three to five times as many pages as the previous series and more fully capture the depth of the original novels.

The Wind in the Willows: 6 ½ x 9”, 144pp., full color hardcover, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-59707-095-9, trade pb.: $13.95. ISBN 978-59707-096-6; publication: February ’08. Distributed by Macmillan.For more information please contact Papercutz publicist David Seidman at davidseidman@earthlink.net or 310-652-4369.