A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Long Did it Take the Media to Exploit Obama's Comics Fandom?

Not long. Fun fake story, though. I'd like to think I would have gotten the comics reference, but I was never a big Conan reader.

Survey: Help Pubs See We need Quality

From ICV2, NYCC, and BEA:

ICv2, New York Comic Con, and Book Expo America are conducting a survey of retailers, librarians, and educators on graphic novels. Your answers will help publishers and others in the business support graphic novels in ways that serve you better. The survey will only take a few minutes to complete. Thanks much for your help!

Click the embedded link in the title to this post to take the survey.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 31: 1st Ever Graphica Conference!

Join me, Jessica Abel, Michael Bitz, Jon Scieszka and many others as we discuss comics and graphic novels in education at the first-annual Graphica in Education Conference. Held in conjunction with Fordham University and Diamond Comics, the all-day event is being held in NYC at Lowenstein Center, Lincoln Center Campus, 113 W. 60th St.

I'll be talking about how comics have influenced my life as a literate person and how I first began using comics in my own classes back when I was a public school teacher in North Carolina. I'll wrap some research around the points I'll make and also suggest where comics in education might go from where we are now. I'm very excited to be joining so many good folks, and early reports suggest we're going to have a great crowd. I hope to see you there!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Jeff Smith does one for Toon Books

I'd love a review copy of this text, Little Mouse Gets Ready. With an author like Jeff Smith and support from Art Spiegelman (whom you might think would be tired of mice), and his wife, it seems like it would be a quality tale.

I'd also like to see if what I've heard about Toon Books using lexile scores to lure in teachers and parents is true or not. I hope it's not.

I know, I know. If you're an informed educator you're asking yourself "How the hell ---?" Me too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Sure What to Make of This Conference

"ICv2 has announced that in light of the unique market conditions, it is convening a special panel to discuss the future of the graphic novel industry at the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference at New York Comic Con. "

I have no idea what that means. There seems to be an undercurrent of doom running through many folks' minds about whether comics can sustain themselves given the current economic climate. But, that conversation has really been going on for the last 20 years, at least.

I'm more interested in what info comes out of this get-together than that it is being held. Will we see industry leaders finally decide that albums/trade paperbacks (titled collected in graphic novel form) are the way to go for most mainstream titles? That'd be a good idea.

Will anyone lament the growing trend of marketing more graphic novels to teachers without regard to quality content or the types of cogent, relevant stories graphic novelists want to tell? Will Art Spiegelman talk about that in his "What the !@##*! Happened to Comics?!" keynote, or will it be more of the same "super-heroes killed the medium" stuff that comics intellectuals often spout? Will digital comics/ web comics be discussed?

In other words, will anything new come out of this conference? If so, will it be smart news? Or, will this just be a more organized conversation about a "crisis" that is ongoing, with its ongoing status being perhaps the best evidence that the crisis is not as destructive to the entire medium of comic art as some think?

My thought to those in the industry is this: the medium will survive whether you do or not. I understand you want to make money and feed your families, of course, but don't miss the forest for the trees by defining the crisis as one that could destroy the form.

Spider-Man Musical an Actual "Go"

The rumors are apparently true. There will be a Spider-Man musical debuting in the next few months. Little known fact: There were plans for a Captain America musical in the late 80s or early 90s. Commentary: There has already been a Spidey musical. It was a feature film entitled Spider-Man 3.

Tales of Vanity and Vengeance! Oscar Wilde Gets the Graphic Novel Treatment

Press Release: Eureka Productions is pleased to announce the publication of GRAPHIC CLASSICS: OSCAR WILDE, the sixteenth volume in the GRAPHIC CLASSICS series of comics adaptations of great literature.

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: OSCAR WILDE features "The Picture of Dorian Gray", Wilde's tale of narcissism and horror, adapted for comics by Alex Burrows and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber. Plus the comic satire "The Canterville Ghost" by Antonella Caputo and Nick Miller, "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" by Rich Rainey and Rich Tommaso, and an adaptation of Wilde's exotic Biblical play "Salome,"illustrated by Molly Kiely.

GRAPHIC CLASSICS are available in bookstores, comics shops, or direct from the publisher at http://www.graphicclassics.com/.

“These are handsomely-crafted books presenting terrific stories.’”— Tony Isabella, Comics Buyer's Guide

“A splendidly inventive series.” — Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“In short, every volume is highly recommended.’”— Paul Buhle, Rain Taxi

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dale Jacobs' Class Blog

Dale Jacobs is a professor the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada and a totally awesome comics scholar. He focuses on issues of comics and rhetoric and shares many of my own interests on visual literacy and education. He's teaching a graphic novels-heavy class this semester (as am I) and will have his students guest blog from time to time (as I hope to do as well). He also has many great links, so check out the blog at: http://uwindsorcomics.blogspot.com/

And Dale, if you're reading, maybe we can do some pen-pal blogging between the two classes? :)

Best Line Ever!

Now that we've got Obama in the White House, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my favorite comic over the course of the election. Except, this time it is a comic as in a comedian. Will Forte's Tim Calhoun was a blast and had the best line of the election season:

"My opponents have been using my full name to scare people. Is it my fault that my middle name is 'BOO!'?" CLASSIC!!

GraphicNovelReporter.com Updates

From editor John Hogan:

.....we are planning our schedule for New York Comic-Con. As always we’re excited about this event, which is a nice distraction from the gray days of winter. Drop me a note and let me know if you plan to attend. We’d love to catch up with our readers there....

It’s no accident that we’re emailing you on Inauguration Day, a day of change, to alert you to the latest updates to our website. There’s lots of new content, including one title of particular interest today: Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman’s retrospective on the tumultuous year of 2008 that is chronicled in their new book, titled quite simply 08. We’ve got an extensive interview with artist Goldman that we’re pretty excited about sharing. My favorite part about the interview wasn’t the political aspect, although that was interesting, but instead Goldman’s views on web comics and independent artistry. Goldman’s done a lot of innovative work in the field, and those looking to explore some of the inner workings of the format will find a lot to learn about here.

This issue we are adding our first content feature for librarians and educators, which also will be enjoyed by new fans of the format. It’s a Glossary of Manga Terms to help the uninitiated get up to speed. If you are already there, share this with a reader you want to convert to the format!

Creator Interviews: Graphic Novel Reporter Talks To...

Dan Goldman is a writer and illustrator best known for the work Shooting War. But now he’s teamed with journalist Michael Crowley to present the story of 08, a year none of us will soon forget. Political jabs, surges in the polls, flubs, gaffes, in-fighting, personal attacks --- the good, the bad, and the ugly are all here. Goldman talks about recreating this potent year, as well as his independent work in the field in a broad-ranging interview.Plus, if you missed them the first time, don’t forget to check out our conversations with these creators:
Art Spiegelman (the award-winning author of Maus and the just-rereleased Breakdowns)
Peter David and Robin Furth (the creative team behind the Dark Tower series)
David Heatley (author of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down)
Lucy Knisley (author of French Milk)
Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (authors of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures)
Gold (author of Bone)

Click here to see all of our interviews.

Behind the Scenes with Andrew Farago

Each month, Behind the Scenes gives you a look into the mind of someone in the graphic novel field so you can see what motivates them to work in the industry. We recently talked to Andrew Farago, the curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, to talk about comics, art, collecting, and more.
Click here to go behind the scenes with Andrew Farago.

Recent Blog Posts

We share news, updates, tips, personal observations, and more. Keep up-to-date by checking our blog entries.Watchmen: It's Back On!by John Hogan Homeward Boundby John Hogan

Click here to read the GraphicNovelReporter.com blog.

Books Into Movies
We're lucky enough to be living in the age of the graphic novel-inspired movie. We spotlight not just theater releases, but also what’s out on DVD based on graphic works. Mark your calendar accordingly.
Click here to read our Books Into Movies feature.

Fiction Reviews

From great science fiction to compelling drama to aching romance, dozens of reviews of top fiction titles are now online.
Ral & Grad
Yozakura Quartet
Hellboy, Volume 1
Black Hole
Click here to see all our fiction reviews.

Nonfiction Reviews
We call the format graphic novels, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for nonfiction. In fact, some of the best books in the field are memoirs from top artists and writers.
The Big Skinny
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
Our Cancer Year

See all our nonfiction reviews here.

Reference Reviews

It’s easy to learn more about the graphic novel format, but best of all, it can be entertaining and fun. We’ve got books to suggest that will share the things you need to know without being dry or dull; in fact, they’re riveting! Here are some books to help further your understanding: The Best American Comics 2008, The Ten-Cent Plague, and What It Is.
Click here to read our reference reviews.

Teen Reviews
Teens love graphic novels. We launch with reviews of more than 20 titles.
Honey and Clover
The Arrival
Bleach, Volume 25
Gantz, Volume 1
Legion of Super-Heroes: Enemy Rising

Click here to see all our teen reviews.

Kids Reviews

Hey, kids! We’ve got the books YOU want to read. There's something for everyone.
Gaba Kawa, Volume 1
Emma, Volumes 1–7
The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, Volumes 1 and 2
Rapunzel's Revenge
Click here to see all the kids' reviews.

We’re adding new content all the time to better serve our readers. The latest: a
glossary of frequently used manga terms. You can admit it: Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what these words mean. Check here to get up to speed quickly.
Click here to read our roundup of our Best Graphic Novels of 2008.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw

After seeing all the news stories about the success of Jeff Kinney's series of "novels in cartoons," I decided to try one out. I purchased Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (book three in a soon-to-be 4-book set) this weekend along with some Lil Critter books for my oldest son.

I have to say, they're pretty similar. Both have a penchant for telling part of the story in words, (in the Kinney via diary entries), and the rest, maybe even the "real" story, in pictures. But calling the series hero Gregory a Holden Caulfield, as Kinney has done, is overstating it. Yeah, Greg's self-absorbed and unreliable, but he's much more the every teen/ every tween than I think Holden was ever meant to be. Sure, Caulfield might have helped define a generation of young people, but I'm not sure Greg holds that much substance.

To me, a better comparison for Greg and his wispy ways is Garfield. I absolutely loved Garfield when I was around 8-11, and I think the audience for this series is probably about the same, with some older teens probably liking it too. I laughed at the book's humor, but I think I would have been bowled over in laughter by it when I was younger, same as with Jim Davis' feline. As Greg hides in pile after pile of warm laundry, skooches over a heating vent in his mom's bathrobe for luxurious coziness, finds himself in embarrassing situations and often seems oblivious to anyone's cares but his own, he might as well be the cat without the fat. He has two parents instead of John, an older brother for the bully figures and a little brother for the Nermal role.

Not to judge the series by one book, but this one is cute, fun, and humorous. It's not very deep. I'm not sure scholars will be tracing existentialist themes in the books anytime soon (but I could be wrong), but the power of the series probably comes in Greg being the every-adolescent du jour.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I am so "Yay!"

The Watchmen film controversy appears to be over! That commercial I saw during the NFL playoffs is correct: the movie will debut on March 6th! I've got to get some red paint for my yellow smiley face beachball!!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Miss It: Available as a Webcomic Now and Available in Print Soon!

Josh Neufeld's nonfiction account of the lead-up, catastrophe, and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will be in print soon, but the webcomic is amazing too. This is sure to be an instant classic. As an extra teaser, I know of some good pedagogical work being done with this text right now, and I can't wait till it can be shared with the world!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

_Diary of a Wimpy Kid_ is a Hit

Thanks to Heidi at The Beat for bringing this story from USA Today to my attention. Though not exactly a graphic novel -- indeed it describes itself a novel in cartoons (there's a difference) -- the book is close enough to count, and apparently kids love it! Actually, they love the series, as there are now multiple volumes of Jeff Kinney's lovable author-described Caulfieldesque Greg.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stone Arch Targets Elementary Readers

Click here and don't skip the last paragraph or you'll miss the essay contest!

Discover Magazine has New Comic Artist on Board!

Comic artist Peter Bagge will bring "A History of Science" to Discover Magazine, according to ICV2. The article also lists a couple other science-related sequential art titles, so check it out and tell the science teacher in your school about it too!

Kirby's ABC's

Funny how things sometimes appear in spurts. Two days after posting on SuperHero ABC, I see this 1998 Kirby's ABC (not by Kirby, but featuring A-Z creations of his, classic characters he helped define, etc.) posted over at the Beat. Click and enjoy!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

SuperHero ABC Reviewed

As the title implies, this is an alphabet book with each letter represented by a unique super-person, not necessarily anyone we'd know, but the concept is very cool (and similar to something I've been cooking up for a little while now [See my article "Super Heroes and Word Study" in Classroom Notes Plus 25.4 from last summer]). Rebecca Buchanan offers her thoughts on the text.

Kristy Valenti Review 3 Edu-Manga Biographies

More fluid writing and informed opinions from one of Comixology's great columnists, this time focusing on Manga detailing the lives of figures such as Anne Frank, Einstein, and Hellen Keller.

Monday, January 05, 2009

:01 Official Responds to Conjecture About Becoming a Kids Line

Tom Spurgeon, I, and others have recently expressed some concern over a recent business move that transferred :01 to a children's publishing branch of Macmillan. Now, one of the higher-ups has responded to the speculation, saying :01 will continue to publish a range of material. More at the link embedded in this post's title.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Publishers Weekly Article on Comics in the Classroom

Here's a neat article on how graphic novels and comics are making their way into the classroom. Publishers Weekly necessarily has to focus on market issues and buying/use trends, so I won't be too harsh on the angle taken in the article, but it does represent more evidence of a trend I'm seeing: graphic novels are being marketed more to schools, with issues of quality of the material not necessarily at the top of publishers' priorities.

An argument is made that much of the existing material on teaching graphic novels doesn't really speak to the realities of teachers (the sales numbers for my own book might suggest otherwise), but here's the interesting thing about those who market without putting students' needs first: the market data will inherently be based on the flawed realities of education. Education scholars and many dedicated teachers are actually trying to change the realities of education in America, to move them towards more equitable, justice-oriented contingencies.

Sure, studying the market may yield company profits and maybe even make many teachers happy, but as anyone who studies curriculum in this country knows, too many leaders and teachers are happy to let someone do their "grunt work" for them, and to accept products and product lines and pre-packaged market-driven curricula, but my fear is that graphic novels are going to start being used to further reify the status quo rather than to build real critical literacy.

To that end, I'd like to share some of my own answers when I was interviewed by the article's author (as in the above paragraphs, I've bolded some sections of text).

Do you know of any recent academic studies that have explored comics and their role in the classroom -- particularly on the K-12 level?

Scholars have been studying the connections among literacy and comic art for at least 75 years. George E. Hill published several studies in the 1940s on comics reading. In one, he found a long-standing truism that reading comic strips does not seem to negatively affect vocabulary; if anything, it seems to help. Others over the years have looked at the vocabulary in comics and remarked on their respectable reading level. Shirley Brice Heath, a prominent literacy expert and ethnographer, noted the complexity of vocabulary in the Uncanny X-Men, for example, in a major handbook for teaching the English Language Arts. For a good synthesis of recent comics studies, see Stephen Krashen's The Power of Reading, second edition. In there, you'll find many of the studies that illustrate that reading comics can be a conduit to more and more varied reading. Wertham thought comics were a gateway to delinquency in the 40s and 50s, even though academics were publishing work to discredit his claims (unfortunately they did so in academic journals whereas Wertham was more prone to going to popular magazines, etc. So whose message do you think influenced mainstream America more?). What we also see nowadays is an overwhelming number of studies that suggest we should be making more of visual literacy because we tend to take in and remember more with visual scaffolds, and our eyes process so much more information so much more quickly when viewing than when reading alone. Basically, we're always reading visual clues. So long as we have our eyes open, they're processing bits of data at an amazing rate. I think semiotic theories have also influenced people's notions of reading, but the research on visual comprehension and processing is so compelling, I think folks like myself and others are turning to comics and graphic novels as a means to acknowledge that body of research. So, in some ways, we're applying what researchers are saying about visualization and visual recall to our classrooms and students via graphic novels, though there is more history of comics-and-education-related research than many know.

Although comics seem to have been increasingly embraced by educators in the last several years, how widespread do you believe this acceptance is?

Well, I think it depends on the school, the district, and the state. I have seen many teachers eager to use comics or graphic novels in their classrooms, and when I first started doing so in the late 90s, it was still considered odd in my school. I think the more aware teachers are of growing evidence on how students learn and how visualization helps them do so, the more likely they are to expand their notions of curriculum or even notions of their field. For example, NCTE defines the English Language Arts as reading, writing, listening, speaking, visualizing, and visually representing. So, one could claim that if English teachers aren't teaching things like media literacy, comics, and film, they aren't really teaching the English Language Arts. That is still a hard thing for many veteran or traditionalist teachers to swallow, I think, but more and more teachers, young and old, are waking up to what research tells us about student learning and how comics or graphic novels can be used to tap into students' learning potential. I can tell you that if you look at the NCTE national conference program books, you'll not a marked increase in the number of presentations concerning graphic novels over the last ten years. It's palpable. That is good evidence that there is a "market" of educators out there interested in learning more about how to teach comics in their classrooms.

Are you aware of any quantifiable measure of the degree to which comics and graphic novels have begun to move into classrooms and libraries?

If you look at Michele Gorman's Getting Graphic or start to dig into the masses of the library articles on graphic novels, you'll find that some libraries increased their circulation numbers by 80% once they integrated graphic novels. I currently have a research study underway in which I ask teachers what their attitudes beliefs, practices and background via their methods classes is/was. I think more and more English Education methods classes are integrating some form of exposure to graphic novels into their classrooms, but we may still have a long way to go to get them to be a part of every new English teacher's pedagogical experience. I also think more and more pre-service teachers are coming to their professors and asking how to use these texts -- or if it is OK to do so -- even without the professor's prompting. We're educating future teachers right now who grew up on Zelda, Mario, GTA, instant messaging and web browsing. They're more inclined to accept visual literacy from their students because they live it themselves and may therefore be more interested in using comic art with their students.

What do you think comics publishers who are new to publishing for the educational market could be doing better to reach out to educators and make their materials more accessible? How important is determining readability or Lexile levels for graphic novels on the K-12 level?

Well, what I often see is that a new publisher, a new teacher, a new scholar will sort of "discover" graphic novels and think that they're the first one ever to think about their pedagogical potential. A lot of us are saying the same things or working to the same ends (though some of us with learning as the primary goal, others with making money off the comics they publish as the primary goal) but we aren't all talking to one another as much as we could be. I have a hard time getting review material and press releases sent to my blog, which is specifically dedicated to education-and-comics-related issues. I guess what I'd say is try to see beyond your own realm and always be ready to expand your network. Don't find your "people" and then keep them at the expense of expanding. Publishers contacting scholars, scholars contacting each other, teachers contacting scholars, etc. I'm trying to work on possible solutions to this among education scholars right now, with the help of someone with similar interests whom I just recently met. Indeed, you may want to speak to him. His name is Peter Gutierrez.

As far as the import of determining reading levels for graphic novels, I think it is marginally important. What I see when I see a graphic novel that has been "graded" by the publisher is someone definitely trying to market the book to my kids. I prefer to read graphic novels that are worthy literature in and of themselves, that have authors who do not see themselves as educators per se, but as artists and storytellers. As I once said, it's not Art Spiegelman's job to create a work that will help teachers. His job is to create art/Art. Now, if he chooses to create work with strong pedagogical potential -- and he certainly has, especially with his wife and their Little Lit series and more recent efforts, not to mention the work we all know him for -- that's great. But it is the teacher's job to look at great work, great art and determine how to best use it with his or her students. Let creators create and teachers teach. Good teachers know not to take too much stock in pre-leveled texts anyway, and whats more, they know how to level the texts themselves. That's not to say there aren't many, many educators out there who will go straight to a reading-level or Accelerated Reading mark and make choices based on that alone, but that's not the best way to go about choosing texts for kids. Now, it might be important in that it is a good marketing technique that will appeal to many educators, but it won't do much to attract the brightest ones.

What resources would you recommend for educators who are interested in integrating comics content into their classes -- particularly if there is institutional resistance?

Certainly I would recommend all of my work, both in print and in progress, lol! Seriously, though, I have written and do speak about ways to handle resistance. I mentioned actually knowing the definition of English Language Arts. I often ask teachers to know their NCTE/IRA standards as well to help them make cases for bringing in comics. I suggest writing rationales or contracts for controversial texts. As simple as it sounds, I tell teachers to read the text completely before making a decision. The last thing a teacher needs is to let an image slip by them on one panel of one page and then have it come back to haunt them. Knowing one's community and school is essential as well, of course. But, we also have to remember that there are many ways of bringing comics into the classroom, not just using them as other texts to read.

As far as resources, there are some great librarian-based websites out there. I think of Michael Lavin's site at University of Buffalo, for example. No Flying No Tights is a great web resource as well. As far as print-based works, I would suggest my edited collection, Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel; Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher's Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic books, Graphic novels, Anime, Cartoons and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills; Terry Thompson's Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6; and Stephen Cary's Going Graphic: Comics at Work in the Multilingual Classroom. Articles associated with these writers and the scholars they reference or include in their works are other excellent resources. Knowing that education professors and classroom teachers are already working on these issues and integrating comics into their classrooms might be the best knowledge a teacher can share with resistant leaders, who often want evidence, indeed, have to seek it, that something seems effective.