A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review of _Brain Camp_

Brain Camp is a collaborative effort from Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan and Faith Erin Hicks. It reads like a watered-down tweener version of Black Hole, as if the three wanted to tell a Charles Burns story of adolescence but couldn't really get into the nitty-gritty. The narrative has its moments but lacks development and depth -- perhaps underestimating its tween-teen audience -- and often feels as if it were composed as a series of compromises. Had the storytellers not compressed, and had they dug deeper into the darkness they try to reveal -- the book would have been a much more interesting, mature narrative.

Both Brain Camp and Black Hole deal with young people making strange changes. In Brian Camp, apparently average kids at a camp designed to make them smarter, faster, and homogeneous are becoming like-minded geniuses while also becoming hosts for bird-like aliens. Two 13 year old underachievers, Jenna and Lucas, figure out the plot while getting the pseudo-hots for one another (their teenybopper desires what makes them special among their similarly-aged peers. Yeah, it's a bit of a stretch). They foil plans to turn an entire group of summer campers into hosts, but they seem to lose the war when the big man in charge is named secretary of education.

A Kirkus Reviews blurb distributed from publisher :01 says the book offers "sly social commentary with a fizzy dash of stomach-lurching horror." There is some sort of commentary going on. As a former middle school Gifted Specialist, I appreciated how the authors seem to suggest that we're too quick to label kids or want all children to be "exceptional" based on a very narrow definition of that word. I can even see the text as one that gifted students would appreciate because of how often they feel pressure upon earning or having the label of "gifted" bestowed upon them. But, only using the text with students labeled as gifted would miss the point. Further, the theme might be of interest to some readers, but the lack of depth, which comes off as tailored towards a certain perception of young readers and shackles the narrative, will most likely turn off many. This might be a graphic novel that young folks read once, but I can't see it as one to which many will want to return.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Too Good to Last: Friends of Lulu Shutting Down in Less than a Month

Like Billy Budd or The great Haysoos, things too good for this world have limited time on it. The all-things-women-in-comics Friends of Lulu is closing its online doors.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections on Kazu Kibuishi's _Copper_: "I Treat the Letters Like Images"

Copper represents my first serious, sit-down experience with the work of talented Kazu Kibuishi. I've thumbed through his Flight volumes enough to put them on my wish lists, but I've not yet devoured them as is my hope for future days.

That said, Copper is a delightful introduction to his talents. The stories, mostly one-pagers with a few recurring vignettes across the collected shorts which were originally published on the web, are reminiscent of Winsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, as most of them are adventures based in the imaginations of Copper and his dog pal Fred.

The beautiful and flashy page layouts and proclivity for some of the capers to be dreams in disguise also pair the text with McCay's classic. Indeed, if there is one web comic turned collection that I'd love to see reprinted at the gigantic size of some of the Sunday supplements, it'd be Copper.

To understand the two main characters, consider folks from another classic series, Peanuts. Copper, described as curious, and Fred, mentioned as fearful, are really two sides of the same coin, which makes their time together that much more enjoyable for readers as the duo play off of one another with ease. Think about what you'd get if Charlie Brown kept his neuroses but gained Snoopy's activity (agency?) and sense of adventure, while Snoopy added to his own anxieties by taking on some of Chuck's (angst?) from time to time.

A stickler for thoughts about process as well as product, I was thrilled to see Kibuishi share his "making of" process for Copper after the collection ended. Regarding lettering, he said something that I've heard other comics artists say before but that I feel is important to consider:

"I prefer to hand letter my pages because I like to have control over the composition of every image in the drawing stage.....I treat the letters like images." Letters as just other images to be considered in the overall composition. Yes, yes, yes! Graphein in the 21st century, folks!!

In comics, the difference between the written word and the drawn image, or, shall we say, the written image and the drawn word, can be negligible. And, perhaps that's the best way to see them at all times.

Imagetext is in the text is the image is the text is the textual, afterall!
I've got a revew copy of Kibuishi's Amulet in my office. After having so much fun with Copper, I may have to move it to the top of my pile.

SDCC numbers expected at 125K

Monday, July 26, 2010

Graphic Novel Course at Missouri State

Syllabus for Comics Course (Honors-Level) at University of Maryland

San Diego Librarian Extolling Comics and Literacy Links

Deborah Ford advocates for comics in the library and in the classroom -- and San Deigo Comic Con just happens to be right in her back yard every year!

Oh, Canada (Council of Learning)!

Another paper has picked up the CCL report on comics and male literacy. This article from Epoch Times follows an article from the Vancouver Star that made the rounds a few days ago.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2010 Eisner Award Winners Announced...

...last night at SDCC. Congrats to the winners, especially Tom Spurgeon, whose Comics Reporter is one of the top 3 comics news websites to which I link.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

_Super-Powered Word Study_ Cover!

Featuring 15 weeks worth of word sorts revolving around a different pair of affixes or roots each week, creative writing-based assessments, extension activities, and exciting comics stories to help students learn and use words in context, Super-Powered Word Study will be available to schools, teachers, and kids across the nation in a few short months from Maupin House. Here's the amazing front cover.

Librarian Recommends GN's for Book Club Selections

See why Bonnie Brzozoski of the Austin Public Library (TX) says they're so good for'em!

_Lunch Lady_ series Writer Offers Advice for Teaching Comics

Graphic Novels Rock ALA 2010

I gotta get on the inside of this ALA stuff. I love GN's; they love GN's. I just don't have an interest in most other librarian interests.... But, this certainly seems to be a place to be.

Read SFSU Students' Thesis on Comics in the Composition Classroom

Ellen Hua Ma's work is posted at The Graphic Classroom via Scribd. She's joined the inimitable Chris Wilson as a writer there, so I hope you'll check in to see even more of her work.

Hofstra U Offering GN Course Focusing on Writing This Summer

...joins universities like Florida, Stanford, Yale, Virginia, Houston, MIT, Syracuse, etc., etc., as campuses teaching comics classes. And to think, it might be another year before I can teach a course specifically on comics. I'd rather get back in that game sooner than later, as you can imagine. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thank You, Canada!

...and thanks to Frank W. Baker for drawing my attention to this study about comics, literacy, and their potential intersections among male readers.

Amazon Reports E-Books Outselling Hardcovers 143 to 100.

ICV2 reports that Amazon has been selling 143 E-books to every 100 hardcover for the last three months.

Is this a sign that things are finally changing? Is the new generation of readers going to constitute a Throwaway Culture with their lack of desire for keeping hard copies? Will the more traditional readers constitute dying Hoarder Culture?

And will it matter? Will one be better than the other? As the saying goes, you can lead a hoarder culture, but you can't make it think....

I'm intrigued by the article but don't see it as a harbinger. Show me some numbers comparing E-book sales to paperbacks, and then I'll I know better where things stand.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Campfire Classic vs. A Campfire Mythology

Campfire has sent me a slew of review copies, and I keep being generally impressed. Tonight, I'm going to compare and contrast a book from their Campfire Classic line, Robinson Crusoe (adapted by Dan Johnson, illustrated by Naresh Kumar, colors by Anil C.K.) with a book from their Campfire Mythology line, Ryan Foley's Legend: The Labors of Heracles (illustrated by Sankha Banerjee, colors by Ajo Kurian).

It's not an unnatural pairing considering the religious overtones in both. Crusoe is sort of a 18th century Jesus, and in the early days of Christianity, it wasn't rare for Greeks and Romans to confuse Jesus with the gods in their pantheon. There's more than a little Christ in Hercules.

Regarding the Robinson Crusoe adaptation, Christianity rules the day. Those looking for the critique of government and economy will have to squint a bit, but those who like to read the text as a Christian allegory or Christian coming of age story will be most pleased. Indeed, I can see the text having much utility in Christan schools or Sunday school classrooms.

The coloring in both texts continues the Campfire tradition of offering an intriguing palette. At their best, the images seem to be painted and vibrantly give the pages a warm, active glow. This is especially true for the Heracles book. In contrast, the colors in Robinson Crusoe sometimes live up to Campfire's standards but other times look more like an overdone oil pastel, muddy and ragged. To the artists' credit though, a haggard, rough, jagged line is appropriate when illustrating the trials and tribulations of a mere mortal. Heracles, a man-god, is better suited for beauty.

While the adaptation of Robinson Crusoe sheds a lot of nuance from the original text, Ryan Foley more skillfully parses elements of Hercules' mythos. While I wonder about the historical accuracy of having a young Greek boy paired with a female mentor, Foley frames the narrative such as lovely Lady Demiarties tells the story to young Prenditus, who asks questions at times that Lady D simply says must be answered another day.

Foley also does an excellent job of making sure the more... adulterated elements of Hercules' labors are depicted in a family-friendly manner while also inserting a bit of humor into the text. Perhaps its the extra centuries of lore, or the inherent nebulous nature of myths vs a rather finite core from a source text like a novel, but Foley just seems capable of squeezing more out of his text that Johnson does with his.

For example, in a wonderful example of superimposing, an ovoid panel featuring the face of Eurystheus is placed in a horizontal, rectangular panel in which Heracles shovels poop from his stables. The oval fits neatly "in" the pile of poop, a perfect place for the shithead king.
Then there's the undeniable bit of tastiness that is Heracles petting Cerberus: "Who's a good dog? Huh? Who's a good dog? You are. Cerberus is a good dog."

Both books offer extra information at the end. Johnson offers history of other famous shipwrecks rather than explore the nixed sub-themes of Defoe's masterpiece, and Foley offers the history of several other key Greco-Roman deities to help readers keep the hulking half-god heroes of antiquity distinct.
I enjoyed reading both. I love Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, so much that I actually explored the theme of middle spaces in my application for doctoral programs, but not necessarily for the same reasons that Johnson's adaptation will bring to the fore. Still, it's an impressive book that will absolutely serve its best purpose as a text exploring Christian themes. Folley's Legend: The Labors of Heracles is an absolute blast, however, a ten out of ten to Robinson Crusoe's worthy 8.

Again, to sum it: It's not that Campfire's Robinson Crusoe isn't strong, it's just not as strong as Hercules.

Marvel's _Runaways_ Getting Film Treatment

Even with the X-Men First Class movie getting so much press, I have to say I'm more excited to see Runaways getting the film treatment. Runaways is the late 20th/21st century teen team in comics, in my opinion. Like the Teen Titans were to the 80s. Sorry, Young Avengers. As I and some of my students have pointed out, Runaways is like Hinton's Outsiders, with super-powers: poignant, engaging, and capturing a certain zeitgeist of youth culture.

Call for Essays: Spider-Man, Spider-Women, and Webspinners: Critical Perspectives

Got something to send this collection edited by Robert G. Weiner and Robert Moses Peaslee? I know I do! Read on for details from the editors:

When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first penned a short story about a young man named Peter Parker who gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes the hero known as Spider-Man, little did they know they would be creating the most popular super-hero in history (next to Batman). Like most “happy accidents,” the creation of Spider-Man almost did not happen. It was initially a throw away a story in a magazine that was getting cancelled anyway.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had hit upon a character that was different from all the others and one that everyone could relate to. Peter Parker (Spider-Man’s alter ego) was a teenager who had money/girl/family problems that he continued to struggle with even though he had “amazing” powers. He was in high school and had to learn some hard lessons of life. When Parker first got his powers, he used them to make money and get fame. But when he failed to stop a burglar who would eventually kill his Uncle Ben in a robbery attempt, he learned that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Since Stan Lee wrote those words in 1962, they have become the most quoted comic book words in history and have served as a cautionary note pertinent far beyond the boundaries of the comic or film frame.

Since 1962, there have been no less than 10 different titles featuring Spider-Man, 5 different animated series, a live action series, animated movies, a live action series in Japan, and 3 very successful movies grossing a total of $2.4 billion and breaking box office records

The editors are seeking articles of around 4-6,000 words (No LONGER) discussing the phenomena of Spider-Man or its off-shoots related to the comics, films, animated series, games, television series, history etc.

Some possible topics to be addressed include

  • The real meaning of “with great power comes great responsibility” and Uncle Ben’s life and influence on Peter Parker
  • Dr. Octopus almost marrying Aunt May
  • May Day Parker, Spider-Girl and the alternate universe
  • Spider-Girl as a fan driven title
  • J. Jonah Jameson and his hatred of Spider-Man
  • Spider-Woman the first female off shoot
  • The various Spider-Girls
  • How did Amazing Fantasy 15 change the world?
  • The Death of Aunt May
  • The Clone Saga
  • The various Spidey costumes: Black, Red/Blue/Maroon
  • Venom and Carnage: Why did these particular villains become the most popular of all Spidey Villians?
  • Spider-Man’s role in Civil War
  • The Gwen Stacy affair
  • Spider-Man’s uneasy relationship with the police
  • The Green Goblin (Norman Osborne) and his love/hate relationship with Peter Parker
  • The various Goblins: Green Goblin1&2/Hobgoblin/Demigoblin (What ties them together? Differences?)
  • The artistic style of Steve Ditko
  • The roots of Spider-Man (The old pulp hero The Spider)
  • The writing of Gerry Conway
  • The art of John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. on Spider-Man
  • The New Fantastic Four-Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Hulk, and Wolverine
  • The relationship between Madame Web and Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man’s role in the New Avengers
  • The work of J. Michael Straczynski on the title
  • How did Todd McFarlane change the Spider-Man world both through his art and writing?
  • The first Marvel/DC crossover-Spider-Man meets Superman
  • Why was the live action Spider-Man television series a big flop?
  • Spider-Man 2099-A different kind of Spider-Man
  • Comparisons between Nicholas Hammond and Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker
  • What kind of creative licenses did the movies take that differ from the sequential art stories? How were they similar?
  • Zombie Spider-Man
  • Mary Jane comics and novels: teen romance in the Spider-Man world
  • Spider-Man as an ideal children’s hero
  • Spider-Man fan films and fiction
  • Spider-Man as an ethical gauge for human behavior
  • One of the first Super-Hero record albums: Spiderman: Rock Reflections of a Superhero
  • The Scarlet Spider-who is he? What is his role in the Spidey universe?
  • The Ultimate Spider-Man: What are the similarities and differences between the Ultimate version of the writing of Brian Michael Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man
  • Spidey Super Stories: An experiment in reading for children
  • Spider-Man overseas? Why do the Europeans love Spider-Man as much as the Americans? What is his universal appeal?
  • Mattie Franklin (Spider-Woman 3) and her relationship to J. Jonah Jameson as a surrogate father
  • Peter Parker’s sister?
  • The Red Skull and the killing of Peter-Parker’s parents
  • The Vulture: A senior citizen as a villain
  • The relationship between Captain America and Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends an animated series featuring Firestar and Ice-Man
  • The Spider-Man family of heroes
  • John Jameson and the Man-Wolf
  • The Transformers: Spidey meets a Hasbro trademark
  • The upcoming Spider-Man movie reboot
  • Spider-Man as a barometer of the various historical periods in which he appears.
  • The psychoanalytic aspects of Spider-Man, Peter, Mary Jane, etc.
  • Spider-Man, Marvel, and the structure of the entertainment industry
  • Spider-Man as ideology or counter-ideology
  • Spider-Man, -Woman fandom and audience practice
  • Spider-Man online
  • Spider-Man as an urban (or particularly a New York) dweller

Please send 200 word abstracts by November 1st 2010 to

Rob Weiner at rob.weiner@ttu.edu

Final papers will be due December 1st 2010. No exceptions. Please note the submission of an essay does NOT necessarily mean publication in the volume. The editors are striving to put together as tight a collection as possible with many diverse viewpoints covering all aspects of Spider-Man’s career.

Authors are also expected to follow the editor’s style guide and be willing to have their work edited.


p.s. Like that image of Spidey? Click the pic or visit this link.

Introducing _Super-Powered Word Study_!: Spec Art

(Color mock up for possible cover art)
Coming this fall, Super-Powered Word Study combines word sorting of roots and affixes with elements of dual coding theory, language exploration and awareness theory, creative writing and the best of visual literacy and comics-as-literacy research to bring folks in grades 5 and up exciting weekly activities designed to enhance students' vocabulary and linguistic inquiry skills.

Click the title to this link to learn a little bit more about this project from Maupin House, its publisher. Also, you can do a keyword search for "upcoming projects" on this blog for some teaser images.

While I can't yet show you the cover to the book, I happily show you some spec art for the project below. Enjoy, and if you like these images, just wait till you have the opportunity to see the entire project, set for release fall 2010!

(Various cover designs)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New List of Xeric Award Winners Made Public

Since I know several Xeric Grant winners personally (Hey Erik! Hey Jaime! Hey Jai!), I can attest through conversations with them that these monetary awards to help comics creators publish their work are invaluable. Peter Laird's a good dude, and Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo have assisted a lot of talented people over the years.

_Wilson_, A Bartleby that Prefers....

Dan Clowes' latest graphic novel Wilson -- his first not serialized before being collected -- retains the feel of both a serialized narrative and the rest of Clowes' work. There's the trademark dark humor, subtle at times and rupturously offering social commentary at others, especially when Wilson, the eponymous protagonist, attempts to connect with others. Wilson is deeply personal yet touches on the universal and retains the ties to existentialism and general 2oth/21st century angst that defines so much of Clowes best works: Ghost World, Ice Haven, and David Boring.

What sets Wilson apart as a reading experience, though, is the depth of its ambiguity and the immediate understanding that Clowes may be fucking with us like never before. Wilson can be read as a straightforward narrative about a somewhat hypocritical deadbeat with delusions of betterness, not grandeur, who seeks that sublime epiphany that will give him purpose and offer him reentry into the universal embrace of human existence and essence.

Yet, when the comics form is considered, Wilson can be read as a much more taxing narrative. For example, Clowes' word balloons often look a lot like thought balloons. Are we supposed to believe that Wilson actually says everything that is written and tailed to him? Are there times -- or is there the opportunity, purposefully presented by the author -- to read what he seems to say as something he wants to say or only says to himself? Is the duplicitous nature of Wilson's character on display to everyone who cares to notice, or only to us readers?

As well, the serial feel of the mostly one page vignettes reminds us of how comics play with time and space, not just between each panel, but between chunks of time that may be mere seconds, days, hours, years, or even generations. Wilson clearly ages in this text. His hair goes from brown to dark gray to a lighter gray that to me suggests thinning. But by how much? Yes, Clowes uses several different cartooning styles to represent his characters, offering us visual and color signifiers to resolve as we see fit, but how much time and growth has really taken place for Wilson?

Nowhere is this question more exquisitely on display than in the last page of the novel, where Wilson stares at a raindrop from the corner of a bare room and seems to have the moment of clarity he's been seeking. But, how much time has passed between this vignette and the one preceding it? Many of Clowes' texts end with an existentialist ambiguity laced in action and/or inaction dynamics, but Wilson takes it to the next level. It's not just "what is he doing?" but "where is he at?" He has the "ah-ha," but is he in a convalescent home? Is he in his right mind? Too little of his surroundings are shown, but he appears to be alone and perhaps unable to act on whatever realization he may have had. In the end, Wilson is as he was in the beginning -- as much as we can know of him anyway: a complexity of man who seems to prefer doing, but just as naturally, even self-effacingly, prefers not.

Wilson represents a story typical of Clowes impressive milieu but makes more use of the ambiguities the comics form offers both readers and creators. While Wilson shows strength of character via the irony of being unremarkable, Wilson tugs at the savvy comics reader's sense of form and function and gives just enough critical rope for the comics-informed person to get knotted up in via the possibilities of reader response interpretation.

Wilson leaves readers seeking complexity happily clamouring while Clowes snickers in the corner, the only one who will ever know...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If You Liked _Adventures in Cartooning_...

...you'll probably like the new Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book, which really ought to be called an interactivity book.

Everyone's favorite knight is back, this time bored out of her mind during a rainy day. After complaining a bit, her friend suggests she make a comics story and then leads the way through an adventure that the reader gets to help craft.

While the first Adventures book seemed good for all ages regardless of probably trying to target younger kids and teens, the workbook has a decidedly children's book feel to it, but as someone who asks students at all levels to make comics in order to understand the work that goes into them, I can see the book being used in workshops for teachers and teacher educators.

Its one weakness might be that it offers information about comics form at the end, after the narrative experience, where it might have done better to offer it at the beginning, but, overall, this little text is a fun addition to the Adventures line that scaffolds comics creativity via interactive narrative before offering templates and terminology for readers to unleash their own comics-making beasts.

The Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book should be available from First Second any day now.

2010 Harvey Awards Announced

I didn't want to post a link about this yesterday, when Harvey Pekar's death was in the news, but the no-relation Harvey Awards nominees have been announced for 2010.

Hmmm...wonder how many titles are getting the rationale treatment from me and my team of writers? More on that at a later date....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: _Ghostopolis_

I had never heard of graphic novelist Doug TenNapel until I received a review copy of Scholastic's 2010 release Ghostopolis. I'm glad I know of him now. While Ghostopolis is not a complex or overly nuanced text, it has enough symbolism and raises enough philosophical issues about living and dying that many young readers should be able to enjoy this journey into an after-life. It also has tons of action and a quick pace, despite its girthy 266 pages, for those who aren't as philosophically inclined.

The story revolves around Garth, a dying child inadvertently zapped into the realm of the dead by a loser ghost catcher, Frank Gallows. Garth is a sort of "chosen one" figure in his new surroundings, and Frank finds love and redemption in his attempts to rescue the boy even as Garth finds courage to live -- once an evil dictator is demolished and everything works out for all the good guys.

As a narrative, information is revealed in a contemporary manga tradition that I find bothersome: as it goes, only when absolutely needed, and without very much build. It often reads like a web comics written in installments or like storyboards for a movie or cartoon series rather than a full-on, self-contained graphic novel. But, this technique is one that permeates certain types of comics and cartoons and should be familiar to younger readers who seem to enjoy a "children's play" pathos.

TenNapel's thin ink line works for the narrative, and the coloring from Katherine Garner and Tom Rhodes is superbly matched to the story. An interesting, pre-adolescent meditation on fantasy and mortality, Ghostopolis caters to the young reader's sense of contemporary storytelling and offers that little bit more for those who are ready to see it.


Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons joins the ever-growing list of books online for your and your children's reading enjoyment. As always, multiple languages are available to make the experience even more educational! Compare and contrast words in French and English, or even Mandarin!

GNR Profiles Another Teacher Using GN's in the Classroom

This time it's Kent Allin, who teachers seniors at Bayside Secondary School in Ontario, Canada! Allin shares thoughts on his graphic novel course and lets some students have their say as well.

Review of Ayers' and Alexander-Tanner's _To Teach_

The graphic novel adaptation of William Ayers' classic To Teach is an excellent addition to the growing body of texts integrating graphica with literacy and education. The text shows that comics can facilitate not only k-12 education, but teacher education as well.

The book does have it's disappointing moments. For one, Scott McCloud's style, concepts, and words are ripped off in the first few pages and McCloud's influence is extremely under-acknowledged as a source and resource for this text, though it is obvious to anyone who follows comics and literacy that works like Understanding Comics were very influential in choosing phrasing, panel layout, and even art style. At times I found myself saying, "Those gutters don't have to be empty space, Bill!" Using them for footnotes and references would have been a nice nod to works that influenced the original version and this graphic novel edition.
Secondly, Ayers comes off with a signature radical heavy-handedness, which can be off-putting to those who don't share all of his political views. For example, his conversation about white privilege is particularly underdeveloped and seems to lump all white people into one category without regard to socioeconomic status or other factors, a grave and frustrating error to my point of view, and the teachers he profiles as exemplars may constitute a granola-fest of lefties in the minds of some readers.

However, when it comes to stripping down Ayers' message down to its most important essence -- pedagogy should be "enlightening and liberating" and full of constructivist activities and mindsets that make all participants -- students, teachers, and other stakeholders -- active learners who come to the setting with gifts and strengths that should be acknowledged, celebrate,d and built upon -- the text hits a home run.

As a teacher educator, the best way I can endorse the book is to add it to my curriculum, which I will do ASAP. I often teach the main English Education methods class at my current institution, and I make a point to share the sociocultural and sociopolitical realities of teaching. I value students knowing, as best they can, exactly what they're getting into. I value this because it is my hope that students who know what to expect regarding the "nitty-gritty" will be more prepared to acknowledge it and survive it than those who go through programs where the difficulties of teaching are glossed over so graduation numbers stay high and colleges of education retain their status as cash cows.
It is my hope that my students will not be blindsided by all those little factors that add up to contribute to teacher burn-out and attrition rates that are staggering. Not being blindsided, I hope, will translate into handling the pressures of teaching better and longer.

In addition to texts like the ubiquitous Bridging English and Smagorinsky's excellent Teaching English By Design and Stern's Teaching English So I Matters, my students and I also read Wyatt and White's Making Your First Year a Success, which shares insights into how to handle the pressures you really can't know fully until they hit you.

I think To Teach can do an excellent job of reinforcing the constructivist and progressivist philosophies inherent in the "English teacher" texts and balance out the conservative nature of Making while also bolstering its penchant for exploring realities.

Ayers' cartoon avatar deals with pushy, dimwitted administrators caught up in the standards movement; he struggles to keep his classroom learning-friendly, and he finds himself constantly making value judgements that will define who he is as a teacher.

Seeing how Ayers balances his dead-on pedagogy with the demands of others will be of great value to future teachers, and To Teach, despite some aggravating flaws that might go unnoticed to those not familiar with precedent texts (making that weakness all the more egregious), is an invaluable text that should stand the test of time in graphic novel form as it has in its traditional printing.

Looking for more?: Katie Monnin recently interviewed Ayers about his book. Click here to read!

Harvey Pekar Passes Away

I just learned about the death of Harvey Pekar (PEE-car), who might be best known for the film adaptation of his American Splendor. Pekar's work was the epitome of slice-of-life realism, and I'm sorry he won't be making any more work for us. Go read Our Cancer Year, American Splendor, and The Quitter if you haven't. They're all very candid and moving in their own way. May he rest in peace.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Go Read: _The ALAN Review_ 37.3

In the most recent issue of The ALAN Review, there are great articles on film and comics -- even an article written in comics form. It's a good-looking issue.

I was very honored to have guest-edited the issue, and you can see me playing a character I might as well have called "Mr. Incredulous" in my introduction. I was given the charge of situating these essays on the acceptance of newer or possibly "new-to-you" forms into and as YA Lit and decided to give my intro a twinge of the ironic, sardonic, and downright snarky.

I figured, what would the staunch literary traditionalist say about this issue? I concluded it would be something like "It's come to this??" But, deep down, this traditionalist would also be excited (or at least adequately emotionally flustered) about where the articles were pushing adolescent literature and literacy.

You might also see me refute the idea that we're becoming a more visual culture. "WHAT???? Why would YOU say that??" you might ask.

Allow me to explain:

We have to take into account that many of the folks who are telling us that we're moving from a print culture to a visual culture are very much wrapped up in print culture. So, what might be the norm for them might not be the norm for everyone else. Scholars who have to get tenure through the printed word -- and often, that also means the printed page, not alternate forms, for better or worse -- might not have noticed that many of us have been in a visual culture for generations, centuries, even, if they don't value making interdisciplinary connections in their fields of the humanities or social sciences. Perhaps, long ago or even still, there were/are no posters in that office in the Ivory Tower.

As well, some folks seem to glom on to this idea of visual literacy like human beings have only recently developed eyeballs. Remember, the textual is also the visual. There's not a distinction there really, except in how certain graphein (to invoke Kress, or for comics scholars, Groensteen) have been signified or codifed. We read using our eyes; similarly, we use them to view paintings, read comics, etc. Isn't anything we do that filters information through the eyes an act of visual literacy on some level?

Or, as I put it with my students: When do you think we were more attuned to our visual senses, especially in how they related to our other senses? When we were hunting and gathering while playing Grand Theft Auto, or when we were actually hunting and gathering for survival?

So, I don't really think we're entering an era where we're becoming a more visual population, its just that we've become more aware of how the visual is being used to persuade us and influence our thinking and actions. This has lead to us also becoming more aware and accepting of how we can use visual elements of culture to educate folks across the overlapping literacies, from functional to critical, than we might have been fifty or a hundred years ago.

So, really, we don't need to over-sell visual literacy. As those who haven't felt the love of the printed word or the pressures of publishing might remind us, not only have visual forms always been with us and part of us, they often sell themselves as forms of literacy. If only we're willing to see what's available for our viewing.

Not that a little media awareness and knowledge of rhetorical technique isn't a helpful thing, of course. The ones that need the selling the most are those who are most dead set against it as a concept or reality. The real Mr and Mrs. Incredulouses. I'd like to think we can reach everyone, but I've been in education for a long time now. Perhaps the way to handle those most opposed to forms of literature and art that integrate more visuals than more traditional forms is to watch them reading their "imageless" books and humor them as they fool themselves into thinking they are having a pure literary experience without any of those pansy-ass visuals getting in the way. ;)

"But those letters are images too" you want to call out, but let them build the evidence for us while thinking they're making the case against. Sometimes, that is all you can do.

Anyway, go read TAR 37.3. Enjoy the articles -- and Mr. Incredulous!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Crazy New Censorship Case: Kid Loses Mind Over Manga!

And to think, my files for the upcoming Rationales for 100 + Graphic Novels reached the copy editor at our publisher yesterday, the same day as this story broke. Certainly, if I need to add or revise the introduction, this tale will make it.

Did you read the inks? That's right, Manga can make you crazy. Surely you don't have to have any emotional distress at all before reading a manga and going completely insane. Me? I'm just surprised the book in question is Psychic Academy and not Twilight: The Graphic Novel.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Dabeling in Graphic Novels for Young Adults

I missed this big announcement from the most recent ALA convention. Expect more adolescent literature-type GN's soon

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Want Me To Invade Even More of Your Life?

I'm now on Facebook, in a professional manner, of course. Feel free to "friend" me. Please, let me decrease your productivity at work. ;)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Interesting Article in War Comics

Court Transcripts: Superman vs. Wonder Man

Hardcore fans know what I'm referring to. Captain Marvel wasn't the only character DC went after. To think, we once lived in a time where you could get sued for making a knock-off of Superman.......

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy 4th!

I've written one of the few scholarly articles on this 1950s patriotic cape. See "There'll be Others Converging" in the archives of International Journal of Comic Art!

Happy 4th!

The Shield, the first patriotic super-hero, predated Captain America by several months. Pep Comics really took off after issue 22, when it introduced a soon-to-be iconic teenage carrot top, Archie.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The "A" stands for "Awesome"

Erik A. Evensen (MFA, Ohio State University) and I are teaming up on a comics-and-literacy related project due out this fall. Erik is an award-winning artist who earned the Xeric Grant to help him publish his first graphic novel Gods of Asgard, which is about to gain global distribution. In this clip, you can see him profiled by Lakeland Public Television, based in Minnesota. You'll also see him working on some preview art for our project! :)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

WTF??: Zuda Offline

Dammit! Zuda Comics, DC's web comic presence, is shutting down and repackaging how it will distribute its titles. This means no more free Bayou by the page, which sucks. It also means I probably need to rewrite part of an essay again. Hey, you write about the online world, you mess with Lady Change. Wonder if Zuda will be archived and accessible through the Way Back Machine?????