A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pictures of Me Reading Reading With Pictures' _Reading With Pictures Anthology_

Harvard Weighs in on "Boy Crisis"/Comics

Here's a great article on the literacy "crisis" facing young boys. Thanks to Mr.M for drawing it to my attention.

It's very thorough and hits all the main points about fiction, nonfiction, curriculum, choice, etc. and how boys respond to them.

Among the points is this gem:

"'Nontraditional materials such as comic books and sports-themed materials can provide an important “hook” to get boys more involved in reading,' [William]Pollack [of Harvard Medical School] says, 'and serve as a helpful bridge to more advanced types of reading later on.'"

So, we get a little but of pro-comics stance. In the next paragraph, though, we get:

"If there are kids out there who are, for whatever reason, really reluctant readers or low-level readers, then anything that gets them hooked into spending time on reading is a good thing,” [Catherine]Snow [of Harvard Graduate School of Education] says. “But the problem is that whereas those can be great places to start, they don’t get you where you need to be to succeed academically. You’ve got to be able to access serious academic texts.”

I'm not sure if Snow is referring directly to comics, since Pollack was the one who mentioned them. If so, we've got another example of folks not realizing that some comics are very sophisticated texts, but I think this might be an example of the writer of the article merging concepts for story flow rather than a blanket statement from Snow, especially since we're talking about two different people's statements here.

But, if a representative from Harvard is acknowledging comics' role in facilitating literacy, I ain't gonna complain.

Monday, August 30, 2010

NCTE Cancels 2012 Annual Convention: Reaction from Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso....

NCTE has moved its 2012 annual convention as a political statement against current immigration policies in Arizona. Originally planned to convene in Phoenix, the national convention of English teachers and literacy educators has been moved to Las Vegas, NV.

And there's the rub.

I'm happy that NCTE made the move as a political statement, but in my mind, we (I'm a member, though I did not try to influence the move away from Phoenix) only went halfway.

If we really wanted to honor our ideas about diversity and stick it to policy-makers who might be targeting Hispanics in burdening ways, why not hold the convention in one of our border cities?

El Paso, Loredo, McAllen, Del Rio, Brownsville -- I'm sure those cities would love the economic boost.

Plus, we'd get to see just how progressive and active is the virtue of the membership. It's one thing to move a convention from county and state lines, it is another thing to show support by bringing yourself to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Honestly, it is probably true none of the cities mentioned above are large enough to accommodate NCTE. San Diego is probably the best choice for a border city that could host the conference.

Still, it'd be pretty neat to see how many folks from the Midwest or South or Northeast would put in proposals for the chance to stay at a hotel overlooking Juarez.

Heck, El Paso had trouble getting Oklahomans to feel comfortable coming to the Sun Bowl to see OU play Stanford this year, and that was for a something really important: a football game! ;)

I'm probably being unfair, but while NCTE most likely did the right thing, I can't help but think it could have been much bolder in its reaction, and why it wasn't or couldn't be might be worth thinking about.

It might not.

It could just be that as someone who lives in remote El Paso, it'd be nice to be able to drive to one of these things without leaving my home city one of these days!!! :)

Reviewing the _Reading With Pictures_ Anthology

The first volume of the Reading With Pictures Anthology is now available. Proceeds from the book will go to sponsor research and outreach projects associated with Reading With Pictures, a group of comics artists, educators, and researchers who seek to explore the connections between education and comics.

I enjoyed reading the anthology. Dr. Michael Bitz's introduction was the perfect frame, and I appreciate how he mentions "the fragile relationship between comics and the reading establishment," citing IRA's spur-of-the-moment cancellation of a full day's worth of GN-related programming last year and inadvertently helping RWP solidify their mission and desire to produce the book. That happening has been terribly under-reported and examined.

The various shorts, from generous comics artists associated with RWP or just willing to offer their resources, cover a variety of genres and messages. Many are inherently pedagogical and some are even a little didactic, but others seem created for the pure juissance of the comics reading experience.

The Fillback Brothers history of images as linguistic signifiers starts the book and pairs well with David Faroz Precht and Cho Youn Chul's "Visual Cues" toward the end of the text.

Among my favorites were the aforementioned; the "Just James" selection, in which I'd like to think mention of characters named James and Katie are references to a couple of folks who have recently published books on comics and literacy (don't shatter my illusion, please!) and in which comics, composition, and literary elements are explored; the physics-inspired "Mail Order Ninja" short that explores the square-cube law; Raina Telgemeir's short but poignant "A Conversation I Had While Teaching a Comics Class;" Pyle and Sacco's "The Order of the Silent Pencil," which deals with literacy and in-school subversive vs. in-school traditional notions of learning to read and write; and Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey's "Comics and the Classroom: a Match Made in History," which relates some of the historical connections between comics and education and from which this gem of an image (and new office door cartoon) is drawn:

It's hard to say if the anthology is for kids or for teachers. Certainly the short stories are child-appropriate, but the reasons behind the anthology's creation never seem too far removed from the content therein, and one can read the text as offering information and lesson ideas for teachers more than offering kids interesting reads. That's not a weakness of the book, of course.

For example, in my "Dramatic Modes of English Language Arts" class, we cover comics as a form that meets the 6-pronged definition of English Language Arts as explained by NCTE/IRA. I ask students to choose 1 book from among the following: Big Fat Little Lit, The Best American Comics, or the Smithsonian collection of graphic novels.
My pre-service English teachers use that text to help them explore connections with pedagogy and comics, but the Reading With Pictures Anthology seems to overtly cover that ground whereas these other texts need some coaxing to do so. Hence, I'm thinking of using the anthology the next time I teach the class.

Indeed, the text might have its most use in application and practice, with pre-service teachers and in professional development seminars first, then in the classroom once professionals have considered the stories and their use beyond a simple reading.

Regardless of initial use or intended audience, the anthology does not disappoint. There's enough evidence for comics and learning coexisting to help the cause, though one wonders how much success the text might have reaching beyond "the choir," a problem all of us in comics-and-literacy face, and enough fun for anyone.

Fans Force Change in Casting Call for _Runaways_ Movie

Reminiscent of the hooplah over non-Asian actors in The Last Airbender, the news here also centers on a beloved Asian American character from the series, which I can't recommend enough, especially in the earlier years. Niko's casting call did not specify race, which ICV2 suggests signifies a default to "white" in the film industry, but fans took notice and rabble-roused their way to a change. Click the URL embedded in this link's post for more details.

August 28 was "Read Comics in Public" Day

I messed up and read all mine on Friday, D'oh! Here's hoping this becomes an annual tradition that grows and grows, like Comic Con or Free Comic Book Day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stoopid Move from Maryland Politician Nancy King

Nancy King, who is running for the senate in Maryland, has been running mailers that suggest that if teachers are laid off, the world will come to an end because students will have to read comic books.

Sounds silly, and it is.

Dean Trippe has written the senator a letter explaining a bit about comics' and literacy's connections. (See link embedded in this post's title, which also reprints the mailer, hilariously featuring one child reading not a comic, but Previews. That reader is obviously reconsidering her pull list).

What's worse, Maryland is the home of the Maryland Comic Book Initiative, one of the highest-profile, public integrations of comics into public schools ever.

What's that the kids say about trying so hard you actually miss the forest for the trees? Oh yeah, "EPIC FAIL."

Of course, if the general public is still oblivious to the advantages of comics in the classroom, or at least in the hands of children, I guess it doesn't really matter:

If a kid in a forest reads a comic and learns a new word, and there's no one around to hear him learn, does anyone give a damn?

Come see me at the 2010 Miami Book Fair!

This event just keeps getting bigger every year, as does its graphica programming. I'm happy to be a part of the action this year.

The title to this post is a link to more information on the fair from Graphic Novel Reporter, which itself promises to release more details as they come available.

What I do know is that I'm scheduled to appear on November 18:

Featured Speakers for Thursday:
Prof William Ayers, To Teach: The Journey, in Comics ;Chris Schweizer, Crogan’s Vengeance and Crogan’s March; Professor James “Bucky” Carter, NCTE board member and author;
Professor Adam Johnson, Stanford University’s Graphic Novel Project

Yep, November will be a busy month for the Buckster. I leave Miami to go directly to Orlando to talk about graphic novels at NCTE, and I have at least 3 projects set to debut in the month of Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll see you in Florida in 2010!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Just did The Monster Marsh!

Or, more specifically, I just read two of Robert Marsh's Monster and Me graphic novels. I read Monster Moneymaker, a hilarious story reminiscent of The Chocolate War, but with monsters, and Monster in the Outfield, in which the blue hairy beast known as Dwight helps his keeper, 12-year-old Gabby, and her team mates beat her school's teachers at a game of baseball.

The series works under the premise that every kid has a monster, but most people keep theirs hidden. Not Gabby, though, who lets Dwight out of the closet and free to cause as much mayhem as his good heart will let him.

The series is funny, pleasingly weird and has just the right blend of wackiness and ribald. Tom Percival's unique art is both strangely effective and effectively strange and never fails to get the story across.

The books are geared toward striving readers at the elementary and middle school levels and are just one of a series of comics-inspired books from Capstone Kids, a division of Capstone Publishers, which seeks to serve the needs of prek-12 readers. I have no idea how Capstone has escaped my prying eyes to date, but I'm glad I learned about them through Marsh's exquisitely silly and enjoyable books.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

_Super-Powered Word Study_ is Available!

For pre-order, that is, but the book is officially public now!

Here's the press from Maupin House:

Whether you’re a principal, teacher, summer camp instructor, parent, or student, you’ll enjoy the vocabulary-building adventures in Super-Powered Word Study. Weekly word study instruction is combined with short mini-comics that illustrate the meanings of words and word parts in context, making the exploration of roots, suffixes, and affixes fun and engaging for all students in grades five and up. Reluctant readers and ELL students of all grades are especially motivated by comics’ high-interest visual narratives.

Super-Powered Word Study includes fifteen weeks’ worth of stimulating study and creative activities that ask students to think about language, consider word formation, and create their own stories—all in just twenty minutes a day! Each week introduces two word parts students interact with through riddle cards, word study notebooks, word sorts, word hunts, and practice assessments they create for their peers. Word sort lists, comics, writing assessment prompts, and optional extension activities offer endless opportunities for creative writing and language exploration. A comics primer and a DVD with all of the comics stories, riddle cards, word study notebook pages, sample comics scripts, and comics templates give teachers the support they need to build vocabulary knowledge and encourage students’ imaginations to run wild. The DVD also supports each of the fifteen lessons with interactive eCard word sorts, eComics with clickable clues, and opportunities for students to create their own comics and assessments.

Make your word study super-powered!

Monday, August 23, 2010

CFP's: Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, and Comics in Education/ Spidey Anthology

CFP: Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, and Comics in Education

Edited by Robert G. Weiner and Carrye Syma of Texas Tech University Library

In recent years the use of graphic novels, comics, and sequential art in education has exploded. This is due not only to the boom in superhero movies that are based on comic book characters, but also to the wide literary range that graphic novels now have. There are now literally hundreds of college and university courses all over the world that are using graphic novels in their curriculum. The days when comics were just seen as children’s trash, with no redeeming literary or educational value, are hopefully behind us.

Contrary to the idea that comics “dumb” down material, it takes both sides of the brain to read and interpret sequential art stories: the right side to interpret the pictures and the left side to understand the narrative text. Our goal with this collection is to provide the educator and scholar with a collection of essays that show how graphic novels and comics are being used in the classroom today, as well as some historical pieces that detail how the educational fields often have and have had a “rocky” relationship with the use of comics in educational settings. We want both theoretical and practical essays showing how sequential art can be and is being used to teach and illustrate concepts and ideas.

We are especially keen on pieces related to higher education, military and government uses of comics to educate, but all aspects of comics and education are under consideration. In addition, we would like to have educators from a wide spectrum of the educational fields from K-12, to undergraduate and graduate educational levels. Those using sequential art in adult education and pre-school are encouraged.

Some possible questions/ideas that could be addressed include:

The Military’s use of comics to teach.
Graphic Novels and comics in library science education.
How relationships can be understood through the use of graphic novels in human science education.
Teaching mathematical concepts using graphic narrative.
Grade school use of comics.
Middle school use of comics.
High school use of sequential art (say something like Maus to teach the Holocaust).
Comics and Film to teach about blockbuster cinema.
Philosophical issues raised by graphic novels (The Watchmen in a philosophy class about ethics).
Biological and scientific concepts using graphic novels.
The use of mainstream superhero stories in the classroom.
Superman, Batman, Spider-Man to further understand the concept of the hero Mythology (i.e., Odysseys, Hercules etc.).
Graphic Novels and history, how effective a tool is the graphic novel in teaching a historical concept?
Sequential art in teaching foreign language or English as a second language.
Comics in literacy and adult education programs.
Graduate courses using graphic novels.
The History of sequential art in education.
Medical education using comics

Please send 200 word abstracts by January 15th 2011 to Rob Weiner Rob.weiner@ttu.eduFinal papers will be due February 28th 2011. No exceptions.

Please note the submission of an essay does NOT necessarily mean publication in the volume.

Essays will be going through a rigorous peer review process and we have asked a number of scholars to serve in this capacity. We are striving to put together as an excellent collection with diverse viewpoints covering all aspects of comics and education. Authors are also expected to follow the editor’s style guide and be willing to have their work edited.

Thank you,

Carry Syma, Texas Tech University Library
Rob Weiner ,Texas Tech University Library


Also, remember the Spidey collection for which Dr. Weiner is currently seeking submissions!

Graphic Novels Not So Risky Business in Business School Classrooms

Inside Higher Ed has an article on professors at business schools using comics or graphic novels to teach business concepts.

Jeremy Short's students at Texas Tech's business school read and discuss Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed as a means of learning business basics. The text was written by folks at Portland State and Auburn, along with Short. A professor at the University of Vermont uses these texts as well. The University of South Carolina's Thomas Moliterno does too.

I'm not sure if these Atlas books are comic books or graphic novels. They're called graphic novels in the article but seem to have the shape and feel of the pamphlet-style comic books you'd see on news stands.

As well, there seems to be some lack of knowledge from the writer and his or her sources regarding the differences. Certainly the comments on Inside Higher Ed's public response area suggest a "dumbing down" is taking place rather than a simple reconstruction and presentation of the data.

It's also interesting that there is a sense that there is consensus among academics outside of education, particularly in business schools, it seems, that graphic novels are only written for entertainment. Woo that Maus, it was riot, wasn't it? That exploding giraffe head in Pride of Baghdad? Had me laughing for days. (Warning: Watch for dripping sarcasm).

I think what this suggests is the schism between what academics think constitutes "worth" and what education academics know works regarding teaching. Isn't is just a little strange and bassackwards that people responsible for teaching content material don't seem to know about how their students learn best? What's more, they get to be the authorities on what constitutes excellence in their given fields.

Makes you want to read one of the comic books that really is just for entertainment, doesn't it? Just to escape the ironic ignorance!

At least there are some folks that are exploring this form's pedagogical potentials is classrooms outside the ELA one. Graphic novels and comics are wonderfully interdisciplinary, afterall.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vote for Me for ALAN Executive Board

I'm currently a nominee for the Executive Board of ALAN, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, a very active and thriving subgroup of NCTE that ,among other things, publishes The ALAN Review, a journal which I recently guest-edited.

While I usually do not stump for myself regarding nominations, this is a position I really want to serve. My connections with graphica and YA literature and literacy are obvious, and I have always appreciated ALAN's open, forward-thinking attitude.

If you're a member, I'd love your support once you get your ballot in the mail.Other nominees are: Lynne Alvine, Erica Ricki Berg, Dee Douglas-Jones, Christian Z. Goering, and Paul Hankins.

I'm James Bucky Carter, and since this blog is free, I did not pay for this message! ;)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Alexander Simmons Pushes for Literacy/Creativity through Comics, Could Use a Hand to Expand to AFRICA!!!

Press release:


If you found out about a great program that has helped kids in three regions of the U.S. expand their literacy and self-esteem, would you help it keep growing? For almost five years now, Alex Simmons and his Kids Comics Con have brought kid-friendly comics and their creators together with New York City kids who otherwise might never see them. Doing so has encouraged a love of reading, improved literacy, and, most importantly, given kids license to imagine, to think, and to create.

After four years of growing success, Simmons was asked in 2009 to take his KCC show on the road, and that’s what he did, bringing the “KCC Road Show” to the snowy hills of Buffalo, New York and blazing beaches of Miami, Florida. Both events were great successes.

Now the Kids Comic Con has been asked to bring the KCC Road Show to over 700 students, their families and the community of the Senegalese American Bilingual School in Senegal, Africa on December 1st, 2010. The American Cultural Center in Senegal wants to send him to additional cities there, potentially expanding the impact this project could have.

Simmons wants to deliver to Africa what he’s done for American kids, but he has been forced to confront the Dr. Doom of today’s economy: financing. To make this positive experience happen, Simmons has setup an online fundraiser on a web site called Kickstarter.com. Simmons reports this project will be funded, but only if he and his team can raise at least $19,616 by 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16. “Like one of those comic book death traps of old, the clock is ticking, and the rope holding the deadly blade above this project’s head is starting to fray,” Simmons said.

So the Kids Comic Con is calling all financial super-heroes to assemble, ride to the rescue, swing in at the nick of time, and otherwise save the day by helping to fund a worthwhile international exchange of ideas.

To make a pledge go to the KCC web site at: http://www.kidscomiccon.com/, and click on the Kickstarter link on their home page. Or go to http://www.kickstarter.com/ and type “Kids color” in the SEARCH PROJECTS box. You can also find links on the Kids’ Comic Con Facebook Page.

And for additional information please contact Alex Simmons at: Alex@KidsComicCon.com.

Alexander Simmons, who you may know from his great work on Archie comics, has been promoting literacy and creativity through comics for several years now and is one of the true good guys in the biz. If you can offer some support, please do. I know I will!

2010 Ignatz Award Nominees

Thanks to the Beat for sharing the info!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Best. Ray. Bradbury. Fan. Artifact. Ever.

Just too awesome not to share....(Possibly not safe for work). Um... how to tie this to comics and literacy? Here's a video of the singer's object of admiration saying he learned to read and write from reading comics!

Ben Bova, You Ignorant Slut

Ben Bova's words on graphic novels, graphica adaptations of print works, and the "decline" of literacy are making the Interweb rounds. And, believe it or not, he's being called out for his shortsightedness and lack of evidence supporting his assertions (my favorite comment to his words so far inspired the title to this post)by folks who aren't teachers or teacher educators. Perhaps we have truly turned the corner, folks......

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Of Fatherhood and Superheroes

Marvel has done so much so well over the last twenty years, or since Joe Quesada got the title belt, that there is too much to praise. But, I think whoever replied to "Our readership is getting older. How the hell do we keep ourselves attractive to 40-year-olds without slipping into porn?" with "By remembering that the idea that 40-year-old comics readers are all introverted virgins is a crock of shit. A lot of them are dads now, so let's connect with them by giving some of our characters children" deserves a six-figure salary.


The work with Daken, Wolverine's son, and the sons of Hulk, has been amazing. And, in keeping with my uncanny sense of connection with Marvel, developed right as I was becoming a dad for the second time. So, I appreciate seeing James "Logan" Howlett struggle with a child who is making his same mistakes. I appreciate seeing characters like Hulk trying to break cycles deeply embedded.

See Incredible Hulk #611 for an example of that latter stated case. Greg Pak can straight-up write, and while I have not been a fan of the goofy multi-Hulks story lines going on recently, he's wrapping things up nicely.

Incredible Hulk 611 made me cry for several reasons and has my vote for best single issue of a superhero comic for 201.

Imagine, all these years we've seen the Hulk as a rampager, when it's possible that all along it took an entity as strong as the Hulk to protect the world from the wrath of Banner's pent up rage stemming from the abuse he witnessed and suffered as a child. Awesome stuff. Then have Hulk/Banner as father approached by a son bent on making him angry? Woah. And when child Skaar embraces his dad, finally knowing what he represents, illustrating that when we hate our fathers it's often because we don't know how to express our simultaneous love for them or have it validated, and also showing superhuman levels of forgiveness that can only come from children.....

Well, read the issue and tell me if you aren't moved, rattled, and shaken and struck, like one might expect to be if one found him/herself in a Hulk book, but in a totally different way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pin-Up Style Promo for _Super-Powered Word Study_

Wouldn't you love a full-sized poster of this image for your classroom? I added the letters and the MP logo at the bottom and cropped the title art from the front cover and put it in the top left. When my co-author Erik A. Evensen, who handled the art for the book, sent me this image (which will be part of the back cover), I felt it was too good not to share!

Featured: Polly "Popular" Lopez; Trans-Phat; the Communicator; Green Tonya: She-Student with a Sword, and the Vegetarian.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Blog on Graphic Novels in the High School English Classroom

Maureen Bakis has launched "Graphic Novels and High School English," an impressive blog/ning where she is sharing reviews, resources, etc. I also have a feeling we'll be seeing more of what Maureen does with her students regarding graphica, so this is a good site to be aware of and keep an eye on as more exciting things develop. You may have to sign up to access content, but it's free and worth it.

Women Comics Artists Go to SDCC 2010, Chronicle Event in Comics

Awesome link to some comics on the biggest comic book convention in the USA. Thanks, The Beat!

Diamond's John Shableski Weights in on Kids, Literacy, Comics, and Potentials

This great op-ed covers what is going well with publishing, comics, and literacy and suggests where things need to improve. It also advocates for comics in the classroom and draws attention to something I heard about but missed at last year's NCTE:

You might be surprised at how many mainstream authors fell in love with reading books because of comics. I see them at comics conferences where they recall stories of their favorite comic characters with warmth, passion and enthusiasm. Just last year, the author Junot Diaz told an auditorium full of educators and librarians at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference (NCTE) that he feels kids should only be allowed to read comics in school until they were in 7th grade so we would engage them. For a man who has won the Pulitzer Prize, happens to teach at MIT, and grew up reading comics, that should give you a sense of the value that graphic novels bring to reading.

That's a pretty big endorsement, eh?

What I like about John's piece is that it shows a lot of heart. He's calling for publishers to reach out to young audiences, but he's also asking them to produce quality work. To facilitate the learning of youngsters, not pander to them and their teachers with false promises and hastily-published products.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jamie Peeps Shares History/Comics Adventure

Her students crafted comics as part of History Comix Camp

Campfire's _Moby Dick_

Another admirable and entertaining effort from Campfire, Moby Dick features the elements most adaptations focus upon: the action, the whaling, the obsession. Some of the nuance and innuendo makes it into this adaptation, but mostly we get the "nautical action film" version.

That being said, it's a good read. I hate that it ends so abruptly. The last encounter with the white whale and its results are too compressed for my taste, especially given the decent pacing of the story up to that point, but Ishmael's character is well-developed, as are Queequeg, Starbuck and Ahab. The art fits the story perfectly, especially the rough lines and hoary hatchings from artist Lalit Kumar Sing, who gives the rough-and-tumble seamen just the right look.

I'm not sure if Moby Dick gets much attention at the secondary level anymore. Even there, my guess is several hundred pages are removed or ignored. But, if a teacher does use Moby Dick, this text would be an excellent accompaniment. As with all the Campfire books, it's not just an adaptation. There is information about Herman Melville's life and some very interesting illustrated information about whaling, whale ships, and Mocha Dick, the real-life whale that inspired the story.

Though its compression flaws towards its wrap-up dissatisfied me, I was impressed with this effort overall.

Campfire's _Alice in Wonderland_

Adapted by Lewis Helfand, illustrated by Rajesh Nagulakonda, and colored by K.G. Prasanth, Campfire's Alice in Wonderland is a splendid, tasteful, beautiful take on the Lewis Carroll classic. Further, it offers information about Dodgson and the texts that make up the Alice lore before the story and after its finish offers information on mythical monsters that might have inspired the author.

It's easy to adulterate an Alice story, especially given some folks' thoughts in its writer's closeness with little girls and the camera, but this adaptation hits all the right notes. It is so good, in fact, that it is one adaptation that I wouldn't mind giving to reluctant readers or struggling readers in place of the original, and that is not usually a tactic for which I advocate. Pairing and braiding is better, almost always, in my opinion, but that I can praise this text with such an aberrant stance should be read as faith in it as an engaging, witty, and close approximation of the best that the original has to offer.

While I am usually resistant to recommend adaptations, I can wholeheartedly recommend Campfire's Alice in Wonderland.

Waiting for Superman Film to Debut Soon

The makers of the documentary film Waiting for Superman sure know how to use a comics reference (or are they channeling Nietzche?).

It's already getting some big press, and teachers are responding. Here's an editorial by Dan Brown, a teacher at one of the schools profiled in the film, for example (thanks, MH!). Here's a review from EW.Com. Here's a review from Politics Daily. It reveals the inspiration behind the film's title:

The Superman in the title comes from a quote early in the film by Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children's Zone, who remembers his disappointment as a child and comic book fan to learn that there is no superhero in our culture that can fly into a crisis and set injustice right. But Mr. Canada proves there are still heroes. The engaging, charismatic teacher's vision to end the cycle of poverty serves 17,000 New York City children in Harlem's 100-block area.

Sorry, Friedrich.

Looks like 2010 is going to be an interesting year in education. And how very,very interesting to see a comics mythos thrown into the mix. Will this bode well for comics-and-literacy advocates or foster some sort of backlash? Or will the Superman reference go noted but largely unexplored?

News from MakeBeliefsComix!

From Bill Zimmerman, creator of MakeBeliefsComix.com:


Dear friend of MakeBeliefsComix,

I’m excited to let you know about some of the new things available on MakeBeliefsComix.com, the online comic strip generator used in literacy programs.

MakeBeliefsComix.com each week is posting a new theme or topic for students to create a comic strip with our comic strip generator and submit to us. After reviewing all submissions, we’ll select a sample to post on our Facebook wall.

'The theme for [the first week of August was]: ‘’You and Your Friend Share Happy or Funny Memories.’’

Our educational online comic strip site also has added another feature that enables users to post their comic strips on their very own Facebook walls.

Those who create a comic strip and send it to themselves will receive an email with two links: one to view and print the comic, and the other allowing them to post the comic to their Facebook wall to share with friends and family.

Posting or publishing these comic strip creations in a public arena helps validate all the effort a youngster puts into creating the comic.

Since MakeBeliefsComix.com was launched four years ago, over 2 million people from 175 countries have visited our free educational resource.

Google and UNESCO named us as among the world's most innovative web sites that encourage reading and literacy and we won the Parents' Choice Foundation’s Recommended Award.

This year the American Library Association selected MakeBeliefsComix for its annual ‘’Great Web Sites for Kids ’’ listing.

The site offers 80 different characters, blank talk and thought balloons to be filled in with text, story prompts and printables, and accepts text in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Latin.

Our site is used by educators to teach language, reading and writing skills in an easy, fun way. It also is used by students in English as a Second Language programs to facilitate self-expression and storytelling, as well as to gain computer literacy.

Some educational therapists use the online comics for children with autism or for those who are deaf to help them understand concepts and communicate. Parents and children also can create stories together, print them to create comic books or email them to friends. There also are printables and writing prompts on the site.

Please try the new summer fun feature with your students and children! We want to be the best educational web site we can be for you. We hope you will share what we are doing with your colleagues, your family, and friends.


Bill really is doing some great work, so I hope you'll consider checking out his site.

As well, later this month his new interactive comic book for boys, Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Write and Draw, will be issued by Free Spirit Publishing. Readers will be able to help create the book by filling in talk and thought balloons for different situations, as well as creating their own comic strips within the book.

Interactive comics assisting literacy, creative writing, and composition! Gotta love it!!!

2010 Graphic Making Contest Award Winners!

Thanks to Mark Clegg for sharing this link to this contest sponsored by the San Jose Public Library, with help from Hijinx Comics, SLG Publishing, and TRY Japan Culture Group.

You can click the link embedded in this post's title to see the top three winners in each of three categories, Children's Contest, Teen Contest, and Adult Contest.

The Comic Book Project Turns 10 Years Old!

It seems hard to believe that Michael Bitz's creation has been around for a decade, but it has. And thank goodness, as the work of those involved has offered qualitative data that creating comics is a complex and very worthwhile educational endeavor.

For those interested, the theme of this year's nation-wide project is "History Goes Graphic!" A press release informs that,"Students will plan, write, and design original comic books that demonstrate a deep understanding of past events and people. Going beyond the names and dates, students use their creativity to make history come alive in the form of a comic book."

Here's a link if you want to participate.

The press release also draws attention to a comic created in Imperial County, California. Entitled I am Migrant, the comic "chronicles the life experiences of migrant youth and their families." That's pretty important stuff around these parts!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Greg Burgas' Argument for Comics as the Most Versatile Art Form

Awesome Story About Lily Renee Phillips' Comics Life/ Real-World Struggles

_Koko Be Good_ Be Pretty Darn Good

Jen Wang's first graphic novel, Koko Be Good, is about two unlikely friends trying to be better than they think they are by glomming on to others and one tag-along second-stringer who knows who he wants to be but feels pressured to ignore his passions.

Koko, an eclectic 20-something, has been living for herself for a while, the rest of the world be damned. Jon is giving up his love of music and every other semblance of his own identity to follow his older lover Emily to her homeland of Peru. Faron is an amazing youngster with acrobatic talents, a strong guy punch-and-kick combo, and a love for musicals that he feels marks him as less than manly.

When John and Koko haphazardly meet, their lives change and they begin to understand their true callings. Koko decides to "be good," whatever that means, Jon decides to live his own life, and Faron, ever along for the ride, at least decides to embrace his loves.

The book works and works well. While I don't think we're supposed to resolve that "being good" means being true to one's self -- not exclusively, anyway -- Wang captures a sort post adolescence zeitgeist for the 21st century like Dan Clowes' Ghost World did for the late 20th.

The earth tone-based coloring is amazing. The entire text feels like terra cotta. The palette ranges from an eggshell white, through a host of oranges and browns, to wet charcoals and the occasional inky black. Matched with an expressionism for characters and a realism for scenery, the art alone is worth the experience of reading the book. But, the story is just as enchanting.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Article on Comics and Literacy from From the Mixed Up Files blog

...features our good friend Chris Wilson, among other goodies.

Talk on College Courses on Graphic Novels at Columbia/Barnard

As part of some high schoolers' pre-college courses, but still.

Preview Chatter on the Comics in Super-Powered Word Study

Click the link to visit Maupin House's blog, where I talk a little about each of the 15 mini-comics in the upcoming Super-Powered Word Study.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Available for Pre-Order!: Super-Powered Word Study

Just happened to find this while doing a book search on Amazon. I had no idea this page was up, but you can pre-order my next book by clicking the link embedded in this title! If memory serves right, it comes with both a CD-Rom and DVD.

Must Read: _The Unsinkable Walker Bean_

I just finished Aaron Renier's graphic novel The Unsinkable Walker Bean and found it to be the most enjoyable, fun, and exciting graphic novel I have read this year.

A nautical adventure beset with magic, mystery, pirates, puzzles, and mythology, the text is exquisitely colored and drawn in a style reminiscent of the Tin Tin adventures but with a contemporary, harder edge.

Pudgy protagonist Walker Bean, innovative, clever, endearing and driven, is instantly relatable and lovable as the youngster who seeks to save his sick grandfather while battling his dad's disinterest, among many other fantastical foes.

The friends he makes along the way are well-developed characters, and the story has a well-paced build. While this text doesn't end, except to mention the upcoming book 2, it does wrap up nicely and does not leave one with a sense of being tricked out of a complete narrative experience.

While I don't mean to degrade this wonderful book when I suggest that so far 2010 hasn't been as impressive a year for graphic novels as 2009 was, The Unsinkable Walker Bean has definitely made my list of the year's best graphic novels.

Superman's First Apperance Saves Family from Losing House

Another great story that illustrates that sometimes superheros, comics, and books in general really can save people.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

More Dore Ripley at GNR: Comics Adaptions of Edgar Allan Poe

Dore Ripley traches ad Diablo Valley College and at Cal State East Bay. She has used graphic novels in several of her courses and continues to illustrate their value to her college students.

The Image that got away (Just for fun!)

While not all 15 comics shorts from Super-Powered Word Study were represented in the unofficial promo video I recently posted, this image below was supposed to make it. Can you tell what we're spoofing here?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Review of _Tall Tales_ (Bone)

If I told you I wanted to share with you reflections on a story called "Big Johnson Bone vs. The Cobbler Gobbler," would you think my thoughts would be safe for work?

Despite the adulterated interpretation that particular short story might inspire, the latest installment of Jeff Smith's Bone series, Tall Tales, crafted with help from Tom Sniegoski, retains the core texts' jovial spirit and enjoyable readability. Sure, there are obligatory gas gags and over-inflated rhetoric, but that's all part of the fun.

The first story in Tall Tales is a framing device. Smiley and Bartelby the baby rat creature are now leaders of young Bone scouts rather than comic relief, and as they lead three scouts into the woods, they begin the series of tall tales. The first is very short and features Fone and Phoney acting true to form as they consider doing or not doing their laundry at Rose's request. Save for a few pages of frame narrative sprinkled about, the rest of the stories revolve around Big Johnson Bone, a larger-than-life Daniel Boone character with a stiff lower jaw and a legendary aire. And a funny name.

The first of the Johnson Bone tales is that of his birth, when, right from the womb, he whipped old man winter and brought the world spring. The second is a story of his young adulthood, when he falls in love with the rootin-tootin' Gertie while trying to defend his crown as the top food eater in all the land. Gertie's claim to fame is her ability to put away cobbler "as well as other food-type items," and Big John, as he is called in this short, mercifully, is impressed.

Alas, once John helps her win the eating contest by a smidge, the gas she passes is time the last the two ever see one another.

As someone who has recently defended Bone from censorship cases, the innuendo -- or possible innuendo -- here bothered me. I felt as though Sniegoski and Smith were trying to egg on those who claim that the other Bone books are more sexual and incendiary than they seem to be to most readers. True, one might say the perversion is in the mind of the reader, but if one wants to keep his texts considered kid-friendly and all-ages reading, I don't know why one would plant such obvious seeds.

The final story adds to the mythos of Big Johnson Bone and the stupid, stupid rat creatures, offering development on the legend of why rat creatures cut off their tales. It's the longest of the three and the biggest romp. The funnest too, if not because of the uncomfortable nuance of "The Cobbler Gobbler," a nuance that younger readers might not even consider, of course, making the text, generally speaking, a good one for most readers, just like the rest of the Bone books.

Tale Tales also features Smith's trademark tenderness and charm along with its adventure and bombast. Despite a bit of authorial trickstering I could have done without, Sniegoski and Smith add to the Bone saga admirably.