A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

*Ender's Game* Prequel to be Graphic Novel First

Interesting that Orson Scott Card, who has had the Ender series adapted to comics form as of late, has decided to write a prequel in the comics medium before doing a print version.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Confessions of a Graphic Novel Convert" Article from *LA Times*

Sonja Bolle makes me spell "bat mitszah." This makes me wonder, how the hell have I been blogging for 5 years now and never put a "judaica" search term in my list??? I know I've covered Jewish connections, at least, but now: search term/label time!

RSA Animate: Changing Education Paradigms


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Trailer for *Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland*

Bowler Hat Comics is at it again with the upcoming Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland. This teaser trailer suggests readers are in for another epic treat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New GN Award: The Lynd Ward

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania announce that:

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize will be presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year in the United States by a living American citizen or resident. The announcement of the award will take place each spring and the prize of $2,500, the two volume set of Ward’s six novels published by the Library of America, and a suitable commemorative will be presented each fall to the creator(s) of the award-winning book at a ceremony to be held at Penn State.

Friggin' Sweet! And I didn't know that Ward's work had been donated to the libraries at Penn State!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review of *Best American Comics 2010*

An angry adolescent peers at you while a fire rages behind him. He seems to say, "Burn my comics, will you? Fine! I'll burn down your house!"

Alas, the house seems to be his family's, so it's actually his house too, but his defiance is undeniable.

And that, my friends, describes the cover and the reading experience that is Best American Comics 2010. Edited by Neil Gaiman, the anthology has interesting pieces that are accessible to a reader but that push away, as if to suggest, "I'm complicated!" when one considers why Gaiman made his choices.

Of course, this line of thinking suggests a sort of "cult of the superstar" surrounding Gaiman, but that's part of the fun of this series: seeing who the new editor is, being impressed, then seeing what he or she thinks makes the grade for inclusion.

Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden suggest a Golden Age of comics accessibility, and Gaiman's introduction plays off the comment by mentioning that a CIA study suggests that "comics are the easiest way to assimilate information." Gaiman soon adds pull to push, though, mentioning Lynda Barry's previous Best American Comics sentiments that comics are democratic while anthologies are by nature discriminatory, especially one that asks its editor to consider what "American" means alongside "best."

That's not to suggest he's complaining. Gaiman simply wants his audience to feel a bit of his experience and to realize that push and pull are the guiding dynamic of his work for the series.

I suspect we can see that in the first two selections as well. I honestly think that Gaiman probably wanted to lead with "Ceci N'est Pas une Comic" but decided it would be too politically scathing a start, thereby helping a section from Lethem and Dalrymple's Omega the Unknown occupy the first pages.

Standouts include Lilli Carre's excerpt from The Lagoon, which interjects magical realism in a section with lots of slice-of-life entries, and Ames and Haspeil's excerpt from The Alcoholic, which is bound to be cited in thesis upon thesis on comics and 9/11.

The excerpts from Asterios Polyp, Genesis, and A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge seemed to be obligatory, as did the short from Scott Pilgrim, but that's sort of the joy in seeing them in there. Gaiman gets to play with commercial successes and critical successes as he sees fit. And throwing in a little name recognition vis a vis the movies can't hurt, right?

I can't help but see Gaiman throwing papers around a small room, nerve-wracked, saying to himself, "I can't not put so-and-so in there! Look at the press and notoriety they've gained this year! It's good for the medium! And isn't '2010' in the title to the damn thing??" :)

The story that surprised me the most was "The Bank," which, based on the art, I thought I would hate, but I ended up enjoying the 1980's tale of The Clash and other main characters, um, clashing and pulling against the push of popular music. The hyper-charged vibe from that text, which oozes a sort of 80s masculinity, is aptly juxtaposed with Chris Ware's sniveling sad sack entry from the Acme Novelty Library.

Note to Chris: They do make other types of men worthy of being a main character! ;)

I also enjoyed the sweet "Lobster Run" more than I expected and appreciated the reintroduction to Fred Chao, who is more diverse an artist than I've considered. The push of that action-driven love story is balanced by the pull of the next selection, which also explores the theme of intimacy, but via two homosexual males meeting for drinks after calling it quits. "Ex Communication" is endearing in its difference to the text that precedes it but similar enough in theme that this section flows well, possibly even adding more sentimentalism to a reading of "Norman's Left Arm," the story following these two, than is necessary.

Of all the selections, only Michael Cho's "Trinity" made me rush to the front matter to learn what larger collection it was part of (but this is because I had already read many of the other texts excerpted). I absolutely must learn more about Taddle Creek and appreciated finding a story that spoke to my generation's concept of modernity and progress and fear. "Trinity" would have made an excellent juxtaposition with "The Alcoholic" in that both texts together, perhaps along with "Ceci N'est Pa," illustrate the defining anxieties of those born pre- 9/11 and those born near or afterwards and just how different the definitive worries are for folks of a certain era in comparison with younger folks' zeitgeist stresses. Placing those texts one after the other would have been too obvious a choice, though, and having them scattered away from one another allows for a consideration of theme and sub-theme in a way that having them in sequence would have cheapened.

Completing the anthology is another short from Chris Ware which sums up the tensions of the text while also contemplating the fissures of fiction and nonfiction, the comics form, and even a little bit of life itself. "Fiction Versus Nonfiction" plays with memory, representation, meaning- making, and the various joys of reading. Ware reminds us of the interplay, the push and pull of being known and being foreign, of being real and... not quite...

Who better to have assimilated a collection of such texts than the man who knows how to mine that space better than almost any other? Make no mistake, Gaiman knows what he is doing, and the end result is another intriguing edition of the Best American Comics series.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review of *Your Life in Comics: 100 Things for Guys to Read and Draw*

Bill Zimmerman's Your Life in Comics attempts to give guys a chance to write their own comics in response to images and written words that act as prompts. The book is more like a journal or diary than a textbook and simply offers some visual stimulus to go along with prompts like "What's the hardest thing you've ever had to handle?" and "Did anything interesting happen at school today?"

There's the suggestion of reflection and introspection wrapped up in comics, so it doesn't look like a diary or a teacher's journal prompt even if it might feel like a collection of them to some. The blue benday-dotted cover doesn't suggest romance stories and unicorns at all, which also helps the subversive nature of the text, which seems to say, "Come on, guys! We know you have things to say! Why not write'em down?!?"

While marketed to dudes, the prompts are just as good for girls. In fact, it might be interesting to see how young girls would fill in the blanks of the word balloons mostly emanating from boys' mouths.

An intriguing feature of the text is that it comes "Internet connected," as is stated on the front cover. Zimmerman continues to upload new page images and prompts, so the book is ongoing, and so its influence for its readers.

I'm not sure if it is a book targeting boys or targeting teachers who will themselves target the hombres, but the concept behind the book is admirable, and, I hope, successful.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jessica Abel Talks about Adapting to Prose

"It turned out that, while I’m pretty decent at writing comics, when it came to prose fiction I had no idea what I was doing. Not only that, I didn’t particularly like writing prose" -- JA

With so many prose writers trying their hands at comics and also talking about how difficult a transition it can be, it's neat to see someone from the other point of view. Click the title to this post for the entire read.

Article on Stanford's Collaborative Writing Initiatives: Novels and Graphic Novels

Learn more about two creative writing classes at Stanford: “NaNoWriMo” and “The Graphic Novel.”

Me: Doing the Bucky since 1977

Just not in Wisconsin yet.... If I ever apply for a position at Madison, I'm going to start my cover letter with "Let me teach you how to Bucky" and end it with the hopes that their students will soon be asking "Teach me how to, Bucky."

Take THAT, Tolerance!: Muslim-Centric Cartoon "The 99" Attacked in "NY Post"

According to ICV2.com, "Some of the same folks that brought about the 9/11 Mosque controversy are sharpening their Islamophobic axes to attack The 99, a comic book-based cartoon from Teshkeel Media that features 99 heroes, who embody the 99 attributes of Allah."

The 99 started as a comic, of course, and is also designed to help people understand that Islam is not all about crashing aircraft into buildings and hyper-violence, but, I guess if Westerners understood that, it'd make it that much harder to "kill them back."

Ah, the political dangers of peeling back the layers of othering to reveal the best of all humanities.....

I'm going to go cry now......

Monday, October 11, 2010

I SOOOOO Want This!: Lynd Ward Woodcut Novels Collection

Proto-graphic novels at their best! (OK, Frans Masereel did some good work too).

Take ENGL 685: Graphic Novels...

....if you're a graduate student at George Mason University this semester!


to all who voted me in as a member of the ALAN Board of Directors. I'll begin my stint, which I believe is 3 years, pretty soon and look forward to serving the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE.

A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge Author now Official State Dept. Comics Ambassador

According to The Beat and The Washington Post, anyway. Cool beans! I can't wait to teach A.D. in my "New and Multimodal Literacies" graduate class next semester!

Comics Issue of Transatlantica Journal is Online!

The first half covering Shakespeare, the second half giving comics equal weight... :)

I'm especially eager to read Craig Fischer's essay, which seems to focus on Theirry Groensteens' The System of Comics, a textbook for my "New and Multimodal Literacies" graduate class next semester, and I see lots of application in my own work in Charles Hatfield's article on interdisciplinarity in comics studies.

Friday, October 08, 2010

NY Times Article Overblows "Issues" Associated with Declining Children's Book Sales

"Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children" reads the headline of Julie Bosman's article, which offers evidence that some parents are pushing their young children away from picture books and toward chapter books.

The article makes it sound like this phenomenon is widespread, though, and downplays the role that other media -- children's cartoons, video games, websites, digital books, etc -- could be playing on the declining sales. I can certainly see where someone could find parents so hell-bent on baby going to NYU that they'd pass judgement on books that are developmentally appropriate for their children and go straight for frustration-level reading. What a way to build success, as this quote so clearly illustrates!:

Now Laurence is 6 ½, and while he regularly tackles 80-page chapter books, he is still a “reluctant reader,” Ms. Gignac said.

Sometimes, she said, he tries to go back to picture books.

“He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read,” she said, adding that she and her husband have kept him reading chapter books.

Poor Laurence. Do you think his reluctance might be because he's being asked to read things he might not be ready to properly appreciate or enjoy?

Interestingly, the article mentions how well YA lit is doing right now and also mentions that graphic novels are part of that development. Are we at a point where parents see graphic novels as a sophisticated literature and are shoving off all those preconceived notions, once reserved for comics, onto children's books?

While I can list several children's literature scholars whom I'd pay to see squirm if this is the case, I hope it is not. If so, however, we might soon need to discuss the similarities in comics and picture books rather than focus on their differences.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

News on Latest GN from Stanford Graphic Novel Project

I still haven't read the copy of Virunga, the 2009 book from the Stanford Graphic Novel Project, that was sent to me, but I promise I will! In the meantime, you and I can get some 411 on this year's title, Piko Don.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Nice Review of *Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels*

..from our friends at The Graphic Classroom blog. Thanks, ya'll!

U of Washington Professor Donates Comics Collection to School's Special Collections

So here we have yet another article about an elite American university embracing comics in one way or another, and I'm still having to fight the good fight to get my current department to let me teach a course on comics and graphic novels, even though I've done it very well at a previous university..... *Sigh*

Friday, October 01, 2010

Mighty Morphin' Vocabulary Rangers!: Articles in Recent JAAL and Reading Teacher Jibe Well with *Super-Powered Word Study*

The September issues of Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and The Reading Teacher both feature articles on vocabulary instruction that jibe well with the pedagogical underpinnings of Super-Powered Word Study, available in November from Maupin House.

Specifically, Michael J. Keiffer and Nonie K. Lessaux's "Morphing Into Adolescents: Active Word Learning for English-Language Learners and Their Classmates in Middle School" and Joan G. Kelley, Nonie K. Lesaux, Michael K. Keiffer and S. Elisabeth Faller's "Effective Academic Vocabulary Instruction in the Urban Middle School" focus on academic language and morphology. *

"Effective" informs readers that many urban middle school students struggle to understand and use academic vocabulary, which is often rife with ancient roots and affixes. But, when students use "morphological awareness skills," they "gain the cognitive tools they need to learn a large number of words independently."

Students need to learn how to use context clues, of course, which is just one of the many things covered in Super-Powered Word Study.

Both SPWS and these articles suggest overt, explicit, interest-based exploration of language with students drawing on texts they appreciate and are already inclined to be interested in.

Comics, anyone? There are 15 comics stories awaiting students in SPWS, along with suggestion on teaching morphology and developing language exploration skills and attitudes!

Both articles suggest particular attention to morphology as pertinent to vocabulary growth. "Morphing Into" reminds us that morphology is "the study of the structure of words as combinations of smaller units of meaning within words: morphemes," and morphemes include affixes and roots, the exact units of focus in Super-Powered Word Study.

"Morphing Into" suggests that teachers help students when they teach morphology in "an explicit yet meaningful way," as part of a "thinking strategy" rather than as "a bunch of rules or lists of word parts."

Considering what words have in common and are unique is one such way of doing this, and the authors even use a figure to illustrate "Word Sets" that look very much like word sorts, which students can do in SPWS to help them consider morphemes.

Further, students and teachers are encouraged by both articles and SPWS to adapt an explicit language exploration ideology in considering words.

"To exponentially increase vocabulary, students need to develop word consciousness and a curiosity about words," says "Effective." Super-Powered Word Study agrees and helps teachers tap into our innate interest in language by explaining how Larry Andrews' Language Exploration and Awareness theory can help us morph into active language explorers and linguistic inquirers.

"Morphing Into" suggests a 4-step process in which students must endeavor to study words morphologically. Step one involves word recognition study; step two requests overt study of word parts they might know; step 3 asks for hypotheses regarding word parts, and step 4 suggests hypothesis checking.

Students using SPWS will be asked to follow similar processes when they use riddles to figure out/hypothesize meanings of words featuring specific roots or affixes, sort words by their features, and record their observations and hypotheses in their word study journals.

"Effective" also suggests that at the end of each unit, students write, integrating new words, to suggest their mastery over them. All of SPWS's assessments are based in creative writing and ask students to do exactly as this article suggests. "Effective" asks for 5 words in a paragraph, whereas SPWS asks for 6 and also asks students to use "clue language" to show they have also mastered using context clues.

As anyone involved in academic work will tell you that keeping abreast of current research is difficult and tiring work. Further, when it comes to book writing, you're always taking risks that your book will hit the market and then new research will come along to blow its premises out of the water.

And, of course, there's no way to read research published alongside your book or after the book has been "set" such that you can integrate it into the book. There comes a time when you just gotta do the Anne Bradstreet thing and watch your baby walk to school, where you hope it does well.

So, Erik and I certainly did not have access to the classroom-based research coming out of these articles when we wrote Super-Powered Word Study, though many of the sources cited in each article also appear in our book, but isn't is wonderful to know that concepts and findings associated with this brand new research fits the goals and aspirations for students of Super-Powered Word Study?

I think so and think you will to!

James Bucky Carter,
Co-author of... Well, do I have to write it out again? ;)

*Hey, I edited and wrote chapters for Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by PAge, Panel by Panel. Do you think I have any hate for the long title? Further, I'm refering to the articles as if they wrote themselves simply becuase I don't want to write all of those names over and over. Titles are one thing: they can be turned into acronyms and keep reader's comprehension going without much trouble. BLCWGN:PBPPBP anyone? Authors' names? Not so much.