A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Art Spiegelman Annointed 39th President of Festival International de la Bande Dessinee

This is bigger news than it should be, in large part because the only two other Americans to earn the honor are Robert Crumb and Will Eisner. Apparently Spiegleman isn't as well-known in Europe beyond Maus, but this well-deserved honor should change that.

Worldwide, it doesn't get any bigger than Angouleme. It almost makes me wish I'd taken French in high school and college instead of Spanish. Funny, at the time I didn't think I'd ever need either......

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Webinar on *Super-Powered Word Study* Coming Feb. 5, 2011!

Please join me and Ryan Goble, host of the Making Curriculum Pop ning for teachers, as we talk about comics, vocabulary acquisition, and literacy on February 5, 2011. We'll begin the webinar at 1 p.m. Eastern and hope to have an informative, interactive experience that will share information about Super-Powered Word Study and the interconnections of comics and learning, focusing specifically on morphology (the study of affixes and roots) and authentic learning and assessment.

Click here to register.

Hope to see you soon!

The International Comics Art Forum (ICAF) Seeks Proposals for 2011 Conference

From the Press Release:
ICAF, the International Comic Arts Forum, invites scholarly paper proposals for its fifteenth anniversary meeting, to be held at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, from Thursday, September 29, through Saturday, October 1, 2011.The deadline to submit proposals is March 18, 2011. (Scroll down for proposal guidelines and submission information.)
ICAF welcomes original proposals from diverse disciplines and theoretical perspectives on any aspect of comics or cartooning, particularly studies that reflect an international perspective. Studies of aesthetics, production, distribution, reception, and social, ideological, and historical significance are all equally welcome, as are studies that address larger theoretical issues linked to comics or cartooning, for example in image/text studies or new media theory. Proposals that focus on bandes dessinées or manga are encouraged.
In recognition of the fifteenth meeting of ICAF, we are hoping to schedule a special panel on larger issues pertaining to the teaching and study of comics. We are therefore particularly interested in papers that address the study of comics as an academic discipline by itself and within other disciplines. This can be focused either in terms of pedagogy (the challenges and pitfalls of how we bring the study of comics into the classroom) or scholarship (the opportunities for and liabilities of doing research in comics in the modern academy, and the concerns about methodology). There will also be a special panel on the representation of History and Alternative Histories in Comics.
PROPOSAL GUIDELINES: For its refereed presentations, ICAF prefers argumentative, thesis-driven papers that are clearly linked to larger critical, artistic, or cultural issues; we strive to avoid presentations that are merely summative or survey-like in character. We can accept only original papers that have not been presented or accepted for publication elsewhere. Presenters should assume an audience versed in comics and the fundamentals of comics studies. Where possible, papers should be illustrated by relevant images. Presentations must be timed to finish within the strict limit of twenty (20) minutes. Proposals should not exceed 300 words.
REVIEW PROCESS: All proposals will be subject to blind review by the ICAF Executive Committee. The final number of papers accepted will depend on the needs of the conference program. Due to high interest in the conference, in recent years ICAF has typically been able to accept only one third to one half of the proposals it has received.
AUDIOVISUAL EQUIPMENT: ICAF's preferred format for the display of images is MS PowerPoint. Regretfully, we cannot accommodate non-digital media such as transparencies, slides, or VHS tapes. Presenters should bring their PowerPoint or other electronic files on a USB key.
SEND ABSTRACTS (with complete contact information) by March 18, 2011, to C. W. Marshall, ICAF Academic Program Director, via email at: toph@exchange.ubc.ca
Receipt of all proposals will be acknowledged. Applicants should expect to receive confirmation of acceptance or rejection by April 18, 2011.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Web Comic on Bed Bugs

Gabrielle Bell's web comic detailing her experience with bed bugs, which the Beat calls "the herpes of furniture," can be found here. It's called "Nocturnal Guests" and is a 4-parter.

This might be a great comic for science class!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vermont to Name Cartoonist Laureate, First for USA

James Kochalka is to be honored after a search conducted by the Center for Cartoon Studies.

BOO-YAH! Fall 2011: ENGL 3327: Jewish American Literature

Sub-topic "The Graphic Novel." FINALLY, I'm teaching a graphic novels course in the English Department here at UTEP. I'm not Jewish, but there is a rich backlog of texts and articles dealing with comics-and-judaica connections. What an exciting challenge to put together a course list and to have to choose from all the great comics and graphic novels out there!

Expect to see -- for sure! -- a lot of Eisner and Sturm, some Spiegelman, Crumb's Genesis, some Superman comics, some Stan Lee, probably some Kominsky-Crumb. Anyone know if Chris Ware is Jewish? Hey, I'm trying here!

Hipster Superheroes

Now I get it: "Hipster" is this generation's term for self-important douchebag. We used to just call those folks douchebags.

Archie Follows Batman, Tells Comics Code Authority to Suck It

Well, not exactly. But, come February 2011, the CCA will be dead and gone, as Archie comics were the last ones using it. It had a good run of censoring and regulating.

Women in Comics Through History Wiki, Resources

There were and are more out there than you might think, even from the Golden Age.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Short Film: *Lazy Teenage Superheroes*

Review of *Fist Stick Knife Gun*

I hate that I started reading Geoffrey Canada's Fist Stick Knife Gun, left it for a bit, then read The Zabime Sisters, and then returned to it. Both tell stories of young black people struggling with, while simultaneously embracing, cultures of violence. Having both books in my mind took me to some pretty dark places, but when I reminded myself that the texts had other things in common besides black-skinned people fighting for status, I felt more connected to the texts, but still equalling disgusted with myself and much of the social order of my fellow man.

Canada's novel is based on his actual upbringing, while the other is a work of fiction, and not a good one at that, but both do reveal, to me, anyway, that cultures of violence are very often associated with cultures of poverty, regardless of race. Certainly my own life is case-in-point. By the time I was 20, I had encounters with knives and guns, and I'd felt and delivered punches.

It's this connection, the one between poverty and violence, the one stemming from insecurity and the overwhelming stresses of not knowing when or how or for how long one's basic needs will be met, that Canada explores. He tells his own story, but helps us to recognize we need to multiply his own tensions by that of entire neighborhoods.

That being said, Canada strikes a sympathetic tone but not one of acquiescence. While explaining that the phenomenon is what it is, he does not accept that it has to be as it is or always will be.

As he grows from a small boy low on the pecking order until he proves he can fight to a young man seeing his Christian values wrestle with his need for safety on the streets while deciding to make the existential choice to carry a gun or not, Canada learns that some decisions are more powerful than others and that self-awareness often keys those decisions.

He says, "I knew that if I continued to carry the gun I would eventually pull the trigger." I've said similar things myself regarding my sometimes-intense anger: "The only reason I haven't shot anyone is because I don't have a gun." But how many people so focused on basic issues of safety and security have the time or inclination for self-reflection? An empty stomach, an anxious heart, and a always-already "fight or flight" consciousness does not make for an abundance of pacifist philosophers.

The graphic novel portion of the text ends with a call to action, symbolized by the teen Canada throwing away his gun, and in the prose pages that follow, Canada suggests that he remembers a time when there was no violence in his life, when he had to learn it.

I'm not sure I remain as optimistic as he does, though knowing his experience has been much tougher than my own but he remains more positive does give me cause to think better of the human condition. He asks us to take on poverty and to invest in poor neighborhoods. His thesis suggests that only when the anxieties of a life of poverty are removed will the perceived need for violence in poor neighborhood abate. In the meantime, while we do nothing to change the phenomenon, we should not expect the phenomenon to change. That, even if Canada might be seen as a dreamer, seems pretty sound logic to me.

** Fist Stick Knife Gun is a graphic novel version of a print novel by the same name. Jamar Nicholas adapted the story in the comics format, and Random House's catalogue "Language Arts and Social Studoes 2011" features commentary that teachers may find useful when integrating this text into the classroom, where it can certainly have some impact, especially if paired with a text like Yummy, which shows a young person in similar living situations making choices leading him to very different conclusions.

Gallery of Some of Crumb's Underground Comics Covers

Funny animals, thick women, drugs and misogyny: what's not to love? Ahem...

The Beat Calls DC's New Rating System Video Game-Like

DC will no longer use the comics code authority to rate its books as kid-safe, dropping the code in favor of a "multi-layer ratings system."

The system assigns either an E, a T, a T+, or an M to titles to indicate if they are for everyone, teens, teens and whatever "+" means, and mature.

I'm intrigued by the streamlining. Making ratings more consistent across media was part of the reason for the change.

Multimodality, censorship, and ratings just got more interesting.

How long before we see a complaint from a parent or teacher that a trade paperback with comics rated "M" was found in the "T" equivalent of the school library's stacks?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Super Pets" Writing Contest Ends February 28th!

More information about this contest for kids is available by clicked the link to The Graphic Classroom blog that is embedded in this post's title!

Inner Creep Says, "They're ALL magical To Me..."

Gina Gagliano of :01 is compiling a list of "magical teenagers" in comics titles. This could be a dissertation-length effort if she exhausts the topic. Thanks for the link, Spurge!

Ninja, Please! : Ruben Bolling's Comic on the Huck Finn Controversy

Yes, I think the n-word should stay in all editions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Erasing history only helps us to repeat it, and not facing uncomfortable feelings and conversations doesn't do anything to make anything better.

On the other hand, as a ninja, I know how hurtful it can be to hear someone use an n-word in a derogatory manner. And, I know how hurtful it is to have your particular n-word appropriated in the place of another hurtful n-Word. "Ninja, What?" "Where my ninjas at?" "What up, my ninja?" When will the pain cease?
When these kids realize that real ninjas bring real pain, that's when! Hye-yah!

Forgive me for my crass spin on "Ask a Ninja," but do give thanks to Ruben Bolling for offering some comics commentary on this latest flapdoodle and hoo-hah.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alan Moore: Literacy and Library Advocate!

As some British libraries face closing, The Bearded One of Greatness speaks.

From Bleeding Cool and the Northapton Chronicle:

I am absolutely against the closure of any library – particularly in the St James area which has had enough taken away from it already. I joined the library in Abington when I was five and all the books available gave me a broad reading experience – without Northampton’s libraries I would not be the writer I am today. I am very concerned about the kids today which might grow up without this access. I am very against taking literacy away from people. Education must not be a privilege for the well-off.

Please click the Northampton Chronicle link, as it gives a much broader story.

Best Web Comics of 2010, According to Derik A Badman..

..and linked from Dylan Horracks, so you know there's some quality thinking going on! I don't give web comics near enough attention, but I hope to remedy that a bit in my New and Multimodal Literacies course this semester, and in future courses too..

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And Now, A Shitty Review...of *The Zabime Sisters*

Classes start for me tomorrow, and due to a university-wide failure of the webmail system, I am unable to complete the last task I had on today's agenda: sending out virtual copies of my syllabi.

My loss is your... "also loss," however, as this gives me time to write a review of Aristophane's The Zabime Sisters, a book getting high praise from Matt Madden and YALSA/ALA, which listed it as among the best graphic novels for teens this year.

I don't get it, at all. Or, if I do get it, I see it as more evidence that 2010 year was a relatively weak one for graphic novels.

The story is one of three sisters growing up in the jungle town of Guadeloupe. They get bored, get a little drunk, a little flirty, and then go home. The most interesting characters are the boys who fight over them, or for their own reputations, simply because fighting is a way in which the young men of the village earn status and divvy up their self-imposed caste system. There is little growth for the female leads, and while I'm typically a fan of slice-of-life fiction, I like it to go somewhere. The Zabime Sisters doesn't offer much direction for reader or the girls.

What's worse, the dry brush ink technique that has been praised by others seems to me poorly applied. The characters often blend into the thick scrapes of landscape, and while I suppose this could have been intentional, the affect falls as flat as the story for me.

I'm not saying this graphic novel is terrible, but it doesn't strike me as deserving of as much praise as it has garnered. Madden calls it a bit of a departure from Aristophane's other work, which I really do want to check out, a happy consequence of reading this translation. I prefer the term the Frenchman used to describe The Zabime Sisters, himself, though: modest.

The Ultimate "Best Of 2010" List of Links...

..synthesized by Tom Spurgeon, of course! The man's a machine!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January's *Language Arts* (88.3) Features TWO Articles on GN's!

Peter Gutierrez has an article on fans, fandom, and points of view regarding those constructs and comics in the classroom in this NCTE publication. His "The Right To Be a Fan" is an intriguing read. While I do wonder if it doesn't give enough attention to those who might be willing to see multiple types of texts as equals (and I hope I'm not being naive to assume there are such folks out there), I dare you not to find his assertions well-written, compelling and provocative. (He was also very nice to me and the contributors of Building Literacy Connections in this writing, and I'm appreciate of that!) Gutierrez's article certainly adds to the conversation about textual primacy, textual consideration, and textual equality, and I highly recommend it.

Carmen M. Marti´nez-Rolda´n and Sarah Newcomer have another exciting article with a GN connection in the issue as well. Their work in "'Reading Between the Pictures': Immigrant Students' Inteprretation of The Arrival" (The Arrival is S. Tan's excellent wordless graphic novel) is described in abstract as such:

...the authors share findings from a study in which immigrant students responded to the wordless text The Arrival in small-group, bilingual literature discussions. The interpretive processes of two of the children with different ethnic backgrounds, levels of English proficiency, and styles of response are highlighted as exemplary and contrastive case studies. Additionally, the social nature of the students’ interpretive work is illustrated by showing how the students drew upon their experiences of immigration, engaged in inquiry, and incorporated each others’ strategies as they co-constructed their responses and their own version of The Arrival. In a time when students’ language and reading abilities are defined by test scores, the authors propose that the use of wordless books provide an alternative perspective. Children’s ability to read between the pictures and make meaning of visual texts reflects a sophisticated interpretive activity that can offer teachers insight into what their immigrant students can do as readers. Access to high-quality wordless texts that address themes to which they can relate offers immigrant children, who are often also English language learners, the opportunity to enjoy the right to read and talk about books.

This is the second or third essay on GN's and immigrant experiences I've seen debut in the last few months, and I'm glad to see folks exploring these issues. I haven't read this particualr article yet (If anyone has a copy or PDF, please send it to me), but it looks great too!

Good for the progressive editors at Language Arts, and good on these authors for their excellent contributions to the contemporary conversation regarding sequential art narrative's use in schools!

High Praise from Graphic Novel Reporter

The too-kind John Hogan wrote the following in the most-recent Graphic Novel Reporter Newsletter:

...one of our most regular contributors, Dr. Katie Monnin, took some time out to talk with James Bucky Carter and Erik Evensen, the creators behind Super-Powered Word Study. Their book examines how graphic novels can be used to develop word power in young learners and reluctant readers.

I first met Bucky back in 2008 at a comics-related conference at Fordham University. He made a presentation to a roomful of teachers and librarians that showed a page from Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-Men. The page was largely made up of text, which is much different from the way comics look today. In fact, I remember how long it took me to read an average comic book when I was a kid back in the ’80s…it was quite a long time compared to today. Truthfully, I miss how verbose comics used to be. Yes, they are illustrated, and that is what makes them special. But the word “book” is in their name as well, and I’d love to see that word emphasized more. If it were, imagine how much more respect comics and graphic novels would convey in our culture.

All this is not to put words in Bucky’s mouth, though. He makes a very good case for all the works that do promote great reading skills today (and I love that he mentions Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men in his GNR interview). Ever since GraphicNovelReporter.com launches, Bucky has been a very good friend to us, and his work promoting the format as a powerful educational tool is among the best in the industry. Teaming up with Erik Evensen to do this book was a great move, so check out what they have to say about it here.

Thanks, John and everyone at GNR! You all are class acts, and I'm happy to know you and to see the site being such a success. I love being associated with people doing such great comics-and-literacy-related work!

2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Graphic Novel Reporter has covered the ALA's recent lists of suggested GN's for adolescents. Here's their link to the overall list, and here's their link to what ALA considers the top ten from the past year.

Katie Monnin's GNR Interview with Erik Evensen and Lil Ol' Me!

Katie Monnin's been on fire lately!She's got another book coming out; she's been on TV, and she's talking GN's with Jacksonville-area parents.

Here she triumphs in making a dullard like me seem interesting, assisted by my friend Erik A. Evensen. The bulk of the interview is about our groovy new book Super-Powered Word Study, which combines comics and morphology in keen ways, daddy-o!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

With Love, To An Art Teacher Recently Passed

My high school days were pretty strange, and not just because I was a strange kid.

I recently wrote of how my high school career almost began on the wrong path when a guidance councilor advised my 9th-grader self that I should go into the Tech Prep track rather than the College Prep track, even though I was in the top ten of the entering sophomore class for all students in my county (high school covered graded 10-12 back then) and had every intention of being the first member of my family to go to college.

Class, name recognition, money, perceptions running counter to certain test and aptitude scores, IQ's, etc. -- these were powerful forces working against me and many other working class students in my small town, forces I felt but couldn't always articulate. I even recall there being some hubbub about my junior and senior class rank and whether someone who took a lot of arts classes should really be considered at or near the top of his class. While I had plenty of teachers who were pulling for me, it sometimes seemed like it was hard to catch a break, simply because I was me, or, perhaps more accurately, because I wasn't others or didn't have what others had.

I have and always will love the arts. Once I hit middle school, I knew I wanted to be a Renaissance Man, as good as I could be at all things and appreciative of all forms of human expression and creativity.

I saw and still see creativity as intrinsically linked to progress and the ever-evolving betterment of life and society.

In high school, I took band classes, even staying after school for jazz band, and art classes. Somehow having these interests suggested to some that I was taking an "easy way out" rather than simply sincerely following my interests.

I don't know if Mr. Groce, my art teacher, ever felt that way. He was an affable man, prone to be both solemn and joyous. He told me one day that for him, college and teaching became options upon realizing that Vietnam was the only other thing waiting for him. He seemed to enjoy turning us loose to let our creative spirits take us where we wanted. He was pleased to realize I would be going to college in the same part of the state where he did his studies. (I went to Western Carolina, where, by the way, I played in jazz band, orchestra, and marched and earned degrees in English Education and Art; he went to nearby Mars Hill).

I remember the joy on his face when, during a break in my first year of college, I stopped by his classroom and asked him if he thought I had what it took to be an art teacher. Smiling wide, he said, "Sure! You might not ever be a Picasso or a Rembrandt, but you definitely have what it takes!" Faith and confidence, that is what I feel Mr. Groce felt for me, and I have never forgotten it. The warmth of his glow at that moment, the pride I saw him feel for the both of us, it sustains me at times of need even to this day. He wasn't the only inspirational teacher I had in high school -- I don't want anyone reading this thinking that -- but he was a special one for me for reasons written herein. For reasons that not everyone in our little slice of the world could understand.

I never did end up teaching art, per se. My love of literature had started to bloom in 10th grade and carried me through until my doctoral degree, where I began again to mesh my interests in "different" types of texts and arts. While I never gained employment as an art teacher, with every English teacher I talk to, with every up-and-coming English Educator who seeks me out for advice on how to integrate comics into their classrooms, with evert script I write, I am reminded of that high schooler with the lofty goals who only needed to hear that he had what it took to be good; maybe not legendary, but good enough to make a difference in people's lives through creative work and thinking.

Every time I talk about graphic novels -- the fusion of traditional print text and the visual text -- I feel like I am reliving my dreams of living an arts-rich life and helping other young people do the same. Even when I face the stubborn opposition of folks who do not want to accept that two of the 6 English Language Arts are visualizing and visually representing -- opposition which often sends me tumbling into that past where some feel like I'm too different to be good, like my definitions of excellence just don't match theirs -- I feel like I'm fighting the good fight in the face of ignorance and stifling tradition, and I feel Mr. Groce is with me, encouragingly, and proud of my work and his influence on it. As solemn as he could be, I feel like when he is with me, he is always saying "You have what it takes," and he's OK that the feeling might only be shared between the two of us, always joyous to know that we'll give it another best effort the next time.

Larry Groce died on January 8, 2011. But for those of us who appreciated our time with him, he will always remain a guiding force.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

_The Bean_ Still Going Strong, Impresses After All These Years

I met Travis Hanson years ago as part of the online studio Outcast Comics. He's a great artist and storyteller who has been working on a web comic called The Bean for several years now. Why he hasn't gotten more attention from First Second or Scholastic by this point is beyond me. His story, a fantasy epic based in a young boy's quest to discover more about his father, resonates with a sense of all things "classic" in good literature.

As well, I feel the story is family-friendly, for the most part. There's some violence, but it all has its place and is never gratuitous.

Why not check out The Bean now?: http://www.beanleafpress.com/?p=42

I'll bet you'll be impressed, and you might just have found a new comics series for your students or kids!

Katie Monnin's Work with GN's Featured in UNF Student Newspaper

Some Awesome Winsor McCay Social Art

Click the link embedded in this post's title, then come back and tell me how many of these images WOULDN'T make a kick-ass screen saver, eh??? Eh???

Monday, January 10, 2011

Katie Monnin Rocks the Message on FL TV!

Click this link's title to see Katie Monnin, Ph.D. and professor at North Florida discuss comics and literacy ON THE LOCAL NEWS!!

Spurge Whips Out the Good Stuff!

The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon is posting some great new interviews. He's recently talked with Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes, and James Sturm!

CBR's Lengthy Interview with Francoise Mouly

This has been making the rounds lately and is getting raves as an excellent interview.

Friday, January 07, 2011

GNR's Brigid Alverson Discusses Problems with Age Ratings on Comics

*SPWS* Has Its First Review!

From Midwest Book Review, it reads, "Super-Powered Word Study" is a workbook for younger readers using the format of comics to teach the more subtle nuances of the English language and word structure through various comics with a unique style sure to educate as it entertains with its charm. Enhanced with an additional DVD with more resources, "Super-Powered Word Study" is a fine pick for anyone seeking to educate their students further through their own interests.

*The Comics Journal* Launches "The Panelists"

Comics scholars and critics discuss whatever their druthers may be and what they feel are important topics in the ever-expanding realm of comics studies. Woot!

MLA Launches Discussioin Group on Comics and Graphic Novels

And check out all that comics-related programming at this year's MLA! Maybe I'll get me some o' dat one day....

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Stan Lee Gets Star on Hollywood Blvd!

Yay! Though, shouldn't this have happened years ago?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I'll Be Back At It Soon, Readers!

I'm milking this break between semesters for all it is worth, but I'll be back to posting things soon.