A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Late Harvey Pekar's Book on Yiddish Coming Soon!

Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land is edited by Pekar and Paul Buhle. There's a preview waiting for you if you click the link embedded in this post's title. I can't wait to tell my ENGL 3327 class about it!

What are you waiting for? Mench up and stop being a putz! Go read it! ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

*Maus* on TIME's Top 100 Autobiographies

TIME is releasing "top 100" lists for a variety of nonfiction genres. Someone with more patience than me will have to find a way to easily access the top hundred for each category besides looking at them one at a time, but my guess is more graphic novels (or graphica, for those of you who just must distinguish graphic fiction from graphic nonfiction) are in the lists. I'll try to keep you posted as other people do this work. ;)

The Compelling Story of How a GN Collection Was Saved

Click here to read how students and volunteers in Vermont rushed to save the graphic novel collection at the Center for Cartoon Studies' recently-acquired building known as the Charles Schulz Library. Rain from Hurricane Irene caused some flooding an could have seriously threatened all the library's contents had dedicated folks not made some serious efforts to keep them safe and dry.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yesterday was "Read Comics in Public" Day

Seems like I missed it last year too. The Beat reports there was a special "Women Read Comics Too!" theme to this year's event, which was overshadowed by weathery concerns, no doubt.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

AP Picks up Story on Jaime Portillo's Historic GN

This weekend, The El Paso Times ran a story on Borderlands comics creator and Xeric-award winner Jaime Portillo's recent six-part series Hell Paso: The Story of Dallas Stoudenmire. Portillo is earning his Masters in History and has been putting his research skills to use through the comics format. I'm quoted in the article, as is local comics figure Julian Lawler.

Several people emailed me different links, so it it looks like the Associated Press picked up on the story, hopefully meaning it might have gotten some national attention. With such a neat comics scene in El Paso and El Paso Comics Convention coming up soon, that timing is great, and Jaime certainly deserves some recognition for his efforts to capture part of the history of this area.

What? You didn't know Dallas Stoudenmire was a real person? Time for you to visit what the kids call "The Google." ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I found this image online and would love to attribute it to the proper artist, so if you know who that is, please let me know. I added the words. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

*Friends With Boys* Available Online 'Till it Ain't

Faith Erin Hicks is publishing a YA graphic novel from First Second in the coming months, but you can read some of it in serial form online nowzers!

Friends With Boys is being shared bit by bit along with author blogs and "is about Maggie McKay, a home-schooled teenager entering her first year in public high school and who is stalked by a local ghost," according to Comic Book Resources.

Seems a little Anya's Ghost with more punk rock thrown in to me, but whatevs. I'll check it out anyway. :)

And you can too by visiting the book's main web page here.

*Uglies* Optioned for GN Adaptation

The YA series Uglies, penned by Scott Westerfield, will soon get the graphic novel treatment. Click here to see what IVC2.com had to say about this development, and if you aren't familiar with the series, here's a review of one of the Uglies books written by C.C. Almodovar, a student in my most-recent YA Lit class!

Apparently a film adaptation or two is underway as well. We'll see how The Hunger Games fairs as a film franchise and will keep an eye out for these Uglies GN's and films too as studios tray to catch the Harry Potter series lightening in a bottle.

Why is Captain America Apologizing to Me?

I've written before that I've long felt a strong connection to Marvel comics, especially to the X-Men and to Captain America. I tried to grow up to be tough as Wolverine, funny and spry as Nightcrawler, and as silently strong as Colossus. I really, really did used to look like James "Bucky" Barnes when I was 12, especially since that was during the denim jacket era, and I really did once act as sidekick to a scholar who was and remains a huge fan of Captain America.

So, humor me a bit as I continue my childhood desire to feel like these characters were meant to speak to me when I share this image with you:

Why is Steve Rogers apologizing to me, and why does it cause me emotion as I consider the words? First, I'll give you some options for answering the former query:

1. He's apologizing for not being able to avenge Bucky Barnes' (second) death, if not for not being able to save him.

2. He knows I've been buying the last year's worth of Avengers even though it's been nothing but talking heads a la Bendis at $4 a pop.

3. This:

If it is true that Captain America is a zeitgeist figure for our country at any given time, I have to feel that he's apologizing to me, and that if you go buy your own copy of Avengers # 16, he'll be offering you an apology too.

He's saying he's sorry for the selfishness of so many of the Baby Boomers and their ingenues. He's apologizing for the Hippies who became Yuppies who have been thinking they have all the answers and have never been wrong about anything since they've been 16 years old.

He's apologizing for the stupidity of our falling for the bipartisan traps that have been put before us and for the country's leadership slowly moving away from Democracy toward a cold Capitalism that cares little for government beyond economy.

He's offering condolences for the terrible job market and for the death or perversion of the American Dream.

And you know what? If that's what he's offering, I'll take it. Who else who supposedly embodies the spirit of America has the gumption to offer apologies without blaming an "other side?"

I suggest you take it too, because you're not gonna get it from a greater American that Steve Rogers, and it's just a crying shame that he doesn't really exist.

But, if he's willing to take some responsibility, I should too, eh? Maybe he's apologizing to help me wake up and try to do more to make a difference. Or maybe he's apologizing because he knows I'll think that, and things are so bad that making a difference can't even make a dent anymore.

Anyway, if you'be been as disappointed with leadership as I have been for the last 12-16 years or so, please feel free to join me in thinking that Captain America speaks to us directly.

Support This Project!: Chain World Graphic Novel

Comics scholar and creator A. David Lewis is attempting to create what he is calling a "freeform comic experiment," and he needs your help to fund the project.

Here's a short description in his own words:

The "Chain World" Comic Book Experiment is, with the endorsement of several comics industry professionals, aimed at producing one artisan-designed hardcover slipcased 200-page comic book/"graphic novel" with a full-color wrap-around cover, beautifully illustrated initial page of story, and...199 pages left blank.

Call it the most aesthetic chain letter ever, call it the most beautifully tangible campfire "continue-the-story" game, or call it the oddest "jam comic" to ever come down the pike: This whole Experiment is about creating and releasing one book -- only ONE -- to find its narrative destiny unchecked. The book would be passed quietly from one artist to another, never discussing the ongoing story and likely never seeing the book again. Kickstarter donors would be contributing to a social experiment but also becoming part of something simultaneously exclusive and covert.

Sounds cool, eh? To learn more about the project, view a film about it, and help fund it, click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Get Your Excorcise On, Girl!": A Review of *Anya's Ghost*

Anya Borzakovskaya attends a private school even though her mother can barely afford it. Despite being curvy in all the right places, Anya worries about her body and that she might one day be obese like her mother. She also worries about being seen as an outsider and has worked hard to eliminate any trace of her Russian accent. She's been in America since she was five, and all she feels she has to show for it is fitting in slightly better than the only other Russian immigrant at her school, the "fobby" -- to use a word that First Second apparently wants in everyone's lexicon -- and nerdy Dima.

But when Anya falls down a well and discovers the spirit of a girl about her age who died at its bottom, a typical teen angst narrative takes a tantalizing turn for the weird and creepy. By story's end, Anya has to grow up a bit and realize what is most important about family and self.

Or, to put it in cheesy film preview language, "A girl so worried about her weight is about to get some exorcise!"

Vera Brosgol's Anya's Ghost (2011, First Second) has been compared to Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, and surely Brosgol is paying homage to First Second's most commercially successful graphic novel to date. While the story is creepy cool and Anya is an attractive, relatable main character who deals with similar feelings as did Yang's, I do not see this book earning a National Book Award nomination. Maybe a Printz, and most-likely high praise from ALA.

Neil Gaiman has called the book a masterpiece, and certainly its themes and integration of the uncanny appeal to him. They appeal to me too, and I do think this is a very good, well-written, compelling graphic novel that meshes elements of the typical teen bildungsroman, the immigrant narrative, and the ghost story. While I do not think it will come to be seen as one of the best graphic novels ever published, as many consider American Born Chinese, Anya's Ghost holds its own and may be even more interesting to read to its target audience than ABC.

But, you know, there's nothing wrong with not being considered the best by everyone but still being considered among everyone's favorites. And as end-of-narrative Anya will tell you, even that isn't all that.

Comparisons to other texts aside, Brosgol has crafted an engaging narrative that nails the teen experience while adding a supernatural twist that should keep this graphic novel on the minds of adolescents and teachers for years to come.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Article in *InLand* Published!

So you've probably already hunted down my article "Graphic Novels, Web Comics, and Creator Blogs: Examining Product and Process" in this summer's Theory Into Practice 50.3.

Right? It was the most urgent thing on your list of urgent things. Remember? You 'member!

Now sink your teeth into "Aligning the IRA/NCTE Standards to Graphic Novels: An ELA Pedagogy of Multiliteracies," co-written with Katie Monnin and Brian Kelley, which is appearing now in InLand 28.1.

Both these journals' summer issues explore YA literature, and there's plenty more good readin' beyond the the stuff from the professor in the West Texas town of El Paso.

*Captain Confederacy* Comics Available Free Online

Read this controversial series dealing with super heroes and race-relations by clicking here. The comments left behind are pretty interesting too, as this is still a series that seems hard to pin down for many.

Interesting to see that Marvel's retcon of Captain America in Truth:Red, Black and White seems to have pulled from Captain CSA's mythos in that in both stories it is revealed that the Captains gained their powers from a serum that was tested on African Americans. Guess Marvel, which published some of Captain Confederacy back in the EPIC days, thought the idea was a good one.

Thanks to Tom Spurgeon for wishing a big "HBD" to the series' writer over the Comics Reporter, which spurred me to look into the series on a whim today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Your 2011 Harvey Award Winners

Lots of Jaime Hernandez representation in that list! :)

Welcome Fall 2011! GN-A-Palooza!

Tomorrow classes start at UTEP, and as I've mentioned in other posts, we'll be packing in the graphic novel goodness in my three classes this semester. I have one GN for my main methods course; two for my New and Multimodal Forms course, and a whole slew for Jewish American Literature (through the Graphic Novel) class, which is holding steady at 32 students!!

I'll also be a keynote speaker for one of the days of the New York NCTE affiliate in October and will be part of a panel of NCTE in November. Both appearances deal with comics, of course. Maybe I'll even introduce some graphic novelists at this year's ALAN, like I did last year.

I've got the "Comics" entry in the upcoming Encyclopedia of Adolescence, and I've published articles on graphica and education in Theory into Practice and Inland this summer.

I'll also be working to publish the second issue of SANEjournal. You may recall that the theme is "Teaching the Works of Alan Moore." We have some good articles lined up, and I can't wait to get back to this aspect of my advocacy for comics and literacy.

Then there are the things "in the works" that I want to talk about but probably need wait before doing so. Suffice it to say, by the end of the semester, I expect to announce a major library-based addition to the UTEP stacks.

And, if things fall right and I find evidence of equitable treatment to my liking, I may be making a professional milestone soon too.

I do need to get to writing new material and to sending out more proposals, etc. But, due to working with others, I'm not on empty there either.

Here's to a great Fall 2011 semester and beyond!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 Ignatz Award Nominees Named

My Summer Pleasure Reading: *Saga of the Swamp Thing*

I've now read 5 of the 6 volumes of Alan Moore's run on Saga of the Swamp Thing, and I just gotta say that I'm loving it.

I don't know if living the Southwest has me yearning for the South, or if the desert and recent humidity has me yearning for bodies of water and marsh, but I've found myself drawn to Swamp Thing since reading Jeremy Love's Bayou and noticing that the eponymous character of that series is a clear homage to Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's soggy slosh super-hero.

(Did you know that Swamp Thing and Man Thing debuted almost simultaneously, and that both are an homage to an obscure character called The Heap?)

It's also fun to see Moore playing with Watchmen themes prior to releasing that text and seeing scenes and that seem "tested" in this series, as if the bayou of Louisiana became the Brit's natural playground. I enjoy wondering if Moore every visitited the Southern swamps. I enjoy the romance between Swampy and Abbie, the taboo that isn't really.

I also sort of like seeing an elemental character kick the asses of DC's more mainstream capes.

I do think the series could be used in the high school and college classroom, especially as a text to illustrate Southern Gothic literature. I even wrote a rationale for volume 1 of the collected series while working on the Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels text.

Right now I just want to savor the story's essence, though, as if I don't have allergies and moss makes me feel alive and erotic and connected and free at the same time. Nothing fancy. Just want to say I recommend these volumes.

Seriously, if you like Moore and you like brooding and romance, check out this Mr. Natural/Frankenstein via the Saga of the Swamp Thing collected editions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

*The Atlantic* Offers Up Top 10 List of Nonfiction GN's

That's right, I refused to call it graphic nonfiction. Whatchyagonnadooabouditt? ;)

Anyway, there are some neat titles on this list, some reportage and some history and some science. Teachers will note that suggests multi-curricular appeal!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the New Biracial Spider-Man

The Spider-Man of the Ultimate universe has been in the media lately not so much because he replaces Peter Parker in that continuity, but because he is biracial. New York teen Miles Morales has heritage rooted in African American and Hispanic cultures.

And that's cool... but do we need to paint Peter Parker as whiter than the lilies now? I mean, just because he died fighting one of the few green people in his world doesn't make him a racist. ;)

And that's my problem with the story surrounding this new character. It's not about the character at all but about the meta-narratives surrounding his appearance. You may have heard that Glen Beck blamed the First Lady for this change. "Blamed?" Come on. The subtexts surrounding Miles' new role are disturbing to me, even if it is easy to gloss over some of their substance and focus on the "feel good" aspect of "diversification."

Let me explain:

Consider this article from WNYC:

Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis is quoted as saying " Wouldn't it be cool if Spider-Man was biracial? Somebody different than the comic book norm -- who represented New York more."

Sorry, hard working, loyal, conflicted, over-achieving everyteen Peter Parker. You just didn't represent your city. Sorry all white people; your time has come and gone. You have no place in the New York of the 21 century. Or, if you did, your incredible whiteness was so glaring, it was mucking up the metaphor.

Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle is quoted in the article as saying, "This is definitely progress....It's always great to see when the faces behind the masks -- the iconic characters we grew up with -- are finally starting to reflect the world around us."

So, progress is replacing white people with people who are of non-white backgrounds, because all white people are the same and have a singular homogeneous culture that is at odds with reality?

The next example comes from Cheryl Gladstone, a biracial citizen of Brooklyn, who says, "Being different is a superpower."

Again, is the intimation that all white people are the same, and all people who are non-white are different. Just people of biracial identity break the mold? A white, milky mold?

Don't get me wrong. I haven't been keeping up with the Ultimate Spider-Man character for a while now and probably won't read the new book either. Am I glad that this new Spidey might connect with new generations of readers? Absolutely. But, in my mind, that includes white readers too.

Diversification is not simply about exchange, about pitting one ethnicity against another as if "white" is old and everything else is "new." And, though I know more than a few of my liberal friends will probably think it, I don't mean to come off as a stodgy, out-of-touch white guy upset that the world around him is changing and he's getting left behind.

(Insert word balloon on above image of Green Goblin: "Crackers be hatin'!!")

Well, actually, some of that is how I'm trying to come off. True progress, true multicultural acceptance means not erasing white identities, but bringing them and all other possible identities along for the ride. Working together rather than against, with resistance being applied to paradigms of divisive difference.

In a world where that is understood, I can't help thinking we'd have media exalting the character of Peter Parker and praising his accomplishments in his fictional universe while excited about the newcomer's ability to exemplify all the best of what Spider-Man represents, which, as the article points out, to its credit, has never been about race, but actions and decency and respect and the constant struggle to improve one's self and one's world.

That is not and should not be construed as a racial prerogative; it's a human one. But in our universe, that message seems to be getting lost.

Peter Parker is about to become an absent presence for Miles Morales, similar to how Ben Parker and Peter's dad were absent presences for him. I hope that Miles shares with his predecessor the common core value of judging people not on the color of their skin or the ethnic or cultural heritages from which they come, but on the quality of their character.

One of the most common teaser images on the web right now, in which an exhausted Morales lifts up his mask and thinks, "Maybe the costume is in bad taste," reveals to me that Miles is as deep a thinker and worrier as Peter, which is heartening. We might be getting it wrong, but maybe Spidey keeps getting it right.

If he's able to do that, in relation to what the media has revealed about us, anyway, he'll truly personify the "super" in "super-hero" because he'll clearly exemplify the best of all of us, the best of what we can be; all of us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 9th NCTE Inbox Full of Comics-and-Literacy Goodness

Something must be afoot....

In addition to reminding folks about my first edited collection, the award-winning and best-selling Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel, this week's NCTE Inbox has links to 3 articles about comics and literacy:

1."In the Fight for Better Literacy, Comic Books Are Teachers' Secret Weapon" from This Magazine

2."Wondering (Worrying?) about Graphic Novels" from the Tempered Radical blog which features a lot of unfounded idiocy from, where else, my home state of North Carolina? When it comes to North Carolina teachers, I just can't stand stupidity. Guess it comes from having worked in the North Carolina public schools for 3 years. Anyway, I gave a pretty fiery reply to this one....

3."The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn from Playing" from PBS. The James Gee is quoted.
OK, the third is more about video games, but still.

OK, I'm gonna go fume about... wait, what is this?? Tempered Radical's Bill Ferriter has already updated and seems to backtrack a bit, acknowledging that he needs to do some research?? Maybe there is hope for teaching in the Old North State yet!

In the name of fairness, and since I blasted the guy without seeing the new post -- seriously, I actually told him to "read a f------g book!" -- I feel I must share the link to the"Lessons Learned" post about graphic novels as well.


Wow, that was about 10 minutes of roller coaster for yours truly. I started out excited but curious about NCTE's focus on comics, then furious at the second link they shared, then a little cooled upon noticing the update from the second source.

Anyway, if you want to subscribe to the NCTE Inbox weekly, free newsletter, click here. I guess I'm now living testimony that it will thrill, chill, elate, and anger you.

Pacific Northwest College of Art Creates Cartooning Award

"Pacific Northwest College is starting a new graphic award for comic arts, called the Oregon Book Awards in Graphic Literature," says Graphic novel Reporter's John Hogan. Click the link embedded in this post's title to learn how you might submit an entry!

for more info on PNCA, click here.

Illinois HS Teacher Talks Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Here's Graphic Novel Reporter's lead-in to the story:

Melissa Burke-Marquart, an 11th grade English teacher at St. Thomas More High School, a small Catholic high school in Champaign, Illinois, has been teaching graphic novels in the classroom on and off throughout her career. A lifelong comics fan and experienced educator, she says, "Years ago, I used superhero comics with my freshmen when I taught them the elements of fiction. I hear back from many of them—they're now grownups with families—that that was their all-time favorite lesson. We created a class superhero and then I grouped the students into creative teams; they wrote and created a comic and short story starring the class hero."

I could have used Melissa when I interviewed at a university in Normal, IL, a few years ago and a classroom teacher who was part of the hiring process told me that the curriculum was so full that at best, high school teachers could probably only use one graphic novel per year. The intimation was, of course, that my field of study was too limited to be of much use.

Live and let live, though, eh?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tom Spurgeon Interviews Brannon Costello About Howard Chaykin

Click here to read an in-depth interview with my friend and colleague from way back, Brannon Costello, who will soon publish a University Press of Mississippi Conversations series covering the comics legend Howard Chaykin. Brannon also mentions a book he's editing that should be out soon and that I'm actually even more excited about owning, reading, and using. That one is a collection of essay on comics and the American South. It's gonna be a big year for Brannon, and that thrills me to no end! :)

p.s. Brannon, if you're reading this, thanks for the shout-out! :)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

International Poll Asked Comics Readers to Name their Top 10 Singificant/Important Works

See the results here. There's also some good examination of what made the list and what didn't. N=+200, for those interested in how many folks The Hooded Utilitarian surveyed.

I was very happy to see Krazy Kat, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Maus, Watchmen, and Locas in the top ten.

Blue Water Adds Some Class

In the past, I've associated the products coming out of Blue Water comics publishers as, well, befitting a place in swirling blue water, if you know what I mean.

But I'm happy to announce the company is literally adding a "class" component. My friend and colleague in comics-and-literacy, Chris Wilson, of the popular blog resource The Graphic Classroom, has signed on to produce lesson plans for the company's nonfiction titles. I think this is a very smart move for Blue Water.

Click the link emdedded in this post's title to learn more, and, if you're reading, congrats on the gig, Chris!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

"Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Constitee-anc-ee?"

Loves me some Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? While we're off topic, know what else I loves even though I fight it? College football....

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

GNR Talks with our interview with the CBLDF’s Executive Director Charles Brownstein

That's "Comic Book Legal Defense Fund" for the uninitiated. For a great interview with the head of the censorship-fighting force, click here.

2011 Eisner Winners Announced at SDCC

Raina Telgemeier won the Eisner for Best Book for Teens for Smile, the first book I asked my summer Ya Lit class to read (just days before it was honored in San Diego!).

NCTE Inbox Features Denver Comic Book Classroom Project

Monday, August 01, 2011

Summer II YA Lit Students Review YA Novels

Clich here to see some early reviews of mostly-traditional print YA novels my students wrote on for my recently finished YA Lit course.