A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Erik Evensen and the Curious Case of the Slaughtering Sasqui: A Review of _The Beast of Wolfe's Bay_

Erik Evensen’s latest graphic novel, The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay, is part rural legend/supernatural adventure story, part romance, part parody of academic life. Brian Wegman, struggling doctoral candidate in Anthropology, is called upon to help small town cops in rustic Wolfe’s Bay solve a murder mystery, despite many considering him unqualified for the job. Along the way, he reunites with childhood acquaintance Freddie Roth, an attractive comparative literature professor as comfortable talking about folklore as she is making pop culture references. The two become fast foils, then friends, then more than friends as they fight Wegman’s severe career fatigue, a jealous investigator, an army of wendigos and their unhinged human leader, Dr. Greta Wendel.

References to the epic Beowulf are interlaced throughout the story; for example, Dr. Wendel’s character is a Grendel analogue. “Hwait!” begins the tale. Wolfe’s Bay is in Heorot County. In the closing notes, Evensen, a Xeric Award winner for his graphic novel Gods of Asgard, suggests that the book was planned as a more direct retelling but ended up as a sort of half-baked Beowulf, and while it is true that the text runs less than a hundred pages and is not an exact adaptation of the epic set to contemporary times, it doesn’t have to be for uninformed readers to enjoy it on the surface as a fun, thrilling narrative or for the more literary-inclined to appreciate the numerous interspersed allusions.

                                     The first page and invocation for The Beast of Wolfe's Bay

Indeed, high school teachers could use the text to help explore differences between adaptations and stories that are “inspired by” other texts. Intertextuality is comprised of ranges, after all. Readers in college – especially those in graduate school – and more than a few doctorates should get a kick out of seeing professors and university cultures take a few pokes and jabs. Unless they’re sensitive like Dr. Wendel, in which case I’d advise them to take field work in a remote location and never return to “normal” life, as does she.

Quirky, quixotic, and upbeat, The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay asks readers to balance between anticipating new love and anticipating criminal resolution, between jokey asides and literary subtexts. Often the plot-driving presence of hulking, killing sasqui is just a strange after note. Embedded within is a subtle critique of the problems associated with high cultures vs. low cultures arguments and their inherent notions of “worth,” and Evensen seems to suggest that no matter what one values and thinks is “real” or important, time, literatures, and life choices always push against the boundaries of normalcy – and accepting that might be the key to ending one’s quest happily.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TCJ Interviews Walter Biggins, Departing Comics Guru for UP Mississippi

Here's a great interview from a month or so ago that features a guy who really know where comics scholarship has been, where it is going, and where it ought to go. Must-read stuff for anyone trying to get a grasp on comics and academia. I can't recommend this strongly enough.

2013 Eisner Awards Noms Made Public!

Click here or here to learn about the comics nominated for the award consistently referred to as the Oscars of the Comics! Maybe one day I'll get to judge these things. I hear it is a heck of a process! *Hint!Hint! To anyone reading!*

2012 Lynd Ward Award Goes to Chris Ware's Building Stories

Awarded by the Pennsylvania State University's Pennsylvania Center for the Book, the Lind Ward Award goes to an exemplar of comics narrative each year. Chris Ware's Building Stories is a fine, fine choice. Other comics were honored as well. Click here to learn more, and congrats to Chris Ware! I'm a big fan!

ALA's Most Challenged/Banned YA Books for 2012 Surpisingly Comicsless

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports that no comics or graphic novels made the 2012 list of most challenged books. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was challenged in 2012 and is a regular on such lists now, according to CBLDF, and since the Sherman Alexie book has comics elements, let's consider it a prose/comics hybrid text just so the sequential art lovers among us don't feel too left out.

Click here for the story and links to ALA's lists of oft-challenged books.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Satrapi Weighs in on Persepolis Ban

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is keeping this ever-befuddling clusterflub from Chicago Public Schools fresh in our minds by helping share Marjane Satrapi's thoughts on the subject. I am excited to see her talk about the issue, and frustrated that CPS is requiring an ambiguous type of training to teachers before they teach the book. Pseudo-censorship at its finest, laced with half-baked stories and rumors and very little transparent truth from CPS beyond a "We'll do what we want" rhetoric.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

ImageTexT Special Issue: "Comics and Post-Secondary Education" CFP

Hi, all. I'm pleased to share with you that I am guest-editing an issue of ImageTexT journal, one of the premiere comics scholarship publications. Former UTEP graduate student (I was on her thesis committee!) and current University of Florida doctoral student Najwa Al-tabaa is co-editing the issue with me.

Please consider submitting your work, and help us spread the word. Here's a link to the actual Call For Papers.

The Clyde Fitch Report Spotlights Columbia U Librarian Karen Green

 Click here to read an interview with the influential librarian who has had much success integrating comics collections into the stacks at that most-excellent of Ivy League institutions!