Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Just a Reminder: Final Paper due July 10th by 5pm!

I know I e-mailed this to you already, but just as a reminder here in case you forget or misplaced it. Also, don't forget to get me the 5th template response to your outside graphic novel so I can post it on the blog. 

The Paper Assignment: 

Choose ONE of the following options to write a thoughtful, persuasive essay using several of the books in class as well as other secondary research (handouts, articles, books, websites, etc.). In this paper, your goal is to educate readers who have not taken this class and/or do not regularly read comic books. With that in mind, consider what they assume about the genre, and why they might not appreciate the basic tenets of your argument.

Option 1, The Ethics of Supermen: For this option, I want you to discuss how comics explore the moral convictions and ambiguities of the superhero. It’s no longer enough to have a hero battle it out with his or her villains; modern-day readers want to explore the man or woman behind the mask, and understand what motivates someone to use their powers to save the world—and the consequences of such salvation. Are heroes always heroic? Or does becoming a superhero necessitate ‘villainous’ actions for the greater good? Consider, too, how superheroes are an evolution from the heroic ideal of ages past. How has our world/time reshaped them in our image? And what does it even mean to be a super human? Is the emphasis on the “super” or the “human”?

Option 2, Who Wears the Mask?: For this option, I want you to discuss the growing struggle of diversity and representation in superhero comics. As a traditionally male-dominated form, how have comics since the 1960’s been attempting to make superheroes reflect the social reality of 20th and 21st century America? Related to this, why might comics be the ideal medium for showcasing such diversity—even more than more traditional forms of literature and art? You might also discuss the obstacles that still face this branch of literature, and why (or when) even well-meaning attempts fall short of inclusion. Does representation always have to be literal—or can metaphors be just as (or even more) important?

Option 3, Comics in the Classroom: For this option, I want you to discuss how superhero comics could be effectively used in the classroom at any level (your choice). What, specifically, is the advantage to using (a) the medium of comics as a reading tool, and (b) exploring the abilities and conflicts of superheroes? How can superhero comics work in tandem with more traditional forms of literature? Should they merely be looked at as “bridges” to take students to more important/challenging forms of reading? Or can they be seen as engaging works in their own right, which pick up where older works left off? How could you convince a skeptical administration (and doubting parents) that comics are a (largely) untapped intellectual resource for students?

  • At least 6 pages, double spaced, but you can do more  
  • You should use at least 2-3 comics in your discussion
  • Additionally, you should have a few secondary sources to help illustrate the conversation surrounding your topic
  •  All quotations and sources should be cited properly, using MLA format, or another standard format of your choice (APA, etc.).
  • DUE IN TWO WEEKS (or, Monday, July 10)  via e-mail: you can e-mail it to if you're worried about ECU blocking your e-mail. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For Thursday/Friday: Wilson, Ms. Marvel

For Thursday/Friday, read G.Willow Wilson's Ms. Marvel, Vol.1 and respond with the Comics Response template. For more information about the author and the book, here's a recent interview with Wilson that discusses her vision for Kamala Khan, as well as her own background in comics. In part of the interview, she discusses her first encounter with comics as a kid (probably not an ideal one!):

"Probably my first crush was Wolverine, from the X-Men. When I was a kid, I at some point was given this ten-page PSA anti-smoking comic in health class. Y'know, someone thinking, "This is how to reach kids!" It was incredibly dumb. It was about this high school track star who takes up smoking, so [X-Men heroes] Storm and Wolverine show up to set him on the right path. It took me years to realize how ironic it is to have chain-smoking Wolverine in an anti-smoking comic. He was like, [growls] "Don't smoke, bub!"

Read the full interview here:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

For Friday/Monday: Coates, Black Panther

For tomorrow or no later than Monday, be sure to read Coates' Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book One, and respond with the Comics Template. This really isn't a graphic novel but a collection of the first four issues of the new Black Panther comic. Black Panther is a hero who first appeared as a kind of quasi-villain in an old Fantastic Four comic (see the back of our edition for that comic), and gradually became more and more of a mainstay in the Marvel universe. However, he was one of the few representatives of an African superhero (much less African-American), and because of that, he's been reacted to in positive and negative ways. Often, his race and identity was downplayed, while in this comic, it becomes the core of the entire story. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer for this comic, is a celebrated writer who has a string of best-selling works, including Between the World and Me. He also recently wrote a controversial article in The Atlantic entitled "The Case for Reparations," where he discusses the historical precedent for making reparations to a race or group of people who were enslaved, tortured, or persecuted. It will be interesting to see how you feel his politics/social agenda spill into the comic. 

Here's an interview with Coates discussing his take on Black Panther and how he deals to negative reaction from long-time fans who might be puzzled with his take on the work. You can read the entire article here:

As he says later in the article, "This is horrible to say, [but] I can’t be responsible to the fans. I can’t write for them. The old fans from years ago are listening to this going, “What the fuck, man?” But I don’t think an artist can. I don’t think even I want to consume art where people are writing for me, or to me. You have to write to the ages. I have to write in such a way that I think that five years from now somebody will pick this up and say, “Damn, that was incredible.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

For Tuesday: Superman: Red Son (plus Template)

For Tuesday (by 5pm), be sure to read Superman: Red Son and use the Comics Template to respond to the book.

Also, here's a brief interview with Mark Millar, the Scottish writer of Superman: Red Son, who has also done work on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and most notably Kick-Ass, which was made into 2 films (which the interview partially addresses).  However, in the interview he discusses the genesis for his idea of Superman's 'Russian' origin, and why he could never adapt it into a movie.  As an interesting side note, Millar is an MBE, which stands for "Member (of the) British Empire."  Not bad for a comic book writer!

Here's the link:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For Thursday: Batman, Year One + Template Response

Read Batman: Year One and respond to the 4 questions of the Comic Template Response (see below). Frank Miller, who wrote the comic, is one of the influential comics writers of the present era, having basically reinvented Batman in this comic and in his iconic The Dark Knight Returns, which is about a middle-aged Batman who returns to fight crime after retirement. Miller is also famous for his Sin City series, and has been involved in adapting many comics for the screen. Along with Alan Moore, he is perhaps the man most responsible for the way superheroes are portrayed in movies today--as tortured, complex, dark, and dangerous. Here is a recent interview with Miller for those interested in learning more about his ideas about Batman:

THE COMICS RESPONSE TEMPLATE (use this for all the graphic novels in class)

Q1: How is the novel illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?  Or is supposed to go against the grain of the story?

Q2: Why do you think this story written as a graphic novel/comic book?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible. 

Q3: How does this comic discuss the ethics of being a superhero—someone who has powers and abilities beyond that of normal men/women, and is thus able to influence the world based on a hero’s specific notions of good and evil? According to this comic, what does it mean to be a “hero” and a “villain”? Do the heroes ever cross ethical boundaries in his/her quest to save humanity? Also, does a superhero always play by the same rules, or does one’s age, sex, race, or religion also play a role?

Q4: Examine a single passage in the novel, either a frame or a series of frames (but no more than 1-2 pages) that you feel is particularly significant to understanding the book.  Help us appreciate what this passage helps you (and others) see and why. Choose the passage more for the theme/characters than the technique (though you can mention how the technique helps underline the larger thematic concerns).  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Welcome and Questions for Eisner and McCloud

Since Summer school starts officially tomorrow, I decided to unveil the first post for our whirlwind Summer course (which will actually take as long as a typical Intercession class to complete, I just didn't want to start at the normal Intercession time right after Finals). 

Check your e-mail, since I have sent you the syllabus with the brief course calendar. It's very simple--for every reading, you will have a series of questions to respond to. The first two are specific to the handouts, and then the next 5 follow a template (which I'll give you soon). So for this week, I want you to read the handouts by Eisner and McCloud, and you'll find questions for them below. This shouldn't take you long, but read carefully: these readings are foundational to everything we'll do in our class. 

Answer ALL SIX questions as a comment, or as an e-mail attachment to by Friday at 5pm

Eisner. from Comics and Sequential Art

Q1: What does Eisner mean when he discusses the "grammar" of comics? What does it consist of, and how can it help us read comics (or understand what we're seeing)?

Q2: Traditionally, Western culture makes a distinction between art and text. Why do comics break down this distinction, and furthermore, why might we consider art AS text (or text as art)? 

Q3: What is the purpose of frames/panels in a comic book? Why is it necessary and how can it be manipulated by the comic book artist? 

McCloud, from Understanding Comics

Q1: What does McCloud mean when he writes, "Cartooning isn't just a way of drawing, it's a way of seeing"? Would Eisner agree with this (in the earlier handout)?

Q2: What might be the advantage of telling a comic through a more cartoony, stylized point of view rather than a more photo-realistic one? While many people assume that cartoons make the work read "younger," why might this be a misreading of the artist's intention? 

Q3: The most important thing in this handout are the pages on Word and Picture Combinations. While most people assume that comics are simply "Picture Specific" or "Word Specific," comics rarely rely on this very simplistic mode of storytelling. "Interdependent" storytelling is the most commonly used, and the most literary form of word + image combinations. Why is this? What does it allow the writer/artist to do with the story that even a traditional novel wouldn't be able to accomplish?