EN/SANE World

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jesus Replies, "That's just some guy with a beard!"

It's been a tough week to be Jesus. I mean, not the toughest week ever, but if he's been following my reading habits this week, I don't know how he can't be shaking his head.

Yesterday I learned of a comic book title called "Jesus Hates Zombies." Now, as you can imagine, the title and theme of the book actually raises some serious, and seriously sacrilegious, questions. Would Jesus really hate zombies? If Jesus died, and then rose from the dead..... well, he wants your soul, not your brain, so he can't be zombie......right? Some believe that part of the end times will be the raising of the dead, bodies and all. In terms of zombie lore and definitions, it'll be a veritable Merlfest of zombies. Christian zombies. Chistombies? The Jesus-zombie connection is not simply resolved.

Then I visit http://www.aintitcoolnews.com to see if they have any comics-and-education stories I might have missed (like the one about the Navy using a graphic novel to recruit diversity. If anyone has a link, please post a comment), and I see a trailer for Hamlet 2, a movie by the South Park geniuses in which a high school drama teacher takes his rag-tag troupe of actors on the road to perform a musical in which Jesus Christ time-travels with Hamlet. "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is one of the songs, and it was being called a "hit."

Now, why in the world would I have not seen commercials for this movie deep the heart of Texas?

And just now, I visit CNN, that bastion of stories about dead babies and evil white people, the cable network that once actually reported the news, and I see this. Forget the ancient shroud of lore, Jesus' face is on a moth. No mention that on top of the "head" there appears to be a turban-looking shape, of course. The fellow who noticed the savior pattern on the insect? A Texan. No word on whether his Baptist church will start selling "Rock Me Sexy Jesus Moth" t-shirts.

Jesus has infinite patience, I am told, but how can he not be saying, "Forgive them father, for they know not wha --- Zombies? Wait, they think I have great abs??? A moth? Come on, that's just some guy with a beard!!!"

Now that would make a good comic strip.

Killing Skrulls Equals Collective Psychotherapy?

So the big event in Marvel comics right now is entitled "Secret Invasion." It's a series with the premise that green aliens intent on global domination have been shape-shifting and living among us for years, and now they're ready to attack. America's superheros have abandoned the "no killing" code that many, but not all, of them have lived by and are doing their best to eradicate the alien threat. Afterall, it's assimilate or die.

ICV2's Steve Bennett has this interesting take on the series:

"Of course we’re supposed to want our heroes to kill them; they are, finally, what I've been asking for all along, a fantasy stand-in for Al-Qaeda, religious fanatics bent on destroying everything that makes us who were are because being them is so much better. At last there are make-believe terrorists our heroes can punch in the face (and then some) without it seeming inappropriate or in bad taste. So I’m guessing the audience these comics are intended for is cooing “cool!” every time they see a Skrull reduced to a fine green mist."

If this was Marvel's intent, brilliant! They certainly had their finger on the pulse of current events vis a vis the political divide the country has/had been facing in last year's big event series, "Civil War," in which heroes fought themselves over a ideological clash sparked from a major disaster which left many Americans dead . The phrase "you're either with us or against us" was probably one the most often used in American superhero comics from 2001-2008.

I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that the series is supposed to offer us a little bit of sublimated revenge. And guilt free too, since the Skrulls are attacking the world, not just the U.S. , and they are highly othered, not even our species. But the macro-level politics might be evidence to the contrary of Bennett's point as well. The tag line of "Secret Invasion" is "Who Can You Trust?" which to me seems to get more to the internal American body politic and culture than to our global affairs, but I have always been inclined to paranoia to begin with, so maybe the connections I'm growing are even more local than I'd like to admit.

Go read Bennett's complete thoughts here. The Skrull stuff is about halfway down, and there's some naked Batmen characters for your viewing entertainment (a la Austin Powers) in there as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Academic Conference at Wizard World Texas!

In my own state, and I'll probably not be able to attend, but here's the scoop on the academic conference to be held in Arlington in conjunction with Wizard World Texas. The folks running the academic side of things are good ones, so I'd encourage attendance if one is in the area. The below is a copy of the press release:



ANNOUNCING WIZARD WORLD UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING

The Institute For Comics Studies Is Accepting Proposals For The First Ever Wizard World Academic Track At The Wizard World Texas Convention This November!


Congers, NY (August 27, 2008) - Wizard World has been home to movie premieres, costume contests, A-List creators and big time Hollywood talent. Now the convention tour is adding an academic track to it's growing list of crowd-pleasing events. The newly created Wizard World University academic track of programming at Wizard World conventions was created alongside the Institute for Comics Studies (ICS) and will allow fans to view their favorite stories in a new light, with help from academics and comic professionals alike.


November's Wizard World Texas (November 7-9) will be the inaugural stop on this tour promoting comics as an art form. The Institute for Comics Studies is currently accepting proposals for presentations, book talks, side talks, roundtables, professional-focus discussion panels, workshops and other panels for the newly created Wizard World academic track, Wizard World University, by September 22nd.


Do you have an idea for a study of the mythos behind “The Dark Knight” or the political commentaries in The Watchmen? Think you can deconstruct the Joker as a villain or explain the literary influences of Wolverine in an hour using a nifty PowerPoint? Wizard World University: Texas could be your classroom! Panels that include participation by comics industry professionals are especially encouraged and the ICS will provide assistance with recruiting professionals for participation.


If you want to be a part of this bold new frontier in education, please contact Dr. Travis Langley (Texas Local Chair) or Dr. Peter Coogan at the information below by the September 22nd deadline. Submission Form: http://www.hsu.edu/form.aspx?ekfrm=40054


Dr. Travis LangleyWWU-T Provost (Submissions Chair)Address: Henderson State University, 1100 Henderson St. #7604, Arkadelphia, AR 71999E-Mail: langlet@hsu.eduWebsite: www.workdaycomic.com/ERIICA/


Dr. Peter CooganDirector, Institute for Comics StudiesAddress: 719 Fairview Ave, St. Louis, MO 63119Phone Number: 314-962-7939E-Mail: Comicsstudies@gmail.comWebsite: http://www.instituteforcomicsstudies.org/


Be sure to go to www.wizardworld.com for updates about guests and programming and to purchase tickets. Wizard World, the largest family-friendly comics and pop culture convention in the central US, returns to Texas November 7-9 at the Arlington Convention Center near Dallas/Ft. Worth.


About Wizard


Wizard Entertainment is the industry leader in the comic book and collectibles market that publishes Wizard: The Magazine of Comics, Entertainment and Pop Culture, ToyFare: The Toy Magazine and Anime Insider, as well as Toy Wishes: The Ultimate Guide to Family Entertainment and Special Operations. Wizard’s publications have a monthly national readership of more than two million and are currently sold in 25 countries and five languages.


Wizard World, the convention division of Wizard Entertainment, is a four city tour that brings the best in comics, film, television, anime and collectibles to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Texas. WizardUniverse.com is the online for all of Wizard’s publications and its content spans the full range of Wizard’s pop culture subject manner.


For the latest news of interest to readers of all Wizard publications, Wizard Universe can be found online at www.wizarduniverse.com Media Contact Brett WhiteWizard Entertainment845.268.2000 ext. 193bwhite@wizardent.com

Stinky Comics Gets Reviewed


Eva Volin has this review of eleanor Davis' "toon" Stinky, which appears to be a kid-friendly title. ICV2 shares Volin's thoughts here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Graphic Classics Available Once Again: Tales of Ambrose Bierce

SATIRE AND THE SUPERNATURAL!


Eureka Productions is pleased to announce the publication of revised second edition of the long-out-of-print GRAPHIC CLASSICS: AMBROSE BIERCE, the sixth volume in the GRAPHIC CLASSICS series of comics adaptations of great literature.


GRAPHIC CLASSICS: AMBROSE BIERCE is revised, with 70 new pages, including new comics adaptations of "Moxon's Master," "The Damned Thing" and "The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter." Returning from the first edition are "TheStranger" and three other tales, plus a collection of 20 short fables illustrated by Dan O'Neill, Shary Flenniken, Florence Cestac, Johnny Ryan, and more great artists. With an amazing cover and new illustrations for "TheDevil's Dictionary" by Steven Cerio.


GRAPHIC CLASSICS are available in bookstores, comics shops, or direct from the publisher at http: http://www.graphicclassics.com/.

"This edition succeeds on many levels, providing awesome illustrations as well as a fabulous introduction to the strange, satirical, and horrific writings of an almost forgotten American author. Ambrose Bierce stands out as one of the best titles in an already strong series, sure to appeal to readers looking for insight into a most unusual mind." -- Booklist
______________________
GRAPHIC CLASSICS: AMBROSE BIERCE(Second Edition)Edited by Tom PomplunPublished August 2008, Eureka ProductionsDistributed by Diamond Book Distributors(ISBN 978-0-9787919-5-7)144 pgs, 7 x 10", paperback, b&w, 4c cover, $11.95
__________________
The Graphic Classics series:GRAPHIC CLASSICS: EDGAR ALLAN POE (978-0-9746648-7-3)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (978-0-9746648-5-9)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.G. WELLS (978-0-9746648-3-5)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.P. LOVECRAFT (978-0-9746648-9-7)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: JACK LONDON (978-0-9746648-8-0)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: AMBROSE BIERCE (978-0-9787919-5-7)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: BRAM STOKER (978-0-9787919-1-9)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN (978-0-9787919-2-6)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (978-0-9746648-0-4)

HORROR CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Ten (978-0-9746648-1-1)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: O. HENRY (978-0-9746648-2-8)

ADVENTURE CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve (978-0-9746648-4-2)

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: RAFAEL SABATINI (978-0-9746648-6-6)

GOTHIC CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Fourteen (978-0-9787919-0-2)

FANTASY CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Fifteen (978-0-9787919-3-3)

Check out these Lynd Ward Images

Proto-graphic novelist and woodcut artist Lynd Ward is slowly gaining more attention than ever, but was relatively unheralded for much of the 20th century. Nick Mullins shares some scans of the artist's take on Frankenstein and Dr.F's famous monster. Apparently out-of-print, the scans are gorgeous. And if you're teaching Frankenstein, it's almost silly not to look at different artists' takes on the Creature.

Ward's dynamism and expressionism; always fluid, stretched, almost metallic-feeling yet always organic forms; combination of brillow-pad0scuffed roughness and precision shading; and deliberate sense of utility when it comes to maximizing and distorting space make the artist's work a must-see. And, since he not only illustrated print novels but produced "wordless novels," he's an important historical figure in sequential art.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Award for Graphic Novel Excellence on its Way

ICV2 reports Hugo awards to add a graphic novel/graphic storytelling award in 2009! More respect for the sequential art narrative -- gotta love it!



























(Pictured [in my mind, anyway]:Hugo attempts to save his copy of Maus)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Great Interview with Lynda Barry

It's not every day I get to follow a link to an interview with the field's top female author with a link to an interview with whom I consider to be the close second, but Tom Spurgeon has a very nice interview posted with the very popular, very of-the-moment cartoonist Lynda Barry. I'm thinking of adding some Barry to my syllabus next time I teach a comics class. Satrapi will be on there for sure, and probably Bechdel's Fun Home. Besides that, it'll be another sausage fest, except for the articles written by women, the women theorists mentioned and studied, and all the neat female characters in the males' books. And the female students.. And the female flies on the the wall....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You've Got Veil

Great article on the Persepolis film and graphic novel available here. I recently taugh Persepolis for the nth time, but this time I had a couple of Muslim students who had strong and varied reactions to it. I wish I'd had access to this article in which Satrapi talks about humor, accuracy, and biography.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who needs a sequal to 9/11?


Or, a sequel to the comic book adaptation of the 9/11 Report, anyway? That's what Jacobson and Colon gave us a few years back, and it's a great read for adults and students. ICV2 has a review of the second graphic novel on the topic from publishers Hill and Wang, which focuses on what we've been doing since the attacks to make sure we're safer and better-prepared if another happens. The first volume took a lot of flack, though it earned my praise and respect, and the second book seems to be getting some as well. Still, probably a good book to check out and consider, especially if one teachers current events, recent history, History, or integrated English Language Arts.

Comics as an Educational Tool (for smuggling drugs) :(

The Beat picked up on this story about a comic book which gives tips for how to smuggle drugs. It almost seems too sensational to be true, but comics have been used to help teach the craft of people smuggling (see the comic on how to cross into the American border safely but illegally, and what to do if one gets caught, produced by the Mexican government a few years back), landmine safety, safe sex -- any number of things. So, I'm not surprised to see a book like this. Heck, the counter-culture comics on the 70s might as well have been guides on taking drugs.

Here's hoping that SANE naysayers don't get a hold of this story and run with it, but if they do, what will still be clear is comics' potential for teaching. In this case, it's the material, not the medium, that is controversial. This concept sometimes escapes those who don't care for comics in the classroom. Like saying all novels are corrupt because they once read a dirty romance, some folks still see comics as "funnies," all superheroes, or hippie drivel. But, they come in all shapes and sizes and varieties, just like traditional-print books, and sadly, just like drugs that someone thinks need smuggling.

I have to admit, the story is enough to make me want a Prozac. Thank goodness I'm already addicted to Lipton Diet Green Tea......

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nickelodeon to Announce Kids' Graphic Novels "Best of" Awards in '09

Great affirmation of sequential art's place in the lives of young people! Some like to talk about how the comics fan base just keeps getting older, how the medium isn't invincible, but perhaps there are more young readers out there than we know? Why would the behemoth that is Nickelodeon be acknowledging comics and graphic novels otherwise?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Comics and Education Program

Thanks to D. Duffy for sharing this link, which appears to lead to another program designed to get kids creating and writing via the comic book format. I'd never heard of 12comics before, but the site has a neat interface. It's also based out of comics mecca New York City. No word on whether the people responsible for it know about the Comic Book Project or the other way around.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Want a Puff from My SIG?

For a few years now I've been pondering starting up a SANE SIG with NCTE. That would be a "Sequential Art Narratives in Education" Special Interest Group associated with the National Council of Teachers of English. I chose the "SANE" acronym, which I also use on my blog, to be intentionally subversive. "Some people might think it's crazy to use comics in the classroom, but it's actually quite SANE" (yes, I am a corn dog).

I've gotten some info from NCTE about how to start one up. Basically, they need a certain number of folks (NCTE members or potential members) who would be interested. Then some official documents are drawn up about the mission of the SIG (to examine issues associated with literacy and sequential art narratives; to propagate and inform others about scholarship on the subject; to offer support to existing and potential literacy/comics scholars and educators, etc), officers are named, etc. Dues are collected and the amount is based on membership numbers. Members of the SIG meet at the national conference and host SANE-related sessions.

There are currently other SIG's in NCTE that could make a claim to include SANE work, but I feel strongly that it can support its own group.

So, my question to you is, would you have interest in this? If so, maybe leave a comment saying so with your name and institution or a way to get in touch with you, and/or drop me an e-mail at jbcarter2 [at] utep.edu.

If there's sincere interest, maybe I'll start organizing something for us!

Join Me for a Web Seminar on Teaching Comics and Graphic Novels!


This September I'll be joining the illustrious literacy scholars Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher to present web seminar hosted by the National Council of Teachers of English. Entitled "Mapping Words and Images: Writing Graphic Novels with Adolescents," the seminar is aimed at middle and high school teachers who may want to learn more about how the sequential art format can get students thinking about various stages of the writing process. I'll even be sharing reflections and samples from some pre-service teachers whom I asked to engage in the process so they could share it with their students.


When it comes to currently active SANE scholars (that's sequential art narratives in education), it doesn't get much better than Nancy and Doug -- and I'm not too shabby myself. So, I encourage you to consider attending the web seminar for your personal professional development, that of your school or district, and for the students in your classroom whom you might see excel at story-telling, revising, and composing for the very first time!


Learn how to register here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The University of Stupid Mississippi

One of my favorite comics scholars, Jeet Heer, has posted an interview with the former director of the University Press of Mississippi, hands down THE academic press for comics scholarship. There's been some talk about his interview with Seetha Srinivasan over on the comics scholars list serve, and Heidi at the Beat has covered it as well.

I've got a different take than most, though, because I used to teach at the University of Southern Mississippi, one of the schools associated with the press. Srinivasan talks about the hurdles comics scholarship has had to overcome and gives some good examples of would-be comics scholars having to fight a mountain of an uphill battle to have their interests taken seriously.

While I was on faculty in the English department at USM, I was told that my interest in comics was holding me back from the respect of other members of the department, especially since I was also an English Educator.

I was also informed that a member of the department had told students in other classes that it made his blood boil that USM offered courses on graphic novels. Those were many of the courses I taught, of course.

As well, when I tried to advertise what might have been the very first "Graphic novels as Young Adult Literature" course in the United States, which I taught in the summer of 2007, my fliers repeatedly disappeared from the English Department hallways -- both inside the main offices and in the commons areas. They even disappeared when I put them up during times that I knew only faculty would have access to the building. I ended up advertising the course in the school newspaper and had a nice enrollment for the course; this remains a rare instance in my life where money trumped evil.

The thing is, I did have students who were very interested in comics studies. One even ended up going to the University of Florida for her MA, where she may be enjoying a completely different culture when it comes to comics scholarship. I even had another young faculty member remark how well-prepared students from my comics class were when they came to her Literary Theory class later in the day.

The kicker, though, is that one of my required texts was a book published by the University Press of Mississippi, and often students read others as a free choice text for other assignments, so every time I taught a graphic novels course with a literary angle, I was asking students to put money back into the university press's coffers, and thereby offering a little bit of help to USM as well.

My guess is that many in the English Department at USM were ignorant of their press's reputation among comics scholars or that the press has been doing well in part because of its prestige as the best publisher of comics-related scholarship and the sales generated from comics-related titles. I wonder, though, now that a Harvard-affiliated scholar has published an article on comics in a recent PMLA, if any of the faculty are looking back, making connections, and thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to have a comics scholar in the department after all. I have serious doubts about it. This is U.S.M. we're talking about, after all (see post title).


P.S. While I'm at it, I was recently informed that a google search for my name turns up my faculty profile at USM as the very first hit. I left the university in May and was told the profile would be removed by July. My hope is that the fraudulence will be resolved shortly. I'm at UTEP now and will be teaching graphic novels in various English, English Education, and graduate-level courses starting fall 2008. Actually, I just taught Persepolis and American Born Chinese in a summer session YA Lit class. Alas, it was not all graphic novels this time around, but who knows what the future may hold?

NCTE Inbox and NPR

The NCTE Inbox just keeps the stories coming when it comes to graphic novels. I gotta get those folks to let me know how they mine for these gems! This time it's a story from NPR they're sharing, one about librarians using Comic-Con as a means to stock their shelves with new Manga titles! There's a 3-minute audio story to go along with it. They even pronounce Manga ("mahn-gah") rather than "mainga," which I even still have a tendency to do. And, there's mention of the library statistics about how Manga series attract female readers and increase circulation figures. It's a fun story, very tight, informative, and well-produced. Give it a read/listen.