EN/SANE World

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May 2009 bring many blessings and great comic art! (Pictured: Baby New Year gets a security upgrade)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen? Maybe No one..

Would Fox just tell Warner Bros how much money it wants so we can get this film out to the public already? Somebody powerful, start up the threat of a boycott, will ya? I'd do it, but I can't even get my oldest son to stop "Dog Whispering" me. (Seriously, "Psshht!" is his favorite thing to do now when we tell him something he doesn't like).

(This is where I would post a yellow frowny face with some red blotch on it if I had access to my editing software)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Poverty and the Brain

It took me a long time to realize we grew up poor. My mother, like so many other Americans, would tell me, "Well, there are people who surely have more than we do, but there are people who have a lot less than we do too, so we must be middle class" once I got around to asking questions, and I believed her for a long time.

As an adult and as an academic, though, I now see the impact that being raised in poverty has had on my development and on my world view. A growing body of evidence is suggesting that poverty has a major impact on the brain development of children. Partly because children in poverty-stricken homes have so few quality verbal and reading interactions, areas of their brains don't function as well as they should.
Now, how does this possibly tie into a blog focusing on comics and education? Perhaps in the past you've been , or at least you know or have known, a teacher who did or does not allow certain types of literature in his/her classroom, under the ideology that not all text can be considered literature. One thing I glean from these types of studies is a greater appreciation for accepting all texts, comics included, in the classroom, because the textual interactions we allow our students to have may be among the best or only ones to which some of them have access.

Me Tarzan; You Hooked Reader!

Graphic Novel Reporter has a great little ditty from Bill Willingham (Fables) detailing the text that made him an avid reader. Think "loincloth" and enjoy!

Good Sign or Harbinger of Trouble?

The excellent graphic novel publisher First Second (:01) has been absorbed into MacMillan's children's publishing line. Just as did Tom Spurgeon(follow link embedded in this post's title), I noticed that the most recent catalogue from :01 lacked significant graphic novels marketed to more mature audiences. This is a real shame, as some of :01's best books have been best suited for teens and up.

Is this good news or not so great information? On the one hand, if publishers are pushing kid-friendly graphic novels, they may be "building the gateway" for more mature titles to make a comeback as these readers get hooked and want more sophisticated material.

On the other hand, as has been noted in this blog and several others, we're seeing stand-alone original graphic novels for older readers take a bit of a hit as publishers move to younger audiences and marketers keep pushing the "graphic adaptation" route (which has its place but represents "one step forward, two step back" thinking, in my opinion) to teachers.

I implore you, motivated readers!: Support good graphic novels for their own merits and move beyond the "easy" work of thinking you're progressive because you're letting kids read a graphic adaptation of the Iliad. Sure, you're on the right track as far as comics integration go, but you're only at step one. Go read some great titles like Good-bye, Chunky Rice, Bone, or even Persepolis or Deogratias if you want to see some new and exciting epic journeys unfold!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bring in '09!

I just finished my first real semester at UTEP (not counting a summer session course), and my comics offerings were slim but good. Students in my "Dramatic Modes of the English Language Arts" were asked to read from Big Fat Little Lit and/or the Smithsonian Collection of Comic-Book Stories. Students on my "English Lab" course had the opportunity to craft lesson plans from excerpts from Will Eisner's "Izzy the Cockroach" and the web-comic version of "After the Deluge." I also had an article on graphic novels and the "Genre vs. Format" debate published in The ALAN Review, was part of an NCTE web seminar on teaching graphic novels, was part of 4 presentations on sequential art and literacy at the NCTE national convention, and was a keynote or guest speaker at several state-level NCTE conferences (New Hampshire, Iowa, Oregon and North Carolina).

As full of comics goodness as 2008 was for me and those willing to listen to me, Spring semester and the first half of 09 look to really be buzzing with Carter-crafted graphic novel pedagogy excitement!:

1. I'll have an article on graphic novels in a journal with major circulation that should finally extend the conversation on GN's and education beyond the "phase 1" mode of defining and listing. More on that when it is available, but expect something in March in a journal that reaches almost 110,000 readers.

2. I'll be teaching my "English Lab" course again and will touch on graphic novels in the same ways as mentioned before and in asking students to consider full definitions of text, reading, literacy, and the English Language Arts as defined by NCTE.

3. I'll be offering a special topics graduate-level course entitled "Teaching the Graphic Novel" which will explore research and scholarship on teaching GN's in k-12 settings with multiple student populations. And, of course, we'll be reading great graphic novels -- standards like Maus and Persepolis -- and newer titles like La Perdida, American Widow, and The Education of Hopey Glass. We'll throw in some comics scholarship, some critical theory, and some process assignments and hopefully have a blast.

4. In that class, we'll be reading Watchmen, and I hope to be able to work with an area theatre to host a special viewing for my class and maybe even do a talk on the novel before or after the viewing. Let's hope all the red tape clears and the movie actually makes it to the box office!!

5. I'm hosting a mini-conference on "The Comics in El Paso" which I should have subtitled "Border Issues" since the folks who will be speaking, Jaime Portillo, Julian Lawler, and keynote Jai Nitz will all talk about how El Paso and Juarez influence or influenced their recent work, and one reads comics by literally crossing borders from panel to panel.

6. I have had major positive news from my publisher about my second edited collection on teaching graphic novels and will be very busy getting the manuscript prepped for an Autumn 09 debut.

7. Number 6 happened in part because my first book on the subject, Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel, continues to do well. It is in its second printing and has broken the 100,000 rank at Amazon.com several times over the past few months. That might not ever top the time I saw it in the top 15,000 titles, but that's still pretty good.

8. There's the possibility that a chapter in a book on teaching graphic novels at the college level might finally get published and also coincide nicely with the release of the Watchmen movie, and I have at least two other chapters or articles accepted on comics and pedagogy for further-down-the-road ventures, and I have three entries for the upcoming revised edition of an encyclopedia of comic art to get to the editor.

9. I'll also be continuing work on the conference front: I'll be a keynote speaker at the first-annual Graphica Conference in NYC, assuming the parties involved can get some things sorted out, and I'll be workshopping on comics and literacy elements in Missouri at the big "Write to Learn" conference.

And that's just what I know for now. I'll keep looking for new possibilities and doing scholarship/research on SANE issues 'till it drives me crazy, or 'till it tenures me. Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I'll keep at as long as I'm able, which I hope will be a long time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Graphic Novel Reporter Goes Live!

A new resource for news and reviews and more on GN's. They've got a kids section and look to be somewhat student-friendly, but it's just up, so it will take some time to truly figure out their identity. But, it is another outlet for info, and the more the merrier!

"Best Of" Round-up

Dick H. is gathering up many of the "Best Of" lists on the year's notable graphic novels and making them available on his blog. That is tedious work, so thanks to this brave and resourceful soul!

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Year in Review" Stuffs Popping Up

Along with all the "Best Of" lists populating comics blogs as of late, "Year in Review" articles have been bountiful as well, particularly as folks compare this year's "finally we call it a recession" market to those of recent years past.

I was glad to see Heidi at the Beat notice something about graphic novel publishing that I too had noticed after visiting the exhibitor's booths at this year's NCTE:

"Plus, if you look closely, most of the books coming out from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hill & Wang and so on, are beginning to slide into two camps: non-fiction “teaching” comics, such as the bestselling 9/11 Report graphic novel, (which had a little-noted, low-selling sequel this year), and bestselling fiction adaptations, like Tokyopop/HarperCollinsmanga adaptation of Erin Hunter’s The Warriors, which have sold thousands and thousands of copies."

Heidi is speaking generally, of course, but her conclusion was one I reached at NCTE. There were some great exceptions. The :01 booth was chocked full of great books, and I know of many wonderful graphic novels that weren't being marketed to the ELA educators at the convention. But, if one looked at what was there and excepted the :01 excellence, one saw exactly what Heidi noticed.

Heidi goes on to say that the graphic novel tidal wave has bottomed out but not been destroyed.

I worry that companies will continue to market graphic novels that were made specifically for "teaching purposes," because those books are usually of the worst quality.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: what we need are graphic novelists being graphic novelists. Art Spiegelman has no obligation or responsibility to create comics for the middle or high school classroom. He should simply go about creating his art as he sees fit. It's up to educators to learn about the graphic novel and look at those excellent works and find the pedagogical potential in them. (caveat: Spiegelman and Mouly have been doing some excellent comics work for kids, though. But they're doing it because they want to and can do great work. I'm not suggesting comics artists shouldn't create kids or teens-centered work if they want to, just that they shouldn't feel bound to in any regard.) Teachers teach. Artists create art. Informed teachers know how to integrate art -- and everything else of relevance -- into their classrooms.

Recently I was interviewed by someone who asked me how important lexile scores were when it came to teachers using comics. I told the interviewer that if I were looking for graphic novels, and I saw some with lexile scores and pre-packaged with associated AR points or grade levels, I'd be very dubious of their quality. I'd know they were made and marketed directly to me, the teacher, playing off what marketers thought of as "flash points" to draw my attention and "make my job easier" rather than crafted with quality of material in mind. I told the interviewer, good teachers already know how to level texts.

Better for teachers to look at the sort of themes or big questions they are exploring in their classrooms and look for the high-quality comic art that can help their students further explore said themes and questions. Otherwise, what will happen is eventually folks will catch wise to the poor quality of graphic novels marketed to teachers, and the backlash against them will gain considerable ground, consequently mask marketing to teachers the idea that no comics art is worth teaching, which is the thinking that many already have anyway.

I maintain that only good comics material will have what it takes to help teachers and students build learning connections. If I were a teacher and saw a company trying to sell me graphic novels based only readability or lexile score rather than on theme, big ideas, and excellence of story-telling, I'd be wary.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good Golly, Mrs.Molly! Kids Sure Love the Bone (Series)!

Not near as nasty as it sounds: A volunteer at a public school library talks about how popular Jeff Smith's Bone series is and how kids who read comics seem to actually be gaining a bit of literacy by doing so. Seems having an environment that is friendly to their interests helps their motivation for learning. Whoodathunkit?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NCTE and 21st Century Skills and Help for Educators

From recent NCTE Inboxes:

P21 Offers Free Guidance for English Teachers: "This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st-century education system," said Kylene Beers, NCTE president. eSchool News, December 3, 2008

This Fair-Use Guide Offers Copyright ShelterNCTE worked with media and legal experts to develop the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. eSchool News, December 8, 2008

NCTE Takes Stands Against Scripted Curricula and English-Only Mandates"
At the 98th NCTE Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, NCTE members adopted resolutions against one-size-fits-all, scripted curricula and against curricula that do not provide English language learners with the best learning opportunities. See the Resolution on Scripted Curricula and the Resolution on English-Only Instructional Policies.

Media Bombardment Is Linked to Ill Effects during Childhood:A meta-analysis of studies on the effects of media on children and adolescents has shown that the number of contact hours with the media and/or the media's content impact the health of children and adolescents. The Washington Post, December 2, 2008

So What Is 21st Century Learning, Anyhow?:
Teachers can use the NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment to gauge whether they are providing their students with 21st century learning experiences and assessing these in 21st century ways.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills Debuts:
"21st Century Skills and English Map"NCTE has joined The Partnership for 21st Century Skills to produce the "21st Century Skills and English Map," a framework for integrating 21st century skills into the K-12 English curriculum. T.H.E. Journal, November 24, 2008

Nickelodeon Magazine Wants Kids' Votes For Fave Comics, Strips, and GN's

Heidi at The Beat has the list of categories and titles nominated. An interesting one that is popping up on other lists as well: Brian Selznick's excellent book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It's actually a hybrid text combining prose, illustrated story, sequential art, and film elements. If folks want to call it a graphic novel, that's OK. I may have done so myself. But, it's an excellent book no matter how it is categorized.

Harvard's English Department Moves Toward Thematic Units?

For all the shit educators and teacher educators take from other folks in other departments and from the public at large, it's good to see that, maybe, just maybe, our "crazy" ideas about how students actually learn is useful information.

Undergraduate English courses at none other than Harvard are being reconfigured:

"We are diminishing the role of chronology as the absolute, as the only organizing rubric ... to combine it with genres and with geography as equally viable ways of thinking about literature and studying literature,” says one Crimson representative.

Before craggy traditionalists start bemoaning the degradation of an Ivy League education, let us all take a moment to say "Woot! Woot!"

CBR Previews Offerings for Free Comic Book Day 2009

May 2, 2009. Mark it on your calendars. That's Free Comic Book Day! Comic Book Resources has posted some previews of books you can snag for gratis. And, remember, if you have a generous comics provider or hit up the sales associate in the days after the event, you might be able to score a class set or two of certain titles.

For more information on Free Comic Book Day, type the title into this blog's search box. It's in the upper-left corner. See it? No, over a bit. The far upper-left corner. There ya go. ;)

Just So You See it Coming: Fables TV Show

Many news outlets are reporting that popular Vertigo/DC Comics series Fables is coming to television soon. This is important to teachers for several reasons, so let me break it down for you:
Fables is a wonderfully written and mature title that deals with popular and obscure figures from various fairy tale mythoi, mostly European, but not exclusively so. My wife and I are big fans. We have at least 6 of the trades. Along with Strangers in Paradise, it is one of the few comics titles to capture my wife's attention, and many of my female students seem intrigued by it.

Basically there's the non-magic world of our everyday existence, and then there are the Fables, as they are called, the fairy tale folk of old who have been ran out of their homelands and forced to live in our world. But, they're not all on the same side all the time. There are plenty of self-serving characters that stay true to their roots, but the "special sauce" of the series is how these traits get revisioned in ways that represent the character accurately but with intriguing twists.

As a teacher you probably know that students' knowledge of core fairy tale stories (note I don't say "core fairy tale texts" because that gets a little messy) has trailed off dramatically, especially if you've been doing this for a while. There was a time when we could expect students to have a base understanding of certain tales or fables or parables. Then Disney came along. Then He-Man. Then Mutant Ninja Turtles, and then the Internet, and soon it seemed like making a fairy tale reference left us with as many blank stares from students as if we'd just mentioned the Hindenburg or Mary Wilkins Freeman (inside joke, there).

If Fables is a hit on TV, you can expect teachers everywhere to clamor over it, sing its praises, and start to dust off or recreate their fairy tale units or at the least their fairy tale repertoire of references. And that will be just great.

But, Fables, wonderful as it is, well, it really, really, makes its characters real "people," with real people desires and urges and flaws and appetites. It wouldn't surprise me if TV schmucks turned Fables into "Desperate House Wives with Cinderella, Snow White and Rose Red." So, heads up.

That being said, I have encouraged students to make use of the excellent material that Fables the comic offers, but some folks will need to use it in excerpt due to nudity and sexual situations (or bestiality in the case of the manipulative and kinky Goldilocks, who is sleeping with Boo, or Baby Bear). And it is definitely a series that I recommend to folks. The quality of the story-telling and the creativity with and respect for the core material is striking.
So, get excited! Read these books! Integrate them into your classrooms as you feel you can. And keep your fingers crossed that, if it makes it to the airwaves, the Fables television show will be as good as the comic, and for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Duke University Press Publishes Comic on Fair Use

It's probably not as good a resource for teachers as NCTE's recent fair use document, but Bound by Law?: Tales from the Public Domain looks like an interesting read. Thanks to M. de la Iglesia for drawing this to my attention. A PDF download is possible by following the link and scrolling down a bit.

Loving the ClustrMaps App, Loving my Readers

I have had this blog for over 2 years now and just added a counter in June. My unique hits have never been outstanding, but in the blogosphere -- hell, even in education -- I have a niche audience.

But lemme tellya, being able to see my ClustrMaps clusters makes me very happy. I can see that I have a lot of readers in the Midwest and in the Northeast, for example, and that the message of comics in education is slowly being spread in even areas of the country where progressive education sometimes has to fight tooth and nail. That's invigorating!

And I'm especially excited to be getting hits from folks in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America!

Thanks to everyone who reads EN/SANE world! I'll keep the links, notes, news and ideas coming, and ya'll keep visiting (and telling your friends about the site as well!)

NY Magazine's Best Of Graphic Novels

You can't go one step in cyberspace this time o' year without tripping over one of these "Best of" lists. With book sales and now even graphic novel sales showing declines from last year, knowing what books multiple sources say are the year's cream of the crop can't be such a bad thing, though.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Lots of New Content at Diamond's Bookshelf...

...including a new article by Peter Gutierrez in which he asks educators who do work with comics to offer their "elevator pitch" to reluctant educators. Yours truly and a host of other good folks are quoted.

From The Jewish Daily: "Graphic Confessions of Jewish Women"

Friday, December 05, 2008

SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade

It seems all girls are asked to be supergirls nowadays, to want it all (Capitalism's take on feminism), expect it all, and do it all. So, maybe there will be a captive audience for the new Supergirl comic, featuring the title character as "an awkward teen heroine struggling to find her place in a boarding school full of friends and foes."

This Supergirl seems to be less eye-candy and more struggling everygirl with superpowers. Perhaps she'll bridge the gap left by The Powerpuff Girls, a television show and comics featuring three adorable elementary schoolers with an array of heroic talents. But, this series can also explore the "puberty set" of issues, something that would have been rather disconcerting to see from Blossom or Bubbles.

Here's hoping the series is a sleeper hit. It looks like the type of comic -- fun, hip, and finally audience aware -- that Supergirl has needed for years.

NPR's Best Graphic Novels of 08

Marvel at folks finally fighting back in the comments section in regards to the overuse of the line "comics aren't for kids anymore!" Ah, my brethren!

Andrew Lorenzi's Robin in the Rye

Looking for an interesting way to delve into or review Catcher in the Rye? (I'm certainly not. This remains a book that I just can't get into no matter how hard I try. Holden's a whiny little bitch, in my opinion). Try Lorenzi's take on key scenes using characters from the cast of Batman comics.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Parable for Early Career Teachers

After a student of mine who is graduating this week adamantly informed me that she was a good teacher (though I hadn't suggested otherwise; she was sore because I have not been grading her work as highly as others have, apparently) and knew it because she has been in the schools -- "I just completed my internship!" she demanded -- and did well, I started to reflect on what it means to be a success in certain school districts. I came up with this parable for early-career teachers with the caution not to get too haughty and to always reflect on the micro and macro issues that define one's successes.


Top 20 Graphic Novels of November 2008

I don't usually link to ICV2's posts on Bookscan's sales rankings, but since it's almost Christmas and we've been seeing "Best of" and "Great Gifts" lists, I thought it might be nice for folks to see what other people are buying as the holidays inch ever closer. Two -- count'em two -- versions of Watchmen are on the list. I have an old version with the original coloring, which I love, and I also have the Absolute version, so I'm set, but with the movie looming, if I knew a mature comics reader (high school and up; 18+ if you're gift-giving to a kid whose reading habits are highly censored by others), I'd recommend picking up any edition.

More Rumination on "Choose Your Own Adventure"

Some thing that I didn't get to in yesterday's review of Nightmare on Zombie Island:

* The degree of interactivity in choose your own adventure-style text matches well with Reader Response notions of the individualistic reading experience.

* According to closure theory, comics also require readers to fill in the blanks and make decisions about what has happened between panels or off-panel.

* This isn't a weakness, nor is it without precedent. Many Greek tragedies let the heinous stuff happen off-stage, letting the scenes become as horrific as they could be in the mind's eyes of each spectator/participant.

* This higher degree of overt participation and interaction, if not control, situates choose your own adventure-type texts well into 21st century literacies and those considered Multimodal.

* The concept of alternate or simultaneous realities essentially exists in these texts, tying them to string theory and some pretty high-level physics concepts. As I reflect, I wonder if my interest in these texts, while possibly being part of the reason I became a little neurotic about decision making, also helped develop my sense for seeing multiple points of view and considering problems from different angles. I also wonder if some of the magic I found in mulling over multiple and alternate realities resurfaced as I decided on some of my favorite graphic novelists/comics writers, like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, both of whom deal with issues of time, space, and multiple and alternate realities and dimensions in their writings.

All this from those "worthless little paperbacks" -- they had so much in common with that other "trash" reading from the get-go. Adding the sequential art element to them? Brilliant!
(Left: The marriage of comics and choose your own adventure-style texts drives these two to drink -- for celebration)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Review of Nightmare on Zombie Island

First off, I hate zombies. Can't stand them, don't like the sub-genre of zombie horror, am appalled by all the comics out there doing zombie versions of super-heroes, and just don't get the whole psychosexual thrill of "humans" wanting to consume other humans.

But, for the sake of lauding Graphic Universe's fifth book in its "Twisted Journeys" series, I'll tolerate the fact that Nightmare on Zombie Island is chocked full of the undead.

The book is a "choose your own adventure" text that calls itself a graphic novel but is actually one of those hybrid texts like The Invention of Hugo Cabret or the recently-cancelled Abadazad series. It combines illustrations and pages of traditional print text with full-on sequential art pages and panels.

I should tell you that if it wasn't for Choose Your Own Adventure books and Encyclopedia Brown -- and especially an Encyclopedia Brown Choose Your Own Adventure book -- I probably would have never fallen in love with print-based books. Well, I have to add the 1959 World Book Encyclopedias to that list of early influences too.

So, what I've detailed to you above is a love of facts-based and logic-based texts (making me typical of boys and their reading interests), but you already know me as a lover of comics as well.

The thing about comics and choose your own adventure-style books is that they also represent some of the most abhorred forms of text by many traditionalist teachers. But, I thoroughly relished in having control of the story. I would speculate and predict what would happen based on my choices, and I took them seriously. I had one Choose Your Own Adventure book featuring the Transformers, and I remember that the fates were often pretty damn harsh, like slowly melting or rusting or being ripped limb-for-limb (I think that folks thought that since the main characters were robots, young readers wouldn't be as stunned by the ravages -- this can also be seen in some of the brutal covers of the 1980s Marvel Transformers comic books. Consider the sample image and remember that this series was really for kids. If that had been people getting shot, the 1950s would have started all over again!). I built up my inference skills and my logic by trying to get into the writers' heads and using what I had learned about the twists from previous texts to help me craft my decisions. And, honestly, if I still screwed up and killed Optimus Prime, I felt deep guilt.

Something else about those texts: they had moral and ethics education undercurrents in them. Many times, your fate was tied not only to the decisions you made, but the type of decisions you made. For example, if one was a good boy or girl and kept a strong sense of moral code, one would usually end up OK, usually. But, if was selfish or committed one of the deadly sins, one often suffered for it.

That's the trend in Nightmare on Zombie Island as well, as you and some friends find yourself on an island with a pirate ship's hidden treasure deep in its bowels. The treasure remains undisturbed, and you escape the zombies or have little trouble. If, however, you take the booty without permission (insert terrible sardonic thought of bridging this text to Speak here), you're not going to have many happy endings.

This book is fun. It's not amazing, or jaw-droppingly written, but it's a nice romp through a hybrid text that puts the reader in charge of the reading experience. And the zombies are pirate zombies, which seem to be the best kind nowadays.
(Right: Jack Sparrow loves zombies, and pirates, but he really loves zombie pirates. And Pilate's, and 21 Jump Street because it launched his career -- well, not as a pirate, but as an actor. Someone with great Depp of character. That's a joke, not as tasteless as the Speak reference, which I still feel guilty about even writing, but the sad thing is that it came to me so quickly -- I didn't have to think about it as a "joke" -- that I'm a little disturbed by it and had to write it out as a form of confessional. Speaking of booty, though, based on the thoughts of many of my students, Jack Sparrow loves booty and booty loves Jack Sparrow, and the good captain will never suffer from a lack of booty no matter how much booty he gives away.)






Review of Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics

Another great piece from the folks at Comixology.

Get Comics Previews on your iPhone

Michael Chabon on Comics

Though this article from Idaho Mountain Express has "genre" in the title, Chabon craftily discusses comics as a medium and a form (you go, guy!). Some folks just love it when "legitimate" writers talk about comics, and Chabon has to be a leader in this regard as he's been unabashed in talking about them as an influence for his work. He's not one of those writers who "admits" to loving comics but who embraces their impact, which is how it should be.

School Library Journal's List of Adult Books for Kid Readers

This link will lead you to the article, where you'll no doubt note that graphic novels are given their own section. Lots of familiar titles in there if you've been keeping up with various "Best Of" or "Favorites" lists this year.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Comics and Conflict: An Audio Podcast

Since comics and contact zone pedagogy are taking up a lot of my scholarly interest right now, I was very pleased to see a link to this podcast featuring some great names in comics and comics scholarship. Thanks to Tom Spurgeon of Comics Reporter for drawing my attention to this very useful resource that has direct pedagogical implications.

Monday, December 01, 2008

10 Comics that Made a Great Writer Cry

Well, not great like Whitman, but I've just discovered the lucid writing of Shaenon K. Garrity of Comixology.com. Thanks to this link posted over at The Beat, I'll be adding Comixology to my links section over there on the right, because the site has some good writers. In this particular feature, Garrity reminds us of the strong pathos associated with the comics art form.

Review of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories V.2

Ivan Brunetti's second anthology promises stories that comprise more of a family of sequential art tales rather than keep the singularity of theme and individuality of the first collection from a year or so ago. "Family" really comes off as another word for the more accurate phrase "diversity of styles and themes but still all bound as sequential art," but one can hardly fault Brunetti for his phrasing. His last anthology was a little too centered on the theme of loneliness, in my opinion, so it is good to see him branching out.

The best things about this anthology are that the stories come not only from a multitude of artists but a multitude of generations as well and that many of the stories are highly readable.
This is not like the "Best of 2008" anthology reviewed here in early November in that here one can read works from Winsor McCay, Art Spiegelman, Jaime Hernandez and Phoebe Gloeckner in the same volume.

However, I find at least a fourth of the volume to comprise dubious choices for inclusion. Some are simply unreadable, either via clarity of style (I'm just not one of those fellows who likes intentionally messy cartoons), reproduction size, or the element of neurosis the selection reveals. (Am I the only one who is starting to feel like he got kicked in the head every time he reads another sequential art narrative that illustrates how depraved cartoonists seem to be, or at least how depraved they think we are as a species?).

There are some real gems in the anthology, to be sure. The last quarter of the book is a delight and includes some heavy hitters of cartooning. And I must say, as I flip back through the book, there are some stories I just don't remember reading -- they just didn't stick with me -- but there are others, like the selections from Lynda Barry and Jessica Abel, that I'm thinking I must have glossed over. They seem fresh and exciting. But how did I miss them the first time?

So far, my favorite selections are Mack White's parable "The Nudist Nuns of Goat Island" and Jim Woodring's "Particular Mind," which has a great scene where an uppity young female artist tells a cartoonist (unbeknownst to her) that creating comic art is "different" for her -- she really sees it as an art form. I also appreciated being exposed to artists like Gloeckner whom I hadn't paid much attention to in the past.

Overall, this is a good, but not really jaw-dropping, anthology. It is a bit pricey but probably worth the having simply because so many others will have seen it. I prefer the Best American Comics of 2008 anthology to this one but admit that not giving it higher marks is more Brunetti's tastes being different from my own than my drastic disenchantment for the bulk of its material.

My Blog in Wordle as of December 1, 2008

If you're not familiar with the Wordle application, you've got to give it a try. Just type in some text or the address of your favorite blog, and it creates a customizable word cloud letting you know which words are most dominant in your writing. What a great visualization for budding writers and veterans alike! Visit http://www.wordle.net/