Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Reflections on Kazu Kibuishi's _Copper_: "I Treat the Letters Like Images"
That said, Copper is a delightful introduction to his talents. The stories, mostly one-pagers with a few recurring vignettes across the collected shorts which were originally published on the web, are reminiscent of Winsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, as most of them are adventures based in the imaginations of Copper and his dog pal Fred.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Labels: librarians using comics
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
_Super-Powered Word Study_ Cover!
Labels: Super-Powered Word Study
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Is this a sign that things are finally changing? Is the new generation of readers going to constitute a Throwaway Culture with their lack of desire for keeping hard copies? Will the more traditional readers constitute dying Hoarder Culture?
And will it matter? Will one be better than the other? As the saying goes, you can lead a hoarder culture, but you can't make it think....
I'm intrigued by the article but don't see it as a harbinger. Show me some numbers comparing E-book sales to paperbacks, and then I'll I know better where things stand.
Monday, July 19, 2010
A Campfire Classic vs. A Campfire Mythology
It's not an unnatural pairing considering the religious overtones in both. Crusoe is sort of a 18th century Jesus, and in the early days of Christianity, it wasn't rare for Greeks and Romans to confuse Jesus with the gods in their pantheon. There's more than a little Christ in Hercules.
Regarding the Robinson Crusoe adaptation, Christianity rules the day. Those looking for the critique of government and economy will have to squint a bit, but those who like to read the text as a Christian allegory or Christian coming of age story will be most pleased. Indeed, I can see the text having much utility in Christan schools or Sunday school classrooms.
The coloring in both texts continues the Campfire tradition of offering an intriguing palette. At their best, the images seem to be painted and vibrantly give the pages a warm, active glow. This is especially true for the Heracles book. In contrast, the colors in Robinson Crusoe sometimes live up to Campfire's standards but other times look more like an overdone oil pastel, muddy and ragged. To the artists' credit though, a haggard, rough, jagged line is appropriate when illustrating the trials and tribulations of a mere mortal. Heracles, a man-god, is better suited for beauty.
While the adaptation of Robinson Crusoe sheds a lot of nuance from the original text, Ryan Foley more skillfully parses elements of Hercules' mythos. While I wonder about the historical accuracy of having a young Greek boy paired with a female mentor, Foley frames the narrative such as lovely Lady Demiarties tells the story to young Prenditus, who asks questions at times that Lady D simply says must be answered another day.
Foley also does an excellent job of making sure the more... adulterated elements of Hercules' labors are depicted in a family-friendly manner while also inserting a bit of humor into the text. Perhaps its the extra centuries of lore, or the inherent nebulous nature of myths vs a rather finite core from a source text like a novel, but Foley just seems capable of squeezing more out of his text that Johnson does with his.
For example, in a wonderful example of superimposing, an ovoid panel featuring the face of Eurystheus is placed in a horizontal, rectangular panel in which Heracles shovels poop from his stables. The oval fits neatly "in" the pile of poop, a perfect place for the shithead king.
Then there's the undeniable bit of tastiness that is Heracles petting Cerberus: "Who's a good dog? Huh? Who's a good dog? You are. Cerberus is a good dog."
Call for Essays: Spider-Man, Spider-Women, and Webspinners: Critical Perspectives
Got something to send this collection edited by Robert G. Weiner and Robert Moses Peaslee? I know I do! Read on for details from the editors:
When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko first penned a short story about a young man named Peter Parker who gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes the hero known as Spider-Man, little did they know they would be creating the most popular super-hero in history (next to Batman). Like most “happy accidents,” the creation of Spider-Man almost did not happen. It was initially a throw away a story in a magazine that was getting cancelled anyway.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko had hit upon a character that was different from all the others and one that everyone could relate to. Peter Parker (Spider-Man’s alter ego) was a teenager who had money/girl/family problems that he continued to struggle with even though he had “amazing” powers. He was in high school and had to learn some hard lessons of life. When Parker first got his powers, he used them to make money and get fame. But when he failed to stop a burglar who would eventually kill his Uncle Ben in a robbery attempt, he learned that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Since Stan Lee wrote those words in 1962, they have become the most quoted comic book words in history and have served as a cautionary note pertinent far beyond the boundaries of the comic or film frame.
Since 1962, there have been no less than 10 different titles featuring Spider-Man, 5 different animated series, a live action series, animated movies, a live action series in Japan, and 3 very successful movies grossing a total of $2.4 billion and breaking box office records
The editors are seeking articles of around 4-6,000 words (No LONGER) discussing the phenomena of Spider-Man or its off-shoots related to the comics, films, animated series, games, television series, history etc.
Some possible topics to be addressed include
- The real meaning of “with great power comes great responsibility” and Uncle Ben’s life and influence on Peter Parker
- Dr. Octopus almost marrying Aunt May
- May Day Parker, Spider-Girl and the alternate universe
- Spider-Girl as a fan driven title
- J. Jonah Jameson and his hatred of Spider-Man
- Spider-Woman the first female off shoot
- The various Spider-Girls
- How did Amazing Fantasy 15 change the world?
- The Death of Aunt May
- The Clone Saga
- The various Spidey costumes: Black, Red/Blue/Maroon
- Venom and Carnage: Why did these particular villains become the most popular of all Spidey Villians?
- Spider-Man’s role in Civil War
- The Gwen Stacy affair
- Spider-Man’s uneasy relationship with the police
- The Green Goblin (Norman Osborne) and his love/hate relationship with Peter Parker
- The various Goblins: Green Goblin1&2/Hobgoblin/Demigoblin (What ties them together? Differences?)
- The artistic style of Steve Ditko
- The roots of Spider-Man (The old pulp hero The Spider)
- The writing of Gerry Conway
- The art of John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr. on Spider-Man
- The New Fantastic Four-Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Hulk, and Wolverine
- The relationship between Madame Web and Spider-Man
- Spider-Man’s role in the New Avengers
- The work of J. Michael Straczynski on the title
- How did Todd McFarlane change the Spider-Man world both through his art and writing?
- The first Marvel/DC crossover-Spider-Man meets Superman
- Why was the live action Spider-Man television series a big flop?
- Spider-Man 2099-A different kind of Spider-Man
- Comparisons between Nicholas Hammond and Tobey McGuire as Peter Parker
- What kind of creative licenses did the movies take that differ from the sequential art stories? How were they similar?
- Zombie Spider-Man
- Mary Jane comics and novels: teen romance in the Spider-Man world
- Spider-Man as an ideal children’s hero
- Spider-Man fan films and fiction
- Spider-Man as an ethical gauge for human behavior
- One of the first Super-Hero record albums: Spiderman: Rock Reflections of a Superhero
- The Scarlet Spider-who is he? What is his role in the Spidey universe?
- The Ultimate Spider-Man: What are the similarities and differences between the Ultimate version of the writing of Brian Michael Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man
- Spidey Super Stories: An experiment in reading for children
- Spider-Man overseas? Why do the Europeans love Spider-Man as much as the Americans? What is his universal appeal?
- Mattie Franklin (Spider-Woman 3) and her relationship to J. Jonah Jameson as a surrogate father
- Peter Parker’s sister?
- The Red Skull and the killing of Peter-Parker’s parents
- The Vulture: A senior citizen as a villain
- The relationship between Captain America and Spider-Man
- Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends an animated series featuring Firestar and Ice-Man
- The Spider-Man family of heroes
- John Jameson and the Man-Wolf
- The Transformers: Spidey meets a Hasbro trademark
- The upcoming Spider-Man movie reboot
- Spider-Man as a barometer of the various historical periods in which he appears.
- The psychoanalytic aspects of Spider-Man, Peter, Mary Jane, etc.
- Spider-Man, Marvel, and the structure of the entertainment industry
- Spider-Man as ideology or counter-ideology
- Spider-Man, -Woman fandom and audience practice
- Spider-Man online
- Spider-Man as an urban (or particularly a New York) dweller
Please send 200 word abstracts by November 1st 2010 to
Rob Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Final papers will be due December 1st 2010. No exceptions. Please note the submission of an essay does NOT necessarily mean publication in the volume. The editors are striving to put together as tight a collection as possible with many diverse viewpoints covering all aspects of Spider-Man’s career.
Authors are also expected to follow the editor’s style guide and be willing to have their work edited.
p.s. Like that image of Spidey? Click the pic or visit this link.
(Various cover designs)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
_Wilson_, A Bartleby that Prefers....
What sets Wilson apart as a reading experience, though, is the depth of its ambiguity and the immediate understanding that Clowes may be fucking with us like never before. Wilson can be read as a straightforward narrative about a somewhat hypocritical deadbeat with delusions of betterness, not grandeur, who seeks that sublime epiphany that will give him purpose and offer him reentry into the universal embrace of human existence and essence.
Yet, when the comics form is considered, Wilson can be read as a much more taxing narrative. For example, Clowes' word balloons often look a lot like thought balloons. Are we supposed to believe that Wilson actually says everything that is written and tailed to him? Are there times -- or is there the opportunity, purposefully presented by the author -- to read what he seems to say as something he wants to say or only says to himself? Is the duplicitous nature of Wilson's character on display to everyone who cares to notice, or only to us readers?
As well, the serial feel of the mostly one page vignettes reminds us of how comics play with time and space, not just between each panel, but between chunks of time that may be mere seconds, days, hours, years, or even generations. Wilson clearly ages in this text. His hair goes from brown to dark gray to a lighter gray that to me suggests thinning. But by how much? Yes, Clowes uses several different cartooning styles to represent his characters, offering us visual and color signifiers to resolve as we see fit, but how much time and growth has really taken place for Wilson?
Nowhere is this question more exquisitely on display than in the last page of the novel, where Wilson stares at a raindrop from the corner of a bare room and seems to have the moment of clarity he's been seeking. But, how much time has passed between this vignette and the one preceding it? Many of Clowes' texts end with an existentialist ambiguity laced in action and/or inaction dynamics, but Wilson takes it to the next level. It's not just "what is he doing?" but "where is he at?" He has the "ah-ha," but is he in a convalescent home? Is he in his right mind? Too little of his surroundings are shown, but he appears to be alone and perhaps unable to act on whatever realization he may have had. In the end, Wilson is as he was in the beginning -- as much as we can know of him anyway: a complexity of man who seems to prefer doing, but just as naturally, even self-effacingly, prefers not.
Wilson represents a story typical of Clowes impressive milieu but makes more use of the ambiguities the comics form offers both readers and creators. While Wilson shows strength of character via the irony of being unremarkable, Wilson tugs at the savvy comics reader's sense of form and function and gives just enough critical rope for the comics-informed person to get knotted up in via the possibilities of reader response interpretation.
Wilson leaves readers seeking complexity happily clamouring while Clowes snickers in the corner, the only one who will ever know...
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
If You Liked _Adventures in Cartooning_...
Everyone's favorite knight is back, this time bored out of her mind during a rainy day. After complaining a bit, her friend suggests she make a comics story and then leads the way through an adventure that the reader gets to help craft.
While the first Adventures book seemed good for all ages regardless of probably trying to target younger kids and teens, the workbook has a decidedly children's book feel to it, but as someone who asks students at all levels to make comics in order to understand the work that goes into them, I can see the book being used in workshops for teachers and teacher educators.
Its one weakness might be that it offers information about comics form at the end, after the narrative experience, where it might have done better to offer it at the beginning, but, overall, this little text is a fun addition to the Adventures line that scaffolds comics creativity via interactive narrative before offering templates and terminology for readers to unleash their own comics-making beasts.
The Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book should be available from First Second any day now.
Hmmm...wonder how many titles are getting the rationale treatment from me and my team of writers? More on that at a later date....
Monday, July 12, 2010
The story revolves around Garth, a dying child inadvertently zapped into the realm of the dead by a loser ghost catcher, Frank Gallows. Garth is a sort of "chosen one" figure in his new surroundings, and Frank finds love and redemption in his attempts to rescue the boy even as Garth finds courage to live -- once an evil dictator is demolished and everything works out for all the good guys.
As a narrative, information is revealed in a contemporary manga tradition that I find bothersome: as it goes, only when absolutely needed, and without very much build. It often reads like a web comics written in installments or like storyboards for a movie or cartoon series rather than a full-on, self-contained graphic novel. But, this technique is one that permeates certain types of comics and cartoons and should be familiar to younger readers who seem to enjoy a "children's play" pathos.
TenNapel's thin ink line works for the narrative, and the coloring from Katherine Garner and Tom Rhodes is superbly matched to the story. An interesting, pre-adolescent meditation on fantasy and mortality, Ghostopolis caters to the young reader's sense of contemporary storytelling and offers that little bit more for those who are ready to see it.
Review of Ayers' and Alexander-Tanner's _To Teach_
Labels: Harvey Pekar
Friday, July 09, 2010
Go Read: _The ALAN Review_ 37.3
I was very honored to have guest-edited the issue, and you can see me playing a character I might as well have called "Mr. Incredulous" in my introduction. I was given the charge of situating these essays on the acceptance of newer or possibly "new-to-you" forms into and as YA Lit and decided to give my intro a twinge of the ironic, sardonic, and downright snarky.
I figured, what would the staunch literary traditionalist say about this issue? I concluded it would be something like "It's come to this??" But, deep down, this traditionalist would also be excited (or at least adequately emotionally flustered) about where the articles were pushing adolescent literature and literacy.
You might also see me refute the idea that we're becoming a more visual culture. "WHAT???? Why would YOU say that??" you might ask.
Allow me to explain:
We have to take into account that many of the folks who are telling us that we're moving from a print culture to a visual culture are very much wrapped up in print culture. So, what might be the norm for them might not be the norm for everyone else. Scholars who have to get tenure through the printed word -- and often, that also means the printed page, not alternate forms, for better or worse -- might not have noticed that many of us have been in a visual culture for generations, centuries, even, if they don't value making interdisciplinary connections in their fields of the humanities or social sciences. Perhaps, long ago or even still, there were/are no posters in that office in the Ivory Tower.
As well, some folks seem to glom on to this idea of visual literacy like human beings have only recently developed eyeballs. Remember, the textual is also the visual. There's not a distinction there really, except in how certain graphein (to invoke Kress, or for comics scholars, Groensteen) have been signified or codifed. We read using our eyes; similarly, we use them to view paintings, read comics, etc. Isn't anything we do that filters information through the eyes an act of visual literacy on some level?
Or, as I put it with my students: When do you think we were more attuned to our visual senses, especially in how they related to our other senses? When we were hunting and gathering while playing Grand Theft Auto, or when we were actually hunting and gathering for survival?
So, I don't really think we're entering an era where we're becoming a more visual population, its just that we've become more aware of how the visual is being used to persuade us and influence our thinking and actions. This has lead to us also becoming more aware and accepting of how we can use visual elements of culture to educate folks across the overlapping literacies, from functional to critical, than we might have been fifty or a hundred years ago.
So, really, we don't need to over-sell visual literacy. As those who haven't felt the love of the printed word or the pressures of publishing might remind us, not only have visual forms always been with us and part of us, they often sell themselves as forms of literacy. If only we're willing to see what's available for our viewing.
Not that a little media awareness and knowledge of rhetorical technique isn't a helpful thing, of course. The ones that need the selling the most are those who are most dead set against it as a concept or reality. The real Mr and Mrs. Incredulouses. I'd like to think we can reach everyone, but I've been in education for a long time now. Perhaps the way to handle those most opposed to forms of literature and art that integrate more visuals than more traditional forms is to watch them reading their "imageless" books and humor them as they fool themselves into thinking they are having a pure literary experience without any of those pansy-ass visuals getting in the way. ;)
"But those letters are images too" you want to call out, but let them build the evidence for us while thinking they're making the case against. Sometimes, that is all you can do.
Anyway, go read TAR 37.3. Enjoy the articles -- and Mr. Incredulous!
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Did you read the inks? That's right, Manga can make you crazy. Surely you don't have to have any emotional distress at all before reading a manga and going completely insane. Me? I'm just surprised the book in question is Psychic Academy and not Twilight: The Graphic Novel.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Want Me To Invade Even More of Your Life?
Monday, July 05, 2010
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Saturday, July 03, 2010
The "A" stands for "Awesome"
Erik A. Evensen (MFA, Ohio State University) and I are teaming up on a comics-and-literacy related project due out this fall. Erik is an award-winning artist who earned the Xeric Grant to help him publish his first graphic novel Gods of Asgard, which is about to gain global distribution. In this clip, you can see him profiled by Lakeland Public Television, based in Minnesota. You'll also see him working on some preview art for our project! :)