Columnist Anastasia Betts of Graphic Novels 101 looks at the use of comics in the classroom, and shares her experience as an educator helping teachers embrace sequential art as a teaching tool.
In past columns we have spent a lot of time talking about how to use comics in the classroom. We’ve discussed everything from using wordless comics to teach elements of narrative, to using graphic novel adaptations of Shakespeare, to experimenting with comics based on poetry. What we haven’t really talked about is how to use the medium of comics to help students tell their own stories, or demonstrate their own learning.
Using the comics format as a way to get kids writing couldn’t be more natural. Students love to tell stories, especially their own stories, and the comics media is a perfect vehicle for doing so. But kid-created comics can do so much more than just tell stories. In this month’s column, we are going to spend some time talking about all the ways you can use comics in your classroom to help students to share their voice and “show what they know” – in other words, as a vehicle for expression.
Perhaps the most natural way to have your students create their own comics is through the process of creative writing. Unfortunately, in our testing obsessed education culture, creative writing is often the first part of the English curriculum to go. Teachers are often compelled to have their students spend time writing essays, such as expository, response to literature, persuasive / opinion essays, etc. But did you ever think that perhaps combining these genres of writing with comics could be another tool in your motivation toolbox? Why not invite your students to create a Response to Literature as a conversation between the speaker and the reader – in comics form? Or, why not create a persuasive argument as a visual essay with two characters debating both sides of the issue? There are innumerable ways to have your students employ a visual component to their essay writing. Neither the teacher nor the students should be intimidated by the drawing component either. Students need not be able to draw; stick figures work well, as do shapes (think of Flatland).
Consider this example…
Using comics to help students learn about a topic, and then demonstrate that learning just makes sense. Some of you out there might be thinking that having students create “persuasion” comics (like the one above) is not the same or as rigorous as having them write conventional essays on the topic. But I would argue that’s simply not true. A student created comic can certainly be as rigorous and sophisticated as a prose essay – it’s all up to the teacher to set high expectations, and provide many models for students to review. And for most students, creating comics is a heck of a lot more fun and motivating than mere writing alone. If essay writing is the ultimate goal, then creating a comic as an interim step is a great way to get students involved in the writing, bringing out their voice and passion. It’s just a hop, skip, and jump away to turn that comic into a full-blown essay – should the need arise.
“How to” Comics
Much like the “essay” comics described above, “how to” comics can be used at any grade level to help students demonstrate what they have learned about a topic. There is the added advantage of authenticity to this project, since “how to” comics are a part of the world we live in. From the safety instruction pamphlet on an airplane, to the building instructions that come with Ikea furniture –“how to” comics are everywhere.
Writing “how to” books is a common part of many elementary school writing programs – and can even be found in many state standards. Instead of your standard “how to” text only writing assignment, why not have your students illustrate their text and turn it into a comic? Once again, adding in the visual/artistic component builds motivation and investment in the project, and creates a student work product that is both pleasing and instructional. With your older students, it can even be fun to have them create such “How to” comics to give to younger classmates at school (i.e. through a book buddies program). A fun adaptation of this project would be to model it on the popular TV show, “How its made” – inviting your students to explain how something is made…. Like a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Yum!
Comics that Explain
The “How to” and “How its Made” comics mentioned above both explain how to do something, or how something is made. But there are other ways to explain things as well. I’ve known many math teachers over the years that invite their students to use the comics format to explain a math procedure, rule, or proof. I remember one year a student, after receiving such an assignment, used her comic to explain why a negative times a negative (or positive time a positive) is always positive; while a negative times a positive is a negative. She created an entire story about how when you put a negative person with a negative person, they are happy (i.e. positive) to be negative together, and when you put a negative with positive person, he just ended up bringing her down… (making her a negative in the end…). Ok, not perfect math, but it was creative, awesome and ultimately, the student came away with a better understanding of the rule – and never forgot it.
All in all, there isn’t really anything out there that couldn’t be explained in a comic if you just give your students a chance to do so. Plus, it gives your students an opportunity to use their artistic intelligence, not just mathematical or linguistic.
Comics as Journalism
This is actually a genre that exists in the comics publishing world. Whether you are a fan of the works of Joe Sacco (Palestine), Guy Delisle (Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea), or Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón (The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation) – there are plenty of great models for students to look at, and be inspired by. Encourage students to find an issue they are passionate about, and investigate it. Then, invite them to use the comic format to report out on that issue. Comics writers have been doing this for ages, and it’s a legitimate form of reporting. Again, such visual reporting can be extended in so many ways – use as a launching point for having students create their own film documentaries. Or, have them create a comics newspaper on the issues that matter most to them. This particular assignment also offers numerous opportunities to teach the writing conventions of the journalism genre (who, what, when, where, why… etc.). Again, if text only writing is the goal, well-written, high quality text can be lifted directly from the comics.
And last but not least, using comics as a form of activism, or for promoting social change is a great way to channel student writing. Combining elements of all the types of writing we’ve already discussed (persuasion, how –to, explanatory, journalism, etc.), Comics Activism takes it a step further, asking students to use their comics to compel the reader to act.
Again, there are real world examples of this. One of my favorite organizations to share with students is World Comics. World Comics specializes in teaching individuals (both kids and adults), how to use the comics format as a way to speak out on important issues. Basically, World Comics uses comics to give voice to those who would have been otherwise silenced. Students in their programs have created comics that “focus on different issues, such as racism, sexual harassment, girl child rights, school drop-outs, hiv/aids, sanitation, and right to education… Any issue, on which one can make a story, can be expressed through grassroots comics.” (World Comics website, “Comics in Action”)
World Comics has a great website with a myriad of tools for running comics workshops, and they have affiliates in numerous countries. Not only can you teach your students how to create comics for social change, but through World Comics (and other organizations like them) you can partner your class with other students around the world who are doing the same thing.
Comics have the power to change things. They have the power to change reluctant readers into avid readers. They have the power to motivate lackluster writing into writing filled with voice and passion. When created by empassioned students on topics that matter, comics have the power to change minds and motivate people to act. Much like those archetypal characters that transform from average, everyday regular “Joe’s” into crime fighting, butt kicking superheroes, comics—the literal underdog of the literary world—have the power to do a little butt kicking of their own.
So get busy and get your students to write comics. Like World Comics’ tagline says, “If you have something to say, say it with comics.”
Homework: Check out the myriad of tools at the World Comics website, and maybe even start a World Comics Club at your own school!
Anastasia Betts is a former teacher, administrator, and UCLA literacy coach from California. She has delivered professional development courses, workshops, and seminars on using comics in the classroom, including participating on Comics in Education panels at Comic Con International: San Diego. Anastasia currently runs an independent curriculum development company called Curriculum Essentials, Inc as well as the website Graphic Novels 101. You can follow her on Facebook at Graphic Novels 101: Using Visual Texts in the 21st Century.
Happy New Year! The Comics Observer will be returning to our regular weekly schedule (more or less). But first, to kick things off: a list of lists for the listophiles. 2012 was another amazing year for comics. Truly the great modern renaissance continues unabated.
We’ll be attempting to aggregate every online “best of 2012″ comics lists covering comic books, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, etc. that we find. (Basically, a blatant rip-off of this Best Of books list of lists.)
Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed.
About.com (comics, graphic novels)
Ace Comics (comics)
Alec Reads Comics (comics)
Amazon.com (comics, graphic novels)
A.V. Club (comics)
A.V. Club (graphic novels)
Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Tales (graphic novels)
Barnes & Noble (graphic novels)
Battle Hymns (graphic novels)
The Beat (comics, graphic novels)
Bleeding Cool (comics, graphic novels)
Bleeding Cool (Irish comics)
Bloody Disgusting (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6) (horror comics)
Boing Boing (comics, graphic novels)
Boston Globe (fiction with graphic novels)
Brain Pickings (graphic novels)
Brian Evinou (comics, graphic novels)
British Comic Awards (comics, graphic novels, creators)
Broken Frontier (UK small press comics)
Co.Create (digital comics)
Collingswood Patch (comics, etc.)
ComicAttack.net (all-ages comics)
ComicBook.com (new comic series)
Comic Book Resources (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
Comics Alliance (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
Comics-and-More (superhero comics)
Comics Bulletin (comics, graphic novels, webcomics, creators)
The Comics Reporter (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
Comics Should Be Good (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7) (comics, graphic novels)
Comics Worth Reading (graphic novels)
comiXology (digital comics)
CraveOnline (graphic novels)
Crisis on Infinite Midlives (part 1, part 2) (comics)
The Daily BLAM! (comics)
Den of Geek (comics, graphic novels)
Diana Tamblyn (part 1) (comics, graphic novels)
Drawn (comics, graphic novels, art books, etc.)
Earth’s Mightiest Blog (comics, graphic novels)
East Windsor Patch (comics)
FEARnet (horror comics)
File Under Other (comics)
Filth and Fabulations (graphic novels)
Flashback Universe (digital comics)
Forbidden Planet (comics, graphic novels)
Ghastly Awards (horror comics)
The Globe and Mail (graphic novels)
Goodreads Choice Awards (graphic novels)
The Gauntlet (graphic novels, etc.)
The Guardian (graphic novels)
House to Astonish (comics)
Huffington Post UK (comics, graphic novels)
iFanboy (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.)
IGN (comics, graphic novels, digital comics, webcomics, creators, etc.)
io9 (comics, graphic novels)
Karen the Small Press Librarian (part 1, part 2) (graphic novels)
Library Journal (graphic novels)
Manga Bookshelf (manga)
Manga Bookshelf: Melinda (part 1, part 2) (manga)
Maybe Blogging Will Help (comics, graphic novels)
MillarWorld (comics, graphic novels)
Mother Jones (books with graphic novels)
MTV Geek (comics)
MTV Geek (graphic novels)
MTV Geek (manga)
Multiversity Comics (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.)
National Post (books with graphic novels)
Nerdage (graphic novels)
Newsarama (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.)
NewsOK.com (graphic novels)
NPR (graphic novels)
NYTimes.com (books with graphic novels)
NYTimes.com (‘bathroom books’)
Panel Patter (indie comics)
Paste Magazine (comics, graphic novels)
Paste Magazine (webcomics)
Paste Magazine (graphic novel reissues)
Paste Magazine (comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics)
Patheos (comics, graphic novels)
Planet 46 (comics, graphic novels, etc.)
Publishers Weekly (graphic novels)
Quill & Quire (graphic novels)
Rob Kirby Comics (self-published comics, graphic novels)
Rob Liefeld (comics)
Robot 6 (comics, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, digital comics)
Salon.com (graphic novels)
SciFiNow (comics, graphic novels)
School Library Journal (graphic novels)
She Has No Head! (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
SFGate (books with graphic novels)
TheStar.com (comics, graphic novels)
StarTribune (graphic novels)
The Tearoom of Despair (comics, graphic novels)
TIME (graphic novels)
Time Out Chicago Kids (part 1, part 2) (graphic novels)
Tor.com (concluding comics series)
USA Today (comics, creators, etc.)
Village Voice (comics, graphic novels)
The Washington Post (comics, graphic novels)
The Weekly Crisis (graphic novels)
When Words Collide (part 1) (comics, graphic novels)
Partnering with the excellent GraphicMedicine.org, an online study of graphic novels and comic books that address health issues, Penn State Press is launching a new series of graphic novels targeted to medical practitioners, patients, caregivers and their families.
As mentioned last week, higher education is embracing the language of sequential arts more and more, and this is just one more example of scholars appreciating that there is a unique way in which comics engage their readers and relay information both factual and emotional.
The editors of this new line of books are currently accepting submissions, and Graphic Medicine posted the below image to their Facebook and Twitter pages to get the word out about their new Graphic Medicine line.
From the announcement:
Graphic Medicine – a new book series from the Pennsylvania State University Press
Graphic Medicine is an exciting new book series from Penn State Press. Curated by an editorial collective with scholarly, creative, and clinical expertise, the series is inspired by a growing awareness of the value of comics as an important resource for communicating about a range of issues broadly termed “medical.” For medical practitioners, patients, and families and caregivers dealing with illness and disability, graphic narrative enlightens complicated or difficult experiences. For scholars in literacy, cultural, and comics studies, the genre articulates a complex and powerful analysis of illness, medicine, and disability and a rethinking of the boundaries of “health.” The series will be diverse in its approach. It will include monographic studies and edited collections from scholars, practitioners, and medical educators, as well as original comics from artists and non artists alike, such as self-reflective “graphic pathographies” or comics used in medical training and education, providing a creative way to learn and teach.
Susan Squier, Brill Professor of Women’s Studies and English, Penn State University
Ian Williams, Comics Artist, Clinician, Editor of GraphicMedicine.org
MK Czerwiec, Artist-in-Residence, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Michael Green, Professor of Humanities and Medicine, Penn State University College of Medicine
Kimberly Myers, Associate Professor of Humanities, Penn State University College of Medicine
Scott Smith, Assistant Professor of English, Penn State University
Submissions should take the form of a 3-5 page proposal outlining the intent of the project, its scope, its relation to other work on the topic, and the audience(s) you have in mind. Please also include 2-3 sample chapters, if available, and your CV.
Questions or submissions? Contact Penn State Press:
Kendra Boileau, Editor-in-Chief
Penn State Press, 820 N. University Dr.
USB 1, Suite C, University Park, PA 16802
email@example.com, (814) 867-2220
or the lead series editors:
219 Burrows Building
University Park, PA 16802
Hafety Lwyd, Llanrhaeadr
Denbighshire, LL16 4PH
We don’t feature a lot of single issues of comic books in this column, mostly sticking to the more meaty reads of graphic novels and manga. But when the extraordinary Matt Kindt puts out a comic book, you’d do well to check it out. Who is Matt Kindt? Read on to discover one of our modern master storytellers. If you’d rather learn more about past master storytellers, there’s an informative and funny history of comic books in comic book form you can get. And if you’d rather step out of reality, there’s a new release where you can explore your dreams… at a price.
Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer picks three brand new releases out today worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before.
If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.
Matt Kindt, the most original voice in genre comics, outdoes himself in this bold new espionage series!
Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was Mind MGMT’s greatest success – and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?
* From the creator of 3 Story and Super Spy!
* Akira meets Heart of Darkness by way of 100 Bullets!
For the first time ever, the inspiring, infuriating, and utterly insane story of comics, graphic novels, and manga is presented in comic book form!
The award-winning Action Philosophers team of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey turn their irreverent-but-accurate eye to the stories of Jack Kirby, R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Fredric Wertham, Roy Lichtenstein, Art Spiegelman, Hergé, Osamu Tezuka — and more!
“Done with wit, energy, a healthy dose of insolence and a dedication to getting it right.” — NPR.
Collects Comic Book Comics #1-6.
A young boy named Colby Reynolds searches for meaning in the world around him and discovers a place where dreams can come true, if he’s willing to pay the price.
Along the way he’ll see sights he’s never fathomed and encounter hidden truths about himself that he’ll wish he never knew. The hit online comic is now a beautiful high-quality hardcover graphic novel, perfect for teen readers and manga fans, with a durable library-quality binding.
Discover the story Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Zot!) calls an ‘enchantingly drawn meditation on imagination and yearning.’
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has announced the program schedule for the event’s weekend of April 21 and 22. Most of the panels and presentations related to comics and graphic novels are front-loaded on Saturday, with some competing against each other in the early afternoon. While the scheduling congestion is unfortunate, it’s indicative of the growing star power of comics at the Festival to get such premium placement.
Highlights include a moderated conversation with Robert Kirkman, writer and co-creator of The Walking Dead comic book series, and an appearance by Jeff Kinney of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame on the Children’s Stage. DC Entertainment will also hold a panel with co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee to talk up their controversial prequel comics to the acclaimed Watchmen graphic novel, followed by a screening of the movie adaptation. Almost simultaneously there is a discussion panel called Drawing Outside the Lines, featuring acclaimed graphic novel writers and artists Joseph Lambert (I Will Bite You!), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and Jim Woodring (Weathercraft), a trio of unique creators who write and draw their own work on their own terms. That panel is moderated by the LA Times’ Deborah Vankin who also wrote the graphic novel Poseurs. The last event for Saturday is a panel on Mythic Stories that features writers Ed Brubaker (Criminal), Adam Mansbach (Go the F**k to Sleep, Nature of the Beast) and Douglas McGowan (Nature of the Beast), with moderator Leslie S. Klinger (The Annotated Sandman). A fourth writer is TBD. The weekend ends with two screenings of the feature-length documentary, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story.
While admission to the Festival is free, the limited seating of indoor panels requires the necessity of tickets, which go on sale April 15 at 9:00 am. A limited number of tickets will also be for sale during the Festival at booth #463. Panel passes, which reserve 8 tickets per pass, can be purchased now for $30. Tickets for the 32nd Annual LA Times Book Prizes Ceremony, happening the Friday night before the Festival, are also now on sale for $10.
10:30 am – Robert Kirkman in Conversation with Geoff Boucher (Panel 1121)
Ronald Tutor Campus Center
12:55 pm – Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Target Children’s Stage
1:00 pm – DC Entertainment Presents: Watchmen — It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning.
A Conversation with Jim Lee and Dan Didio, moderated by Geoff Boucher
2:00 pm – Watchmen Screening
School for Cinematic Arts
1:30 pm – Graphic Novel: Drawing outside the Lines (Panel 1113)
Carla Speed McNeil
Moderator: Deborah Vankin
Taper Hall (THH 101)
3:30 pm – Graphic Novel: Mythic Stories (Panel 1044)
Moderator: Leslie S. Klinger
Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL 101)
11:00 am & 3:00 pm – “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” screening, presented by EPIX
Located in the Ray Stark Theater
School for Cinematic Arts
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are a set of awards for excellence in literature held annually since 1980. They are given to books published in the United States within the previous calendar year by a living author(s). Winners receive a citation and $500 for each category. The finalists for each category were announced recently, and the Graphic Novel category, the newest to be added to the prestigious prizes, has an impressive line-up. The Comics Observer looks at each Graphic Novel finalist in the build-up to the award ceremony April 20.
Joseph Lambert‘s debut graphic novel I Will Bite You! And Other Stories (published by Secret Acres) presents a set of short stories from a rising star exploring childlike perspectives. It has won the 2011 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Collection and Outstanding Artist. Some of the work originally appeared in mini-comics created and/or edited by Lambert. The Comics Journal‘s Rob Clough has named some of those mini-comics the best of 2010 (#21: Everyday) and 2011 (#4: Sundays: Forever Changes, #13: Too Far, #14: Kids). Lambert has also been recognized in several editions of the annual America’s Best Comics anthology, and was spotlighted by its editor Jessica Abel here. He’s a 2008 graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, where some of his short stories were published in the local alt weekly newspaper Seven Days.
Despite all of that, Lambert is almost definitely the most obscure pick among this year’s Graphic Novel finalists. Because most of his work has appeared in mini-comics until now, he’s under a lot of people’s radar. So this could be a significant win for someone so new to the game. It could also give a nice promotional push for his upcoming release Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, a graphic novella aimed at younger readers.
He’s an exciting newcomer that almost surely has his best work ahead of him based on the promise he’s exhibited so far. And that’s no slight on the work in I Will Bite You! or any of his other current material. His sublime illustrations are unafraid to play with colors, form and the narrative convention of comics without losing any appeal and accessibility. Just check out his stunning use of colors and childlike discovery in the story Fall, available to read online for free at that link.
Two-page scan from The Comix Cube, which included I Will Bite You! on its Best of 2011 list.
Next weekend, the 25th WonderCon, a comic book convention traditionally held in the San Francisco area since 1987, will be hosted in Anaheim, a city in Orange County just south of Los Angeles. For those that have always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con, North America’s largest comic book convention, this is your chance to get to a more accessible and manageable version of that show. No 3-hour drive, no instantly sold-out tickets, and just a generally easier vibe. Both shows are owned and run by the same company, so format-wise, you’re basically getting the next best thing with less stress. Registration is still available, and unlike with Comic-Con, onsite registration will be possible, meaning you can decide to go that day and drive on down.
So what can we expect to see at WonderCon? The programming schedule for Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been posted, and there is plenty to do whether you’re new to comics or a longtime fan. Or explore the floor.
Here are some recommended highlights from the program:
2:00-3:00 Quick Draw! — It’s another battle to the death with Sharpies at twenty paces! Three of the fastest cartoonists alive draw and duel in what is always a standing-room-only event at Comic-Con in San Diego. This time, we have Scott Shaw! (The Simpsons), Disney legend Floyd Norman, and a player to be named later, all sketching like mad on the command of Mark Evanier. If you’ve never seen one of these, you need to experience it! Room 204
3:30-4:30 comiXology Open Discussion: Everything Digital! — Digital comics are the hottest topic and fastest-growing segment of the comic industry — with comic fans, retailers, and publishers embracing this new distribution and retail model. From self-publishing to same-day-as-print sales, digital retailer storefronts, and more, comiXology is the undisputed leader in this, the digital charge. Join CEO and co-founder of comiXology David Steinberger along with guest panelists for an open discussion on everything digital. All topics are game! Room 203
5:30-6:30 CBLDF: History of Comic Censorship — Learn the shocking history of comics censorship and how even today comics and the people who make, sell, and read them are still threatened. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund executive director Charles Brownstein tells the sordid tale, from the public book burnings and Senate hearings that led to the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s through the attacks on retailers in the 1980s, artists in the 1990s, and readers today that the CBLDF is working to combat! Room 211
11:00-12:00 Womanthology — Get the story behind the hottest Kickstarter project of the year, a graphic novel produced entirely by the top women in the industry! Over 200 creators combined to create Womanthology, and all profits go to the charities of GlobalGiving.org! Project mastermind Renae De Liz and a host of surprise creators offer sneak peeks, inside tips on how to break into comics, and more! Room 213
12:30-2:00 CBLDF Live Art Jam — Witness amazing live art created before your eyes by the industry’s greatest superstars! WonderCon special guests Jim Lee, Rebekah Isaacs, and Eric Powell plus special surprise guests will make original art on the big screen, giving you a one-of-a-kind glimpse of their creative process, and then a chance to bid to take their work home. The proceeds of this auction benefit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who protect the industry’s First Amendment rights. Stop by the CBLDF booth (417) for your bidder number, then come watch great art happen before your eyes at the CBLDF Live Art Jam! Room 203
3:00-4:00 Kids Can Draw Cartoons with Kristian Sather — Hey kids! Kristian Sather (Bonkers, Jetsons, kristiansather.blogspot.com) will demonstrate the techniques used in drawing funny cartoon characters. You will learn how to draw your own funny cartoon characters using basic geometric shapes. Join Kristian for this fun & informative session! Room 210
8:30-11:00 WonderCon Masquerade — It’s Saturday night’s big event! Join the crowd and be enthralled with the parade of costumes and characters across the big WonderCon main stage. Ballroom, Third Level
11:30-1:00 Secret Origin of Good Readers — Talking comic books, why we need them in our classrooms and libraries, and how to use them with Bill Morrison (The Simpsons, Bongo Comics), Steve Rotterdam (Bonfire Agency), Nancy Silberkleit (anti-bullying and literacy advocate), David Rojas (education consultant), and Mimi Cruz (Night Flight Comics). An overview of the comic book medium will include helping educators and librarians navigate the wonderful world of comic books, highlighting specific ways comic books and graphic novels can be used to engage a variety of learners while promoting reading and literacy. Educator comic book packages will be provided for attendees on a limited basis (or until supplies last) at the conclusion of this presentation. Free online 70-page The Secret Origin of Good Readers companion resource book [PDF] and other exciting materials at www.night-flight.com/secretorigin courtesy of XMission.com. Room 203
2:00-3:00 Stump Mark Waid — Superstar comics writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Irredeemable, Kingdom Come, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and more) is joined by Jonah Weiland of ComicBookResources.com in a contest of wits! Drawing on questions submitted by CBR readers, and throwing in some of his own, Weiland will desperately try to “Stump Mark Waid” on a variety of comics trivia. Will the comics Internet prevail or will Mark Waid stand triumphant? Show up and find out! Room 203
3:00-4:00 Comics for Kids — Despite the fact that most of us fell in love with the comics medium when we were children, good comics for kids seem few and far between…or are they? Join moderator and APE Entertainment editor Aaron Sparrow, artist James Silvani (Darkwing Duck, Richie Rich), artist Amy Mebberson (The Muppet Show, Strawberry Shortcake, Toy Story), Shane Houghton (Reed Gunther, Casper Scare School), Archaia editor Paul Morrissey, Beanworld creator Larry Marder and more for a lively discussion on kids comics, their place in the industry, and how to break into the business! As a bonus, children attending the panel will be eligible to win comic books and sketches the artists will draw during the panel! Room 203
Loyola Marymount University‘s Dr. Adilifu Nama, Chair and Associate Professor of African American Studies and author of Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes, will hold a conference tomorrow on race in comics.
Dr. Nama shares some of his findings in this video produced by LMU:
His take on Luke Cage as more than simply a blaxploitation character, which is typically how he’s dismissed, but a reflection of the debate about the criminal system and rehabilitation going on at the time, particularly stands out to me. This isn’t just another regurgitation of comics history but an indication of someone bringing their own knowledgeable perspective to the ongoing dialogue and analysis. I’m bummed I can’t make this conference, but I’m very interested in checking out his book as a consolation prize.
The colloquium ran from 9 AM to 4 PM and included a line-up of professors and professional creators in comics and animation, including animator/artist LeSean Thomas (The Boondocks, The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra) and nationally syndicated cartoonist Lalo Alcarez (La Cucaracha).
From the schedule:
OUTSIDE THE LINES:
Reconfiguring Race in American Comics, Animation and Graphic Novels
A colloquium concerning issues of diversity, commerce, artistic control, stereotypes, discrimination, aesthetics and pressing debates over the role and responsibility of artists and the comic art and narratives they create.
His book focuses on superhero comics, but this conference looks to expand beyond that, which is important. Click through for the full schedule.
Why read comics?
There’s the Internet, there are video games, apps, TV shows, movies, music, books, theater, radio plays, museums, art galleries… There are bills to pay, jobs to get to and/or find, homework and chores to do, people to be with (or avoid)…
Finding a reason to do something else is real easy.
But once you stumble upon that first comic book or graphic novel or manga or web-comic that connects with you in a way like nothing else, it’s even easier to realize that comics can’t be ignored. They can be an exceptionally engrossing form of entertainment and a transcendent form of artistic expression.
The short version is – THEY’RE AWESOME!
Sure, it’s a great way to spend some spare time. It’s a fun way to be entertained. Some light escapism is great. And if you’re looking for more, there’s plenty of that too. They have unbridled freedom for creativity and expression. They can be crazy, bizarre, unpredictable, adventurous, sublime, hilarious, romantic, informative, brazen, crass, gentle, healing, and so much more.
The longer version gets a little deep, so hold on.
We may think of comics as old newspaper strips, superheroes and funny animals, but the art form and language have pervaded our entire culture.
Some in literary circles see the graphic novel as the young upstart to the established prose novel. But comics actually predate print and the written word. Pre-historic cave drawings used symbols, imagery and sequential storytelling like a primitive comic strip mural. The written language could even be said to be the evolution of these kind of devices. Just as our brains have been trained to understand that a big, lazy orange cat that eats lasagna and hates Mondays is Garfield, so too do we understand that a circle with the right side missing is the letter ‘C’ and that it makes certain sounds in our language. Taken further, we also understand that a red octagon means we should STOP. We understand that words over someone’s head means they are speaking those words. All of this representative symbology could be said to be related to the development of comics. They are a deeply engrained aspect of our basic visual communication.
Because of these fundamental building blocks, comics are arguably the most powerful, pervasive and instant form of communication. And whether you agree or not (it’s not really a contest, after all), comics have proved themselves to be just as capable forms of entertainment worthy of some time as any other. I hope you’ll give them a chance.
Keep checking back here at The Comics Observers for more Intro to Comics articles, where we’ll explore basic aspects of the big world of comics so it doesn’t seem so daunting and overwhelming to check something out. (And me we might touch more on theory from time to time.) If you’d like to see if you can find something you might like, check out What to Read. If you have a question or want to see something explained, post a comment below, or write through Facebook, Twitter or email.
And here we are!
If you got here from my comics coverage at CoreyBlake.com or from DigComics.com, thank you for your continued interest. You’ll find that all of my comics-related articles from CoreyBlake.com have magically teleported over here, along with some even older articles from here and there.
If this is your first time, thank you for taking the time to stop by! You’ll see some new articles from the last month and tons more to come!
So what can you expect? The world doesn’t need yet another comics news site, so while I will be providing my own commentary and unique coverage of current events in comics, the site will look to provide a gateway to people just getting into this massive form of entertainment and also give occasional recommended reads. As visitors get more comfortable, they can dig deeper by looking at spotlights on unique experiments in comics and fun facts of the past. And as a special bonus for local readers here in Los Angeles, I’ll feature events like signings and conventions in and around the LA comics scene. To learn more, see the About page.
It’s very likely you’re here for only a few of these things and that’s OK! Just use the handy navigation menu at the top to see the articles you’re interested in.
We’ll have guest-bloggers, like this Friday’s coverage of an LA play that merges theater and graphic novels. We’ll take a look at a publisher’s digital exclusive comic and see if it succeeds as a promotional tool. What else? If there’s anything you’d like to see, let me know. If you have questions about comics you’ve always wanted to ask but were embarrassed, ask away (anonymity provided upon request). Post in the comments below every article, join The Comics Observer Facebook page, follow @ComicsObserver on Twitter, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To start, the site will update Wednesdays (new comics day!) and Fridays to keep the focus on quality over quantity.
Thanks again for stopping by. We’ll see you on Friday!