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“Holy Homework, Batman! It’s Comics in the Classroom!. Ruth Lindemann A.L. Webster Endowed Chair Project. Will Eisner’s definition.

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holy homework batman it s comics in the classroom

“Holy Homework, Batman! It’s Comics in the Classroom!

Ruth Lindemann

A.L. Webster Endowed Chair Project

will eisner s definition
Will Eisner’s definition
  • Comics are sequential art using “the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea.” from Comics and Sequential Art (1985)


scott mccloud s definition
Scott McCloud’s Definition

Comics and sequential art are “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.”

according to eisner mccloud
According to Eisner & McCloud
  • A single panel cartoon such as The Far Side is not a comic, because there is no sequential element.
but this would be
But this would be …

Flight safety information card, SAS

whereas we might expect something more like this
Whereas we might expect something more like this…

Promotional material from Snakes on a Plane

r c harvey s definition
R.C. Harvey’s definition

Harvey responded to McCloud’s effort with his own: “[C]omics consist of pictorial narratives or expositions in which words (often lettered into the picture area within speech balloons) usually contribute to the meaning of the pictures and vice versa.”


now these would not be comics
Now these would not be comics…

Because these are all “pantomime comics” and does not use words

  • Nancy
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Don Martin
  • And anything by the current reigning master of this style, Jason
so as to definitions
So as to definitions…

It may be easiest to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis vs. Ohio: “I shall not . . . attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that . . . description [of comics]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.

Hard-Core Pornography

the seduction of the innocent 1954
The Seduction of the Innocent (1954)
  • In the late 1940s and 50s Frederic Wertham, psychiatrist and child advocate, believed comics:
  • crippled the imagination by seducing them with violence & gore thus turning them from “true literature & art”
  • severely damaged the socially vulnerable, resulting in juvenile delinquency, homosexuality and fascism
the seduction of the innocent
The Seduction of the Innocent
  • Resulting in:
  • Mass destruction and burning of comics
  • Congressional hearings and local ordinances
  • Comics Code Authority approval for financial success
  • Dozens of publishers and 100s of cartoonists leaving the field

Comic burning in Binghamton, NY, 1948

comics critical respectability
Comics’ Critical Respectability

Real recovery began in the 1980s …

Art Spiegelman’sMaus winning a special category Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and the Los Angeles Book Prize (1993) as well as a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award (1987)

Alan Moore’s The Watchmen being included in both Time’s Top 100 All-Time Greatest Novels List and Entertainment Weekly’s Best 50 Novels of the Last 25 Years

and commercial success
And Commercial Success
  • The success of tie-in films and television
    • Iron Man
    • Batman
    • The X-Men
  • The commercial transfer of manga and anime to a world wide market
    • Cowboy Bebop
    • Spirited Away (and other films by Hayao Miyazaki)
    • Dragonball Z
what s in a name
What’s in a Name?

As with the definition of comics itself, the terms to describe the longer form is also complex and contested.

  • Albums – collections of comic strips
  • Comic books – preferred by most authors
  • Manga – very extended serialized comics originating in Japan (or variants)
  • Graphic novels – term suggest a unified whole w/in a single volume
neil gaiman
Neil Gaiman

Responded to the claim that he wrote graphic novels rather than comic books this way. Even though he felt certain it “was meant as a compliment. . . . All of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.” Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion.

why consider using them in the classroom
Why Consider Using Them in the Classroom?
  • Engage readers differently – especially helpful for ESL students and readers working through dense subject matter
  • Helps readers “visualize” subject matter because of the nature of medium
  • Less overwhelming and more “fun” than traditional texts
  • Can provide context for other aspects of courses – multicultural or historical
comics theory
Comics Theory

Comics exploit existing iconography in many ways

To reinforce and maintain cultural norms.

To invert, challenge and outrage perceived norms.

To parody culture, behavior and comics themselves

Comics appeal to a wide audience because they draw on literary and mythological archetypes to help us interpret and understand our world: heroes, villains, god-like beings, lovers, apprentices and clowns

fears and criticisms
Fears and Criticisms
  • Dumbing Down the Curriculum
    • Not a replacement for standard textbooks, a supplement
      • To enrich understanding
      • Introduce cultural and historical elements
      • Physics of superheroes http://www.physicsofsuperheroes.com/videos.html
fears and criticisms cont
Fears and Criticisms cont.
  • Dumbing Down the Curriculum
    • Authors of non-fiction works are typically members of the fields they work in or do extensive research
    • The complexity of the medium itself belies the notion of dumbing down
      • Every element of the work conveys meaning or forces readers to create meaning
  • No Time
    • Extra credit or mini-assignments
  • Nothing in my area
      • The Questionable Anatomy of the Modern Comic Book Babe http://www.gothhouse.org/gh_parlour/posts/ghp000094.php
      • Nagata, Ryoichi (October 1999). "Learning biochemistry through manga — helping students learn and remember, and making lectures more exciting". Biochemical Education27 (4).
      • Pieper, Claudia; Antonino Homobono (Sept 2000). "Comics as an education method for diabetic patients and general population". Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice50.
      • The M16A1 Rifle Operation & Preventative Maintenance Guide
      • Google Chrome – Behind the Open Source Browser Project
some concepts to know
Some Concepts to Know
  • Panels
  • Gutters
  • Balloons





word of caution
Word of Caution
  • Graphic novels can be “graphic” – visual narrative changes the dynamic
    • Previewing essential
  • Not your father’s (or your mother’s) comic books – content range universal: sexual abuse, mental illness, violence … puberty
    • Prereading essential
what about animation
What about Animation?
  • Wide variety of animated film titles added to the collection
  • International animation film festival on Thursday, February 24, 2011 in Bremer Center Theater
  • Many similar virtues to comics – accessibility, approachability, growing availability of cultural diversity and subject matter
works cited
Works Cited

Abel, Jessica, and Matt Madden. Drawing Words & Writing Pictures. New York: First Second, 2008. Print. A complete step by step guide to the process of comics creation, or as they say in one spot, a definitive course in 15 lessons.

Barnes, Bill, and Gene Ambaum. Unshelved. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. <http://www.unshelved.com>

Barnett, Adam. Weblog post. Comics Make No Sense. N.p., 7 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. <http://comicsmakenosense.blogspot.com/>.

Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from a Legendary Cartoonist. Rev. ed. New York: Norton, 2008. Print. A classic guide to the practice and interpretation of comics and sequential art, this is one of two books that will truly raise your understanding and appreciation of what is going on in something that is “just a comic.”

- - -. “The M16A1 Rifle Operation & Preventative Maintenance Guide.” Cartoon. Comics with Problems. Ethan Persoff, 1968. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. <http://www.ep.tc>.

Haidu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print. A history of the devastating events of the 1940s and 1950s attacks by Frederic Wertham on the comic book industry and its consequences on publishers, writers and cartoonists. Includes sections on how the industry had employed women and minorities prior to the clampdown and their particular vulnerability in the wake of events.

Kakalios, James. “James Kakalios Physics Professor and Author.” The Physics of Superheroes. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. <http://www.physicsofsuperheroes.com/‌index.html>. The web site of a college professor and comics fan who has embraced comics as a medium through which to introduce people to laws of physics and most recently quantum mechanics. This site includes videos of him discussing Superman, the Watchmen and other comics.

Lloyd, Robin. “Can You Learn Physics from a Comic Book?” Observations. Ed. Scientific American. Scientific American, 20 Feb. 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2010. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/‌blog/‌post.cfm?id=can-you-learn-physics-from-a-comic-2010-02-20>. This post discusses how superhero comic books, unlike movies and television series, offer an effective method of connecting students with science, as demonstrated by the author of the book The Physics of Superheroes.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print. The other key text to truly appreciating comics as a form and arguably one of the most entertaining art appreciation books ever written. If you only look at one book about comics, make this it.

McCloud, Scott, and Google Chrome team. “Google Chrome – Behind the Open Source Browser Project.” Cartoon. Google Chrome. Google, 2010. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. <http://www.google.com/‌googlebooks/‌chrome/‌index.html>.

McGalliard, Julie. “The Questionable Anatomy of the Modern Comic Book Babe.” Goth House. N.p., 12 Dec. 2001. Web. 7 Oct. 2010. <http://www.gothhouse.org/‌gh_parlour/‌posts/‌ghp000094.php>.

Monnin, Katie. Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom. Gainesville: Maupin House, 2010. Print. Although targetting middle-school and secondary ed teachers, Monnin’s work provides users with useful templates and guidelines for introducing readers to graphic novels in particular. Its focus is on teaching reading and writing, but instructors new to comics and graphic novels will find a lot of useful information.

Nagata, Ryoichi. “Learning Biochemistry through Manga — Helping Students Learn and Remember, and Making Lectures More Exciting.” Biochemical Education 27.4 (1999): 200-203. Elsevier ScienceDirect. Web. 7 Oct. 2010.

Pieper, Claudia, and Antonino Hombono. “Comics as an Education Method for Diabetic Patients and General Population.” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 50.1 (2000): 31. Elsevier ScienceDirect College Edition. Web. 7 Oct. 2010.