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Archives - August 2009

August 24, 2009

Behind the Scenes with James Bucky Carter

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James Bucky Carter is one of the most influential people marrying the wealth of comics potential with the classroom. An assistant professor of English education at the University of Texas at El Paso, he has studied comics and pop culture for years and has promoted comics’ use in building literacy (in fact, he wrote a book called Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels). Here, he discusses his history as a comics fan.
Question: Can “non-educational” comics and graphic novels actually teach anything?
August 22, 2009

Parts Unknown

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I haven't had a chance to pick up the new Unknown Soldier series by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli, but I'm eager to pick up the just-released collection, Unknown Soldier: Haunted House.  I came across this nice piece about it in The New York Times and immediately fell in love with the book, sight unseen. A comic series that takes on the entire scope of the political situation in Uganda is not only fascinating; when it's done right, as it sounds like it is, it deserves full support. Tucked away in the article is an interesting sales figure for the monthly book (about 7,500 copies of the latest monthly issue). Dysart is quoted as saying, "Whether we can fully compete in a world of superheroes, I don't know. The medium, sadly, has a limited readership. We'll see."
August 19, 2009

Mainstream Does It

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Since I’m not a comic-book historian, or someone who religiously follows every industry trend and title, you could not consider me an authority. I have been referred to as an advocate for kids and comics, as well as comics in the classrooms. Yes, I do what I can, but I am not the expert in the business—though I know my way around both the comics and educational arenas.
Thanks to Diamond's John Shableski for passing this link on to me. It's from Chicago Tribune columnist Julia Keller, who had the audacity to write an article praising some graphic novels and received a barrage of reader responses as a result ("How dare you?" is how Julia sums up their letters). Julia defends her choice (while recommending Tim Hamilton's excellent new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451), but I have to say, she does so rather feebly ("I understood the umbrage," she wrote. "Still do, in fact..."; she tellingly entitles her column "My secret shame"). Come on, Julia; stand up and be proud. Do we really have to be ashamed of reading graphic novels, comics, manga, and the like? Are we that beholden to the literary snobs that we can only talk about the format with our heads hung low, flaggelating ourselves over something we claim to like and (the horror!) enjoy?
They're the movies we anxiously await, the movies we talk about years before they even come out. Movies based on comics are an endless source of debate among fans. Do they live up to the originals' status? Are they faithful adaptations? Do they take comics seriously, or do they treat them as inferior? The best ones pay due respect to their sources while taking on new life onscreen. Here are our picks for the ones that did it best.
Peter Coogan is a writer about comics who has elevated the study of the art form to new heights with his literary approach. As cofounder and cochair of the Comics Arts Conference, he has helped teachers around the country better discuss and educate others about the format. And now he’s the director of the Institute for Comics Studies, whose mission is “to promote the study, understanding, recognition, and cultural legitimacy of comics.”
Every once in a while, I feel like an old curmudgeon reading comics. Take for example thought balloons. I have a feeling (but I hope I'm wrong about this) that the younger generation of comics readers has no fond memories regarding the bubbles that used to define the format. I suppose in many ways they are indicative of the silly funny books that inspired such derision from the culture at large for so many years. But hear me out on this, because I think the replacement for thought balloons is worse.
August 10, 2009

Imagine This

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As a child, raised under what we politely call “underprivileged” circumstances, I was remarkably blessed. Infused with artistic goals and dreams, I was repeatedly introduced to talented actors, illustrators, cartoonists, musicians, and dancers. At first, they came to me via films in neighborhood movie theaters, and on a 13" black-and-white TV screen.
On a panel at Comic-Con, several people were discussing the lack of letters pages in today’s comics. “The Internet is the letters page now,” quipped Gene Luen Yang. “Except everyone’s mean.”