Monday, February 12, 2007

Through the cracks

Somehow, Dance of the Puppets fell off my RSS feed and I have missed Marionette's blog for a longish while. Since I consider her my oldest blog-buddy, and since she was involved in a bit of a kerfuffle during that time, I feel a bit bad for having not been there. I don't want to go over all the gory details here, I just want to shout out to Mari with some old school Mike Sekowsky - Bernie Sachs goodness:


I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am using graphic books as the reading texts in the composition class I am teaching this quarter. After plowing through The Language of Comics, which gave the students a grounding in academic analysis of the form, we have read Showcase Presents: Superman Vol. 1; Watchmen; Why I Hate Saturn; and True Story, Swear to God: Chances Are*. We are currently reading Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District*, and have Contract with God up next.

This group of students are actually pretty good writers for this level, and, surprisingly to me, many seem to be drawn to formalist analyses as opposed to more traditional literary analyses of the books. There seems to be a good number of them who want to try to work out and evaluate the artistic and storytelling choices such as page layout, balloon use and placement, art styles, and so on; I even had one student ask me why we weren't reading McCloud (who is referenced in just about every article in LoC.) Now that we are working on a synthesis paper, more students are proposing examinations of themes and elements like setting (one student is doing an interesting look at point of view in Watchmen), but that formalist bent is still here.

Other than that, here are a few observations, for what they're worth:

1. Readers aged 16 - 25 who are unfamiliar with comics (most of the class) don't think that silver age stories are whimsical or charming; they think the stories are stupid and childish. (One student did a good paper on the "lying narrator" in the Superman stories.)

2. Watchmen is not a crossover title, but Rorschach is fascinating to readers.

3. A student pointed out that the book that Anne has completed at the end of Why I Hate Saturn is Why I Hate Saturn. I had never thought of that; another reason I love teaching.

4. Chances Are was by far the most accessible of the works we have read. (Perhaps it's just the least dated?) The consensus of the class was that if they hadn't known it to be a true story, it would have been trite and predictable, but knowing that it was true made them enjoy it a lot. One student called it "girly," but in a positive way.

All in all, it's turning out even better than I expected.

*What is it with these really long names for graphic books?


Fortress Keeper said...

Another appearance by Robot Wonder Woman!
How could I have missed this?

xrundog said...

Interesting post today! I am not surprised that silver age comics seem stupid and childish to young adults today. I mean, what was the target audience when they were released? 10-12 year olds? Marvel was the first company to raise the target age group. IMO DC lagged far behind.
I guess I find silver age DC today funny because when I first read them, I took them damn seriously!

RAB said...

That particular JLA story is one of my favorites, and I find it whimsical and charming...but I can easily see why someone between 16 and 25 would consider it stupid and childish.

Actually, when you're between 16 and 25, doesn't almost everything seem stupid and childish?

Walaka said...

Keep: It's from "Riddle of the Robot Justice League" in JLA #13, reprinted in #93.

Dog: Good point, but many (most?) of the students thought they were even too crappy for kids.

RAB: That's also a relevant observation - I thnk what is also contributory is that they have no connection to ANY comics, much less any fondness for the silver stuff.

Oh, yeah - and just about everyone thought Superman's having life-size models of his friends was creepy.

Marionette said...

Ah, where would we be without Wonder Woman robots?

I noticed with interest that the comics that will be in the upcoming WW Showcase feature no less than 3 covers with multiple Wonder Womans.