A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jezebel Shares "13 Fantastic Female Comics Creators"

Click here for the great list! Link

AV Club Chimes in with Best of 2011 List

Not quite a top ten list, rather several lists covering different categories. 'Tis the season!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Renewal for IRA MIA for 2012

The envelope reads "Now It's Time to Renew." Not so fast, there, Sparky. That's up to me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dont Miss Jeff Smith, Professors, etc. on this Canadian Telecast

Click here to see Jeff Smith and others answer questions on comics/graphic novels, the classroom, and learning. Or, just scroll down. Listen to a woman call comics "quick, easy" and suggest the idiotic idea that the visual elements of comics take away from students' ability to use their imaginations. Jeff Smith's reaction is priceless. He reminds us of the complexity of process as well as reminds us that comics evoke reader response.



We (cartoonists, comics scholars, and comics-and-literacy advocates) fight SOOOO much ignorance, even from otherwise "educated" people. Thank goodness we get a mix of ideas here.

Eh? More like "Yeh!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Comics Worth Reading" Blog Offers Best of 2011

Johanna Draper Carson and friends offer up what they feel are the year's best graphic novels here.

NPR offers Six Graphic Novels that will "Draw you In"

Click here for an article on 2011's salient graphic novels, according to National Public Radio's Dan Kois.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

SLJ Publishes Best GN's for 2011 (Kids)

Click here to see School Library Journal's list.

A Little Synthesis on GN's and Learning

Here's a link going around from the Free Writing Tips website. If you follow the link and do not get a large sentence reading "Graphic storytelling teaches better than text" (ahem), do a search for a column entitled "Now You See It." The piece details work from studies at Texas Tech, East Carolina, UC Santa Barbara and others that suggests words and images together in comics form help people learn and retain knowledge.

One day enough people will catch on such that articles like this will simply be entitled "Duh: Here We Go Again." But, hey, researchers, keep those studies coming.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thank You Again, NYSEC!

Today I received a very nice "thank you" letter from the coordinator of this year's NYSEC (New York State English Council) and evaluations from folks who attended my workshop, "Comic Composition Crash Course." All 5's all around, the highest score on the eval sheet.

Below are the very kinds words that I'll be adding to my files very soon. Thanks again to all the great folks in Albany!

Ironically, this news arrived to me on the very same day that I learned my tenure as a Co-sponsored speaker with NCTE has expired and that there seems to be little interest from NCTE in extending my position as a speaker at this time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SANEjournal issue 1:2 Now Available!!!

"Teaching the Works of Alan Moore," the second edition of volume 1 of SANEjournal:sequential art narrative in education, just published!

The issue features thoughts and ideas on teaching Moore Classics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but it also explores Promethea, Lost Girls, and other texts from Moore's amazing opus.

Three articles, three rationales, and one review make up the table of contents, which features scholars from Northwestern University, The University of New Mexico, and even a practicing high school teacher who uses Watchmen with his upperclassmen.

Click here to visit the journal, and here's to happy reading and fun learning! Warning, you might get tachyons in your eyes or find yourself in a flux resulting from rifts in the space-time dimension!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You've heard of Book Fairs, But....

Have you heard of comic book fairs???

Chris Claremont Donates Files to Columbia University Library

From the Publisher's Weekly story:


"Renowned comics writer and novelist Chris Claremont, best known for his many years writing Marvel’s X-Men and Uncanny X-Men series, has reached an agreement to donate his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. During his 17 years writing for the series, Claremont is credited with both developing strong female characters as well as introducing complex literary themes into superhero narratives while turning the X-Men into one of Marvel’s most popular series.

Karen Green, Columbia University's Ancient/Medieval Studies Librarian and Graphic Novel Librarian, who has been instrumental in building a graphic novel collection at Columbia University, said the acquisition of Claremont’s archive will form the basis for establishing a research center for New York City-based cartoonists and comics writers. “We hope this is the first of more comics papers to come to the University,” Green said, “we want it to be a magnet for these kinds of archives in New York City, where the comics medium was born.”

Click the link embedded in this post's title to get the rest of the article!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

UNL Goverment Comic Collection Helps Faculty Member with Book

Richard Graham has a new book on"government" comics, or comics that various countries or national organizations have created to educate, inform, or propagandize. The book's main resource is the government comics collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Some of the collection is online, if you'd like to look into it. In the meantime, I can't wait to see this book!

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Book on Teaching GN's at the High School Level Now Available!

Yep, that blurry little name at the bottom is mine. Maureen Bakis asked me to write the forward for this text, which is based in her real-life experience teaching graphic novels at a high school in the Northeast. Check it out! It's available NOW! :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Bucky's First Rage Comic

Acaderpic Job Market

What I find interesting is that Rage Comics, a popular meme, integrates comics with logographic ques. Certain images come to signify without words. Wonder if students would get a kick out of taking notes via the Rage Comics??? Hmmmm....

Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 ALA Teen Read Week was Themed "Picture It @ Your Library"


From the website, with my bolds:

"Teen Read Week started in 1998. This year's theme is Picture It @ your library®, which encourages teens to read graphic novels and other illustrated materials, seek out creative books, or imagine the world through literature, just for the fun of it. Libraries across the world celebrate Teen Read Week with a variety of special events and programs aimed at encouraging teens to read for pleasure and to visit their libraries for free reading materials."

Teen Read Week ran from October 18-22.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I am the 66.6%: Frustration with the "2/3's Curse"

I just received notification that my proposed session on graphic novels and the common core has not been accepted to IRA. Surprise, surprise. I've yet to crack the International Reading Association's code of acceptance. What makes this year's rejection sting all the more is something that has happened to me too often in recent years:

The two-thirds curse.

The two-thirds curse has affected me in this way: I write a book proposal, an article, or a conference proposal, and 2 out of 3 peer reviewers have something very positive to say. The third is either not positive or downright damning, and the publishing house, journal, or conference editors or higher-ups decide to side with the minority opinion.

For example, see the reviewer feedback for the GN/CC proposal:

Proposal: Grading Form for Graphic(a) To the Core: Comics, Graphic Novels, and the Common Core

Comments for Submitter
1. The proposal gives a lot of background information on graphic novels and their importance, but does not describe what the attendees will "do" in the session.
2. Very relevant and provocative and timely session! Well written proposal - clear, substantive objectives!
3. As educators "scramble" to understand the Common Core Standards every strategy that is presented is worth examining. The conversation about student achievement, teacher performance and the Common Core takes classroom instruction to the level that has not been thought of in previous years. Hopefully with the method presented, the audience will grasp a clearer understanding of the Common Core and see its alignment with students academic achievement.
Two of those statements seem fairly positive, eh? Alas, it was not enough.

Some will say it is unprofessional of me to share this information, but I've established a record of peeling back the curtain on academia since I've established this blog, and I won't stop now.

I think I'm also going to start putting my money where my mouth is. Conferences are so expensive anyway, and so are membership fees. Add in the costs of journals that my university library already subscribes to or can get me through ILL, and I have to wonder why I keep shelling out dollars and getting a frustrating "return" on my investment.

Ah, the duality of the academic: complaining about not getting into a conference while simultaneously complaining about how much it would cost to attend it!

But, one has to show affiliations to national organizations in academia. It's just sort of a fact.

Maybe it is time for me to seek out a new one and let IRA be for a year or so.

Any takers? Maybe I should just shop myself around to different organizations like a free agent and see if they'll take me. My guess? 2/3's of their membership would be glad to have me, but the key decision-makers will have reservations about associating with someone so clearly exhibiting "self-destructive" behavior like letting the cat out of the bag....

Heck, maybe this is just a little birdie's way of telling me now is the time to get involved with ALA, YALSA, and their new graphic novel subgroup. And haven't I been thinking about joining a middle school-centric organization for a while anyway?

Plus, isn't this the sort of thing that led me to founding SANEjournal? Seeing that a process seems to be broken and instead of *just* complaining about it, trying to do something about it? Yeah, it is.

Yeah... :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thank You, NYSEC!

I'm back from my keynote, book signing, and workshop. Albany, NY, was such a neat place, even if I never did get more than 5 miles from the airport. The Desmond is a GREAT little getaway hotel if you're ever in the area, and the biggest restaurant in the bar may have delivered the best meal I've ever had, which is saying a lot coming from a big guy like me.

Thanks to all who attended my keynote on comics and character education and to the folks who attended the seminar on comics and composition. Thanks also to the conference organizers. I felt well-treated and well-respected the entire time and hope I was worth the trouble! ;)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PBS's Independent Lens TV Show looks at The 99

Some great coverage for an important comics series! Click here to see a spot.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We're Famous! UTEP Shows up in Love and Rockets

Angel, a character from the acclaimed Love and Rockets series, is quite the athlete. No wonder she got a full scholarship to a certain University in El Paso that hosted author Jaime Hernandez a year or so ago. For proof, see this image from the recently-released and awesome Love and Rockets New Stories #4, of which you should all go out and buy seven copies.

Spiegelman Talks Meta Maus with NPR.

The new book about the phenomenon surrounding the graphic novel Maus, MetaMaus, is finally here! I've got my copy, don't you know, since we'll be reading Maus in Jewish American Literature in the next couple of weeks. Hear what Art Spiegelman has to say about the texts by clicking the link to this post's title. It'll take you to an interview from NPR.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wall Street Journal Covers "Using Comics to Teach Kids To Read" Story

The focus is one the new TOON Book Nina in That Makes Me Mad, by Hilary Knight and Steven Kroll.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Syllabus for What Might Have Been the First-Ever All-GN's Ya Lit Class

English 418 (H002): Young Adult Literature: Graphic Novels as YA Lit.
M-F 8:00-12:00 March 14-25, Summer 2007

Instructor:
James Bucky Carter
357 Liberal Arts Building
James.B.Carter@###.###
###-4807
Office Hours:________________________________ and by appointment

Course Descriptions:
This is a 3 credit hour, undergraduate course that is a requirement for English Education students but may not be a required course for other students. It is your responsibility to know if this is a required course for you. We will be exploring what pedagogical research and practice has to say about using graphic novels in the secondary (grades 6-12) English language arts classroom, and we will be sampling from a number of graphic novels that are worthy of strong consideration for use in our future classrooms.

Required Texts:

Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel
James Bucky Carter (Ed.) NCTE 2007.

Going Graphic: Comics at Work in the Multilingual Classroom.
Stephen Cary. Heinemann 2004.

The Amazing True Story of a Single Teenage Mom (on reserve); American Born Chinese; The Best American Comics 2006;Big Fat Little Lit; Beowulf; Bone: One Volume Edition; A Contract with God; Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda; Electric Girl (or Queen Bee, whichever is at the bookstore); Fagin the Jew; Goodbye, Chunky Rice; In the Shadow of no Towers; King; Maus I; Maus II; Pedro and Me; Persepolis I; Persepolis II; Pride of Baghdad; Pop Gun War; Rose; The Tale of one Bad Rat; Runaways; Truth: Red, White, and Black (on reserve); Ultimate Spider-Man Vol.1; Unstable Molecules; The 9/11 Report; 300.

As well, you will be required to read a number of articles and book chapters, all of which are on reserve at the library. Most are available for digital download via any computer with an Internet connection.

Recommended Texts:

Getting Graphic: Using Graphic novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens.
Michele Gorman. Linworth 2003.

The Power of Reading. S. Krashen. Heinemann 2004.

Reading Don’t Fix No Chevy’s: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Smith and Wilhelm. Heinemann 2002.


CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK ADDRESSED IN COURSE:
This course “Frees the Power of the Individual” by helping pre-service teachers come to understand the need for choice, access, and time in reading literature and also the importance of knowing how to assess and increase their students’ literacy skills. The course has the power to transform its students’ preconceived notions about reading and literature and gives them the tools to transform or inform their students’, peers’, and administrators’ notions as well. Students have ample opportunities to experience various ways they and their students can work in small group communities and engage in New literacies, Multimodal literacies, critical literacies, cultural literacies, and functional literacies. The course seeks to inspire its students to transform and inform themselves and those around them via communal activities and discourse and to be able to apply their experiences such that they can inform, transform, and inspire their students’ reading habits and attitudes.

COURSE OBJECTIVE(S): Students will…
• Increase their interest in and knowledge of literature for adolescents via traditional texts as well as newer forms which correspond with notions of “New Literacy.” (NCATE/NCTE 3.4.1, 3.6, INTASC 1)
• Survey graphic novels and books written for and read by adolescents. (INTASC 1)
• Accrue first and second-hand knowledge about these books for the purpose of making informed recommendations along the lines of student interest. (3.5, INTASC 1)
• Develop skill in evaluating, discussing, and writing about adolescent literature in traditional and virtual environments. (3.1.3, INTASC 2,3,4)
• Increase their knowledge and expertise in helping students become better readers. (4.9, INTASC 3,4,5,7,8)
• Learn how to help adolescents discover and develop their own reading interests.(4.0, 4.9, ITASC 5)
• Learn the NCTE/IRA standards for English language arts and learn about NCTE’s statements on Multimodal literacy
• Read an array of articles on using graphic novels and comic books in the classroom.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:
• Attend every class
• Read every assignment
• Make a concerted effort to actively participate
• Keep a journal in which you reflect on each of your readings and your thoughts on graphic novels before, during, and after the class.
• Create a 3-page, inked and lettered comic entitled “How I Became a Reader.”
• Write a 5-page paper on how you see graphic novels linking with NCTE /IRA English language arts standards and the NCTE statement on Multimodal literacies.
• Complete the “Assessment Days” final exam activities over the course of the final two days of the class.

GRADING/ASSESSMENTS:

• 15% -- Attendance and ACTIVE Participation
• 20% -- Journals: You will journal about your thoughts on graphic novels as they stand/stood before, during, and after the class, and you will write reactions to your readings.
• 20% -- “How I Became a Reader” 3-page comic, inked and lettered.
• 20% -- 3-5 pages on how you see graphic novels matching up with NCTE/IRA standards and statements on Multimodal literacies.
• 25% -- Complete participation and completion of activities during “Assessment Days Final Examination”

GENERAL GRADING RUBRIC:
100-90 – Work is completed on time and meets the requirements of the assignment or goes beyond it in insightful ways. The work is mature in thought, clear grammatically, and shows exceptional application of ideas brought forth from readings, discussions, etc. Attendance is not an issue.

89-80 – Work is completed on time and meets the requirements of the assignment for the most part and has potential to be an exemplary effort but falls just short due to lack of clarity. In other words, it is good work, but could still use some work. Attendance is not an issue.

79-70 – Work is completed on time but fails to clearly meet the requirements of the assignment. It appears to be perfunctory, just completed to be completed, with little major insight into ideas brought forth from readings, discussions, etc. Attendance may be an issue.

69-65 – Work is completed on time but does not meet the requirements of the assignment, may be grammatically unsound or very murky in clarity and very shallow in depth and application of ideas brought forth from readings, discussions, etc. Attendance is an issue.

64-0 – Work is most probably late and shows little to no respect for the assignment and appears rushed or, for lack of a better term, “thrown together,” with very little connectivity to anything stemming from the assignment, class readings, discussions, etc. Attendance is an issue.


PLAGIARISM/CHEATING STATEMENT:
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. By staying enrolled in this class you understand that I have the right to take every necessary action to make sure your work is yours and your sources are properly cited. Plagiarism will result in a zero in the course. Be sure to educate yourself on what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it by visiting http://www.lib.usm.edu/research/plag/plagiarismtutorial.htm and taking the Plagiarism Tutorial. You will need the understanding in order to complete the writing assignments.

WRITING CENTER NOTICE:
The Writing Center offers free tutorial service to all students and on all writing projects, in order to help students meet the demands of university writing. It also houses instructional resources such as handouts, reference guides, with some limited access to word processing and internet. The Writing Center is located in the LAB and usually opens for business during the second week of classes. For more information, call ### 4821.

DISABILITY STATEMENT:
If a student has a disability that qualifies under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders. Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies. [Contact information followed.]

SCHEDULE:

5/14 – Introduction. Initial writing activity. “SANE” presentation. Comic Book Show N’ Tell activity. HW: BLCWGN Chs. 1 and 11; Cary Chs.1-2; Cadiero-Kaplan; Morrell1; Goodbye Chunky Rice; Ultimate Spiderman Vol.1; Big Fat Little Lit.

5/15 – Discussion and activities. HW: Maus I and II; Persepolis I and II; BLCWGN Ch. 3; NCTE/IRA Standards for English language arts, available here:
http://www.ncte.org/store/books/bestsellers/105977.htm

5/15 (continued) -- HW: NCTE statement on Multimodal Literacies, available here: http://www.ncte.org/about/over/positions/category/media/123213.htm ; Brown Maus; Maus Crown Heights.

5/16 – Discussion and activities. Share other 9/11-related comics. HW: The 9/11 Report; Pride of Baghdad; In the Shadow of No Towers; Bitz; Gallo; Leckbee; Bruggeman.

5/17 – Discussion and activities. HW: American Born Chinese; Truth (on reserve); Fagin the Jew; BLCWGN Ch. 8; Versaci; Using Student Generated..

5/18 – Discussion and activities. HW: King; Pedro and Me; Unstable Molecules; BLCWGN Ch.2; Schwarz1 and 2; Bucher and Manning; In the Middle Chs.2-8.

5/21 – Discussion and activities. HW: A Contract with God; The Tale of One Bad Rat; Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom (on reserve).; Mitchell & George; Jacobs; BLCWGN Ch. 4; Begin reading Bone.

5/22 – Discussion and activities. HW: BLCWGN Chs. 5-6; Deogratias; Beowulf; Pop Gun War; 300.

5/23 – Discussions and activities. HW: Bone; Rose; Electric Girl or Queen Bee; Reid Manga; Links to Other Articles.

5/24 – Discussions of readings. Begin Assessment Day Final Exam Activities. “How I Became a Reader” comics due. Come prepared to work in groups for your final exam. “Leveling” activity; Rationale/write-up activities; Thematic analyses; Pairings and Units activities. (More information later)


5/24 – Continue Assessment Days Final Exam Activities. Journals due. Papers due. Come prepared to work in groups for your final exam. “Leveling” activity; Rationale/write-up activities; Thematic analyses; Pairings and Units activities. (More information later)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Women YA Lit Graphic Novelists

Tracy White, Raina Telgemeier, Hope Larson, Audrey Niffenegger, Vera Brosgol, Jessica Abel, and Danica Novgorodoff, Marjane Satrapi, just to name a few.

"So many women 'toonists/ Are in the YA GN biz!/ Tom Cruise's wife isn't./ But I heard her agent is!"

Forgive my placeholder, yo!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Like a Brick to The Head!

The 2011 Ignatz Award winners have been announced. As we all know, winners receive notification of their honor the same way Ignatz shows his "affection" for Krazy Kat. (Kidding, of course).

Friday, September 09, 2011

EPCON IS THIS WEEKEND!!!

The second-annual El Paso Comic Convention is being held in the El Paso Convention Center this weekend. I'll be moderation the panels on the first day, which will include conversations with stars of screen and TV and academic presentations by 3 UTEP graduate students, two of whom are my former or current pupils! :)

If you're in the area, stop in, spend some cash, and enjoy!! Click here for more info. Chewbacca's gonna be there! Cosplayers! Billy Dee Williams! Local talent from both sides of the border!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Minero Magazine Covers EP Comic Scene

El Paso comics creators Jaime Portillo, Julian Lawler, and Joe Lopez are profiled. And with good timing too, since El Paso Comic Con is this weekend!!!

Minero is one of UTEP's student magazines.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Jay Hosler's Article in *Life Science Education* Journal

Click here to read Jay Hosler and K.B. Boomer's article "Are Comic Books an Effective Way to Engage Nonmajors in Learning and Appreciating Science?," recently published in Life Sciences Education, a peer-reviewed journal.

Some VERY intriguing findings!! :)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

"News @ UTEP" weekly Newsletter details ENG 3327

Click here for the scoop on my ENGLISH 3327: Jewish American Literature Through the Graphic Novel course, offered for the first time this semester at UTEP.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Late Harvey Pekar's Book on Yiddish Coming Soon!

Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land is edited by Pekar and Paul Buhle. There's a preview waiting for you if you click the link embedded in this post's title. I can't wait to tell my ENGL 3327 class about it!

What are you waiting for? Mench up and stop being a putz! Go read it! ;)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

*Maus* on TIME's Top 100 Autobiographies

TIME is releasing "top 100" lists for a variety of nonfiction genres. Someone with more patience than me will have to find a way to easily access the top hundred for each category besides looking at them one at a time, but my guess is more graphic novels (or graphica, for those of you who just must distinguish graphic fiction from graphic nonfiction) are in the lists. I'll try to keep you posted as other people do this work. ;)

The Compelling Story of How a GN Collection Was Saved

Click here to read how students and volunteers in Vermont rushed to save the graphic novel collection at the Center for Cartoon Studies' recently-acquired building known as the Charles Schulz Library. Rain from Hurricane Irene caused some flooding an could have seriously threatened all the library's contents had dedicated folks not made some serious efforts to keep them safe and dry.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Yesterday was "Read Comics in Public" Day

Seems like I missed it last year too. The Beat reports there was a special "Women Read Comics Too!" theme to this year's event, which was overshadowed by weathery concerns, no doubt.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

AP Picks up Story on Jaime Portillo's Historic GN

This weekend, The El Paso Times ran a story on Borderlands comics creator and Xeric-award winner Jaime Portillo's recent six-part series Hell Paso: The Story of Dallas Stoudenmire. Portillo is earning his Masters in History and has been putting his research skills to use through the comics format. I'm quoted in the article, as is local comics figure Julian Lawler.

Several people emailed me different links, so it it looks like the Associated Press picked up on the story, hopefully meaning it might have gotten some national attention. With such a neat comics scene in El Paso and El Paso Comics Convention coming up soon, that timing is great, and Jaime certainly deserves some recognition for his efforts to capture part of the history of this area.

What? You didn't know Dallas Stoudenmire was a real person? Time for you to visit what the kids call "The Google." ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Classic!




I found this image online and would love to attribute it to the proper artist, so if you know who that is, please let me know. I added the words. :)



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

*Friends With Boys* Available Online 'Till it Ain't



Faith Erin Hicks is publishing a YA graphic novel from First Second in the coming months, but you can read some of it in serial form online nowzers!


Friends With Boys is being shared bit by bit along with author blogs and "is about Maggie McKay, a home-schooled teenager entering her first year in public high school and who is stalked by a local ghost," according to Comic Book Resources.


Seems a little Anya's Ghost with more punk rock thrown in to me, but whatevs. I'll check it out anyway. :)


And you can too by visiting the book's main web page here.

*Uglies* Optioned for GN Adaptation

The YA series Uglies, penned by Scott Westerfield, will soon get the graphic novel treatment. Click here to see what IVC2.com had to say about this development, and if you aren't familiar with the series, here's a review of one of the Uglies books written by C.C. Almodovar, a student in my most-recent YA Lit class!

Apparently a film adaptation or two is underway as well. We'll see how The Hunger Games fairs as a film franchise and will keep an eye out for these Uglies GN's and films too as studios tray to catch the Harry Potter series lightening in a bottle.

Why is Captain America Apologizing to Me?

I've written before that I've long felt a strong connection to Marvel comics, especially to the X-Men and to Captain America. I tried to grow up to be tough as Wolverine, funny and spry as Nightcrawler, and as silently strong as Colossus. I really, really did used to look like James "Bucky" Barnes when I was 12, especially since that was during the denim jacket era, and I really did once act as sidekick to a scholar who was and remains a huge fan of Captain America.

So, humor me a bit as I continue my childhood desire to feel like these characters were meant to speak to me when I share this image with you:





Why is Steve Rogers apologizing to me, and why does it cause me emotion as I consider the words? First, I'll give you some options for answering the former query:





1. He's apologizing for not being able to avenge Bucky Barnes' (second) death, if not for not being able to save him.


2. He knows I've been buying the last year's worth of Avengers even though it's been nothing but talking heads a la Bendis at $4 a pop.






3. This:


If it is true that Captain America is a zeitgeist figure for our country at any given time, I have to feel that he's apologizing to me, and that if you go buy your own copy of Avengers # 16, he'll be offering you an apology too.

He's saying he's sorry for the selfishness of so many of the Baby Boomers and their ingenues. He's apologizing for the Hippies who became Yuppies who have been thinking they have all the answers and have never been wrong about anything since they've been 16 years old.

He's apologizing for the stupidity of our falling for the bipartisan traps that have been put before us and for the country's leadership slowly moving away from Democracy toward a cold Capitalism that cares little for government beyond economy.

He's offering condolences for the terrible job market and for the death or perversion of the American Dream.

And you know what? If that's what he's offering, I'll take it. Who else who supposedly embodies the spirit of America has the gumption to offer apologies without blaming an "other side?"

I suggest you take it too, because you're not gonna get it from a greater American that Steve Rogers, and it's just a crying shame that he doesn't really exist.

But, if he's willing to take some responsibility, I should too, eh? Maybe he's apologizing to help me wake up and try to do more to make a difference. Or maybe he's apologizing because he knows I'll think that, and things are so bad that making a difference can't even make a dent anymore.

Anyway, if you'be been as disappointed with leadership as I have been for the last 12-16 years or so, please feel free to join me in thinking that Captain America speaks to us directly.


Support This Project!: Chain World Graphic Novel

Comics scholar and creator A. David Lewis is attempting to create what he is calling a "freeform comic experiment," and he needs your help to fund the project.

Here's a short description in his own words:

The "Chain World" Comic Book Experiment is, with the endorsement of several comics industry professionals, aimed at producing one artisan-designed hardcover slipcased 200-page comic book/"graphic novel" with a full-color wrap-around cover, beautifully illustrated initial page of story, and...199 pages left blank.

Call it the most aesthetic chain letter ever, call it the most beautifully tangible campfire "continue-the-story" game, or call it the oddest "jam comic" to ever come down the pike: This whole Experiment is about creating and releasing one book -- only ONE -- to find its narrative destiny unchecked. The book would be passed quietly from one artist to another, never discussing the ongoing story and likely never seeing the book again. Kickstarter donors would be contributing to a social experiment but also becoming part of something simultaneously exclusive and covert.

Sounds cool, eh? To learn more about the project, view a film about it, and help fund it, click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Get Your Excorcise On, Girl!": A Review of *Anya's Ghost*

Anya Borzakovskaya attends a private school even though her mother can barely afford it. Despite being curvy in all the right places, Anya worries about her body and that she might one day be obese like her mother. She also worries about being seen as an outsider and has worked hard to eliminate any trace of her Russian accent. She's been in America since she was five, and all she feels she has to show for it is fitting in slightly better than the only other Russian immigrant at her school, the "fobby" -- to use a word that First Second apparently wants in everyone's lexicon -- and nerdy Dima.

But when Anya falls down a well and discovers the spirit of a girl about her age who died at its bottom, a typical teen angst narrative takes a tantalizing turn for the weird and creepy. By story's end, Anya has to grow up a bit and realize what is most important about family and self.

Or, to put it in cheesy film preview language, "A girl so worried about her weight is about to get some exorcise!"

Vera Brosgol's Anya's Ghost (2011, First Second) has been compared to Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, and surely Brosgol is paying homage to First Second's most commercially successful graphic novel to date. While the story is creepy cool and Anya is an attractive, relatable main character who deals with similar feelings as did Yang's, I do not see this book earning a National Book Award nomination. Maybe a Printz, and most-likely high praise from ALA.

Neil Gaiman has called the book a masterpiece, and certainly its themes and integration of the uncanny appeal to him. They appeal to me too, and I do think this is a very good, well-written, compelling graphic novel that meshes elements of the typical teen bildungsroman, the immigrant narrative, and the ghost story. While I do not think it will come to be seen as one of the best graphic novels ever published, as many consider American Born Chinese, Anya's Ghost holds its own and may be even more interesting to read to its target audience than ABC.

But, you know, there's nothing wrong with not being considered the best by everyone but still being considered among everyone's favorites. And as end-of-narrative Anya will tell you, even that isn't all that.

Comparisons to other texts aside, Brosgol has crafted an engaging narrative that nails the teen experience while adding a supernatural twist that should keep this graphic novel on the minds of adolescents and teachers for years to come.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Article in *InLand* Published!

So you've probably already hunted down my article "Graphic Novels, Web Comics, and Creator Blogs: Examining Product and Process" in this summer's Theory Into Practice 50.3.

Right? It was the most urgent thing on your list of urgent things. Remember? You 'member!

Now sink your teeth into "Aligning the IRA/NCTE Standards to Graphic Novels: An ELA Pedagogy of Multiliteracies," co-written with Katie Monnin and Brian Kelley, which is appearing now in InLand 28.1.

Both these journals' summer issues explore YA literature, and there's plenty more good readin' beyond the the stuff from the professor in the West Texas town of El Paso.

*Captain Confederacy* Comics Available Free Online

Read this controversial series dealing with super heroes and race-relations by clicking here. The comments left behind are pretty interesting too, as this is still a series that seems hard to pin down for many.

Interesting to see that Marvel's retcon of Captain America in Truth:Red, Black and White seems to have pulled from Captain CSA's mythos in that in both stories it is revealed that the Captains gained their powers from a serum that was tested on African Americans. Guess Marvel, which published some of Captain Confederacy back in the EPIC days, thought the idea was a good one.

Thanks to Tom Spurgeon for wishing a big "HBD" to the series' writer over the Comics Reporter, which spurred me to look into the series on a whim today.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Your 2011 Harvey Award Winners

Lots of Jaime Hernandez representation in that list! :)

Welcome Fall 2011! GN-A-Palooza!

Tomorrow classes start at UTEP, and as I've mentioned in other posts, we'll be packing in the graphic novel goodness in my three classes this semester. I have one GN for my main methods course; two for my New and Multimodal Forms course, and a whole slew for Jewish American Literature (through the Graphic Novel) class, which is holding steady at 32 students!!

I'll also be a keynote speaker for one of the days of the New York NCTE affiliate in October and will be part of a panel of NCTE in November. Both appearances deal with comics, of course. Maybe I'll even introduce some graphic novelists at this year's ALAN, like I did last year.

I've got the "Comics" entry in the upcoming Encyclopedia of Adolescence, and I've published articles on graphica and education in Theory into Practice and Inland this summer.

I'll also be working to publish the second issue of SANEjournal. You may recall that the theme is "Teaching the Works of Alan Moore." We have some good articles lined up, and I can't wait to get back to this aspect of my advocacy for comics and literacy.

Then there are the things "in the works" that I want to talk about but probably need wait before doing so. Suffice it to say, by the end of the semester, I expect to announce a major library-based addition to the UTEP stacks.

And, if things fall right and I find evidence of equitable treatment to my liking, I may be making a professional milestone soon too.

I do need to get to writing new material and to sending out more proposals, etc. But, due to working with others, I'm not on empty there either.

Here's to a great Fall 2011 semester and beyond!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 Ignatz Award Nominees Named

My Summer Pleasure Reading: *Saga of the Swamp Thing*



I've now read 5 of the 6 volumes of Alan Moore's run on Saga of the Swamp Thing, and I just gotta say that I'm loving it.


I don't know if living the Southwest has me yearning for the South, or if the desert and recent humidity has me yearning for bodies of water and marsh, but I've found myself drawn to Swamp Thing since reading Jeremy Love's Bayou and noticing that the eponymous character of that series is a clear homage to Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's soggy slosh super-hero.


(Did you know that Swamp Thing and Man Thing debuted almost simultaneously, and that both are an homage to an obscure character called The Heap?)


It's also fun to see Moore playing with Watchmen themes prior to releasing that text and seeing scenes and that seem "tested" in this series, as if the bayou of Louisiana became the Brit's natural playground. I enjoy wondering if Moore every visitited the Southern swamps. I enjoy the romance between Swampy and Abbie, the taboo that isn't really.


I also sort of like seeing an elemental character kick the asses of DC's more mainstream capes.


I do think the series could be used in the high school and college classroom, especially as a text to illustrate Southern Gothic literature. I even wrote a rationale for volume 1 of the collected series while working on the Rationales for Teaching Graphic Novels text.


Right now I just want to savor the story's essence, though, as if I don't have allergies and moss makes me feel alive and erotic and connected and free at the same time. Nothing fancy. Just want to say I recommend these volumes.


Seriously, if you like Moore and you like brooding and romance, check out this Mr. Natural/Frankenstein via the Saga of the Swamp Thing collected editions.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

*The Atlantic* Offers Up Top 10 List of Nonfiction GN's

That's right, I refused to call it graphic nonfiction. Whatchyagonnadooabouditt? ;)

Anyway, there are some neat titles on this list, some reportage and some history and some science. Teachers will note that suggests multi-curricular appeal!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the New Biracial Spider-Man

The Spider-Man of the Ultimate universe has been in the media lately not so much because he replaces Peter Parker in that continuity, but because he is biracial. New York teen Miles Morales has heritage rooted in African American and Hispanic cultures.

And that's cool... but do we need to paint Peter Parker as whiter than the lilies now? I mean, just because he died fighting one of the few green people in his world doesn't make him a racist. ;)

And that's my problem with the story surrounding this new character. It's not about the character at all but about the meta-narratives surrounding his appearance. You may have heard that Glen Beck blamed the First Lady for this change. "Blamed?" Come on. The subtexts surrounding Miles' new role are disturbing to me, even if it is easy to gloss over some of their substance and focus on the "feel good" aspect of "diversification."

Let me explain:

Consider this article from WNYC:

Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis is quoted as saying " Wouldn't it be cool if Spider-Man was biracial? Somebody different than the comic book norm -- who represented New York more."

Sorry, hard working, loyal, conflicted, over-achieving everyteen Peter Parker. You just didn't represent your city. Sorry all white people; your time has come and gone. You have no place in the New York of the 21 century. Or, if you did, your incredible whiteness was so glaring, it was mucking up the metaphor.

Jeff Yang of the San Francisco Chronicle is quoted in the article as saying, "This is definitely progress....It's always great to see when the faces behind the masks -- the iconic characters we grew up with -- are finally starting to reflect the world around us."

So, progress is replacing white people with people who are of non-white backgrounds, because all white people are the same and have a singular homogeneous culture that is at odds with reality?

The next example comes from Cheryl Gladstone, a biracial citizen of Brooklyn, who says, "Being different is a superpower."

Again, is the intimation that all white people are the same, and all people who are non-white are different. Just people of biracial identity break the mold? A white, milky mold?

Don't get me wrong. I haven't been keeping up with the Ultimate Spider-Man character for a while now and probably won't read the new book either. Am I glad that this new Spidey might connect with new generations of readers? Absolutely. But, in my mind, that includes white readers too.

Diversification is not simply about exchange, about pitting one ethnicity against another as if "white" is old and everything else is "new." And, though I know more than a few of my liberal friends will probably think it, I don't mean to come off as a stodgy, out-of-touch white guy upset that the world around him is changing and he's getting left behind.

(Insert word balloon on above image of Green Goblin: "Crackers be hatin'!!")

Well, actually, some of that is how I'm trying to come off. True progress, true multicultural acceptance means not erasing white identities, but bringing them and all other possible identities along for the ride. Working together rather than against, with resistance being applied to paradigms of divisive difference.

In a world where that is understood, I can't help thinking we'd have media exalting the character of Peter Parker and praising his accomplishments in his fictional universe while excited about the newcomer's ability to exemplify all the best of what Spider-Man represents, which, as the article points out, to its credit, has never been about race, but actions and decency and respect and the constant struggle to improve one's self and one's world.

That is not and should not be construed as a racial prerogative; it's a human one. But in our universe, that message seems to be getting lost.

Peter Parker is about to become an absent presence for Miles Morales, similar to how Ben Parker and Peter's dad were absent presences for him. I hope that Miles shares with his predecessor the common core value of judging people not on the color of their skin or the ethnic or cultural heritages from which they come, but on the quality of their character.

One of the most common teaser images on the web right now, in which an exhausted Morales lifts up his mask and thinks, "Maybe the costume is in bad taste," reveals to me that Miles is as deep a thinker and worrier as Peter, which is heartening. We might be getting it wrong, but maybe Spidey keeps getting it right.





If he's able to do that, in relation to what the media has revealed about us, anyway, he'll truly personify the "super" in "super-hero" because he'll clearly exemplify the best of all of us, the best of what we can be; all of us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 9th NCTE Inbox Full of Comics-and-Literacy Goodness

Something must be afoot....

In addition to reminding folks about my first edited collection, the award-winning and best-selling Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel, this week's NCTE Inbox has links to 3 articles about comics and literacy:

1."In the Fight for Better Literacy, Comic Books Are Teachers' Secret Weapon" from This Magazine

2."Wondering (Worrying?) about Graphic Novels" from the Tempered Radical blog which features a lot of unfounded idiocy from, where else, my home state of North Carolina? When it comes to North Carolina teachers, I just can't stand stupidity. Guess it comes from having worked in the North Carolina public schools for 3 years. Anyway, I gave a pretty fiery reply to this one....

3."The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn from Playing" from PBS. The James Gee is quoted.
OK, the third is more about video games, but still.

OK, I'm gonna go fume about... wait, what is this?? Tempered Radical's Bill Ferriter has already updated and seems to backtrack a bit, acknowledging that he needs to do some research?? Maybe there is hope for teaching in the Old North State yet!

In the name of fairness, and since I blasted the guy without seeing the new post -- seriously, I actually told him to "read a f------g book!" -- I feel I must share the link to the"Lessons Learned" post about graphic novels as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wow, that was about 10 minutes of roller coaster for yours truly. I started out excited but curious about NCTE's focus on comics, then furious at the second link they shared, then a little cooled upon noticing the update from the second source.

Anyway, if you want to subscribe to the NCTE Inbox weekly, free newsletter, click here. I guess I'm now living testimony that it will thrill, chill, elate, and anger you.

Pacific Northwest College of Art Creates Cartooning Award

"Pacific Northwest College is starting a new graphic award for comic arts, called the Oregon Book Awards in Graphic Literature," says Graphic novel Reporter's John Hogan. Click the link embedded in this post's title to learn how you might submit an entry!

for more info on PNCA, click here.

Illinois HS Teacher Talks Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Here's Graphic Novel Reporter's lead-in to the story:

Melissa Burke-Marquart, an 11th grade English teacher at St. Thomas More High School, a small Catholic high school in Champaign, Illinois, has been teaching graphic novels in the classroom on and off throughout her career. A lifelong comics fan and experienced educator, she says, "Years ago, I used superhero comics with my freshmen when I taught them the elements of fiction. I hear back from many of them—they're now grownups with families—that that was their all-time favorite lesson. We created a class superhero and then I grouped the students into creative teams; they wrote and created a comic and short story starring the class hero."

I could have used Melissa when I interviewed at a university in Normal, IL, a few years ago and a classroom teacher who was part of the hiring process told me that the curriculum was so full that at best, high school teachers could probably only use one graphic novel per year. The intimation was, of course, that my field of study was too limited to be of much use.

Live and let live, though, eh?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tom Spurgeon Interviews Brannon Costello About Howard Chaykin

Click here to read an in-depth interview with my friend and colleague from way back, Brannon Costello, who will soon publish a University Press of Mississippi Conversations series covering the comics legend Howard Chaykin. Brannon also mentions a book he's editing that should be out soon and that I'm actually even more excited about owning, reading, and using. That one is a collection of essay on comics and the American South. It's gonna be a big year for Brannon, and that thrills me to no end! :)

p.s. Brannon, if you're reading this, thanks for the shout-out! :)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

International Poll Asked Comics Readers to Name their Top 10 Singificant/Important Works

See the results here. There's also some good examination of what made the list and what didn't. N=+200, for those interested in how many folks The Hooded Utilitarian surveyed.


I was very happy to see Krazy Kat, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Maus, Watchmen, and Locas in the top ten.

Blue Water Adds Some Class

In the past, I've associated the products coming out of Blue Water comics publishers as, well, befitting a place in swirling blue water, if you know what I mean.

But I'm happy to announce the company is literally adding a "class" component. My friend and colleague in comics-and-literacy, Chris Wilson, of the popular blog resource The Graphic Classroom, has signed on to produce lesson plans for the company's nonfiction titles. I think this is a very smart move for Blue Water.

Click the link emdedded in this post's title to learn more, and, if you're reading, congrats on the gig, Chris!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

"Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Constitee-anc-ee?"





Loves me some Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? While we're off topic, know what else I loves even though I fight it? College football....

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

GNR Talks with our interview with the CBLDF’s Executive Director Charles Brownstein

That's "Comic Book Legal Defense Fund" for the uninitiated. For a great interview with the head of the censorship-fighting force, click here.

2011 Eisner Winners Announced at SDCC

Raina Telgemeier won the Eisner for Best Book for Teens for Smile, the first book I asked my summer Ya Lit class to read (just days before it was honored in San Diego!).

NCTE Inbox Features Denver Comic Book Classroom Project

Monday, August 01, 2011

Summer II YA Lit Students Review YA Novels

Clich here to see some early reviews of mostly-traditional print YA novels my students wrote on for my recently finished YA Lit course.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jacques Lacan Hearts...Rogue?

Since we've been talking about "the gaze" and "othering" and the mirror stage in my YA Lit class, which just wrapped up today and which featured several prominent YA graphic novels, I found this explication from Comixology both timely and fun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Enjoy the Below GN Reviews from Students in my Summer II YA Lit Class!

This Summer, I'm asking students in my "English 3306: Young Adult Literature" class to review a graphic novel in relation to what Kenneth Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen have deemed the "best of the best" criteria for evaluating young adult literature. Students were given a template that I might post later, a slide show that offered the criterion points, and the opportunity to revise their first drafts, which were graded and edited by yours truly. The below reviews, then, should represent revised copies. Students are responsible for their own content, and I may or may not share their views and opinions. Students were rewarded one extra credit point for allowing me to publish their reviews. Reviews of the following texts are below:

Don Quixote Part II,In Defense of the Realm, The Wright Brothers, The Good Neighbors: Book One,Stolen Hearts: The Love of Eros & Psyche, The Swiss Family Robinson, Call of the Wild, Amulet Books 1-3, and The Babysitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea.

Ashley Swarthout Reviews Campfire's *Don Quixote, Part II*

Title: Don Quixote: Part II
Author: Miguel de Cervantes
Wordsmith: Lloyd S. Wagner
Illustrator: Vinod Kumar
Colorist: Vinod S. Pillai
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: August 9, 2011

Don Quixote: Part II begins after Don Quixote has returned home from his many adventures. He spends his days in solitude and remembrance until he is convinced by his friend and squire, Sancho Panza, and the bachelor, Samson Carrasco, to embark on a new adventure. His journey with Sancho Panza begins in high spirits but is crushed when he finds his love, Lady Dulcinea, has been enchanted and turned into a peasant woman who no longer recognizes him.


The journey continues with many high points for the Don Quixote and his squire, most of which occur during a long stay with a duke and duchess. The Duke and Duchess create elaborate pranks for Don Quixote to work through, all without his knowledge. When Don Quixote and Sancho Panza continue on their adventures they are confronted by a knight who challenges Don Quixote by declaring his lady is more beautiful than Lady Dulcinea. Once Don Quixote loses the joust he returns home with instructions from the victor to stay there for a full year. However, after returning home Don Quixote becomes ill and passes away in his bed surrounded by his friends and caretakers.

The humor was entertaining, and the illustrations were captivating. Even if the reader has never heard of the classic novel written by Miguel de Cervantes, this graphic novel gives relevant information on the classic novel and is constructed artistically so as to potentially peek enough interest on the character of Don Quixote for readers to want to read the longer text. However, being that the protagonist is an older knight, and the journey seems to be doomed to fail from the start, young adults reading this text may have difficulty relating to Don Quixote and his mission.

There are a couple of the characteristics present in the best examples of young adult literature in Don Quixote: Part II. The reading of the graphic novel is fast paced. It quickly takes the reader on the journey alongside Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The language is mostly simple but does include an occasional higher level word. For example, the word “vanquished” is used several times throughout the text, and the word “bravado” is used on page 28 to describe Don Quixote’s behavior with a lion he wishes to fight. The graphic novel is fast-paced in that it moves from action to action with little to no lull time between.

In addition to being fast-paced, Don Quixote: Part II‘s character, Don Quixote, is overly optimistic most of the time. There are very few instances where he is not optimistic. In the very beginning of the novel when he decides to leave for more adventures, he is not concerned about his age or about the rumors that he is mad. He says, “Within four days, my dear friend Sancho, we shall be on the road again, doing good and combating evil” (10). There are times when Sancho is not as optimistic as Don Quixote, and Don Quixote is quick to point out his friend’s fear. “It seems to me, Sancho, that you want to be perched on that tree to watch the bull fight without danger” (22).

Don Quixote: Part II is missing many of the characteristics that define the best young adult literature examples. The most obvious missing characteristic is that it is not written from the point of view of a young adult; furthermore, the protagonist is a much older, past-his-glory-days, mad knight, making it difficult for young adult readers to identify with him. While Don Quixote is quick to take credit for his perceived accomplishments, a characteristic of the best of best in young adult literature, his accomplishments are not really his. Every time he believes he has accomplished a grand victory or deed, it is actually out of folly or prank.

For instance, on page 62 Don Quixote believes that he has defeated Malambruno, thus removing the beards from the duennas when, in actuality it was a grand prank produced by the Duke and Duchess. The text does not have various genres and subjects. The text contains only a few basic ideas and they do not change during the course of reading. The graphic novel also fails to include a diversity of ethnicities and cultures in both text and illustrations. Another major missing characteristic is that it does not deal with emotions that are important to young people. There are many emotions included and experienced: Don Quixote’s desire to accomplish more great deeds, he becomes depressed when his “so-called” loved one does not recognize him, he is boastful when he believes he has been victorious, and remorseful when he is defeated.

Though Don Quixote moves through all these relatable emotions, it is all done so out of folly and humor, distancing the feeling of relation between the reader and the character. A reader may relate to the feeling of depression when rejected by a lover, but Don Quixote’s rejection was because the peasant was not his real lover. That mistake made by a mad man makes the feeling of depression no longer relatable.

I would recommend this book as an introductory text to the classic novel originally written in 1605 by Miguel de Cervantes. Though the character of Don Quixote is not relatable, he is entertaining and amusing. Being that the graphic novel adapted by Lloyd S. Wagner was also enjoyable and comical, it would be a great introduction to the waggish qualities of Don Quixote and humorous adventures that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza experience. For teachers this would be a recommendable addition to a classroom library for middle and high school aged readers in both English and History classrooms.

Travis Beck Reviews Campfire's *In Defense of the Realm*

Title: In Defense of the Realm
Author: Sanjay Deshpande
Artists: Lalit Kumar Sharma, Illustrator; Jagdish Kumar, Inker
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: Copyright © 2011



The graphic novel In Defense of the Realm by Sanjay Deshpande is a cautionary tale of the dangers of waging war without the use of strategy. It demonstrates how a leader should exercise his or her power when making decisions that can either enhance his subjects’ lives or destroy their lives to the extreme outcome of death.



I would briefly like to talk about the setting of the story, which serves as its foundation. The setting is both physical and chronological. It takes place in what is called the Indus Valley Civilization around 2310 B.C. Once lost to the ravages of time, Dholavira is a 5000-year old city of what we call the Harappan Civilization. It is located on the island of Khadir, India. Lost and shrouded in mystery, the city began to reveal its secrets when it was excavated in the 1990s. Interpretation of life in Dholayira fell to our author, Sanjay Deshpande, an archeologist and heritage consultant who worked on sight from 1992 till 1998. He characterized the Harappian Civilization as having exceptional and intricate architectural advancements for its time. An example of this was a fully functional sewage system.



Though evidence doesn’t suggest that the Harappans were militant in nature, archeological evidence suggests that they were well-prepared for defense against enemies. The Harappans also developed intricate internal and external trade routes, water collection and storage systems and a solid economic infrastructure. Overall, the evidence points to a very prosperous society and civilization. However, Sanjay and his colleagues have not been able to shed much light on their system of government. Where the Harappan rulers authoritarian? How much power and control did they have and to what existent did they exercise it? So far experts don’t have the answers to these questions. “No great monuments, palaces, temples, or graveyards full of gold have been found.” (pg.4).



Most of the Harappan written records have been destroyed by the ravages of time; what little was found is on personal artifacts that have yet to be deciphered. The fictional tale of In Defense of the Realm is loosely grounded in these incomplete facts. However, it is important to be aware of these facts in order to understand the complexity of the world in which the characters live or the reader will be lost.



I found that the story centers around two main characters, Prince Meluha and Princess Kundalini. Both characters are on a journey from adolescence into adulthood. They are characterized as model teenagers (or the perception of what an adult would consider a model teenager). Struggling to cope with events that are happening around them, both characters are innocent, honest, naive, confused, and, above all, scared in the face of uncertain futures. They are on the verge of either ruling their perspective kingdoms or of utter failure. They seem to take very different journeys to their destinies.



Prince Meluha’s journey is more physical in contrast to Princess Kundalini’s’ which is more emotional. The similarity is that they both have to rely heavily on cognitive processes, constantly asking themselves “What is the smart thing to do?” In the beginning, Master Torana, a philosopher and teacher, is telling their story to three students. He is telling it in a third person dramatic narrative which seems to get lost in the middle of the story. The basic plot of the story is the conflict between the peaceful kingdom of Dholavira ruled by Prince Muluhu’s father, Raja Sanjaya and the invading army of the Akkadians ruled by King Sargon.



Sargon’s army invades and puts the city of Dholayira under siege. On a hunting trip at the time, Prince Muluhu is cut off from his kingdom. Prince Muluhu must then embark on a journey in order to rally support from two other kingdoms that are part of a five kingdom realm. The Prince must put aside childish notions in order to become an effectively ambassador and save his family and kingdom. The invasion results in the assassination of Princess Kundalini’s father, Raja Mahavindasa.



The assassination is orchestrated and perpetrated by the main antagonist in the story, a spy named Takshaka. Takshaka is later killed by one of his allies, a fitting end for the conniving character! The assassination plunges the kingdom of Harappa into chaos. Princess Kundalini relying on what her father had taught her rises from the ashes of this catastrophe and takes her place as Queen of Harappa. The Princess later devises a strategy to end the war with minimal casualties. The plan is successful and peace and prosperity is returned to the five kingdoms in the realm. There is a coronation and Prince Maluhu is declared ruler of Dholavira. The two rulers fulfill their arranged promise of marriage and end up ruling Harappan as a whole.



These two characters are free to take credit for their own accomplishments, though the amount of poise and humbleness they display seems unrealistic for their age. There is a diversity of ethnicities and culture displayed in the book.



The best example of this is that there are five kingdoms within the realm, all of which have distinct cultures. Within these kingdoms are cities with their own unique cultures; the fact that they all have to get along in order to coexist and eventually survive gives testament to the success of cultural diversity. The story is an optimistic one in that adolescents have the capacity to demonstrate maturity in the face of adversity. It shows the emotional struggles of coping that a young adult might have such as confusion, uncertainty and worrying about the future. It shows that change is often a good thing through the use of Junex vs. Senex with the young replacing the old in a natural cycle.



In contrast, as far as meeting the best of the best criteria for graphic novels, it seems to fall short. I didn’t get the feeling that the story was written from the point of view of an adolescent. As I stated earlier, it was written from an adult perspective of how we think an adolescent should be, not actually how they are.



This makes the characterization come off as false and unrealistic. I didn’t think that the pace was fast enough and the subject matter in the middle of the novel might bore young readers to the point of losing interest. I don’t think that the story had a variety of genres and subjects, at least not any of great interest to the average reader. What might be of interest to some readers are the historical references within the text but this is only geared toward a select secondary group of readers.



In conclusion, the narrator comes in from time to time, giving the reader historical facts about life in the Indus Civilization. This is an attempt to educate the reader, one of Deshpande’s main objects. However, I don’t think that it was consistent enough to be effective. I just didn’t get the feeling that the story was written from the point of view of an adolescent. With that said I would definitely recommend this to students interested in ancient civilization especially to those who are interested in India’s history.



I think this would be a good book for readers who are transitioning from the concrete thought processes into abstract thought processes. It is also a great tool for introducing moral values and believes, as the characters are always striving to do the right thing and the violence is never glorified.

George A. Arreola Reviews Campfire's * The Wright Brothers*



Title: Title: The Wright Brothers
Artist: Sankha Banerjee
Publisher: Campfire Graphic
Publication Date: June 28, 2011

From an early age, Orville and Wilbur Wright were encouraged by their parents to learn as much as possible in the classroom as well as to seek knowledge outside the classroom. Their father wanted them not to be content with just the knowledge from school; he figured there was a lot to be learned outside the classroom too. The boys got their mechanical interest from their mother who had made a few appliances that she used at home. The boys also inherited their curiosity from their father, who used to travel throughout the country and brought back gifts from far away places which, encouraged their adventurous spirit. Their father introduced them to a small printing press in which Orville took interest.


However, within a short time, he outgrew the printing press and invested in another press involving his brother Wilbur, who he trusted and knew he could count on. Both brothers went on to venture into other interests that were successful. Their main goal was to build a plane and be able to fly. While there were many brilliant scientists working to build a plane, the Wright brothers, with less than a high school education, were successful because of their determination and ability to cooperate with each other.


The story follows the two main characters of Orville and Wilbur Wright and shares what these two brothers were like growing up. The graphic novel covers the main points of their lives, allowing the reader to see that not everything was perfect; they had their struggles along the way but were able to succeed. They found obstacles and people that did not believe they could accomplish such a task as flying. The Wright Brothers graphic novel provide interesting facts and the graphics making it easy to follow. Young adults could follow along without any problem because the text is easy to read and the graphics help to follow along.


The Wright Brothers graphic novel covers most of the characteristics of a graphic novel. It might not be part of the “best of the best,” but it does have the elements of a good graphic novel. Most of the book is good, but the story of the Wright brothers in this book is more of a summary of the Wright brother’s lives. There is minimal dialog in the book. The author summarized the story in 68 pages. The Wright Brothers book is an interesting one, but the author could have made into one of the best of the best if he would have put more effort into it. Young adults are intrigued with real life stories of people succeeding. Unfortunately the author cuts the readers short.


After reading this graphic novel, there were a few things that I learned about the Wright brothers. The book does meet the criteria as young adult literature book. I felt this graphic novel kept my interest, and it would be a good book for young adults around the ages of 8-12 to read. Prior to reading this book the only thing I knew about the Wright brothers was that they had been the first ones to fly a plane, but there is more to it. What young adults can learn from this book goes beyond inventing a plane. What it teaches is what was mentioned on the first day of class: “A hard worker would outwork a smart person.” This is precisely what the Wright brothers were able to do while there were many distinguished scientist were trying to be the first ones to fly.


While it was no easy task, and they did have many setbacks but that did not prevent them from accomplishing their goal. Every time something failed they were more determined to succeed. This is a good lesson for any young adult who has a dream.


I would recommend this graphic novel to students from grades 4th through 8th. The Wright Brothers is a positive story. It is very encouraging for young adults who aspire to be successful. The Wright brothers might not have finished high school and might not have been the brightest students, but they had the desire, determination, and work ethic to make their goals come true. The road to success was not a smooth one; they encountered many difficulties on their way to accomplishing their goals. If students are able to grasp the concept of hard work than this book is a success.

Karina Pena Reviews *The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin*



Title: The Good Neighbors: Book One: Kin

Author: Holly Black

Artist/s: Ted Neifeh

Publisher: Graphix

Publication Date: 2008

The Graphic Novel The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin is an introduction to the story of Rue Silver, which brings two different realms together. The realm of faeries is starting to slowly take over the human realm and Rue Silver may be the only one who can stop it. Furthermore, Rue’s father is accused of murdering a college student named Sarasa Narayan.


Luckily, Rue finds out that the real killer is the brother of Sarasa. After Rue’s mother goes missing she begins to get glimpses of the faerie realm. Rue knows she must find her mother, who was sent back to the faerie realm because of a promise her father broke. Rue finds out that she is a faerie and that her grandfather is the faerie king that she probably shouldn’t trust. In this book her journey has just begun.


She has to find a way to deal with her family, her boyfriend, and the two different realms. It is a well written graphic novel that people can read and enjoy. The illustration themselves do a great job on showing the depth of Rue’s emotions in her struggles.

The graphic novel has some characteristics of the best young adult literature but it doesn’t mean it is one of the best. It is written in Rue’s point of view, which makes it more relatable and understanding to young adults. One of her accomplishments in the book is that she finds out that Sarasa’s brother is the one who killed her and not her father. She can take credit for her accomplishments because she almost seems to be on her own. In the end of the book it does leave the reader hanging and makes the reader wonder what is going to happen next. Even so, it does leave the reader with an optimistic ending that Rue will find her mom and defeat whichever of the evil fairies is trying to take over the human realm.


The graphic novel slightly answers the question for Rue, “who am I and what am I going to do about it?” At the end she does find out that she is a faerie, and she knows she has to look for her mom and help the human realm. It has some emotions that are important and relatable to young adults like isolation and sadness.


The graphic novel is missing some character development on Rue and her friends; the novel doesn’t give any insight on her. Her emotions are seen in the illustrations but there is no way to relate to her in this book because of the lack of knowledge of her relationship with her parents or friends. Since it is the first graphic novel of the series and it has less emotional and character development, it may be that after reading the series the reader may be able to relate to Rue.
This book is great for young adults that are interested in mysteries and fantasy. It would keep young adult entertained and wanting to finish the series to see what happens and how it will end for Rue.


The reader will probably try to find a way to relate to Rue and what she is going through. The book does meet the criteria to be considered a young adults literature. Since it is the first graphic novel of the series the readers just get a slight introduction to what the story is about. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use the book for education purposes. There isn’t much you can teach with this book.

Myriam Martinez Reviews *Eros and Psyche*




Title: Stolen Hearts: The Love of Eros and Psyche
Author: Ryan Foley
Artists: Sankha Banerjee, Prince Varghese
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: 2010

This graphic novel depicts the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche as told to a young woman to teach her the lesson of how a conflict between a mother and daughter-in-law unfolds. The novel describes the clash between Eros’s mother and Psyche, which develops as a result of Aphrodite’s jealousy of Psyche’s beauty. Aphrodite sends Eros to set a trap for Psyche; however, love develops between the two. In response, Aphrodite condemns Psyche to forever be miserable, which in turn causes Eros to deprive the world of love. A compromise is made in which Psyche is isolated from the world in a castle, where a man visits her at night. Unknown to her, that man is Eros; however, she is not allowed to see his face as part of the compromise to avoid her knowing who he is.



Psyche is induced to break her promise by her sisters, who encourage her to see his face. As a result, Eros leaves her. Psyche begs for help from Aphrodite, who places four conditions on her assistance. Psyche manages to meet three of the conditions despite their apparent impossibility. She fails on the fourth condition, but Eros realizes her efforts, saves her, and asks the gods to immortalize her. His wish is granted and they are allowed to live happily ever after. Overall, the novel does a good job of introducing the storyline and setting up the reader for what follows, but fails in that a reader without prior knowledge of the Greek myth would have a hard time filling the gaps in the story.



This graphic novel posses various elements of young adult literature. Among the ones present are that the young person is free to take credit for her accomplishments. Psyche is responsible for resolving her mistakes and is given credit for doing so. The novel is also fast-paced. The novel is also basically optimistic in that Psyche learns and matures as the story progresses, and it has a happy result. The novel also deals with emotions that are important to young people such as love, learning from mistakes, and believing in yourself to succeed.



The graphic novel is missing several characteristics of young adult literature. The novel is narrated by an adult and therefore is not written from the point of view of a young adult. The novel does not include a variety of genres and subjects because it is constrained to Greek mythology. Also lacking is a diversity of ethnicities and cultures. Perhaps because of the timeframe of the original story, the story is removed from reality in that other cultures are not present in the story. Also, while it touches on emotions that might be of interest to young adults, it may be difficult for them to relate to gods and other unfamiliar situations.



I believe the text could be of interest to young adults, especially those with an interest in Greek mythology. The colored dialogue boxes are very useful in helping the reader follow the story and identify who is speaking. The novel also gives a face to the characters of Greek mythology, which are normally described in text only. While it does not fit perfectly into the definition of a young adult piece, it has enough of its elements to qualify as one. For those that are not familiar with the original Greek story, it may be a way to introduce them to a new medium. However, for those that dislike Greek mythology, this may not be a book of interest to them.



I would recommend this book to young adults for the reasons mentioned above. The novel has enough of the elements for a good young adult piece to draw their interest and provide for a good read. For those already very familiar with the original Greek story, I would caution them to remember that it is a slightly different version that does not remain completely true to the original. I would recommend it to young adults especially for its lessons of love and of determination.

Pamela Antwine Reviews *The Swiss Family Robinson*

The Swiss Family Robinson is a great graphic novel. The story is about a family
traveling on a ship from England to Port Jackson, located in New South Wales. Their journey
on the ship becomes disastrous when they encounter a catastrophic storm.

I thought this graphic novel was great and effective for several reasons, including:
the easy flow of the dialogue, the sequence of events was timely, and the illustrations
were very effective. These were demonstrated on (pgs.44, 73).


In the graphic novel the character Fritz is the oldest of four sons, and appears to be a young man of sixteen. Fritz is able to take credit for his accomplishments on
several occasions. Most notable was when he felt his fate lay in the mouth of a shark. Young
Fritz had only been on the island for one day, and unaccustomed to shark attacks. The shark wasswimming towards Fritz when he was transporting the animals from the ship. As terrified as
Fritz was, he was able to shoot and wound the shark on his father’s command (p.29). Another
accomplishment was when Fritz captured and tamed an wild eagle (p.45).



The Swiss Family Robinson graphic novel is fast-paced because the events happen
quickly. In the beginning of the story, the family is on a ship. By the middle of the
story the family is on a deserted island, and at the end of the story, the family has
survived all their trials and tribulations. The fast pace of a graphic novel is important
because it keeps the readers attention. It also keeps the reader wondering and guessing
what will happen next.


The story is optimistic, because through it all, the family survives. They
overcame a lot of obstacles when the ship was caught in the storm by remaining calm and
patient. Their demonstration of optimism came through when the family prayed, “ Our heads
were soothed by the comfort of childlike prayer, and the horrors of our situation seemed less
terrible.” Their faith and family unity helped strengthen their ability to remain optimistic.
Time and change were demonstrated when the boys first arrived at the island:
They were young boys, and vulnerable to their surroundings. They then changed into
men after being on the island for ten years (p.53). They spoke with optimism just after
their father had completed making each of them a pair of boots (p.41). “ Yes, we’ve had a
pretty eventful time since we landed here all those months ago” (p.42).


The family’s fate of leaving the island once seemed hopeless. But now the family
has a choice to leave or remain on the island. Each person chooses to seek their own
happiness and fulfillment. This is witnessed at the end of the graphic novel,
when the boys are deciding what the future holds for them. Fritz, now a man of twenty-six,
has decided to marry Montrose and move to England. Ernest the second oldest, who appeared
to be thirteen in the first part of the story, now probably a young man of twenty-three,
has chosen to remain with his parents on the island, and continue to study science. Jack the
third oldest son, who appeared to be ten in the beginning of the story, also chooses to remain on
the island as a rider, and shooter.


Frank, the youngest son, who appeared to be eight in the beginning of the story, decides to go to school in London (p.81). The young men made their life choices with such maturity and optimism. This was noted as they made a toast to “ New Switzerland,” then Jack who said, “ Long life and happiness to those who make New Switzerland their home!” the second toast came from Fritz“ three cheers for England and Colonel Montrose! Success and happiness to those of us who return to Europe!” (p.80). Although what the future holds is unknown, these young men seem mature enough to handle all that comes their way.


The Swiss Family Robinson graphic novel deals with the emotions that are important to
young people. The novel demonstrates fearful situations and being able to overcome them. Most young adults at some point in their lives experience fear. In the novel there were incidents of the boys experiencing fear on the ship when the storm first came (p.5). They overcame their fear by going to the lower level of the ship where it was quiet, warm, and dry. Jack experienced fear
when he opened the closed captain’s door on the ship, and the attack dogs rushed towards him
and knocked him to the floor. Jack’s response was to hide his fear and remain calm and
everything worked out fine (p.10). Another important feeling young adults experience is
acceptance.

This was demonstrated when Ernest at age 13, was seeking approval from his father and
older brother Fritz. Ernest wanted to go hunting with them, but was not allowed because they felt he was too young. So one day they allowed Ernest to go hunting with them. Although the hunt was unsuccessful in capturing an animal, Ernest could not have been happier. He proved he was quite the hunter with his sharp instincts, and keen eye for spotting the wild animals. From then on Ernest, was always included in the hunt for wild animals. Young adults need to be able to read a graphic novel that deals with similar emotions they can identify with to maintain their interest and to be used as a teaching lesson.


The element missing of the young adult literature is the point of view of the of the young adults for the writing because the graphic novel was written from the point of view of the father. Another element missing is the absence of diversity of ethnicities and cultures because the family lived alone on the island for ten years. This graphic novel does meet the criteria for being considered young adult literature because it offers simplified words throughout the story. The quality of characters and setting are realistic and it reflects on the age of innocence embarking on a unfamiliar journey. The illustrations command your attention as does the story itself.

I would recommend this graphic novel because it demonstrates adventure,
family unity and a coming of age story. The novel makes good use of dialogue. The
sequence of events follows suit. The illustrations are very graphic and detail oriented.
This would be a great book for children ages eight through fourteen.