Today, University Press of Mississippi has released a substantial excerpt of my recent, co-edited volume on comics pedagogy (I blogged about the book here). This free PDF is nearly half of the entire volume and my co-editors and I encourage you to read, share, and discuss the included chapters in this time of sheltering and social distancing.
As I noted on Twitter the other night, I have been reaching out to publishers to open up access to various books I’ve worked on that might be of interest for teachers and researchers as we shelter in place across the globe. This is the first project that responded back. I’m encouraging other authors and publishers to do the same.
I am so thrilled to share the release of my most recent co-edited volume. With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Comics is the kind of book that my two co-editors and I have been wanting to draw upon for quite a while. And so we worked—in collaboration with our contributors—to make this particular dialogue about comics and teaching happen.
Taking seriously a comics pedagogy, this volume brings together a pretty amazing list of folks from across very different kinds of contexts. However, what we intentionally wanted to do in this book was to put teachers (from K-12 settings to higher ed), comics studies researchers, and comic book creators in dialogue with one another. Some of these are literally conversations—like the interviews conducted with comic book luminaries like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Lynda Barry. Some of these are discussions across the histories of comics studies. And some of these are analytical and empirical analyses of teaching with, through, and about comics in various schooling contexts.
While there is an abundance of interdisciplinary scholarship on the use of comics in learning settings, too often it feels like the knowledge shared in one corner of academia is too distant from the other dimensions of what I find makes comics—and the field of comic studies—so vibrant. We intentionally weave together various styles, approaches, and topics in this book to center the diversity of what comics pedagogy means and what is it for. The table of contents for this book is amazing.
And shout out to contributor, Ebony Flowers Kalir—her amazing artwork graces our cover. For real, if you haven’t read Hot Comb yet, get. on. that.
I guess if you’re not convinced, maybe the words of Henry Jenkins might help?:
(And there’s a review by Lee Skallerup Bessette recently published here.)
Finally, it this book was an honor to work on with my co-editors Susan Kirtley and Peter Carlson. Our editorship, too, is an intentional reflection of the interdisciplinary approach to this project. While I share a teaching history with Peter, he represents, here, the role of K-12 educators weighing in on comic pedagogy. Susan, is an Eisner Award-winning scholar and director of the comics studies program at Portland State University. And I approached this work indebted to the educational scholarship that has shaped my thinking about comics, literacies, criticality, and multimodality.
We’ll be hosting talks and workshops related to this book’s release at various comic cons throughout the year. Please consider checking out the book! We hope to get to geek out with you soon.
I just finished the A-side of Jeff Jackson’s Destroy All Monsters and it will probably be the first book I finish in 2019. And so, I think it’s time to round-up my reading from the past year:
Books read in 2018: 196 Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 57
Books of poetry included in reading total: 1
Books reread included in reading total: 2
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 23
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 30
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research): 6
The easiest recommendation I can make is for everyone to read my friend Nicole Mirra’s book, Educating for Empathy. I’ve gotten to work with and learn from Nicole for more than a decade at this point (how is that possible?!) and this book is a great, accessible synthesis of many of her key pushes on civics, empathy, and literacy. Everyone should read it and it looks like this:
The best novels I read this year were There There (where the quote in this post’s title comes from) and An American Marriage. These are critically acclaimed works and show up on everyone’s year end lists for good reason (I see you, Barry!).
The sci-fi novel The Player of Games was the exact mixture of ethnographer-studies-games-of-foreign-cultures-but-also-in-outer-space that made it the Antero-equivalent of catnip.
I read a bunch of comic books this year and that included digging into the 9 volume collection of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster; it was one of my more sustained engagements with manga and I really enjoyed the entire run. Sabrina is the highbrow graphic novel that I’m not sure if I liked but is a good conversation starter. Mark Russell & Mike Feehan’s The Snagglepuss Chronicles(yes, that pink cat) is amazing. Snagglepuss is a playwright frequenting the Stonewall Innand facing MaCarthyism head-on. It is timely, poignant, and tragic.
Moxie is the YA novel that made me listen to a bunch of riot grrrl records for the first time in ages and if it introduces younger readers to the likes of Kathleen Hanna, 3rd wave Feminism, and the Sharpie-and-glue-and-scissors world of zine making, then that is awesome. The reality TV junkie in me also really liked Nice Try, Jane Sinner.
If you’ll be in downtown San Diego next week – either for Comic-Con or because you like streets congested with nerds – consider spending some time at the San Diego Public Library.
In collaboration with Comic-Con International, the downtown branch of the library is hosting the first Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians. And while Comic-Con is very sold out, the events at the library are free. Interested participants just need to register for here.
Along with several friends, I’m excited to host the first workshop of this new conference on Wednesday afternoon from 4-6 p.m.: “Teaching with Comics: An Interactive Workshop for Educators” (And yes, for you Comic-Con attendees, this gives you time to head to the convention in time for Preview Night).
For more information about the Comics Conference for Educators and Librarians and other events happening at the library, take a look here.
Also, if you will be at Comic-Con, Peter Carlson and I will be presenting a poster as part of the Comic Arts Conference on Saturday afternoon. Expanding on work we’ve been developing, we’ll be discussing representations of transformative resistance and critical race theory in recent comic books. Info on that session can be found here.
If you are an educator headed to Comic-Con this week (K-12, University, Librarian, etc.), I’m pleased to invite you to our educator workshop!
Held on Preview Night (Wednesday, July 8) from 5-8 p.m., this workshop is free and any SDCC pass-holders are welcome to attend. Here’s the description:
Antero Garcia, Peter Carlson, Susan Kirtley, and Jenn Anya Prosser lead a hands-on workshop for K-12 educators interested in utilizing comic books in classrooms. Open to teachers of all subjects, the program will look at how content-area literacy can be supported through comic books and popular culture in various disciplines. During this workshop panelists will explore how comics support student achievement, discuss ways teachers can align curriculum to use comic books meaningfully, and provide resources for participants to take into their own classrooms.
Though Preview Night is typically reserved for four-day pass holders at SDCC, we’ve gotten confirmation that educators holding any pass for the Con are welcome to join us (If you have not picked up a badge, bring the confirmation barcode that you likely received via email). Note: This workshop will be held at the nearby Shiley Special Events Suite at the San Diego Public Library.
This is the first year SDCC is hosting a workshop of this nature and length. We may experiment with the format, timing, and content in the future. We will also be sharing resources from this workshop online using the Twitter hashtag #comiced. See you at the Con!
[By the way, I’m way stoked about who “We” is. “We,” in this case, includes my always trusty compatriot Peter Carlson, Eisner-winning author and director of the Portland State University Comics Studies Program Susan Kirtley, and amazing Denver-based English educator Jenn Anya Prosser. Think of us as the #comiced Voltron!]
I spent the weekend reading through Scott McCloud’s new graphic novel The Sculptor. This was an immensely rewarding read and one I plan to revisit soon (and possibly teach); the ambition of this work reminded me, at times, of Asterios Polyp.
In many ways, The Sculptor lends itself well to be read as an anchor text for McCloud’s canonical work on comic books: Understanding Comics. The lessons McCloud etches across his academic text are made manifest in the pacing, the narrative imagery, the layout of panel upon panel.
As one example, I was particularly drawn to the deliberate repetition of the sculptor’s hands throughout the work. Specifically, McCloud draws significant narrative significance from the gestured look at one’s hands across the story. Here, a few examples lacking context:
By the end of the 400+ page book, the gesture of looking at his hands has come to signal for the sculptor adoration, disgust, regret, love, remembrance, and much more. The panel is like the sculptor seeing his life flash before your eyes (perhaps it is). We garner this insight across the work. We are reminded of the layered meaning and significance of hands for an artist looking for acceptance and recognition each time McCloud repeats the gesture. The tone of the hands shifts from beat to beat in the book, but each tone is not forgotten. Like palimpsests of thought, the paneled image of the sculptor’s hands builds and layers; a new formation held within the calloused digits.
[Note: These are a fraction of the hand images in the book and I am trying to deliberately remove context here. In terms of both an argument for fair use of the images and to not squelch a powerful narrative, I offer a pittance of samples.]
First off, Marcelle Haddix and I have a book chapter in the newly published collection The Politics of Panem edited by Sean P. Connors. Our chapter is called “The Revolution Starts with Rue: Online Fandom and the Racial Politics of the Hunger Games.” In it, we contrast the dialogue found within this meme with the racist response to the casting of the Hunger Games several years ago. Marcelle and I expand our thinking with regard to this topic in an upcoming ALAN article (I’ll share this, too, when it is released).
More broadly, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about civic identity in popular media for youth. Recently reading the first 10 issues of Zero by Ales Kot, I am reminded of the civic lessons from his earlier work, Wild Children (take a look at our conversation from a while back).
Similarly, the new(ish) comic series Storm focuses on the so-named mutant who is able to control weather. With a woman of color as a mainstream comic book protragonist, it’s been striking to see how this series has largely been episodic understanding of civic identity and discussions of collective responsibility. This panel from the first issue, for instance, has had me thinking about how this medium can more deliberately instill concepts of civic action amongst readers.
Particularly in light of following #FergusonSyllabus, I am reminded of the powerful lessons I can glean daily from social networks. (My friend Peter and I have been discussing and thinking about critical applications of comic books in classrooms on Twitter using the hashtag #ComicEd. Join us!)
As I think about the white-washing of history taking place in my home state and of the organizing in Ferguson (not to mention the three other young black men that have been shot in the St. Louis area in the two months since Michael Brown’s death), I reflect on the potential voices of activism and dissent in popular media: Rue as a revolutionary, Storm as a conflicted ideologist, Officer Gordon on the TV show Gotham (to name a few).
As educators, how do we challenge youth to think civically in a time when their rights are being actively restricted?
Last month, Peter Carlson and I presented our work on critical use of comics in K-12 learning contexts at the San Diego Comic-Con. Cribbing from an email Peter sent out to teachers after our presentation, this post has a bunch of links to materials we shared at our session.
First, if you’re interested in listening to the entire presentation you can do so by downloading the mp3 here. (Apologies that Peter and I present in active-teacher-mode, which means we tend to wander and are never really close to the microphone).
Similarly, the slides for the presentation can be viewed here. (This file is a big one – mainly pictures that lack the context without listening to the audio. You may be better suited sticking with the handouts below).
Here’s the handout we distributed to teachers at the panel.
And here’s a list of graphic novel and resources created by Jennifer Freeman, an educator we met at the Denver Comic-Con. Jenn’s doing awesome work in Denver and we hope to work with her again in the future.
As we mentioned in San Diego, we hope to push the dialogue regarding comics in the classroom beyond the simple question of whether or not comics should be allowed. These resources should help push past that argument into more critical planning and implementation of comics in the classrooms.
We’re going to continue the dialogue around comics in classrooms throughout the year. Updates will be posted here and Peter and I have been using the twitter hashtag #ComicEd to discuss comic books as well; join us!
Finally, we are in the process of building a Teacher’s Workshop for next year’s Comic Con International. This would be place to discuss and then build units and lesson plans involving comics and graphic novels. We’re aiming for the Wednesday before preview night at CCI. If you are interested in attending such a workshop and the possibility of corresponding course credits, let me know. This feedback will aid our proposal for the required time and space.
This presentation expands on the introductory work we shared last year to focus on the pragmatics of critical pedagogy and comic books in classrooms today. This will be a 50-minute hands-on presentation, so we encourage teachers to bring and share ideas throughout.
(And yes, our presentation mashes up Shakespeare quotes and Extreme. It’s that awesome.)
Aaron Kashtan (Georgia Institute of Technology) discusses why and how instructors can use comics to make students more aware of the materiality of media, both when analyzing media artifacts and when producing media artifacts of their own. Jeremy Johnson (University of Minnesota) describes empirical research on how teachers taught middle-school students about the Holocaust by using comics creation to share a nonfiction, research-based story. Peter Carlson (Green Dot Public Schools, UCLA) and Antero Garcia (Colorado State University) share the findings from their own research on how comic books can serve as tools to foster dialogue and nurture relationships that empower students.