Category Archives: art

Comics In The Classroom: Grand View University

By Greg Goode

Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, appears on Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century list.  In 2009, The New York Times began publishing a graphic novel bestseller list.  The same year, Heath Ledger wins an Oscar for his portrayal of The Joker, Batman’s arch-enemy, in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The comic book, long considered a disposable object exclusively for children, is finally getting some respect. Further validation for the art form can be found on college campuses, where graphic novels are becoming an increasingly common part of the curriculum, including at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Matt Plowman, Grand View’s associate professor of history, first experienced comics in the classroom at another institution as part of a critical thinking class on the Holocaust. Plowman said one of the most powerful texts the class read was Maus by Art Spigelman, a graphic novel about Spigelman’s father’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp.

“I’ve seen [graphic novels] used very effectively, and communicate things that just weren’t alive on the page of a history book,” Plowman said. “Literally, it’s graphing reality for them, picturing reality and playing with it.”

Later this semester in his European Cultural & Intellectual History class, Plowman will be using V For Vendetta by Moore and David Lloyd, a graphic novel about an anarchist’s war against authority in a near-future totalitarian England.

“With European intellectual history, you kind of have to show where society’s moving,” Plowman said. “So I was looking for something that was late 20th century, and particularly with where a lot of European thinkers were going, there’s a lot of dystopia. And the graphic novels tend to be on the edge of that.”

Plowman said he picked V For Vendetta partly because of the students familiarity with the story from its 2006 film adaptation.

“I wanted them to be able to see the original intent of Alan Moore and what he’s really trying to say about society,” Plowman said. “Sometimes it’s easier for some students, rather than trying to find a movie that has a traditional novel, where they have to do more literary criticism. Especially for the visual learners.”

Kevin Gannon, professor of history at Grand View, said he’s always been intrigued by the use of graphic novels in class. Two years ago, Gannon took part in a summer reading program for the Grand View freshman class that used Gene Luen Yung’s graphic novel American Born Chinese.

“I had never taught with that before and in my discipline, it’s not very common. We use pretty standard vanilla textbooks. I was intrigued with the idea,” Gannon said. “I was a bit intimidated by the idea, too, because I had no idea how to teach it. What I learned is that it’s just like any other text.”

This semester, Gannon is assigning A People’s History of American Empire, a graphic novel that adapts writings by radical historian Howard Zinn. Gannon said students have responded to the text enthusiastically.

“For me personally, a graphic novel fits right in with the way I structure my courses and what I want students to be able to do with the texts that we read,” Gannon said.

Other Grand View instructors utilizing comics include Ken Jones, who assigned the zombie apocalypse story The Walking Dead in his Introduction to Ethics class this semester and Jim Whyte, who has given students the task of creating their own comics in his Principles of Management class.

Gannon said he sees the use of graphic novels in his class as a way of expanding his students’ ideas of what materials can be used in the classroom environment.

“I ask my students to be open-minded and look at different things as text, not just the standard printed page,” Gannon said. “If I’m going to ask my students to look at a text in that way, I should be willing to do the same myself.  And that’s where graphic novels help stretch me as a teacher.”

tree of life

epic trailer!

tree of life

writer//director: terrence malick
cinematography: emmanuel lubezki
starring: brad pitt, jessica chastain, sean penn

watch the much more beautiful, high res version here.

lovingly, always–

natsky

70 Aspects of Batman: 34

JOHN ROMITA JR.

From Wikipedia:

John Salvatore Romita, Jr. (born August 17, 1956) is an American comic book artist best known for his extensive work for Marvel Comics from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Romita was born in New York City, the son of John Romita, Sr., co-creator of several notable Spider-Man stories in the 1960s and 1970s.

He began his career at Marvel UK, doing sketches for covers of reprints. His American debut was with a six page story entitled “Chaos at the Coffee Bean!” in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11 (1977).

Romita’s early popularity began with his run on Iron Man with writer David Michelinie and artist Bob Layton which began in 1978. In the early 1980s, he had his first regular run on the Amazing Spider-Man series and also was the artist for the launch of the Dazzler series. Working with writer Roger Stern on Amazing Spider-Man, he co created the character Hobgoblin. From 1983 to 1986 he had a run on the popular Uncanny X-Men with Dan Green and author Chris Claremont which was well-received. He would return for a second well-received run on Uncanny X-Men in 1993.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Romita enjoyed an extended stint on Daredevil with writer Ann Nocenti and Eisner Award-winning inker Al Williamson, noted for its creation of long-running Daredevil nemesis Typhoid Mary. His work on Daredevil was well-received, with Romita Jr. further refining his style.

Romita later collaborated with Frank Miller on a Daredevil origin story entitled Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, a revisiting of the character’s origin. He worked on a host of Marvel titles during the 1990s, including The Punisher War Zone, the Hulk, the Cable mini-series, The Mighty Thor, a return to Iron Man for the second Armor Wars written by John Byrne, and the Punisher/Batman cross-over. Klaus Janson was a frequent inker.

In the 2000s, Romita had a well-received return to The Amazing Spider-Man with writer J. Michael Straczynski. He drew Marvel’s Wolverine with author Mark Millar as part of the character’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration. In 2004, Romita’s creator-owned project The Gray Area was published by Image Comics. Romita’s art has since appeared in Black Panther, The Sentry and Ultimate Vision, a backup story featured in the Ultimate line, written by author Mark Millar.

In 2006, Romita collaborated with writer Neil Gaiman on the reinterpretation of Jack Kirby‘s The Eternals in the form of a seven-issue limited series. Romita worked with Greg Pak on the five issue main comic of Marvel’s 2007 crossover event, World War Hulk.

In 2008, Romita again returned to Amazing Spider-Man. He is also collaborating once more with Mark Millar, for a creator-owned series, Kick-Ass, published by Marvel’s Icon imprint. The Filming of the Movie: Kick-Ass, began in September 2008. Romita, one of the producers, made his directorial debut by directing an animated flashback sequence in the film.

Romita is the regular artist for Avengers, which relaunched the franchise in May 2010.

John Romita Jr. may be the best pure superhero artist working in comics today. Over the course of his over 30 year career he has worked almost exclusively for Marvel Comics, so any images of characters from other companies by him. Fortunately, in the mid-90s before Marvel and DC became parts of huge conglomerates and were still open to crossovers, Romita Jr. drew a Batman/Punisher one-shot. For a reader used to Romita’s work only appearing in Marvel comics, seeing the denizens of Gotham City drawn in his style creates a certain cognitive dissonance…but once the brain adjusts, it’s a great visual experience. To date, apart from a sketch or two, Romita Jr. hasn’t drawn Batman since, which is a shame as his style has become more stripped down and direct as time’s gone on…kind of like this sketch below, done years after the one-shot:

I love this sequence from Batman/Punisher…it’s a well drawn sequence that flows and says a lot about the characters portrayed in it:

G.

Audio Recommendations 3

BraidsNative Speaker (2o11).

Saw these dudettes and dudes last month with Baths. They put on a great show. And the album is great too. Kinda like a better version of Yeasayer.

This is the first song on the album. It’s called “Lemonade”

here they are performing it live:

 

 

Next up, David Sandstrom’s 2000 album, Om Det Inte Hander Nat Innan Imorgon Sa Kommer Jag. I had a hard time choosing a song to share, cuz they’re all epic. Seriously.

This is “Nar Hjartat Svider”

Here’s David and Frida Hyvonen performing some songs from a different album:

 

 

Trans Am’s Thing, from 2010. Listen to it. Fabulous album. Dirty. Dancey. Noisy.

This song is called “Naked Singularity”

Here they are destroying some shit live:

 

 

And finally…

I’ve been listening to Second Coming by The Stone Roses quite a bit. Like Trans Am, these are some sexy songs. However, they’re actually nothing like Trans Am.

This was their comeback single, “Love Spreads”. The guitar is brutal.

and I couldn’t find a good version of this live, so here’s the video:

 

-Scott

ps- parts 1 and 2. and other recommendations.

70 Aspects of Batman: 33

WALT SIMONSON


From Wikipedia:

Walter “Walt” Simonson (born September 2, 1946) is an American comic book writer and artist.

Simonson’s breakthrough illustration job was Manhunter, a backup feature in DC’s Detective Comics written by Archie Goodwin. In a 2000 interview, Simonson recalled that “What Manhunter did was to establish me professionally. Before Manhunter, I was one more guy doing comics; after Manhunter, people in the field knew who I was. It’d won a bunch of awards the year that it ran, and after that, I really had no trouble finding work.”

Simonson is best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor and X-Factor (the latter being a collaboration with his wife Louise Simonson). Simonson took nearly complete control of Thor, during which he transformed Thor into a frog for three issues and introduced the supporting character Beta Ray Bill, an alien warrior who unexpectedly proved worthy to wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He started as writer & artist with issue #337 (Nov. 1983) and continued until #367 (May 1986). Sal Buscema became the artist on the title with #368 but Simonson continued to write the book until issue #382 (Aug. 1987).

Simonson became writer of the Fantastic Four with issue #334 (Dec. 1989), and three issues later began penciling and inking as well (#337, coincidentally the same issue number he started as writer & artist of Thor).

From 2003 to 2006, he drew the four issue prestige mini-series Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, written by Elric‘s creator, Michael Moorcock. This series was collected as a 192 page graphic novel in 2007 by DC. He continued to work for DC in 2006 writing Hawkgirl, with pencillers Howard Chaykin, Joe Bennett, and Renato Arlem.

Recent work includes cover artwork for a Bat Lash mini-series and the ongoing series Vigilante, as well as writing a Wildstorm comic book series based on the online role-playing game World of Warcraft for Wildstorm. The Warcraft series ran 25 issues and was co-written with his wife, Louise Simonson.

Walt Simonson first drew Batman during his acclaimed Manhunter stories with Archie Goodwin; he also drew a handful of issues of both Batman and Detective Comics in the late 70s and early 80s. His last Batman comic art to date was, as far as I can tell, a Batman Black & White story in 1996.

However, he’s found time to do numerous covers and sketches of the Dark Knight over the years in between his legendary runs on The Mighty Thor, Fantastic Four and Orion, to name a few.

 

 

Walt Simonson is one of comic’s true originals in my opinion. Though his debt to Kirby is apparent, he takes that influence and, like John Romita Jr., makes his work unmistakeably his own.

G.

Audio Recommendations 2

Struggling to keep my new year’s resolution.

Part 1  is HERE.

Okay. I promise to put at least one 2011 album in each of these recommendation posts. Here it is:

Jonathan Richman’s O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth. More of the same from this beautiful man. Which is a good thing. What else would you want?

Here’s a song about poseurs. It’s called “My Affected Accent”.

and here he is performing it live:

 

 

You guys have listened to The xx’s self-titled album, right? Well I hadn’t. Whoops. It’s good.

This is “Basic Space”. Love the rhythms.

 

 

Here’s a classic that I’d never listened to. Nina Simone’s Finest Hour.

Although it sounds like a musical at times, “Mississippi Goddam” is brutal. So much passion/emotion. Very real.

 

 

And I’m gonna throw in a classic that’s been getting a lot of play. Lifter Puller’s Soft Rock [disc 1]. This is a collection of everything except their last album.

The song’s called “Viceburgh”…

tiger can’t talk he’s got shoes to shine, said it’s pretty dry
we could try the guy up on first and fifty-ninth if he’s still alive
the callgirl stalls and lets her voicemail take it
she says hey i ain’t here besides i quit that business
the door was locked so we knocked on the next one
and here’s this guy he’s got a bullet-proof vest on
said you guys look desparate,Ill give you an address
said you guys look gorgeous, dig all that blistex

-Scott

ps- for other recommendations, check out the features: Canon Sonique and Stuck on Repeat.

Audio Recommendations

So my resolution this year is to listen to more music. Yes, I realize this is like a heroin addict resolving to shoot up twice as much as he did the previous wasted year. However… I’m also resolving to listen to more NEW music, which is something I really slacked off on in 2010.

Here is where I tell the world about it…

For the most part, I’m not going to write reviews about this stuff. I’ll just point you guys in the right direction. If I post it, that means I think it’s good. Give it a listen and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you!

First off, I’m already falling behind on the new music thing. The only new album I’ve listened to is Bright Eyes’ new album, “The People’s Key”. This album isn’t out yet (it’s scheduled for release 2/15). Whoops! But you can hear it for free, and in it’s entirety, on NPR, so don’t feel bad.

Okay… so here’s the first track, “Firewall”. Like on most Bright Eyes albums (if not all?) it begins with some spoken word nonsense. This time, the atmospheric composition behind the vocal sample begs for these boys to attempt an entire ambient album. Maybe I’ll suggest that.

Oh yes… and any song that references a Macaw named Jules Verne might automatically end up in my favorites pile.

Next up… Nocturama, the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 2003 release.

It really digs its claws in. Here’s “He Wants You”:

Another one that I’ve been listening to for WEEKS now is Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks Soundtrack.

So mysterious! I was going to just post the theme, since it’s so good, but I decided to put “Audrey’s Dance (Instrumental)” up instead.

And finally… you guys should listen to The Gorillaz latest album, Plastic Beach. It’s the best Gorillaz album so far.

It was hard to pick which song would represent the album the best. So I just chose my current favorite, “White Flag”, featuring Bashy, Kano, and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music.

-Scott

ps- for other recommendations, check out the features: Canon Sonique and Stuck on Repeat.