Tag Archives: alan moore

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.”

A literary recommendation: Promethea


published by America’s Best Comics/Wildstorm Comics 1999-2005
story and script by Alan Moore
pencil art by J.H. Williams III
ink art by Mick Gray
color art by various
calligraphy by Todd Klein

Like H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, most of Alan Moore’s great works have been serialized.  Promethea was originally released in 32 pamphlets.  It was not presented as a limited series but it’s beginning, middle and end were clearly determined before the first issue was released.  The series has been collected into five books but there are no self-contained story arcs.  In other words, Promethea is a comprehensive work and should be read as such.

I’m not going to talk a whole lot about the premise.  Go to Wikipedia for that.  I would prefer to talk about what I think makes Promethea so great.  First, I’ve never seen a comic that is so successfully experimental.  Moore and Williams constantly seem to search for new ways to present their story.  The layouts are excellent, clearly the best I’ve ever seen.  That’s a tough concession for me to make as a Ninja Turtles comics fan, as I always felt the classic Mirage comics had the most creative layouts I’ve seen.  However, Promethea‘s pages are gorgeous and often contain elaborate border designs.

The story usually moves forward well, although there are sequences that maybe could have moved along a bit more briskly.  Moore peppers the narrative with famous magicians and cultists from real life, including Aleister Crowley.  Also present are elements of practically every major religion and famous cult.  Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, and especially Kabbala Jews are welcome.  Moore clearly loves the supernatural.

There are many light but sensitively-portrayed sexual themes and the various incarnations of Promethea are statuesque and gorgeous. Promethea is never presented in a salacious manner and, while attractive, she seems almost motherly and untouchable. There is also some violence in the story but none of it feels as immediate or gritty as the bone-crunching action in Watchmen or V for Vendetta. Most of the real adult material comes in the form of conversations, sometimes deep with many layers and sometimes drowning in silly occultism.

There is a maturity and depth to the entire story that fans of Moore are likely familiar with. On the other hand, there is complete mayhem and nonsense, like the entire character of the Painted Clown. In most Moore stories that I’ve read, everything makes sense in the end but there are several characters and situations in Promethea that are resolved in ridiculous but enjoyable manners.

But in the end the real star of the whole thing is the art, the layouts, and the presentation, which I’m sure Moore and Williams planned together. So do yourself a flavor and chuck it out.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 15

eddie_campbell_BatmanTheOrderofBeasts24

EDDIE CAMPBELL

Eddie Campbell (born 10 August 1955) is a Scottish comics artist and cartoonist who now lives in Australia. Probably best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), Campbell is also the creator of the semi-autobiographical Alec stories, and Bacchus (aka Deadface), a wry adventure series about the few Greek gods who have survived to the present day. His graphic novel The Fate of the Artist, which playfully investigates Campbell’s own sudden disappearance, was published in May 2006 by First Second Books. His latest graphic novel, The Black Diamond Detective Agency, was published in June 2007, also by First Second Books.

His scratchy pen-and-ink style is influenced by the impressionists, illustrators of the age of “liberated penmanship” such as Phil May, Charles Dana Gibson, John Leech and George du Maurier, and cartoonists Milton Caniff and Frank Frazetta (particularly his Johnny Comet strip). His writing has been compared to Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller.


Batman-Order-of-Beasts-Eddie-Campbell

Campbell’s most substantial Batman-related work can be found within the covers of the above one-shot, released in 2003. Batman: Order Of The Beasts is an Elseworlds story that features a 1930s Dark Knight in an England on the brink of war. The Batman becomes embroiled in a conflict with the titular order, and hijinks ensue. Campbell isn’t exactly known for his superhero work, so it’s a rare treat to see his take on a costumed adventurer. Beasts flew under the radar on its release in 2003, but it’s a great little book and well worth seeking out.

bats

G.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 11

batman_brian_bolland

BRIAN BOLLAND

batman-gk29

From Wikipedia:

Brian Bolland (born 1951)[1] is a British comics artist, known for his meticulous, detailed linework and eye-catching compositions. Best known in the UK as one of the definitive Judge Dredd artists for British comics anthology 2000 AD, he spearheaded the ‘British Invasion‘ of the American comics industry, and in 1982 produced the artwork on Camelot 3000 (with author Mike W. Barr), which was DC’s first 12-issue comicbook maxiseries[2] created for the direct market.[3]

8745_400x600

In addition to the above credits, Bolland is most widely known as the artist of one of the definitive Batman stories, The Killing Joke. Created in collaboration with writer Alan Moore, The Killing Joke explored the unique relationship shared by Batman and The Joker, providing a template that would underline almost every subsequent portrayal of the dynamic between these characters (up to and including 2008’s Dark Knight film).

Years in the making before its eventual release in 1988, The Killing Joke is, sadly, one of the few complete interior art jobs that Bolland has done in the past 20 years. As you can see, his art style is incredibly detailed and, presumably, incredibly time consuming.

comicad-batman-the-killing-joke

As such, he mainly sticks to covers. Here is a gallery of various Batman-related covers he’s illustrated over the years, many of which come from his extended run as cover artist for Batman: Gotham Knights.


batman-447-cover

3-1

2-1

15-1

23-1

24-1

30-1

34-1

43-1

46-1

119-1

50-1

6227_400x600

bem-28-cover

WorldsFunnest

Unlike most comic artists (who still use the traditional pencil and paper illustration method), Brian Bolland has exclusively utilized a Wacom tablet for producing his artwork since the 90s. This allows Bolland more control over the artwork in all capacities, from drawing to coloring. Unfortunately, it also means there is no original artwork for the collectors to search for.

Bolland has also had a Black and White statue based on his work…

3735_a_full

…and figures based on his Killing Joke work.

C109113

So yeah, I love this guy’s work. It’s a tragedy that he hasn’t done more interior stuff, but I guess I must learn to appreciate what I get, which is a regular stream of some of the best comic covers being produced today. I’ll defintely do another Brian Bolland themed post down the line, but I’ve still got a million 70 Aspects Of Batman posts to do. Y’know, I guess sometimes it’s

batman bolland

P.S. Here’s a link to a short story Bolland both wrote and drew for the Batman: Black And White anthology, entitled “An Innocent Guy”. He has said of this story that “if anyone were to ask me what is the thing I’ve done in my career that I’m most pleased with, it would be this.” Enjoy.

G.

WATCHMEN: THE TRAILER

Photobucket

I know a lot of people here are big fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s seminal comic Watchmen. With that in mind, here is the trailer for the movie version directed by Zack Synder (300):

http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/watchmen/

Discuss.

miloprometheus