Tag Archives: comic books

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.”

Laconic Oration – December

Here are a small number of images from Laconic Oration, an image-blog maintained by Natalie and myself.

They were all posted during the month of December, and there are plenty more where these came from.

ps-  click  here, here, and here to see small collections from September, October, and November.

View more at http://laconicoration.tumblr.com


Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp

There was once an internment/refugee camp in France that went by the name of Gurs. During WWII, after France joined up with the Nazis, Camp Gurs became home to non-French Jews and other “dangerous” people. Although this was a concentration camp, and obviously not a nice place to live, the people within Gurs were able to create for themselves a community that thrived on the arts. One prisoner, named Horst Rosenthal, created a couple of comic works before his death. One was titled “A Day in the Life of a Resident: Gurs Internment Camp, 1942”. I can’t find much about this one, but the other one, which a lot of people seem to love, is called “Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp – Published without Walt Disney’s Permission.” Here are some panels:

you can read more about it in a paper titled: Mickey Mouse in Gurs – Humour, Irony and Criticism in Works of Art Produced in the Gurs Internment Camp.


via Boing Boing, Scribd, and Disney History.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Making Garfield Funny

Let’s talk about garfield.

everybody knows garfield. everybody loves garfield. if the garfield strip was removed from your local newspaper, it would create boycotts and petitions and the possibility of a car or two being upturned and set on fire. however… garfield is NOT FUNNY. as far as i can tell, garfield has NEVER BEEN FUNNY. over the years i’ve pondered what makes comic strips like this, and most of it’s newspaper companions, so dear to so many people. one day, i might share my theories, but not today! this post is less about human behavior, and more about fixing the problem of humor comics that lack the ability to make us feel anything but scorn.

exhibit a:

exhibit b:

exhibit c:

(at least with these old strips the art is so atrocious that you can get some pleasure out of looking at it. but in the end, old jim had to go and ruin that too.)

okay. now that we can all agree upon the complete waste of time that is garfield, let’s look at the projects of a few brave people who are actively working to solve this problem.

1.) garfield minus garfield
“Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”

2.) The Eagle_Fire Garfield Randomizer
“…so this guy noticed that Garfield comics make just as much sense if you throw random panels together, and sometimes are actually pretty funny. He got a cease and desist letter. So he made the code available for people who wanted to try it for themselves. Here we go!”

so there you have it. i, for one, am glad there are people out there who have decided to dedicate their lives to fight for real, substantial change. thank you.


Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Furl | Newsvine

Trains Are…Mint

Today, after rolling around until the mail came, I went to Chicago Comics (where the employees were pretty rude and the customers seemed to be stuck-up assholes… EG: I overheard one customer tell his less-enlightened friends very loudly in a condescending manner how Persepolis is something he discovered and it’s the greatest thing they’ve never heard of. Ughh). Anyway…Chicago Comics has a pretty great Small Press section along with a very substantial Self-Published section. I ended up buying Trains Are…Mint by Briton Oliver East. His writing is just okay, but his watercolors in a comic are fun to look at.



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):




Your complete guide to Street Fighter (and related Capcom fighting games)

PS – These ALL debuted in the arcade.

1987 Street Fighter
The game that really started it all. It looks great for 1987 with very detailed backgrounds and raw audio. Unfortunately, it plays like shit. The animations are very rigid so you can’t do things like jump and kick when you want to – you jump, hit the kick button and then at a specific point in the sequence your guy kicks. Also, almost every enemy is much stronger and faster than you. I only beat the game by playing very defensively. Only Ryu and Ken are playable. In spite of its shittiness I have grown to like this game.

1991 Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
(plus 4 updates – SFII Champion Edition, SFII Hyper Fighting, Super SFII, Super SFII Turbo)
The importance of this game can’t be overstated. It single-handedly made the fighting genre mainstream and it quite literally kickstarted a short renaissance for the struggling US arcade market. In this game the controls are perfect and you have a large, colorful cast of characters to choose from. This game also began Capcom’s practice of re-releasing a game with some incremental upgrades/improvements.

1993 Saturday Night Slam Masters
What if Street Fighter was a wrestling game? Saturday Night Slam Masters is what! It’s actually a lot more of a wrestling game than a fighting game but it has the Street Fighter look and some special moves.

1994 Super Muscle Bomber
The sequel to Slam Masters and now it’s much more of a traditional fighting but with grappling. The gameplay is actually pretty unique and more difficult to master than most fighters but I’d always choose SFII over it.

1994 Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors
(plus 2 updates: Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, Vampire Savior)
When I first saw this game in a magazine my thought was, “Wow, Capcom is really scared to make a Street Fighter III.” I still feel that this game, which runs on a new engine, was basically a test run for the next Street Fighter. The main difference is that it introduces a cast of horror movie stereotypes that are somehow not overly interesting. This game also introduced Capcom’s new art style and their new arcade hardware: the CPS2. There are 2 “sequels” to this game that are really just updates, each improving on the last. Somehow, this game is just not as fun as a standard SF game but the last version, Vampire Savior aka Darkstalkers 3 really improved the engine to the point that it’s pretty decent.

1994 X-Men: Children of the Atom
Perhaps another test run for the next SF game but this one has more personality than Darkstalkers. I especially like that they chose some rather obscure X-Men characters and ignored some of the regulars. Magneto is damned hard in this game!

1995 Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams
(plus 2 updates: Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3)
Goddamn, they sure were afraid to make a SFIII! Instead they made this ‘prequel’. In all respects other than story, this is the true sequel to SFII and it’s pretty sweet. The cast is somewhat small but this was corrected in the updates. Street Fighter Alpha 3 really outdoes itself and might be the funnest Capcom fighter.

1995 Marvel Super Heroes
Basically like X-Men but with other Marvel Universe homies thrown in.

1996 X-Men vs. Street Fighter
(plus 1 update: Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter)
This game introduced the whole tag team element to the series and does it very well, with some awesome super moves thrown in to boot. Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter is just a roster change and reuses backgrounds and even the final boss.

1996 Red Earth
A very bizarre and unique entry in the series. There are only 4 selectable characters plus 8 boss characters. Apparently, this game was meant to take a long time because there is a password feature! The bosses have a whole shitload of life and are very difficult to beat in one life but when you die you can just put in another quarter and pick up where you left off. I have to say this is really lame – beating the game has more to do with how many quarters you have rather than your skill. Still, it plays really well and looks awesome, introducing Capcom’s new hardware, the ill-fated CPS3.

1996 Street Fighter EX
(plus 2 updates Street Fighter EX2, Street Fighter EX3)
SF goes 3D with mixed results. Some characters are still fun to play with but others are sluggish. It’s fun to see things in 3D but the blocky polygons just don’t compare to the excellent sprites in the 2D games. Sorry! PS – Developed by Arika, a company made up of former Capcom developers.

1997 Rival Schools
Capcom makes their own 3D fighter with much better results, featuring a new crazy cast of high school students and teachers, apparently trying to solve a mystery involving kidnappings or something. Whatever! It’s fun and frantic and you can hit a volleyball.

1997 Pocket Fighter
Awwww, it’s little cute versions of the SF cast. A lot of people adore this game but I’m split. It looks great but it’s very random and just too nutty for me to LOOOOOVE.

1997 Street Fighter III: New Generation
(plus 2 updates – SFIII: Second Impact, SFIII: Third Strike)
By the time this came out there were no longer droves of people begging for a SFIII. In spite of a perhaps off-putting cast, it’s a great game and it has extremely advanced animation for a 2D game. The fighting system is deep and has a lot of variety. Didn’t have nearly the exposure of SFII or SF Alpha.

1998 JoJo’s Venture
(plus update: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
The sprites look Street Fightery but the fighting is almost all-out wacky. I beat the game and I still couldn’t tell you how this special move works or that whatever works. I’m dizzy.

1998 Marvel vs. Capcom
Apparently, people wanted more of the old CPS2 style games so the SF Alpha/Darkstalkers/Marvel engine was dusted off for this big-ass crossover. Although it looks just like those older games its playing style is its own – it’s insane and wild in a way that makes sense. A very fun game.

1999 Capcom vs SNK: Millennium Fight 2000
The big crossover with the company that made a career out of copying Street Fighter, good ol’ SNK. In spite of the title, this is really a Capcom fighting game that happens to have SNK characters in it. It’s fun but not all that different from SF Alpha and not as innovative as Marvel vs Capcom.

2000 Marvel vs. Capcom 2
This is where the wackiness goes too far and loses me somewhat. For one thing, the big special moves are basically performed with a single button, at the expense of a striking button. And there’s a big cactus guy that was never in a Capcom game or a Marvel comic. I dunno. I don’t hate it but . ..

2000 Capcom vs SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001
Oh, good, more of the same (but not quite an update).

2004 Capcom Fighting Evolution
As you can see, things slowed down in a major way and then some idiot at Capcom had the idea for this game: let’s do a “crossover” between SFII, SFAlpha, SFIII, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth. What do you get? A really uneven game that uses the original sprites from the games mentioned and feels like a real cut and paste job. I don’t think the giant boss characters from Red Earth were ever meant to be playable and I’d say this game confirms that position. Kind of a bad note to end on . . .

Street Fighter IV is currently in the later stages of development. It looks pretty fun but seems to be too beholden to SFII. It’s in 3D but the characters a hand-drawn level of detail and the gameplay is 2D. Will it be good? Will it launch 3,000 spin-offs? Time will tell. There is also a more traditional game in the works, Capcom vs Tatsunara. Neat!

If a lot of these games look similar it’s because they ARE. The Street Fighter Alpha engine, in particular, was used over and over. I consider the following games to be unique:

Street Fighter
Street Fighter II
Street Fighter Alpha
Street Fighter EX
Street Fighter III
Saturday Night Slam Masters
Red Earth
Pocket Fighter
Rival Schools
JoJo’s Venture
Marvel vs. Capcom

Everything else is essentially a roster swap or an update.