Tag Archives: The Dark Knight

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.”

IMDBates: The Dark Knight

Here’s a link to a hilarious post on The Onion AV Club’s Link Blog, which presents some of the choicest debates raging within the forum on the IMDB page for The Dark Knight. It covers the contingent of women who think The Joker is sexy and how Maggie Gyllenhaal’s perceived lack of attractiveness almost ruined some posters’ enjoyment of the movie. So yeah, basically written by morons and parents-basment types. It’s long, but worth it:

 

http://www.avclub.com/content/blog/imdbates_the_dark_knight

 

miloprometheus

UPDATE . . . . . . Warner Bros. DC . . . ohhhhhhhh

Okay, I just watched Batman (like you’ve never seen him before) from 1989 and that is NOT an A movie. This throws my entire Warner Bros. DC list into doubt. I first saw this movie when I was 10 and loved it so hard I had sex with it. I’ve seen it many times but I guess maybe not for several years before tonight. I’m thinking I either watched it with a really critical eye for the first time or maybe The Dark Knight is just so good that this movie looks silly but whatever! The point is – this movie ain’t that great.

I can tell you what I loved about this movie when I was 10 – the Batsuit, the (few) hand-to-hand fight scenes, and Joker’s kewl one-liners. Well, now I realize that this batsuit is kinda clunky. For one thing, the head is really big. In the few shots where you can see Batman from the feet up, it’s pretty obvious as the head and shoulder pads are huge and then you look down and see Michael Keaton’s cute little chicken legs poking out from underneath the cape. The fights are pretty short and not as cool as they could be but they’re still okay. I’ll describe them now: 1) A swordsman swings his swords all over the place and Batman kicks him in the face. 2) In a cathedral, this dude does 30 backhandsprings before flying toward Batman with blades protruding from his boots (which is pretty cool) but Batman gets him in the nuts with his EXTENDING PALM . 3) A guy jumps at Batman and falls through the floor (pretty funny). 4) A big guy beats the shit out of Batman and then Batman’s Batchickenlegs pull him down a staircaise to his death.

The biggest issue with this movie is that it has no plot. I’ll sum it up for you: Gotham is turning 200 years old. There’s gonna be a party. Crime Boss’s Henchman is humping Crime Boss’s lady so Crime Boss sets up Henchman. Henchman becomes Joker, takes over crime and randomly does stuff that is bad. Batman randomly opposes him. Police do FUCKING NOTHING EVER. There’s a scene where Joker kills a dude on the courthouse steps and in the background you can see 2 cops just standing there doing NOTHING (and then they get shooted). Wait, is that part of the plot? In the newest movie, Joker basically does bad stuff randomly but at least he explains that he just thinks it’s fun. In this old movie, Joker seems half-crazy and half-just like any other crime boss.

This movie is campy, too, just like the old Batman TV show. When I was a kid I thought that the “new” 1989 Batman was dead serious and grim and awesome and the old show was silly but no, the 1989 movie is just silly in an ’80s way. I already mentioned the silly EXTENDING PALM on Batman’s glove. PS – Why did he implement such a feature? Was he really expecting to have to whack a guy in the nuts to avoid boot blades at some point? There’s a part where Batman flies in his Batwing jet and uses SCISSORS on the front of the jet to collect some parade balloons. ARGH! What was he planning for when designing the jet that he decided it should have scissors?

I dunno, man. This movie is a C.

kicknz

I very briefly grade all of the Warner Bros. DC Comics movies

* = I like it to some extent, even if has a bad grade

Superman: The Movie (A)
Superman II (A)
Superman III (C)*
Supergirl (C-)*
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (D)*
Superman Returns (C)

Batman (A)
Batman Returns (A)
Batman Forever (C+)*
Batman & Robin (D)*
Batman Begins (A)
The Dark Knight (A+)

Steel (D)
Catwoman (F)
Constantine (B-)
V For Vendetta (B-)

kicknz