Thursday, September 4, 2014

UW Comics Theory Course Blog

If you follow this blog, you might be interested in the blog I've set up for the Comics Theory course I'm teaching this fall. It will feature some course content, but the main emphasis will be on student posts on comics theory and practice. As of now the syllabus is up and soon there will be content from the students. Check it out here:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I will be speaking about Graphic Encounters at The Incredible Comic Show, a comic book art opening, on Saturday, September 28 at Glass Monkey Studios in Windsor. It should be an excellent night.

CFP: Comics, Multimodality, and Composition (A Special Issue of Composition Studies)

I'm editing a special issue of Composition Studies (Spring 2015) entitled "Comics, Multimodality, and Composition." Here's the CFP. Please consider submitting (the deadline is August 1, 2014) and please share the CFP widely.

CFP for 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy

It's been a long time since my last post to this blog. The majority of the previous posts were written by students in the comics classes I have taught over the past several years. Since I am not teaching such a class this year, the blog will now revert back to my own explorations of comics and comics theory.

In the past couple of years I have been busy working on my book on comics and literacy. It's called Graphic Encounters: Comics and the Sponsorship of Multimodal Literacy and was published last week in North America by Bloomsbury Academic (out in October in the UK). To say the least, I'm very excited about its release.

Here's the description of the book and the Table of Contents:

Graphic Encounters moves beyond seeing the reading of comics as a debased or simplified word-based literacy. Dale Jacobs argues compellingly that we should consider comics as multimodal texts in which meaning is created through linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial realms in order to achieve effects and meanings that would not be possible in either a strictly print or strictly visual text. Jacobs advances two key ideas: one, that reading comics involves a complex, multimodal literacy and, two, that by studying how comics are used to sponsor multimodal literacy, we can engage more deeply with the ways students encounter and use these and other multimodal texts. Looking at the history of how comics have been used (by churches, schools, and libraries among others) will help us, as literacy teachers, best use that knowledge within our curricula, even as we act as sponsors ourselves.

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Secret Origins of Literacy Sponsorship

Chapter 3: To Blend In or Stand Out: Publishers’ Responses to “A National Disgrace” and the Comics Panic of the Early 1940s

Chapter 4: More at Stake: EC, Vampires, and the Sponsorship of Critical Literacy

Chapter 5: Oral Roberts Discovers Comics and Archie Goes to Church: Sponsoring Multimodal Literacy through Religious Comics

Chapter 6: Teaming Up for Literacy: Spider-Man, The Electric Company, and Cross-Media Literacy Sponsorship

Chapter 7: Libraries and the Sponsorship of Literacy through Comics

Now that the book is out, I will endeavour to be better about keeping up with the blog, particularly as I move forward with my next project. More on that later.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s "Local", Site Specificity and Character Development

A post by Cristina Naccarato, a student in my Winter 2010 Graphic Novels class.

Writer: Brian Wood
Illustrator: Ryan Kelly
Publisher: Oni Press
Analysis: Cristina Naccarato

Local was a twelve-part limited comic book series, written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, and published by Oni Press. Each issue of Local (like Wood’s more recent series, Demo) was intended to be a stand-alone short story that took place in a different city across North America. Though each issue was mean to be self-contained, a recurring character, Megan, acts as a thread for the reader of this monthly who followed the series in sequence. In some issues, Megan is the main character, and in others, she is merely a spectator, or background figure, yet always recognizable, with her large oval eyes, freckled nose, and key around her neck. As Local went on, it became more of a coming of age story for Megan, while still maintaining it’s establishment as a stand-alone series.
Local in many ways, explores the notion of personal identity, and the idea of how identity is often shaped more by where you are, rather than by who you are. Location in terms of identity is crucial, and for Megan, in every city she travels to, she can reinterpret herself recreate her image as much as she wants. For example, in issue #5, “The Last Lonely Days at the Oxford Theatre,” located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Megan recreates personal and physical identity throughout the entire narration. Her hair progressively gets shorter, and shorter, her personal history changes each time she encounters a new person, and she also presents herself with a different name each time. Being new to Halifax, Megan’s location allows her to do this without any repercussions, and emphasizes how location is at times indicative of how you identify with yourself.
In terms of locations, and Megan’s constant traveling, the site specificities of each issue make it “Local” to the people who are familiar with the locations, and act as a way in which Wood and Kelly could relate on a more personal level with their readers. Wood mentions in an interview with Comic Book Resources, “I picked twelve cities and towns for the stories, both for aesthetic reasons and commercial (I wanted cities that has strong indie comic shops, so that the book would actually be found there).” Each issue contains real places that readers can identify with, and in turn, also draw from their own personal memories of said places, which creates another element that readers can connect with in a profound way.
As above mentioned, though each issue is meant to be self-contained, and can be read this way, the progression of Megan’s identity throughout the entire series, shows a movement from a confused drifter, to someone who is more self-aware and stable. Another element most young adult readers can relate with. This progress, however, can only be seen by reading the entire series in succession.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, the Visual Construction of Identity, and "The Veil"

A post by Cristina Naccarato, a student in my Winter 2010 Graphic Novels class.

Persepolis by: Marjane Satrapi
Cristina Naccarato
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, as mentioned by J. Kyle Lebel in a previous post, is an autobiographical memoir about a young woman growing up during the Islamic Revolution, the capture of the American Embassy, and the Iran-Iraq War. Persepolis is an autographic (as Whitlock and Poletti describe in their essay, Self-Regarding Art, " Life narrative fabricated in and through drawing and design using various technologies, modes, and materials") exploring Satrapi’s own personal history, but also how her own history is intertwined with the history of her country, and in turn how her identity has been constructed through these relationships.

Satrapi’s recollection of her experience depicts how great of an impact the Islamic revolution has on her own life, as well as the lives of young Iranian women. One of the biggest impacts these women had to face was the forced wearing of “the veil.” This was a direct symbol of the force that Islamic fundamentalism had on the bodies of Muslim girls and women. Satrapi specifically, growing up in a radical family with two parents who were Marxist intellectuals, found this particularly restrictive, and threatening, and in turn, experienced a loss of self in this process.
Satrapi’s use of a black and white panel, emphasizes this lack of individuality, yet, she very consciously individualizes each character through herdrawings. Her female figures are human, have their own character, and individuality traits even with the veil on. By visually showing their restrictive appearance, but then adding specific character differentiations, Satrapi multi-modally constructs the identity of her characters, emphasizing that each woman is unique.
For example, in this frame, each girl has been drawn, seemingly exactly the same, but on closer inspection, Satrapi has given each female a different hairstyle, different eyes and different nose, which emphasizes her notion that these girls are all unique.

By consciously constructing individuality, Satrapi’s intend to honor the resistence of Iranian women is successful. Veiled women are often dehumanized and classified as indistinguishable, but Satrapi breaks these barriers and subverts the view of Iranian women, presenting them as individual as Western women.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Arthrology in "Incognito"

A post by Deni Kasa, a student in my Winter 2010 Graphic Novels class.

Incognito Iss. 1
Ed Brubaker (writer)
Sean Phillips (penciller)
Val Staples (inker)
Icon [Marvel Comics]

"Incognito" is the story of Zack Overkill, a superhuman criminal who confessed against his employers to get accepted into the witness protection program. He is safe so long as he stays "incognito", but his boredom with ordinary life leads him to try to get his powers back. Needless to say, his cover is blown shortly thereafter. This sets up the plot of a very interesting and morally gray superhero story centered around self-discovery, rather than abstract ideas of right and wrong.

The first issue establishes Zack's dissatisfaction with his everyday life as an office clerk in the witness protection program. The main plot of the issue follows Zack's movement from one rebellious act on a Christmas party (he has sex with one of his co-workers) to his renewed adoption of a super-persona. This plot is mirrored as a subtle arthrological "narration" in some recurring vertically-oriented panels on the left page of a few two-page spreads in the issue. I believe that, if they are taken alone, the progression from the first of these panels to the last mirrors the general plot of the issue.

The first vertical panel on page 6 shows Zack right after having sex with his co-worker, thus breaking the rules of his workplace. The perspective is from the top of the city--as a superhero might view the city--and it is only until the next panel that this perspective makes sense: Zack is standing on the roof of his building. This panel, therefore, foreshadows the implications of his first transgressive act. On page 10, the second vertically oriented panel occupies the same space in the two-page spread as the one on page six. This panel offers a view of the city from the street-level: Zack has just been reminded that he is just an ordinary person now, and the panel reflects the deflation of the hopes he had in page 6. On page 14, the next vertical panel--in the same place and of the same size as the previous two--depicts Zack standing over a ruin of a recent fight between supermutants. Although it is white-washed by the media, the truth behind the event is clear as day to Zack, who then meditates on the way he will use to regain his powers. The last vertically-oriented panel on page 18 (the appropriate page according to the pattern every four pages) is not as long as the others, making it stand out. It also stands out because this is the first panel when Zack Overkill appears in his new costume. The mini-plot of the vertical panels is complete: Zack proceeds from great hopes to a sharp emotional deflation, then to an assessment of the activity of superhumans in his universe, to his new resolve to assume his place among those superhumans again.

The arthrology of these vertical panels on pages 6, 10, 14 and 18 constructs a compendious version of this issue's plot. This means that in addition to the ordinary ways in which arthrology constructs a text, in this particular issue it allows for panels that form part of both the larger text of the comic as a whole and a four-panel "mini-text" that summarizes the plot.

Deni Kasa