Tag Archives: education

Comics Creator Eleanor Davis Arrested at Georgia Regents Protest

Eleanor Davis, the creator behind You & a Bike & a Road, Libby’s Dad, How To Be Happy, and more was arrested at a protest at Tuesday’s Georgia Board of Regents meeting. They were charged with obstruction and trespassing charges.

Davis, along with others, were protesting “the system’s policies that restrict those without legal immigration status.” The policy bars attendance from five of the state’s top universities and paying in-state tuition at others.

The Board members chickened walked out of the meeting when the protest began but later returned.

The protest was a mix of “faith leaders and current and former University System of Georgia students.” Similar protests have been held at previous meetings and organized by the Atlanta-based Freedom University. That organization provides tuition-free college preparation for students impacted by this policy.

Davis has been released after the Georgia Civil Disobedience Fund paid her bail.

Creators Corner: Opening the Doors to Comics in the Classroom

As a life-long comics fan, I’ve always tried to remove the blinders from people’s eyes and make them see the value of comics, to open the doors that prevented them from entering into this new and wonderful world. In grade school, I strong-armed my friends into taking trips to the comics store with me. In middle school, I took a brief detour and closed the doors on comics–finding yourself and accepting yourself in middle school is hard enough without having to embrace the label of “Comic Geek,” especially since most people’s frame of reference for comic fans at the time was The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy.

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Eventually, in high school, I grew tired of having this secret identity and would proudly proclaim my love of comics, shoving comics into the hands of friends based on interest. A friend liked the action, intrigue and conspiracies of the Bourne books–check out 100 Bullets. A friend already liked Neil Gaiman’s prose work–check out Sandman. A friend and I connected over our shared love of the 90s X-Men cartoon series–check out this other cool X-Men thing from the 90s called Age of Apocalypse. The doors were starting to open again, but I had more than a few friends who slammed it shut in my face.

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Now that I’m a high school English teacher, I still want to open the doors so more people can enjoy the great world of comics, but I have some different methods. At first, it started off as offering Maus as an alternative to another concentration camp book, Night. Then, it branched into having students use online comic creator programs like Pixton to showcase knowledge of theme in a text we read. But these only opened a few doors for the few students in my class who wanted to explore new rooms. It was time to try something else.

Three years ago, I decided that it was time to propose a graphic novel class. I’d had a taste of the engagement that comics can build in students, and I wanted more, but I wanted to see this happen every day for every student in a class. I spent a frenetic weekend poring over my district’s new course proposal requirements, filling out the documents, asking for feedback from other teachers who had proposed a class before, and then revising those documents based on their feedback. I might have been dead to the outside world, but I was creating a new world for a new classroom. Unfortunately, for various reasons having to do with district politics, all of our English department proposals were rejected, graphic novel included. I’d glimpsed some light through a crack in the door, but just when I was about to cross the threshold, the door was slammed in my face. Again.

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Two years ago, I made slight changes and then sent it to be approved. But our district had changed the course proposal requirements, allowing only one department to add new classes per year, and it was again rejected, because it wasn’t our department’s turn. The door remained closed.

Finally, a year ago, they opened the door (not just to my class, but to our department’s eight other new classes). I spent that year ironing out any kinks any the course, and so that I could speak more to the creative process of making a comic, I started self-publishing my thriller comic Rebirth of the Gangster (shameless plug–it’s on sale on Amazon, and it’s like Breaking Bad meets The Wire with a shot of Shakespearean drama and debt to Othello). The year passed, I’d adjusted some of the choice texts for the class, and I’d released the first three issues of my series, and I entered my classroom doors at the beginning of September, ready to unlock student’s passion for comics.

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But that didn’t pan out quite like I hoped.

Sure, there were students who had read plenty of comics (especially manga, often from students who were in the anime club I advise). And those students entered my class with the same curiosity and commitment I would’ve entered a similar class if it had existed when I went to high school. They saw something worthwhile in every comic we read, even the more abstract Understanding Comics that tripped up many other students. They poured sweat into every Behind the Scenes activity we did, even if they only cared about the writing part of the comic creating process or if they only cared about the penciling, inking, coloring, or lettering we focused on in other BTS lessons. They would often offer insights in class discussion that I hadn’t thought of, prompting other students to become more engaged in the stories we read. And when the end of the semester came, and they had to create some aspect of a 6-page comic, they worked for their own growth, not for a grade. They created something that not only earned an A; it earned my gratitude and pride. These students saw an open door and jumped through it, never looking back.

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But these students only counted for about ¼ of my class. The rest of my class didn’t care about comics, and even more worrisome, didn’t care to put in work when asked. They took my class because they thought it would be an easy A. “It’d be less work, and even if I have to read, reading comics is easier” is what they all told me. Comics might have become legitimate enough to have a class all their own, but people’s perceptions weren’t changed that quickly, and comics still weren’t seen as legitimate or as deep as other media. At least they were honest.

Sometimes this didn’t matter. My students who had opened the door and started exploring every nook and cranny of these new rooms would often carry discussion, pulling some of these students in. And even when they didn’t pull other students in, talking with those students about comics–learning from them as they were learning from me–often made my day. But on those days when they didn’t carry conversations, class would drag, and it would weigh on me more than any of my other classes. I began to dread this class.

And I think my students could tell, but they didn’t change. In fact, many students got even lazier. It got to the point that one of my students lost their job, because his parents wouldn’t let him work when he was failing my class. I’ve taught for seven years, and that was a first for me. This student even admitted he only failed because he didn’t care enough about the class to try, but his behavior didn’t change. He closed the door, and even when he was standing in a hallway on fire, he refused to open it.

I got so sick of this that I had an extensive heart-to-heart with my class. I talked about how I had more Fs in that class than the rest of my classes combined. I talked about how comics were my greatest passion, but that this class’s attitude was making me dislike my greatest passion. I talked about how something similar had happened when I taught a hip hop class, and that I needed to take a break from teaching that class because of the lack of passion from my students, not because I didn’t love hip hop. And I told them that unless things changed, the same thing was going to happen here: I’d teach this course for a year and then abandon it in the same way I felt that most of my students had abandoned my jewel, the class I had worked harder on than the AP classes I teach.

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I don’t know if it was this talk, or if it was just that many of my students put in a last-ditch effort to avoid an F for the semester in this class. Whatever it was, over the last two months of this class, I began to see more effort and curiosity from my students. Part of this could have to do with reading a choice graphic novel in the last part of the semester: as much as I love Kuper’s Metamorphosis, Spiegelman’s Maus, and Satrapi’s Persepolis, I definitely know that other comics would draw them into this world of panels and gutters more effectively (choice texts like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Wandering Son, Nausicaa, March, and more). Once they got their hands on a graphic novel they chose, they creaked open the door and took a few steps into this new room: not everybody, but more than I had seen up to that point.

Ultimately, by the end of the semester, I no longer dreaded teaching this class. But I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would when I’d spent the previous years and summer hammering away at a keyboard, chiseling out curriculum. It had become like any other class I taught: full of some fun heights and some frustrating lows and a whole lot of boring middle ground.

Yes, I found a way to open the door to a new generation of comics readers, but I didn’t figure out a way to have them walk through that door. But then again, isn’t that the case with any subject in school? And if many of my graphic novel students are treating my class like they do other classes, that surely should be a sign that comics are gaining that legitimacy I always wanted. As it is with any other subject, the doors are open, and it’s all on the individual if they decide to explore that room or not, if they decide to make this pit stop or continue on their path. Finally, no one will slam these doors in their face like I had them slammed in mine. And that’s a step in the right direction even if the finish line still isn’t in sight.

Gen Con Partners with Temple University’s Digital Scholarship Center

Gen Con has announced a new and very interesting partnership with Temple University’s Digital Scholarship Center which will work on the creation of an online database of events for all 50 years of the Gen Con gaming convention.

The database will be available for public use with an accompanying exhibit site for articles. With this event information, researchers can apply digital scholarship techniques, including textual and network analysis, to learn how gaming has changed as reflected through Gen Con.

The project is expected to “go live” July 2017.

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Cartoon Network, The Powerpuff Girls and Scratch Give Plurals The Tools To Become The Next Generation of Creators

As part of their ongoing commitment to inspire the next generation of young creators, Cartoon Network is deepening its collaboration with Scratch and debuting the first of two coding-themed episodes from the global hit series, The Powerpuff Girls, along with the introduction of “Make It Fly,” a tutorial that shows young people how to create interactive animations and games using the Scratch global coding platform. The series, premiering Thursday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. (ET/PT), joins We Bare Bears as the second Cartoon Network intellectual property uploaded to the Scratch website to encourage children to create and share.

In “Viral Spiral,” the first of two computer science-themed episodes of The Powerpuff Girls, Bubbles uses her coding skills to help save the internet. Kids can develop their problem solving and creative skills by visiting the free Scratch coding platform and using the new tutorial to make animations, stories and games starring Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup.

Earlier this year, Cartoon Network announced its collaboration with the White House on the Computer Science for All initiative, a movement focused on making coding and other hands-on science, technology, engineering and math learning an integral part of every student’s education.

Scratch, a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, is a free, easy-to-use programming language and online community that encourages kids to create and share their own interactive stories, games and animation projects. The MIT Scratch Team designed the website as a space where kids can express themselves creatively through technology and collaborate with one another. Through the Scratch online community, kids can try out each other’s projects, give feedback and suggestions, and even remix and build on one another’s projects.The Powerpuff Girls free coding tutorial is available online.

Around the Tubes

superman aliIt’s a new week! Some of us were at Awesome Con this past weekend, so expect coverage of that show over the next few days.

While you await that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

iO9 – The Story Behind That Superman and Muhammad Ali Team Up – Some fantastic comic history.

CNBC – Comic books buck trend as print and digital sales flourish – Great to see this mainstream coverage.

iO9 – Marvel’s Civil War Comics Live Up to Their Name in the Worst Way – There were some definite issues. What did you all think?

LA Review of Books – The Dawn of “Just Me”: Zack Snyder’s Neoliberal Superheroes – An interesting read.

Uproxx – Meet Mr. Xtreme — One Of America’s ‘Real Life Superheroes’  – Fascinated by all of this.

PC Mag – Tackling Slavery in the Classroom With a Graphic Novel and an App – Great to see this in schools.

The Beat – Gruesome Hollywood murder was foreshadowed in a graphic novel – Utterly disgusted by this.

The Beat – Fans v Pros: You’re Doing it Wrong – Well worth a read.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Green Arrow: Rebirth #1

Around the Tubes

It’s the last day of 2015! It was new comic book day yesterday. What’d everyone get? We’re gearing up for our new year festivities which run throughout the day tomorrow.

Until then, here’s some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Morning Call – Comic books in the classroom: Phillipsburg High gets wise to the genre – Very cool.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Comic Vine – All-New Wolverine #3

Comic Vine – Batman & Robin Eternal #13

Comics Alliance – Beauties #1

The Rainbow Hub – Beauties #1

The Rainbow Hub – Black Canary #6

The Rainbow Hub – Black Magick #3

The Rainbow Hub – Jem and the Holograms #10

Comic Vine – Justice League #47

The Rainbow Hub – New Avengers #4

Comic Vine – Squadron Supreme #2

ICv2 – Yowamushi Pedal Vol. 1

Tintin scholar appointed as UK’s first Professor of Graphic Fiction

Benoit Peeters (left) with Professor Simon Guy

Benoit Peeters (left) with Professor Simon Guy

Lancaster University has appointed renowned French graphic novelist and critic Benoit Peeters as its Visiting Professor in Graphic Fiction and Comic Art, the first such appointment in the UK. The news was announced by Professor Simon Guy on Wednesday 25th November.

The new post represents a significant investment in the academic significance of comic art by the University and has been created in close working partnership with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF).

Additional support has been provided by Wallonia Brussels International (WBI).

The three-year appointment will see Mr Peeters deliver a series of lectures, run creative writing workshops, and supervise post-graduate students.

Benoit Peeters is a world-renowned authority on Hergé and Tintin, having written Tintin and the World of Hergé and Hergé’s biography, Hergé, Son Of Tintin.

He is also author of  biographies about 19th century comics pioneer Rodolphe Töpffer, and  the French philosopher Derrida, and co-creator, alongside François Schuiten, of Les Cités Obscures, one of Belgium’s most famous francophone comic strips created in the past 30 years.

The appointment strengthens the links between the University and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal and is the first of its kind in the UK.  In the three years of its existence, LICAF has quickly established itself as a major annual event in October bringing together creators, publishers and audiences alike from across the world.

By making this significant appointment, the University is not only acknowledging the Festival’s success but also its full academic commitment to placing comic book art not just in its creative writing and literature department, but also across its wider disciplines including philosophy.

The additional support of Wallonia Brussels International is part of a wider initiative to increase the visibility of Belgium Francophone culture in UK.

Benoit Peeters takes up his post in Summer 2016 and will be present at next year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which runs 14th – 16th October 2016.

Crafton Hills College Isn’t Banning Graphic Novels

fun home coverWe brought you the story of the student at Crafton Hills College who was protesting the use of four graphic novels in an English 250 course.

The issue was raised when a 20 year old student raised a stink over the use of Fun Home, Y: The Last Man, Persepolis, and The Sandman in the course feeling they were pornographic and violent.

The school president Cheryl A. Marshall has issued a statement saying that the college will not ban any books or alter the content of the course.

I support the college’s policy on academic freedom which requires an open learning environment at the college.  Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry.  We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change.  In this specific case, the syllabus distributed on the first day of class contained the list of required reading materials allowing students the opportunity to research the books and make a choice about the class.  The class is one of numerous electives available for completion of the English degree.  We are attempting to avoid this situation in the future and Professor Bartlett has agreed to include a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future so students have a better understanding of the course content.  I know he appreciated the differing views presented by Ms. Shultz in his class.

Seems like a reasonable solution.

Crafton Hills College Student and Parents Protest Graphic Novels (Updated)

PersepolisMaybe Seinfeld and Chris Rock are on to something about PC culture and college campus. A Crafton Hills College student, along with her parents, have lodged a complaint about graphic novels taught in an English course describing them as “pornographic and violent.” The works in question “depict nudity, sex, violence and torture. They also contain obscenities.”

20 year old Tara Shultz was joined by her parents and friends on Thursday on a protest over the material. The four books Shultz and her parents found offensive were Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan; The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman; and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Many of these books are about tolerance and the free flow of ideas.

Instead of the above which are generally accepted as pretty important literary works, Shultz was expecting Batman and Robin. It should be noted Persepolis was one of the most banned books of 2014. Fun Home is also coming off of numerous Tony Award wins including “Best Musical” for its musical adaptation currently on Broadway. It too has been at the center of numerous banning attempts, but it was also chosen as a required reading choice for Duke University’s incoming class.

Going off her Facebook profile Shultz mostly enjoys the Bible, Star Wars, Star Trek, Disney films, and the Twilight series (interesting due to its questionable views when it comes to gender). Most of the entertainment listed is barely PG let alone PG-13. Most is G rated.

The English 250 course was described as:

Study of fiction as a literary genre through readings, in-class discussion, and analytical assignments. Emphasis will be on a particular type of fiction.

There is a link to the school store and a list of books for the course. It’s unknown if the course book list was available before the course began. The course was taught the previous semester and third time the course has been taught. There has not been a previous complaint and the course having previously been held provided opportunity to find out more. There are a total of ten books for the course.

Associate English Professor Ryan Bartlett said in an interview:

I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heart break, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.

fun home coverShultz had said “at most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.”

She remained in the course after approaching the professor about the curriculum to not receive a zero. It’s unknown when she did so. This claim is also odd as many professors I spoke to said that students could drop a course well into it with only a financial hit.

Tara’s father Greg Shultz said:

If they (had) put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.

It’s interesting he used the word “we.”

College administrators are looking into the complaint and the books being sold in the bookstore where there are “under-aged kids here at this campus.”

This comes after numerous op-eds from College Professors about the PC nature on campus and fear to use some texts or express some opinions due to this sort of reaction.

Update: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund points out “the school requires instructors (p. 20) to distribute a detailed syllabus on the first day of the term–and ample time to withdraw with no effect on her grade. Fourteen other courses offered at Crafton Hills fulfill the same degree requirement as English 250. The college’s online calendar shows that the Spring semester began on January 12, and the last date to drop a course with no grade penalty was January 30. Shultz apparently brought up her objections to four out of ten books covered in the class after that date, when her only options were to complete the assigned work or withdraw with a 0.”

(via Redlands Daily Facts)

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