Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Search of Superman's Inner Jew

From this month's online Time newsmagazine:
The debate has raged for decades: is he Jewish, Methodist, Kryptonian Raoist? But finally, it's been settled: Superman is definitely... a non-Aryan Protestant. The complex origins of many a comic book character are deconstructed at the engaging and erudite exhibit, "From Superman to the Rabbi's Cat" — through Jan. 27 at the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris — which explores the impact of the Jewish experience on the evolution of the comic strip and graphic novel.

Link of Note: Manga

Book on Underground Manga Given Authorized TranslationThe ComiPress manga information site is posting online an authorized English translation of Manga Zombie, a 1997 book by "subculture researcher" Takeo Udagawa on 31 artists that created underground manga after World War II, but before widespread commercialization changed the field in the Eighties. Translator John Gallagher will post chapters from the 186-page book on a semi-regular basis. The profiled fringe artists include Norihiro Nakajima ( Astro Kyûdan/Astro Baseball Team), Yoshiteru Takano ( Akanbô Teikoku/Baby Empire), and Tarô Bonten (Konketsuji/Mixed-Blood Child Rika)."So far the preface and an introduction of sorts are translated and up, but more is supposed to be added in the future. Check it out here: http://comipress.com/special/manga-zombie/manga-zombie-preface-japanese-edition

Seems it mostly focuses on works from the 1960s and 1970s.

Chester Brown & "Louis Riel"

Some of our classfellows have noticed that the CBC is having an engagement with Chester Brown on its website at present, and they send along some of the video & audio links.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Classfellows' Web Comic Recommendations

From classfellow Clinton Hallahan:
Just a couple things I wanted to bring to your attention. [I loved the TED McCloud talk when it first came out -- worth a Permannt Link, now I think about it. Prof.]
The first is that in my internet travels I came across a video on the venerable TED Talks site of Scott McCloud talking comics. Worth a watch, I think

The second is a webcomic that I worship on a semi-professional level. It's a bit of an acquired taste but the writing is just stellar. I have recently turned young Lucas Westhaver onto it and made him into an acolyte. It's excellent. It's almost impossible to link to one that can pique your interest immediately, but this one is funny. The characters are just...I am slightly obsessed.

And finally, I am currently watching your friend Ken Steacy auction off prints for one of my favourite charities via webcam. You can find out about that here

Thought that was kind of funny. A sketch he did of Wonder Woman is currently going for about $400 dollars in a live chat auction. Crazy.
From classfellow Daniel Lin:
This is a web comic called ButterSafe, strange, but interesting. Since the link is to the homepage only, you may find a different comic in place of the current one (text based one), just click back.

Also, I am currently following a manga called Pluto. It's a revisit (sic) of the classic Japanese robot genre, as opposed to superheros. It contains Astro Boy and what I think might be Black Jack.
More...
...two websites that look at the religions and sexuality of various comic book characters. I find it really interesting because for a long time these were two elements of comic characters lives that could not be explicitly stated in comics, but often existed as subtext. For example, the Thing of the Fantastic Four was always intended to be Jewish, but that was not explicitly stated for years, likewise the shapeshifting mutant Mystique was always intended to be bisexual, though likewise that could not be explicitly stated (apparently the original idea was that she had been Nightcrawler's FATHER while temporarily male, though later stuff puts her as his mother). The most intriguing idea, and something I've never been able to find explicit reference to was a rumour I heard that the Joker in the 70s was supposed to be gay. Certainly the graphic novels Return of the Dark Night by Frank Miller and Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison make Joker sexually ambigious, having him gleefully call Batman "darling," cross-dress, use lipstick to highlight his lips, etc. Certainly his obsession with Batman often has a strangely sexual tension (as does Lex Luthor's with Superman, most creepily in the "Superman: Doomsday" movie).

Here's the website. http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Graphic Novels Debate

All are invited to a laughably one-sided debate between Dr. Clint Burnham--finely-chiselled and prize-winning poet, novelist and hirsute intellectual--and some hapless makeweight fanboy by the name of "Ogden", on a question of literary merit between Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Mark Waid & Alex Ross' Kingdom Come. The great Dr. Burnham will school his opponent, and delight the assembled multitude, by the dialectical potency of his critical presentation of Mr. Miller's never-too-much-to be-praised work of comics genius. A few brief minutes will be wasted while the bumbling Ogden attempts a futile argument for what would be the other side, if there were one.

The memorable event will be Monday November 23rd in Blusson Hall 10021 from eleven thirty to twelve twenty.

Local & Classfellow Comics

From bushel-averse classfellow Bevan Thomas:
"[By me] ...a short piece about comic books being adapted to television...also a short article on some comics I enjoyed as kid as well as one on Grant Morrison."
"...a group of cartoonists in the city....their website... http://cloudscapecomics.com/"


"...a couple of comic book writers who have their comics up on the Net ....[are] http://www.ninjaturtles.com/
under the comic book section."

"....the entire run of Elfquest was put-up on their official website ... http://www.elfquest.com/ under their comics section.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brilliant Book on Comics Heroes

For those of you writing on heroes and superheroes in comics, Christopher Knowles Our Gods Wear Spandex: the Secret History of Comic Book Heroes is indispensable. More than presenting comics heroes in a line with historical antecedents, the book gives large prominence to gnosticism, theosophy, occult groups and the entire magical impedementia of the Victorians as direct influences. Both Crowley and Gaimon are featured in a way that will be familiar to you from lecture, with some additional information and perspective.

I now have a copy of my own for anyone who wishes to a borrow be. [Image courtesy comicbox.com]

Was Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor based on Aleister Crowley? Can Captain Marvel be linked to the Sun gods on antiquity? In Our Gods Wear Spandex, Christopher Knowles answers these questions and brings to light many other intriguing links between superheroes and the enchanted world of estoerica. Occult students and comic-book fans alike will discover countless fascinating connections, from little known facts such as that DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz started his career as H.P. Lovecraft's agent, to the tantalizingly extensive influence of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy on the birth of comics, to the mystic roots of Superman. The book also traces the rise of the comic superheroes and how they relate to several cultural trends in the late 19th century, specifically the occult explosion in Western Europe and America. Knowles reveals the four basic superhero archetypes--the Messiah, the Golem, the Amazon, and the Brotherhood--and shows how the occult Bohemian underground of the early 20th century provided the inspiration for the modern comic book hero.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Classfellow Blurb

From Classfellow Clinton Hallahan, this gonzo comment after recently first reading Will Eisner's Contract With God:
I'm not surprised it's popular. It hits like a warhead, one of those pieces of fiction that upon subsequent readings you can't capture the way you felt about it the first time. Novelty becomes an asset for things like this, I think (and that may also apply to From Hell and Jack The Ripper too: the novelty of a media-fueled celebrity killer aiding it's legend).

Alan Moore & "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"

From Douglas Wolk (author of Understanding Comics), found in salon.com:
Nov. 24, 2007
Years before its publication, Alan Moore described The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier as "not my best comic ever, not the best comic ever, but the best thing ever. Better than the Roman civilisation, penicillin ... and the human nervous system. Better than creation. Better than the big bang. It's quite good." More>>>

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guest-Blogger

[An excellent guest-post here from one of our number. All are welcome to submit any comics-related posts for wider publication.]
Hello everyone: I’m Bevan, the tall pale guy with the black laptop that’s been bogging the class down with all those comments about Sandman, From Hell, and to a lesser extent the other books. Anyway, I was talking with Dr. Ogden about the Watchmen movie and expressed some comments about it that he suggested be posted on the blog. So here there are, and be warned that there are some spoilers:

Unlike many people, I don’t think the movie was a good movie. The opening credits showing the effects of superheroes throughout different parts of history (Comedian assassinating JFK, Andy Warhol painting the heroes, etc.) was brilliant, but most of the rest of it didn’t work so well. There are various reasons, but two main ones:

The first was that I felt the movie lacked “energy.” I just couldn’t get involved in what was going-on. I wasn’t carried away by the story. It’s hard, if not impossible, to give reasons for this sort of thing. Something either has it or it doesn’t, and Watchmen didn’t.

The other is easier to explain. The movie took some of the more problematic or disturbing elements of the comic and cranked them-up to make them objectionable. For example, the murder of the Comedian and the sexual assault on Silk Spectre takes up relatively later paper time in the comic, but are very long in the movie, dwelling on very raw, disturbing, and ultimately uninteresting violence. Dr. Manhattan busts up a vice club by blowing-up many of its members, which is implied in the book (something that always bothered me), but is graphically shown in the movie. Nite Owl apologies to Rorschach for yelling at him, saying that he’s Rorschach’s friend (despite all the things the man’s done), which is exaggerated in the movie.

But most objectionable of all is the fight with the gang. In the book, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are attacked by a street gang, and after that they defeat the gang, they become seriously turned-on (one of the themes of the book is the erotic overtones of being a superhero). Now, in the movie this fight happens, but the two very clearly KILL many members of the gang. People getting aroused by being in a fight is one thing, people getting aroused by just killing a group of people is something else.

Now obviously most of this stuff is already in the book, but I found that the movie cranked it up enough so that it changed from something artistically sound, to something that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beowulf: Neil Gaiman Screenplay

The National Post has a feast of articles on the CGI movie from a screenplay Neil Gaiman based loosely (very very loosely) on Beowulf.

Copy-Editing Symbols

Follow this link, as well as this other link, for a legend of the standard copy-editing symbols used in the marking of your essays

Some of the more frequently-used are the following.
  • SYN: faulty syntax
  • GR: faulty grammar
  • AWK: awkward wording or awkward expression of idea.
  • SP: faulty spelling
  • PRON: missing or faulty pronoun.
  • AGR: faulty agreement (grammar.)
  • T: incorrect tense (grammar.)
  • M: incorrect mood (grammar.)
  • //: lack of correct parallelism
  • ¶ : faulty paragraph structure
  • CAP: capitalise
  • MM: mixed metaphor
  • NO CAP: don't capitalise
  • WDY: excessive, roundabout or unhelpful wording that obscures the argument.
  • ARG: argument required.
  • DEV: faulty development of the argument
  • D: faulty diction (e.g. use of jargon or informal idiom.)
  • PASS: passive (usually adjectival rather than adverbial) form
  • WC: faulty word choice
  • WW: wrong word
  • RELEV: irrelevant remark.
  • PETITIO: a petitio principii ('begging the question')—assuming as a conclusion that which needs to be established as a premis. Often in essay argument, a statement delivered as a proof which itself is as yet unproven.
  • UNCL: unclear expression of an idea
  • REP: repetitive wording or repetition of a previously-presented idea.
  • REL: faulty relation of idea or no clear relation to surrounding idea.
  • TRUISM: statement of the obvious: unnecessary.
  • P: faulty punctuation.
  • ITAL: italicise this text.
  • DEL: unnecessary text requiring deletion
  • PLEON: pleonasm
  • REPORT: book report--i.e. absence of argument. 
  • CIT: missing citation
  • DANGL: dangling modifier.
  • STR: faulty or absent argument structure.
  • R-O: run-on sentence.
  • FRAG: sentence fragment
  • THESIS: misplaced thesis-level sentence
  • X: false statement.
  • SS: faulty sentence structure

Final Paper

See the course syllabus for deadline information.
  • Three thousand to thirty-five hundred words
  • Open topic. An effective way of deciding upon a topic is to conceive of the possibilities in three categories. 1.] An analysis of one literary aspect of the graphic novel that has captured your attention during lecture and seminar. 2.] An analysis of one or two features of the visual art component, in terms of the ways that it supports or complements some specific literary aspects. 3.] An engagement against, or development away from, any of the firm positions presented in lecture.
  • A minimum of two primary course texts
  • A minimum of one secondary source. Use the Bennett Library: I recommend the catalogue as a useful resource. Search with keyword "comic," "comics," or "graphic novel."
The direction I would give you pace the topic is to discipline yourself away from the Egotistical-Hedonistic approach to graphic novels. I would also say that it will be very difficult to narrow your focus down too finely. By all means run a draft thesis paragraph by me in an Office Hour....

A creative option is available. To use this option, submit a proposal in writing which details your proposed project with clear failure standards.

Evaluative Essay Examples

With permission of the authors, I am posting here two of the Evaluative Essays that fall into the "A" range. The two both support and challenge course lecture, but in reverse proportions, both with admirable subtlety in their minor proportion. These essays can be used as comparative examples.
For the second, Review, part of the assignment, there is full detail in the assignment post. In brief, isolate your particular thesis statement and review your position on it now that you have much more information from lecture and have studied more course texts.

Nazi Propaganda Film

Click here for the link to Der Ewige Jude, the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda film. The clip from it I that showed in lecture today was the section which Joseph Goebbels designed to draw equivalency between Jews and rats: the feature which Speigelman engages directly through his various representations in Maus.

The image I display in this post is from the website of the Holocaust History Project, and shows the connecting imagery of Jews and flies from Der Ewige Jude, which Spiegelman references in the "Time Flies" section of Maus, as we discussed in lecture today.

As I said in lecture, I loathe this film and cannot watch it without being deeply saddened.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ken Steacy


The homepage for our Guest Lecturer today, this year's Joe Shuster Award winner for visual artistry in comics, Mr. Ken Steacy is online at this link.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No 383 Classes Thanksgiving Week

An on-line reminder that with the week's lectures and Monday tutorial falling on the Thanksgiving Holiday, there will correspondingly be no Wednesday or Friday tutorials.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seminar Contributions

Seminar discussion is going vigorously in all three sections for our course: this is partly by design (material is being presented and set stimulatively); partly by nature (comics evoke keen engagement); and partly by quality of participants (kudos, that is, to you.)

I would like to give a recognition of the vigour and substance of the contributions; allow all three seminars to share in what each of the others is doing; and to give opportunity to perhaps continue the discussions.

Here, then, is a summary from classfellow S.K., Monday tutorial, on a vector of approach to Maus.
While looking at the chapter "Time Flies" in Maus, we discussed the idea of Art's mouse mask representing wearing his Jewishness on the surface. I can relate to this because it is not easy being raised Jewish in a Christian world. For example, everyone gets time off for Christmas and Easter, regardless of religion, but if I wanted to take a Jewish holiday off (like Yom Kippur which falls this coming Monday and is the holiest Jewish holiday) I could but I would have to miss class, so I choose to not take any holidays off because I can't afford to. I always felt like people couldn't relate to me either, like they don't understand what it is to be Jewish. I went to a private Jewish elementary school, but went to public high school and this transition was difficult. Anyways, with time I learned to adjust to my new surroundings. Again, many Jews may wear their faith as a mask in that they were born Jewish but are not religious, like me. I'm Jewish by birth but don't necessarily believe all of it.


The bodies we see following Art seem to be representing the idea that the Holocaust is always lingering in our thoughts. From a young age we are told about what happened and often times forced to "stay" Jewish, like keep Jewish friends, marry a Jew, etc. I married a non-Jew and this was a huge issue for my father at first, but in time he learned to look past that and accept my husband for who he is. I think that because Jews have pretty much always been persecuted in one way or another and the fact there are now so few left is a driving force behind many parents urging their children to remain Jewish and keep tradition alive. For example, mt children will be Jewish because I, their mother, am, whereas if my brother married a non-Jew his children would not be. This is a big issue for my parents and they act very happy that he is dating a Jew so that they need not worry about it continuing through him.

We also touched on the fact that Vladek appears to be perpetuating the stereotype of the miserly Jew. My aunt does this as well. She is bitter and very prejudiced (her daughters don't even have non-Jewish friends) and acts like everything she's been through is the worst ever and anybody's other problems don't matter. It's very frustrating. I wonder if it was hard for Art being the child of Holocaust survivors since nothing he'll ever experience will compare to the hell they've been through and seen. I don't have any direct family that survived the Holocaust, but my uncle was sent to Holland to live with a non-Jewish family while his parents fled to Canada in order to keep him safe. My husband is half German as well and his grandparents apparently were forced to bake for the Nazis and when his grandfather eventually refused, they locked him in a cellar where he almost died. This reminds us that not all Germans were Nazis; it's very important to distinguish between them.

Dachua: Classfellow's Photography

Classfellow A.K. took several pictures at Dachau concentration camp during a visit this past summer. Some samples are online for us at this link--helping visualise the experience, and contrast the modes of representation, in Spiegelman's Maus. The files number are glossed by A.K. as follows
  1. The gate to the camp-embossed with the now-notorious "Work sets you free" slogan
  2. The rows of foundations behind the one building. These are where the barracks used to stand. There are a couple that have been reconstructed.
  3. Map of all of the concentration camps in Europe.
  4. One of the signs in the memorial
  5. Upon entering the camp. To the right is a memorial monument, a black sculpture.
  6. The camp was covered in gravel so the Nazis could hear if anyone was trying to escape.

Seminar Contributions: 'Conan"

From Friday's tutorial, here is a commendably solid literary analysis of one of the "Conan" comics.
(Posted as Word document to preserve formatting.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

H1N1 Registry for Students

SFU has created an on-line registry in order to have students register their absence in the case of flu.

Students will inform their instructors in the usual way if they are absent due to flu and register on-line through the authenticated web survey.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seminar Group Project Proposals & Reports

Your Status Report of the Group Project will say (a.) what your proposed project is, (b.) what the schedule of the proposed project is, and (c.) where you are now.

Proposals -- in this case, proposals to yourselves for the Group Project-- can be helpfully constructed as failure standards. Failure standards are a real-world use of the falsification concept from experimental science, where a theory becomes ranked as scientific only when it is capable of being falsified in a replicable experiment.

So, for your assignment proposals, you would list (in either essay or point form) the full set of criteria by which your project can be gauged to have failed. for example "Our project will have failed if:"
  • it does not meet the criteria detailed in assignment post
  • the project does not advance an academic thesis.
  • the project does not have [some measurable degree of] quality
  • the project does not identifiably incorporate relevent scholarship
  • the project fails to relate to some number of the primary course texts
  • the project fails to represent and demonstrate advanced understanding of the central ideas of the course
  • &c, &c.
This effectively prevents creativity from being devalued to open license.

An effective proposal describes (nb. look up the etymology of this word in the OED) three components of a project:
  1. Area
  2. Range
  3. Structure
The Area is the specific subject of your project: e-mail writing, for instance. Range delimits the specific aspect of your subject: courtesy and professional manner in e-mail, say. And Structure outlines the manner in which the project will formed.

One to two pages is a reasonable length for a proposal of this type, four pages at most.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maus, Jews and Neoconservatism


Part of the significance—and artistic strength—of Art Spiegelman's Maus is its pointed engagement with antisemitism not only past but present and future. An example given of a present-day social controversy which has a Jewish component can be found around the term "Neo-Conservative."

I have little personal or academic interest with, and no credibility in, present politics (outside, that is, ordinary citizen participation in our democracy) and so will simply point you to the Wikipedia entry on neo-conservatism and let you explore and judge for yourselves.

Keep in mind what I have explained about Wikipedia. It is entirely worthless—indeed, it is pernicious—as a scholarly authority. It has, however, value as an aggregation of common opinion about whatever it has listed.

Dan Brown & Bad Books


Mention made in lecture, a propos the concept of 'glorious junk', that Dan Brown, famous of course for his The Da Vinci Code, is an execrably bad writer. My colleague faculty Dr. Paul Budra includes this book in his excellent course on "Bad Books." When I teach it, I show in objective detail its manifold failings, yet conclude by explaining its one aspect of significant literary merit.

Judgement against Brown's dreadful writing is all-but a commonplace.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Evaluative Essay: Topic

The class engagement with Art Spiegelman's Maus has been exceptionally strong. Lecture (unusually) and seminar both (I barely escaped my Monday seminar this week with my life...) This is obviously a state of affairs very much to be desired.

Accordingly, the topic for the Evaluative Essay will be your feelings and convictions about this text in relation to lecture: as detailed in the Assignment Post and Course Outline.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Note-Taking for University Students

"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch (AD 46-120) Greek Biographer & Philosopher.
The Student Learning Commons at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has an exceptionally helpful on-line guide to effective note-taking at university lecture. (It is a trifle disconcerting reading for the Lecturers themselves, because it implies--indeed, all-but declares--that many of us are dull, confused, inarticulate, habituated and otherwise deficient in our craft.)

The guide is available online in .pdf format at this hotlink.

The Student Learning Commons additionally has an entire page of links to on-line resources to imprioove the student's "Listening & Note-Taking" at this hotlink.

Note-taking in lecture is one of the skills that one learns at university with broad applicability in life. Arguably, learning how to take written notes from oral delivery is one of the most practically valuable benefits of a university education.
These resources linked here are very valuable: especially as it is increasingly common for undergraduates to confuse note-taking with copying down PowerPoint slides. It is rule worth learning that PowerPoint is not the Lecture: lectures are what happen when you are distracted by copying down PowerPoint slides....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Opening Lecture Slides

Here are the slides from today's definition-heavy opening lecture, available on-line. Lecture, befitting an upper-division course, will by and large be discursive, but where I do have lecture slides I will ordinarily post them here through the Term.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Course Syllabus

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: AQ 6094 -- Tuesday one o'clock to three o'clock. Bring your coffee and discuss course matters freely. E-mail ogden@sfu.ca Phone: 778-782-5820

Reading Schedule
Be up-to-date with the reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture. Note, however, that this schedule is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow students' developing interests and the course dynamic. Thus will all material be covered, sublimely, by the end.

Course Week 1: Spiegelman, Maus
Course Week 2: Gaiman, Sandman
Course Week 3: Gaiman, Sandman
Course Week 4: Satrapi, Persepolis
Course Week 5: Satrapi, Persepolis
Course Week 6: Moore, From Hell
Course Week 7: Moore, From Hell
Course Week 8: Waid & Ross, Kingdom Come
Course Week 9: Brown, Louis Riel
Course Week 10: Brown, Louis Riel
Course Week 11: Kuroda, Sexy Voice & Robo
Course Week 12: Kuroda, Sexy Voice & Robo

Course Weeks: Course week one starts September 14th. There are no classes on the week starting October 12th, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. Course week five thus starts on October 19th. Course week twelve is December 7th, and there is no seminar that week.

Assignment Deadlines.
Nb
: There is a five percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay.(The precise word "prevented" must be used in the letter.) The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone.


Schedule of Assignment Due Dates:
Assignment details in "Pertinent & Impertinent" Links.

Course Week One: Goup YouTube Project teams set in seminar.
September 21st: Evaluative Essay topic posted.
October 5th: Evaluative Essay due in lecture.
Course Week Five: Group YouTube Project status report due in seminar.
October 19th: Evaluative Essay returned.
November 23rd: Evaluative Essay Review due in lecture.
December 6th: Group YouTube Project due.
December 7th: Evaluative Essay Review returned.
December 11th: Final Essay due in the Lecturer's mailbox.

Participation
Beneficial contribution to the class dialectic will be treated as follows. Consistent participation in class discussion is assumed, at the Instructor's discretionary judgement.
  • Full seminar attendance and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper & the Evaluative Essay, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within & under five points. (E.g. Final paper is 86.5 %: grade assigned is 90%.)
  • One seminar absence and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within within & under five points. (E.g. Final paper is 86.5 %: grade assigned is 90%.)
  • Two seminar absences and perfect punctuality: For the Final Paper, rounding up to the next letter grade where percentage is within one point. (E.g. Final paper is 89.0 %: grade assigned is 90%.

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has sections for years 2009 and 2007. Our course links are under the 2009 section. The 2007 archive is for a previous iteration of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :
  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student, and TA and student, is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer or TAs is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Outline

ENGLISH 383 D1.00
STUDIES IN POPULAR LITERATURE AND CULTURE
Instructor: S. OGDEN
FALL 2009
Graphic Novels: Comic Books on Respectable Street
Comic Books are making a claim for literary respectability using the 'elegant variation' Graphic Novels. This claim will be examined in our course using empirical literary scholarship. We will subject a representative international sample of graphic novels to rigorous academic analysis of their historical, literary, visual and social aspects in the context of comics. A collection of secondary material to support this study is available on Course Reserve. Each graphic novel being, at best, material equivalent to credible short fiction and requiring, again at best, comparable reading effort, we will work from a substantial reading list at the university standard. The Lecturer has genial experience and credibility in the field-English comics first and best; North American as immigrant teen; manga from adult life in Japan-but is not otaku: student enthusiasms and genre minutiae must find their expression in assignments and tutorial.
PREREQUISITES: Credit or standing in two 100-division English courses and two 200-division English courses. Students with credit for ENGL 363 may not take this course for further credit.

REQUIRED TEXTS:
Spiegelman, Art  The Complete Maus  0679406417
Gaiman, Neil  The Sandman: Vol. I : Preludes & Nocturnes 1563890119
Satrapi, Marjane  Persepolis  0375714839
Waid & Ross  Kingdom Come  1401220347
Kuroda, Iou  Sexy Voice & Robo  159116916X
Brown, Chester  Louis Riel: a Comic-Strip Biography  1894937899
Moore, Alan  From Hell  0958578346

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:
10% Productive Participation
15% Evaluative Essay #1 (approx. 1500 words)
15% Evaluative Essay Review
20% Group Project
40% Final Essay (approx. 3000-3500 words)

Group YouTube Project

This project is an opportunity to work collaboratively on an engaging project that promotes understanding of "studying comics as literature."

In seminar week one, groups of five will be assigned. Each group will select one from the following list of possible angles of approach and will create a video documentary, to be posted on YouTube by no later than midnight December 6th. A one-page status report of the group's project is due in seminar, course week five.

Here is a list of possible topics. You are free come up with one of your own, subject to the Instructor's written approval. You are also by no means limited to the course texts: but by the same token you may use only the course texts as you prefer.
  • graphic novels versus comic books.
  • pre-modern precursors of the comic book.
  • modern origins of the comic book (England or America?)
  • literary analysis of a comic book series.
  • Maus as fine art.
  • the graphic novel as comic book: no more, no less.
  • the irreducible religious nature of the superhero.
  • an argument for comics as 'glorious junk.'
  • comics in film and TV.
  • arguments for or against comics as social bane.
  • the contribution of Mad magazine to c omics as literature.
  • the visual element of the comic book.
The length of your documentary should be anywhere from ten to sixty minutes. Quantity is not the salient matter; quality of effort is. And effort can be precisely guaged here: the assignment is twenty percent of the course grade, and with five members per group the total group project effort will be 5 X 20% of the course effort.

Evaluative Essay and Evaluative Essay Review

This essay assignment has two parts.
  1. Write a fifteen-hundred word essay that evaluates the lecture presentation of any one of the course texts. Your essay will show evidence of your own critical understanding of the course text and evidence also of careful engagement in lecture. Your evaluation, then, will need to show that you have read, analysed and evaluated your selected course text carefully and attended attentively and evaluated carefully all the course lectures. The topic post is here.
  2. After you have received your commented and graded evaluative essay, you will write a one thousand to fifteen hundred-word review of your essay in light of later course lectures. That is, you will compare and evaluate your own first effort in light of additional lecture material and a different course text.
For part one, you might, for example, develop a particular lecture point on Spiegelman's Maus--its presentation of his father as stereotypical Jew, say-- that puts additional, or even countervailing, light on that aspect. You are, in other words, entering into a dialectic with lecture, from your own detailed engagement with the text.

For part two, you might find that your first analysis lacked an effective historical context, and the lecture on Brown's Louis Riel made the importance of the historical dimension much clearer. You would, in other words, be continuing the dialectic, but adding your own first essay to the on-going conversation.

Nb. A legend for the copyediting symbols used in marking essays is now posted.

Dividing Post: 2009 from 2007

Posts above this dividing post are for the current (2009) version of the course. Posts below this dividing post are archived posts from the 2007 iteration.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Electronic Office Hours Only, Monday

Weather conditions at present make it uncertain whether the University will be open tomorrow, but a certainty that travelling conditions will be treacherous.
Accordingly, I am cancelling in-person Office Hours tomorrow and substituting electronic Office Hours. This means that you can give me your questions by email or contact me by phone at 604-250-9432 and I will give direct response between 10:00 am and 4:30 pm.
If voice mail kicks in on the phone, just leave a message.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Important article on the G.N.-themed "Beowulf"

Via our indispensable friends at Arts & Letters Daily, an exceptional article on the current graphic-novel themed movie version of Beowulf, screenplay Neil Gaiman. I can't extract the kernel: it is all kernel. But it hits several topics of our class interests, including the disconnect between what academia prefers and what (largely male) readers and movie-watchers prefer and purchase; the difference between pagan and Christian notions of the heroic; and the nature of criticism.
....there is a distinct sympathy for honor culture in [works like Miller's 300]....brute strength, tribal loyalty, and stoic courage actually get things done.
Academe finds all this loathsome and backward, and, of course, our liberal culture is ostensibly opposed to the social hierarchies, patriarchy, and chauvinism of older honor cultures. But narratives and representations about heroic strength (even flawed and misdirected) remain deeply satisfying for many people.
Link to the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education is here.

Good price for a G.N.

Classfellow N.K. passes on the information that chapters.ca has a "a screaming deal for anyone looking to add Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers to their collection."

Click this post's or the book title for the hotlink.

[A 'screaming deal'?]

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Behind the Scenes" Video

One of the seminar groups has given permission to make available online their "Behind the Scenes" documentary of preparation for their presentation. The files are at this link and are in DVD-format.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Guest Speaker: Becca Young

Tomorrow's guest speaker on the graphics side of things has the following pertinent biography:
Becca Young - Senior Designer - Karyo-Eldman: building design and brand identity for organizations and companies> throughout Vancouver. She began pursuing her passion for a career in graphic design while completing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at the University of British Columbia. Becca's vivid imagination -- a result of her combined aptitude with the literal and flair for the visual -- make her a valuable member of the Karyo design team. She was formerly a senior designer at Evolutionary Imaging and Advertising Design, for six years, and possesses extensive experience with non-profit organizations as well as the restaurant, entertainment, event-planning and fashion industries. Becca has a passion for technology, and is a key resource for multimedia, online, new media, website and interactive> projects.

Graphic Novelists .... on 'The Simpsons'

Here's a double-shot-of-espresso pop-culture hit, via classfellow C.V.
I had the Simpsons on the TV, as I do once in a while on Sunday nights....and I looked over at the TV and Bart and Milhouse were at a comic book convention, when who showed up but Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman....Also, Comicbook Guy called all the children, "fanboys" (whichI remember being a comic book term).....The episode is called "Husbands and Knives".

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weather symmetry

Update: now that was mildly freaky.
[Today's (smaller) picture beside ..... ]

Here is a picture I took from my office window on November 29th last year.

Be ready....

More on Charles Schultz

Further to the earlier post on the new and exceptionally valuable biography of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, Slate.com has a delightful slide-show essay on the book which adds specific strips to analysis of the artist and the biography.

I recommend viewing the slide-show, along with the articles in my earlier post, to get very practical examples of how to make scholarly analyses of comics.

And follow this link to a delightful page praising "....an artist who’s done the Peanuts gang, all grown up and drawn ....[manga] style. [I smell online dojin....]

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Final Paper: Permanent Link Added

I have added a permament link under 'Pertinent & Impertinent" at the right here to the Final Research Assignment Criteria post--->

"Are You Breaking the Law Right Now?"

Classfellow P.O. sends along this informative video article, pace our lecture on dojinshi.
Slate contributor Tim Wu looks at how common copyright infringement has become, and how companies sometimes choose to look the other way (when it benefits them, of course).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Reading Manga as Japanese

Please take a second to vote in the poll to your right: give your honest opnion & we'll discuss this Tuesday.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Comics in Rare Book and Manuscript Collection

From classfellow C.V., an article from Cornell University on the addition of an extensive comics collection to their elite Special Collections.
The breadth of the comic collection in the library's Division of Rare Book and Manuscript Collections includes 10,000 hand-drawn newspaper comic strips and related materials from the 1940s through the 1980s as well as more than 5,000 comic books. The collection contains obscure titles, popular newspaper comics, celebrated comic book heroes and many comics featured in recent movies.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Manga and its embodying culture

There is an excellent article online on the artistic operation of sabi, "Bashō and the Poetics of 'Haiku'", by Makoto Ueda in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

Tuesday's lecture gave a rigourous introduction to Japanese aesthetic concepts, in order for us to properly understand the ideas and culture which make manga, manga and not merely comics written in Japanese. To review, three important sensibilities presented were mujokan, mushin and mono no aware. These concepts were then described in terms of the over-arching wabi-sabi worldview. Next, specific æsthetic concepts were detailed: shichi-go-san, jo-ha-kyu, ten-chi-jin and shin-gyo-so. Lastly, the Japanese composition principle of Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu was explained.

The lecture gave you material by which your understanding of our manga course texts can be enriched. As always, if you require points of clarification or elaboration from lecture, stop by any of the abundant Office Hours!

For more information on the Japanese æsthetic , visit this majestic online resource.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Atop The Fourth Wall"

Via classfellow C.V., this excellent site on & around comics, AtopFourthWall.blogspot.com.
Here is their explanatory blurb:
Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where we sit over bad comic books and set fire to them. We all know there are bad movies, bad TV shows, and bad novels, but not enough focus is given to those awful, awful comic books. Now I love comics. I can list off several titles at any given point that I'm reading and love, but some books are just plain awful.So here's how it works - I find a book that is so painfully bad (or one is suggested to me) and I go over it detail by detail, analyzing and scrutinizing its flaws and trying to make you laugh along the way at some of the sheer idiotic funnybooks out there. Either go to the latest review or click "Read More!" to see the archive!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Comics Writers Political Selves

A look behind the curtain at the private political involvement of a comics writer & manager is viewable at the unlikely viral success, Hillary! Uncensored- Banned by the Media: a preview of an upcoming documentary on Hillary Clinton, and featuring .... Stan Lee.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Group Seminar Project: Deadline Extension

I am extending the deadline for the Seminar Group Evaluation Presentation from week twelve to week thirteen. Present the completed project to me, then -- that is, hand it in to me in in my office or my Department mailbox -- on or before November 29th.

Friday, November 2, 2007

We are not alone.....

Classfellow N.K. sends along this link to an article about some university courses around comics. His email includes the following, lucky *(&@(!:
Also, I had the great pleasure of meeting Henry Rollins on Tuesday night and he had mentioned that he went to the San Diego comic-con so I asked him what his take on comic books was with regard for our course topic. He said that although he loved them it is difficult to defend them as literature, he did, however, conclude that they are important and should be taken seriously! So if Henry Rollins says it's so then isn't that enough?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Keeping it real

Part of the requirement for a scholarly presentation of graphic novels (so-called, of course) is, as you by now know, to add sorely-needed gravity to some airy -- at times, gassy -- effusions of aggrandizement from devotees.

This coming from someone who passionately enjoys comics. Under the stimulus of Alan Moore's Albion I had nearly indecent personal response, and I want to trumpet its excellence far and wide. That, however, makes me a fan. As an academic, I have to be ruthless in exorcising my enthusiasm (as in OED, Possession by a god, supernatural inspiration, prophetic or poetic frenzy) and approach the work -- and all comics the same -- with cool and measured reason.

Here is an example of what I mean. Look at these three blurbs from a current back cover of Moore's Watchmen (a comic which I entirely enjoy):
  • "The would-be heroes of Watchmen have staggeringly complex psychological profiles"
  • "A masterwork representing the apex of artistry"
  • "The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced"
Now this is so over-the-top that it defies parody. The Onion could hardly increase the extremism. I happen to think Watchmen a great comic, and worthy of laudation. But staggeringly complex psychological profiles? And the greatest piece of popular fiction? Whoever wrote these plaudits (the first is from the New York Times) either has let enjoyment cloud judgement or simply has not read much fiction. Moore, for all his excellencies, cannot hold a candle to the truly great novelists; indeed, I have a hard time believing that Alan Moore thinks that Alan Moore holds a candle to .... oh, Dostoevsky, say. (And the adjective "popular" puts Watchmen up against Charles Dickens....)

This is not to say that when we write and lecture and present on a graphic novel that has made us greatly and cleanly happy we adopt dolorous countenance. Enjoyment and delight are healthy responses. It is rather, I would say, that calm and rigourous scholarly analysis improves our enjoyment by allowing us to know that, if ever a favoured work should be shown to fail against credible criteria of literary merit, the ones that do pass academic scrutiny are to that degree the more worthy of our huzzahs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the Individual Research Assignment

The Individual Research Assignment has two points of rationale (beyond the improvement of one's writing): the first is to ensure that a course on Graphic Novels is fully grounded in scholarship, and the second is to give strong and direct preparation fo rthe final paper. Isolating and adhering to a single potent thesis is the one achievement which can most materially benefit one's work for a successful paper.
"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." Robert Mustand.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Proofreading Abbreviations

An on-line list of proofreading abbreviations may be viewed at this link.
I use the version authorised in my beloved Little, Brown Handbook for marking essays, but the differences are minor.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Current stories on issues of Jewishness: pace "Maus"

Two online articles on issues of Jewishness pertinent to attitudes represented in Maus: one from the slightly left-of-centre Toronto Globe and Mail on the speech of a Holocaust denialist, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at Columbia University in the U.S.; the other at the libertarian law blog The Volokh Report titled "Is Neo-Conservatism a Jewish movement?"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Imperfect heroes: the Perfect Villain?

From seminar this week, it is a peculiar thing to encounter, from within Western civilisation, expressions of praise for works of art or entertainment that "deconstruct the myth of the superhero."

As I detailed, the notion that a hero is perfect and needing a critique to reveal his flaws is a freakish one in Western civilisation. The idea is introduced virtually ex nihilo by two 19th Century philosophers -- Nietzsche in Germany and Thomas Carlyle in Britain (the latter being, strange as it seems, by far the more influential) -- who promoted their own invention, from springs hardly untainted, of an elite human being, the Übermensch ('Overman'), who exists entirely beyond the criticism of the herd, and then the playwright Bernard Shaw, at the end of the 19th Century, popularises the overman idea in plays like his Man and Superman.

The comic book Superman, which of course encoded this idea deeply into popular culture, has, as we now know, an intriguing, and mitigating, justification in its creation by two North American Jews in the 1930s who subverted the Nazi's Aryanism by throwing an American super-Aryan back in their faces.

In the entire rest of the Western tradition, which is, for all intents and purposes, all of it, heroes just are flawed. It is hardly an exaggeration, in fact, to say that 'flawed' is part of the very definition of 'hero.' In the Judaic stream, their great national hero is King David: his figure fills the space that in other cultural stories is occupied by a semi-mythic incarnation, but in the Hebrew scriptures is flawed to the point of broken. In the Greek stream, their demi-gods and deities, more than flawed are odious: petty, vindictive, mean, jealous, capricious.

I offer you to think of a hero, real or quasi-real, (King Arthur my choice); reflect on his or story story; and ask if they be perfect or flawed. The answer, I wager, is always 'flawed.

Yet, a complexity arose in one seminar. My confident story threatened in its stability by the discovery that perfection indeed exists: but not in a hero but in a villain. To wit, George W. Bush was presented to me as absolute Evil - perfect in malevolence, infinite in reach. Lucifer in Gaiman's Sandman is read as being morally ambiguous; nay, Milton's Satan I am given as a very hero. But George W. Bush has no shade of good, no remittance from pure and total Badness.

From the seminar, I was reminded that George W. Bush caused Islamic terrorism and recently acted with a veto specifically to prevent sick children from receiving any medical care. From the news, I am told that George W. Bush caused the current death and devastation by the fires in the State of California. He also started the Iraq war so he could send kids off to to get their heads blown off for his amusement. And from the blogosphere, a DailyKos direct quotation: "George W Bush is a conscience lacking, cold blooded murderer who enjoys seeing innocent people killed."

It seems to me, then, that there is no evil in the world for which George W. Bush is not personally responsible. This certainly screws up my tidy theory that Western culture does not typically deal with people in absolutes; preferring instead shades, mixtures, development.

For myself, I'm not American and so have no special investment in Mr. Bush one way or the other. In the interests of my developing scholarly ideas, however, I welcome the opportunity to have my theory debunked fully and mercilessly.

So, please add a comment that gives a specific item as evidence of the total and perfect evil of George W. Bush.
Update: predictably, part of the blogosphere is satirising the configuration of George W. Bush as Absolute Evil.

Individual Essay Presentation: Example

Here is another sample of a student essay for the Individual Research Presentation assignment that exemplifies the character and quality being submitted. Although, there are other possible types of successful essay, certainly, and these are welcome, this one straightforwardly fits the criteria detailed in the assignment post.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not your parents' small group presentation ....

Some Small Group class presentations are more ... out there, shall we say, than others, as you can see here, here, here, here and here.
There is a perfectly innocent explanation. Honestly!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Inklings

Here is a very helpful, link-rich website on the Inklings group and their illuminating relevancy to the occult aspects of Neil Gaiman's text. As I suggested in lecture, Gaiman is clearly an admirer of the Inklings.

And of course I need to link to the Oxford Inklings blog....

Monday, October 22, 2007

Occult & local cats

À propos this week's lecture on The Sandman, note this article in today's Vancouver Sun on the policy of Pet Shelters to withdraw their black-coloured cats from adoption during Halowe'en.
There are some really sick people around," said Duncan.
"You know, the whole black cat and evil thing. Certainly black cats are in grave danger at Halloween."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Manga Confession

From today's PostSecret.com, manga as someone's personal demon ....

Friday, October 19, 2007

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore is a GN that consistently finds its way into our class discussions.

Its historical origins are marked in England by 'Guy Fawkes night' every November the 5th & the attendant rhyme "Remember, remember, the 5th of November/ Gunpowder, treason, & plot," we used to say (in fact, I still have a card with the slogan) that "Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter parliament with honest intentions."

The phrase that is used as the ad slogan for V for Vendetta -- "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people" -- is an expression of the central truth in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan: politics are fear and power, that's all. And another phrase from "V" -- "Blowing up a building can change the world" -- is a paraphrase of Satan in Paradise Lost, Bk XIII :

126: Nor hope to be my self less miserable
127: By what I seek, but others to make such
128: As I though thereby worse to me redound:
129: For onely in destroying I finde ease

134: In wo then; that destruction wide may range:
Thus the film validates my understanding that Leviathan, often read as mere philosophy or a 'humanities' work, is a thoroughly literary work: here, having been reworked into a screenplay. Of course, the film takes on ominous meaning after the London bombings by Islamic terrorists.

V for Vendetta is left-wing agitprop, of course, but, natheless, it is intensely relevant to our studies. As some of you know already, agitprop & didacticism are my bane in art. I detest being beaten over the head with any one political or social position or the other: on the other hand, I absolutely adore heteroglossia - the dialogic play between competing positions; the opportunity to see both sides fairly represented & unresolved is almost an absolute criterion for Art - in my opinion, that is.

To illustrate why I condemn agitprop, here are series of quotations from a *left-wing* exemplar -- Lenin -- which are practically dialogue from the *right-wing* character of the political leader in V for Vendetta.
  1. "It is necessary secretly -and urgently-to prepare for terror. And on Tuesday we will decide whether it will be through the SNK [Sovet Narodnih Komisarov - Soviet of Peoples' Commissars] or otherwise."

  2. "It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed."

  3. "Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost's must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle "with the kulaks." We need to set an example.
    1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers.
    2) Publish their names.
    3) Take away all of their grain.
    4) Execute the hostages - in accordance with yesterday's telegram.
    This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.
    Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this. Yours, Lenin
    P.S. Use your toughest people for this."

[Quotations taken from "Wikiquote" advisedly (then verfied independently against a reputable source) as a ready means to invoke your accepted authority ....]

How much better for art -- how much better for its effect & longevity-- had the film followed Orwell's example in "1984" & left the transitory orientation of the party in power a matter indifferent.

Update 1: Thanks to all who participated. We'll talk about The Libertine now this coming week.

Update 2: Please read this supreme work of film criticism comparing V for Vendetta unfavourably to Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The author, Matt Feeney -- to whom I tug my forelock as critical nobility -- complements my objection to V for Vendetta's agitprop by showing, with succinct devastation, how Gilliam's film is superior by its subtlety and its recognition that tyranny is a system and a process. Remember: Hobbes states clearly that Leviathan is not the person or the party who happen to be in power, but rather the system of laws and letters which the person or persons in the offices encoded therein merely administer. To give two citations establishing this, first, "Of Commonwealth, Chapter XXII:

In a body politic, if the representative be one man, whatsoever he does in the person of the body which is not warranted in his letters, nor by the laws, is his own act, and not the act of the body, nor of any other member thereof besides himself: because further than his letters or the laws limit, he representeth no man's person, but his own.

Or this, from "Of Commonwealth" Chapter XIX:

Of all these forms of government, the matter being mortal, so that not only monarchs, but also whole assemblies die, it is necessary for the conservation of the peace of men that as there was order taken for an artificial man, so there be order also taken for an artificial eternity of life; without which men that are governed by an assembly should return into the condition of war in every age; and they that are governed by one man, as soon as their governor dieth. This artificial eternity is that which men call the right of succession.

Here is a sample of Mr. Feeney's prosaic and witty brilliance:

Now the Wachowski brothers have taken V for Vendetta, Allan Moore's mad-at-Margaret Thatcher graphic novel, and updated it to express their present political rage. The Wachowskis are very angry at George W. Bush, but still, for some reason, it's Britain's Parliament that gets blown up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Weird visual illusion

Ahead of this coming week's lecture on Neil Gaiman's Sandman, why not take the test at this link and leave a note of your result in the comments section here.

I can only see it go clockwise .....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Proposed Changes to Syllabus

I heard from a small delegation of students today that the writing workload for our course is .... a challenge. My inner self immediately recalled the old days, when I was a undergraduate, where we had three fifty-page papers for each third year course (and walked to university fifty miles in the snow, uphill both ways), and I also inwardly hummed the second verse of Kris Kristofferson's "Best of All Possible Worlds."

However, my kind, gentle accommodating outer self committed to a review of the assignment array, particularly in relation to the five small group assignments, which were presented as requiring some significant work.

On reflection, I present the following adjustment of the assignment requirements, which require unanimous agreement before they can be implemented.
  • Change from 5 small group assignments to 2, each of the two worth 10% of the course grade, and both can be on either the formal aspect or a social context. You can chose any two of your currently scheduled dates for these assignments. The class presentation date will remain the same.
  • The small group assignment being then worth 20%, the remaining 5% of the current assignment weight will then transfer to the seminar group project, which would keep the same criteria, but would be worth 25% of the course grade instead of the current 20%.
  • Change the Final essay world length, currently 3500 words, to "between 3000-3500 words"
So, the updated weighting would look as follows (changed text emboldened.)

COURSE REQUIREMENTS:
20% Four individual written research presentations (4 x 250 words)
20% Two group written research presentations (2 x 400 words per student)
25% One group written evaluative presentation (1500 words per student or equivalent)
35% One final research paper (between 3000-3500 words)
I will discuss in person with Thursday seminars, and then send an email to all class members and poll the preference.

Art, a criterion of: from SFU Peak.

There is this useful student article (albeit with some errors of grammar) pertinent to our inquiry into valid criteria for art, published in the current edition of The Peak.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reminder: Assignments Schedules Available OnLine

A reminder that I have made a grid of all your Small Group & Individual assignments available at my online filespace.

To increase the convenience even more, here is a list of direct links to each.

This is an opportunity for you to verify that you are scheduled:

  1. for four, and four only, Individual dates,
  2. for five, and five only, small Group dates,
  3. in the dates that you have written in your agenda. (The dates online here are taken from your hand-in sheets.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Creator & Created

Update: There is a vastly superior review of the Schultz biography here, at the New Yorker magazine online, and featured on today's Arts & Letters Daily. The review is an outstanding example of analysing comics effectively, substantially yet without ponderous pretension.

The often-intriguing relationship between comic character and comic creator is treated informatively in this review on salon.com of a new biography of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, Featuring Good Ol' Charlie Brown.

The biography is Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis. I have not read the biography, but the writer of review comes across with a naively idealised view of humanity -- effectively blaming her childhood idol for lacking Sainthood.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Individual Assignment: Sample

I have uploaded this sample of the Individual Assignment from among the first scheduled round to allow you to orient yourselves to your classfellows' work. The sample I have chosen did not receive the highest grade in the class -- although the author is a top-class student -- and contains (as indeed most of our work does from time to time) several errors. However, the engagement is at a suitable level, and the central insight it that argues is a very creditable one and presents an understanding helpful beyond the purview of the specific essay.

Hyphens: Illustrating Grammar vs. Style

From today's Toronto Globe and Mail
Bye-bye (or is it byebye?) to 16,000 silly hyphens
RUSSELL SMITH
October 11, 2007 at 1:35 AM EDT
In my position of great privilege, hyphens are one thing I never have to worry about. Oh, I have the explanatory pages marked in reference books, and there are many of them. My Editing Canadian English devotes 12 solid pages to compounds and how they are made, to the difference between a hyphen and an n-dash and a solidus (that's what commoners call a forward slash). My Oxford Dictionary for Writers And Editors has a separate entry for each compound, one for crossbill (a passerine bird) and one for cross-bill (a promissory note), one for cross-link (hyphen), crossmatch (one word) and cross section (two words). I don't have to learn all these words and
exceptional cases; I don't even have to read them.

Office Hours

I like to have a great deal of availability, as not everyone is on campus outside class times in this day & age, and so I squeezed in an extra Office Hour between my morning and afternoon classes Tuesday & Thursday this term. As it has happened, two or three times already, including today, I have remained in the morning classroom in student consultation where it seemed discourteous, and perhaps superfluous, to break up to the office

I was just alerted also that the sign directing you to the Bennett Library yesterday was removed sometime before three o'clock.

What I will do, then, to provide maxiumum availability is to (a.) keep my Tuesday and Thursday hour, but to advise that I may be consulting in transit during the time, while (b.) extending my Monday Office Hour from four hours to six and a half hours, ten o'clock to four thirty, and my Wednesday Office Hour from five hours to six hours, from ten o'clock to three o'clock.

I am also available for consultation by appointment Friday mornings. And should there be a missed appointment, by all means call my daytime cell phone number: 604-250-9432.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lecture Week Upcoming

For lecture week seven, bring both your Miller and Gaiman texts, as we will wrap up the former and begin the latter. We will also see a worthwhile documentary analysis of comic book representations of the superheroes, pertinent to our Miller text.

Near-mint copy of Batman's debut found in attic

More from our State media, a story on a collectors find of the first Batman comic.

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 Canadian Press:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. - Holy collectibles, Batman!

A near-mint copy of Detective Comics No. 27, a pre-Second World War comic featuring Batman's debut, was recently found in an attic and sold to a local collector.
The comic is considered to be the second-most valuable available and can fetch up to US$500,000. The only comic considered more valuable is Action Comics No. 1, in which Superman makes his first appearance.

Stan Lee Interview on Podcast

An interesting podcast of an interview yesterday on Canada's State media network with the famous "Golden Age" comics artist Stan Lee.

An early, helpful and obvious (once you have heard it) point is that the evolution of graphic novel (as a concept) is driven by a decrease in the young readers of comics and a concomitant increase in the teen and adult readership.

This raises the question (raised and discussed in more than one quarter) of a cult of perpetuating adolescence into adulthood.