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:

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.
...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.

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..."

"...a couple of comic book writers who have their comics up on the Net ....[are]
under the comic book section."

"....the entire run of Elfquest was put-up on their official website ... 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]

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
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


[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 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.
: 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.

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
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.

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

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.