This study presents an in-depth look at academics who identify as comic book scholars. Comic scholars do not travel the
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SEARCHING FOR THE COMIC BOOK SCHOLAR: AN AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF EDUCATORS’ EXPERIENCES WITH COMIC BOOKS A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE DOCTORATE OF EDUCATION BY CHRISTINA L. BLANCH DR. THALIA MULVIHILL—ADVISOR
BALL STATE UNIVERSITY MUNCIE, INDIANA MAY 2017
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SEARCHING FOR THE COMIC BOOK SCHOLAR: AN AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF EDUCATORS’ EXPERIENCES WITH COMIC BOOKS A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE DOCTORATE OF EDUCATION BY CHRISTINA L. BLANCH DR. THALIA MULVIHILL—ADVISOR APPROVED BY: ___________________________________________ Committee Chairperson, Dr. Thalia Mulvihill
___________________________________________ Committee Member, Dr. Roger Wessel
___________________________________________ Cognate Committee Member, Dr. Cailín Murray
___________________________________________ At-Large Committee Member, Dr. Abel Alves
___________________________________________ Dean of Graduate School, Dr. Carolyn Kapinus
Copyright © by Christina L. Blanch. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.
Dedication I dedicate this dissertation to my children, Robb and Grace. You are what keeps me going every day and you both make my world, as well as the world in general, a better place. This dissertation took time away from all of our lives, so thank you for always understanding. I love you both so much, more than I could ever describe. More than Star Wars.
Acknowledgements For the participants: I feel fortunate to be associated with a group of people as amazing as the group of comic scholars included in this research, many of whom are now dear friends. In addition to those who are included in the final product, Leonard Rifas assisted with early development of the semistructured interview questions by participating in a pilot interview. Thank you to all of you. For my committee: I know other committees exist but not like this one. You have all gone above and beyond to guide me through this process. When we meet, it feels like the Council of Elrond and I am Frodo. And I would walk into Mordor with any you. One dissertation to rule them all. Dr. Mulvihill, how do I thank you? I honestly do not think I have enough words to be able to thank you for what you have done for me. When I wanted to quit, you would not allow it. Every time I talked to you, I came away more confident, which for me is a big deal. Every moment spent with you, I felt smarter. You make me feel like I make a difference. Meanwhile, you make all the difference for so many people. Dr. Wessel, you are the kindest person I have ever met. I lost count of how many of your classes I attended, but I count you as one of the biggest influences on me finishing this degree. I will never forget that you came to my shop, just to make sure I was going to finish. You are dedicated and caring—amazing qualities in an amazing person. Dr. Murray, I do not know anyone who is more committed to educating people than you are. You have been such a guiding force in my education and I have a feeling that will never stop. You make me want to do better. To be better. Thank you for always having my back. You are irreplaceable. Dr. Alves, from my first semester at Ball State so many years ago, I knew you were special. You are the smartest person that I have ever met and I have met Neil DeGrasse Tyson. You touch the lives of everyone you meet which is a rare quality in today’s world. Thank you all for agreeing to be on this committee and for being a part of my journey. I know it had its ups and downs and there was a time when you all doubted that I reach the end, but remember “Not all who wander are lost.” For my friends: This has been a long journey that I could not have made without the encouragement of my friends. The last year of this was super tough for me personally and all of you came through for me. Whether you were my accountability partners, my cheerleaders, took me for a drink when I needed it, or you simply just sent texts with support, I will never forget what you have given me. So, Cailín Murray, Debbe Caine, Kyle Roberts, Sy Stiner, Chris Curry, Amber Keefer, Jessika Griffin, Ashleigh Bingham, Amanda Latz, James Rediger, Andrew Scott, Craig This, Thom Zahler, Shelly Nathan, Libby Pfeiffer, Evan Dossey, Aly Caviness, Dan Greenfield, Pete Kilmer,
6 Peter Coogan, with a very special thanks to Aaron Philebaum—thank you for everything. I expect to celebrate this with you all. For my family: Mom and Dad, thank you for teaching me that learning was fun, that I could be Han Solo, and for never giving up on me. And also for letting me watch Monty Python. Luna, my beautiful puppy, you are perfect. Robb, will you attend Motherboy XX with me? You are the only one I would go with. I am so proud of the man you have become. I love you with all my heart. Grace, what do I say to you? My beautiful, smart, wonderful daughter. I am honored to be your mother. I love you. Always.
Abstract DISSERTATION: Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books. STUDENT: Christina L. Blanch DEGREE: Doctorate of Education COLLEGE: Educational Studies DATE: May 2017 PAGES: 200 This study presents an in-depth look at academics who identify as comic book scholars. Comic scholars do not travel the same paths as most other scholars, melding fandom with their scholarly pursuits. Through autoethnography and interviews with 21 other self-identify comic scholars, it is found that this group is unique in their definition, their goals, and their identity. While there is no guarantee of a job in the sparse field of comic studies, these educators continue to create a space in the academic environment for themselves and for future comic scholars.
Table of Contents Chapter One: Introduction ...........................................................................................................1 Statement of Purpose .............................................................................................................3 Research Questions ................................................................................................................4 Terms .....................................................................................................................................4 Researcher Positionality Statement........................................................................................6 Summary of Introduction .......................................................................................................8 Chapter Two: Literature Review .................................................................................................10 Summary of Study .................................................................................................................10 Review of Literature ..............................................................................................................10 History of Comic Books in Education ...................................................................................12 Stigma ....................................................................................................................................15 Comic Books and Education ..................................................................................................16 Motivation and Engagement ............................................................................................17 Popular Culture ................................................................................................................18 Multimodal Learning .......................................................................................................19 Teaching and Learning Methods ...........................................................................................21 Constructivist Learning ....................................................................................................21 Experiential Learning.......................................................................................................22 Transformative Learning .................................................................................................24 Active Learning ...............................................................................................................25 Reflective Learning ..........................................................................................................25 Comic Book Scholars ............................................................................................................26 Dissertations .....................................................................................................................27 Academic Programs .........................................................................................................28 Comic Book Courses .......................................................................................................29 The Comics Studies Society ............................................................................................33 What is a Scholar? .................................................................................................................34 Summary of Literature Review ..............................................................................................35 Chapter Three: Methods ..............................................................................................................37
9 Design Framework .................................................................................................................37 Qualitative Research ........................................................................................................37 Trustworthiness ................................................................................................................38 Autoethnography..............................................................................................................40 Defining Autoethnography ..............................................................................................41 Theoretical Perspective ..........................................................................................................45 Population and Sample ..........................................................................................................46 Context and Data Collection ..................................................................................................46 Data Analysis .........................................................................................................................47 Confidentiality of Data ..........................................................................................................48 Rationale ..........................................................................................................................49 Representation........................................................................................................................50 Summary of Methods .............................................................................................................50 Chapter Four: Findings ................................................................................................................51 Overview of Findings ............................................................................................................51 The Comic Scholars ...............................................................................................................51 Janis Breckenridge ...........................................................................................................52 Gail deVos .......................................................................................................................52 Chris Galaver ...................................................................................................................52 Charles Hatfield ...............................................................................................................53 Ian Hague .........................................................................................................................53 Forrest Helvie...................................................................................................................53 Gene Kannenberg, Jr. .......................................................................................................54 Susan Kirtley....................................................................................................................54 Andrew Lesk ....................................................................................................................54 Paul Levitz .......................................................................................................................54 A. David Lewis ................................................................................................................55 Roland Mann....................................................................................................................56
10 Christopher Murray..........................................................................................................56 Tom Shapira .....................................................................................................................56 Matt Smith .......................................................................................................................56 Nick Sousanis...................................................................................................................57 Rik Spanjers .....................................................................................................................58 Craig This.........................................................................................................................58 Jason Tondro ....................................................................................................................58 Marcus Weaver-Hightower ..............................................................................................59 Rob Weiner ......................................................................................................................59 Findings..................................................................................................................................59 Finding 1: Coming Into Comics ......................................................................................62 Finding 2: From Fandom to Academia ............................................................................78 Finding Three: Finding Each Other .................................................................................103 Finding Four: Writers and Creators, Not Just Consumers and Teachers .........................109 Finding Five: Defining Comics .......................................................................................116 Finding Six: Goals ...........................................................................................................120 Finding Seven: Identity Crisis .........................................................................................128 Summary ................................................................................................................................135 Chapter Five: Discussion .............................................................................................................136 Overview ................................................................................................................................136 Summary of Purpose and Findings ..................................................................................136 Discussion of Research Questions .........................................................................................137 Further Implications for Practice ...........................................................................................145 Where Are Comic Scholars to Be Housed? .....................................................................145 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................152 Final Thoughts .......................................................................................................................153 References ....................................................................................................................................156
11 Appendix A ..................................................................................................................................164 Appendix B ..................................................................................................................................188 Appendix C ......................................................................................................................................................119 88
1 Chapter One: Introduction In academia, documenting the emergence of a field or discipline, and specialties within a field, serves many purposes, one of which is self-reflection. -Tanya Cochran (2014, p. 372–373) There are very few people who get to meld their research goals with their passions. But they exist—those few that get to spend time exploring the connections between their personal lives and their scholarly objectives. I am one of those lucky people. I am a comics scholar. What is a comics scholar, you ask? That’s a good question. The purpose of my study is to gain an in-depth understanding of those who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences have affected and informed them both personally and professionally. I did not choose to use comic books in my teaching and my research because it was just something to do. I chose comics because they were a huge part of my life and I wanted to share their potential with others—let others experience the joy and reward that I had received. Surely, I thought, there must be others like me. Through my experiences, I have found that yes there are others, but comic scholars are not like people in other departments. They are from everywhere— different departments in universities, comic book writers turned teachers, writers who are respected for their insights into comics. Anyone can be a comic book scholar and there is no reward for identifying as such. In fact, there are probably more detrimental effects to identifying as a comic book scholar than positive ones. So why would anyone choose to identify as one? That is what I want to find out. What is driving this small group of scholars to push comic book studies into academia and get comic books respected as literature, art, or both?
2 The title of my dissertation is Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Experiences with Comic Books. Originally, I was going to do a study on using comic books in the classroom, but while researching this, journals and books popped up all over the place on the subject. In fact, I am published in several of these (Mulvihill & Blanch, 2015, Blanch & Mulvihill, 2014). But as I was researching, the one thing that was missing was on the comic books scholars. I would read these articles on using comic books and found myself wondering about the author: What experiences did they have? Did they face resistance? Were their struggles similar to mine? Besides reaching out to the authors myself, there was no information to be found. That is when it hit me. That was my subject. I was my subject. I talked to my dissertation chair, Dr. Thalia Mulvihill, and changed topics. And then I rewrote my proposal. If I wavered at all, any doubts were put to rest when the Comic Studies Society was formed in early 2015. I wrote to see what the qualifications were to join. They had no idea. No one, not even the society members themselves knew how to define a comic scholar. That is how this study came to be. This dissertation is a study of the personal and professional identity of people who identify as comic book scholars. This has emerged from my own experiences as a member of this group. This study takes an autoethnographic approach to scrutinize my own journey through my narratives as well as that of 21 other self-identified comic book scholars. I will show how the experiences that we have shared have influenced our personal and professional lives and I will illuminate the diversity of the comic book scholars. By examining our own beliefs through narratives, we can understand ourselves and each other better, justifying the inclusion of the emerging title of ‘comic book scholar’ in academia.
3 Autoethnography is not common in the study of comics. Hatfield, Heer, and Worcester (2013) wrote that the main debates between comic scholars are those who see comics as literature and those who see them as visual art. The primary act is interpreting the texts, not analyzing what people do with the text. However, with comics and education, the method seems to fit as it offers a friendly research method, it enhances cultural understanding, and can transform readers toward coalition building (Chang, 2008). I will use narrative self-study, life history interviews, and information from a survey to understand what it is like to be a comic book scholar, what is the comic book scholar’s role, how this affects our pedagogy, and where comic book scholars fit within the university setting. Autoethnography is important for this study because comic scholars are not only interested in their subject of study, but most are fans of comics. Very few times in academia can one mix their popular culture fandom with serious academic work. This makes the field seem to be more personal, which leads to a narrative approach. There is something special about scholars who love comics and choose to teach them or write academically about them. Comics have been in the shadows of academia for so long, and now these comic book scholars are forcing them into the light for others to learn about and learn from. Statement of Purpose The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and professional identities. The study context is university professors and others who identify as comic book scholars. Comic books have been stigmatized in the past and have been absent in the educational arena (Groensteen, 2007; Viadero, 2009). Recently comic books have made their way back into
4 the classroom via educators using innovative pedagogy (Berninger, Ecke, & Haberkorn, 2010; Hatfield, et al., 2013; Tabachnick, 2009; Tilley, 2013; Weiner, 2012). While there are firsthand accounts of the experiences of these individuals using comics as teaching tools (Berninger, 2010; Dong, 2012; Syma, & Weiner, 2013; Tabachnick, 2009) there is an absence of qualitative studies that incorporate the sum of the experiences of the comic book scholar and the barriers that they have faced or the successes they have achieved. Research Questions RQ1: How do educators describe their lived experiences of being comic book scholars in higher education and how has it affected their personal and professional identity? RQ2: How do educators describe the experiences and the influences that shaped their decisions to use comic books as a pedagogical method or research area? Terms Comic books are not a genre, but a medium (McCloud, 1993). They are a way to tell a story using pictures and words. A story is a “structured narrative designed to achieve an emotional effect, demonstrate a proposition, or reveal character” (O’Neil, 2001, p. 11). The illustrations and prose in comic books work together like a marriage—two different ways of communication that tell one story. They can be defined “as a language comprised of two separate and vastly different elements used in tandem to convey information” (O’Neil, 2001, p. 12). However, no two definitions of comic books are the same. The comic books industry is full of different terms that mean something different to various people and are many times used interchangeably (Labio, 2011). Some of these terms include comic books, comics, graphic novels, comix, sequential art, graphic narratives, and comic book novel. Many think of comic books as monthly installments of an ongoing story and
5 graphic novels as longer stories contained in one binding. While some think of these terms as different, as seen in the recent book Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom: Essays on the Educational Power of Sequential Art (Syma & Weiner, 2013), some think of the terms as all referring to the same thing. As you will see throughout the study, few people use the same terms. For the purpose of clarification, following are the definitions of some terms used throughout this study: Comic books—A medium that tells a narrative or story that combines the written word with images placed in sequence, many times separated by gutters. This definition includes what most people consider graphic novels, which Eisner (1985) also defined as sequential art. This term is many times used to refer to the medium itself (Lyga & Lyga, 2004). Comic Strips—stories told in a sequence of a few panels. They are usually printed in newspapers and sometimes published as collections (Rhoades, 2008). Comics—A short version of comic books that is interchangeable with the term comic books (Lyga & Lyga, 2004). Comix—A term created in the 1960s that refers to underground comic books or noncommercial comic books that break many social taboos. Many of these were created in reaction to the idea of comic books being thought of as juvenile (Lyga & Lyga, 2004). Digital or Webcomics—Comics that are appear on a website or app. Some comics are first in print and appear digitally while others are created online and then are put into print. Other webcomics are only available digitally. These comics can be typical comic strips or comic books. Graphic novels—An extended comic book in the form of a book that tells a complete story. Many times, a collection of a series of comic books is put in one binding and called a
6 graphic novel (Lyga & Lyga, 2004). I believe that this term is often used by academics to make comic books seem more acceptable to their colleagues. Graphic narrative—An autobiographical or biographical story told in the medium of graphic novel (Abel & Madden, 2008). Graphica—Jargon for comic books and graphic novels (Thompson, 2008). Sequential art—Sequenced arrangement of pictures separated by boxes (Eisner, 2008). These terms will help the reader to understand the operationalized definitions and the context of the discourse used in the field of comic studies in general and in this dissertation, specifically. However, the field is comic studies which includes all of the above as their topics. Researcher Positionality Statement I have many identities in this study. I am a researcher, an advocate for the use of comic books in education, a comic book enthusiast, an educator, an owner of a comic book shop, and a comic book author. These multiple identities will allow me to examine the experiences and perceptions of this group of scholars in a way that an outsider could not. A qualitative study such as this is like painting, a mural with harmonious colors (McCaslin & Scott, 2003). The multiple voices will create a pleasing opus that will develop into a rich narrative of how this group of educators has experienced this phenomenon and how it has affected them personally and professionally. While all of these aspects of my identity will shape the forms of reflexivity I engage in, my role as researcher is the dominant and centering role for this project. However, reflexivity is emphasized in autoethnography and seeing the researcher as a member of the group is notable of articulation (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). In autoethnography one is not becoming the insider, they are the insider (Duncan, 2004). In this study, I am the insider.
7 I started using comics professionally when I began to use comic books as teaching tools to engage my students. At this point, I did not believe I was a comic scholar. In fact, I had not even heard the term yet. I was told there was a stigma in using comics as educational tools, however, I also believed that the educational benefits of comic books outweighed any stigma that may have occurred due to this decision. The importance of comic books has never been an issue to me. They are popular in my household and with most of my friends. I tend to use popular culture in my teaching as it relates to the majority of the students in my classroom. When I read The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man, I knew that I had to incorporate these into my teaching strategies. To me, they were real literature, even though using fiction in anthropology is not common, and I believed they were as appropriate as any other textbook I could choose. They are engaging and with the tendency of students to not read the assigned material, I figured that would be a bonus. I was not sure how to incorporate them at first, as I did not know if anyone was using comic books in higher education or not when I decided I wanted to start using them. I searched on the Internet and found information scattered around and some lessons on how to use comic books in literature classes, but not any ways to use them to teach anthropology. Comic books in many ways are very similar to traditional literature but they also have many unique qualities. I quickly found out that although I was used to reading comic books, many of my students were not. If you grow up reading comic books, you just understand how to read them. It is more than just reading the words and looking at the pictures—it is both and perhaps even more. So, I changed the way I taught comic books and began by first teaching my students how to read a comic book.
8 After attending my first academic comic book conference, I found that I was not alone. They were many comic book scholars using comic books in higher education. After participating in a panel on using comic books in the classroom at the Comics Arts Conference, held in conjunction with the San Diego Comic Con in 2010, the biggest comic convention in the world, which attracts over 130,000 people every year and contributes more than 160 million dollars to the local area (Salkowitz, 2012), I found that there are many more educators that want to know how to use comic books in the classroom but do not know how or have been met with adverse reaction from their peers and/or supervisors. It was also at this time that I began to refer to myself as a comic book scholar. However, I still did not know what that really meant. When deciding on a dissertation topic, my first thought was to expand an earlier study I have done on students’ perceptions of comic books (Blanch & Mulvihill, 2013). However, I quickly realized there was a lack of research on educators themselves, especially on those who identify as comic book scholars. This large gap in the literature is the focus of this dissertation. By utilizing my memories and experiences, plus those of other comic book scholars, perhaps I could get a better idea of the definition of a comic book scholar and how that title has affected their personal and professional lives. By identifying myself as an advocate for the use of comic books in education, a comic book enthusiast, an educator, and a comic books author as well as including myself as a participant in the study, a more complete picture can be created. I understand this approach as a way of letting “you use yourself to get to culture” (Pelias, 2003, p. 372). Comic books are my culture. Summary of Introduction The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and
9 professional identities. Comic books have been stigmatized in the past and this stigmatization can cross over into the scholar’s professional life. While there are numerous studies analyzing and considering the use of comics, there is a large gap in the literature on the innovative educators who use comic books in the classroom. That gap is the focus of this dissertation.
10 Chapter Two: Literature Review Summary of Study The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and professional identities. Comic books are slowly making their way into higher education classrooms, yet they still hold a stigma as being dumbed down or simply for children (http://www.debbieschlussel.com/4195/comic-book-learning-more-dumbing-down-of-americasschools/, 2008). According to the literature, comic books are seen by many educators as good teaching tools, but mainly for primary and secondary schooling. The use of comic books in the higher education classroom is usually limited to literature curriculums but this is slowly changing. This dissertation sought out why educators from various fields of study are using comic books in their research and classroom and why they choose to identify as a comic book scholar. As a member of this subculture, the study will employ my own experiences in using comic books for research and as an instructional strategy in my classroom. Review of Literature The one purpose of teaching is learning, but teaching can occur without learning (Cross, 1988). It is not that educators do not want students to learn, but many use forms of teaching that do not promote learning such as critical thinking (Fink, 2003). There has been a paradigm shift recently where educators are exploring active and experiential learning. Some activities include role-playing, problem-based learning, small group learning, and writing to learn. Including new ways of thinking in course design is imperative in today’s world. Educators face the problems of getting students to prepare for class, becoming bored, and not retaining knowledge. To create a high-quality learning experience, educators must know their subject matter, have student–teacher
11 interactions, manage their course well, and design learning experiences that get the students to learn. Improvement in one area of these listed can make a difference. But many teachers are unprepared for designing learning experiences and at many institutions change from the standard way of teaching is seen as too radical. However, sometimes change is necessary no matter the cost. Students are changing and our teaching methods must change as well. Whether it is because of the movie industry or because of the format, comic books are becoming popular again after an economic recession. Hollywood is producing movies based on comic books along with prime-time television and video games (Lopes, 2009). Comic books are not just superheroes and detective stories. Genres in comic books are very diverse, ranging from stories for children to autobiographical comic books and educational comic books. Comic books have won awards and have captured stories that film and prose could not capture alone. From what I see in my everyday life, comic books capture the imagination and curiosity of people of all ages, ethnicities, social status, religions, gender, or political views. If something captures the eye of so many people and it has a story to tell, it can be used to teach and engage students. This resurgence of the visual culture is being taken advantage of by some educators who see that change needs to occur. There are educators who are using comic books as teaching tools in all grade levels. But instead of using them as tools to get younger students interested in reading, they are being used as literature, as textbooks to learn about culture, religion, politics, and more. There are textbooks that are being produced in comic book form. Who are these teachers and why did they choose such an unorthodox method of teaching and how does it affect their career decisions? While comic books have not been around as long as “literature,” they have been around longer than movies (Berninger, et al., 2010). Yet, while there are academic disciplines devoted
12 to film and literature, comic studies is only recently being accepted. There are no departments of comic studies, however, there are scholars who specialize in comic studies. There are several reasons for this. One, they are associated with popular culture more than movies or literature and, two, comic books are seen as a combination of literature and movies so many times their uniqueness is ignored. There is not a plethora of literature on the use of comic books in the higher education classroom but it has certainly increased in the last decade as educators accept new pedagogical methods. Oxford University Press recently published a “graphic history,” Abina and the Important Men (Getz & Clarke, 2012) based on a woman who was wrongfully enslaved, that contains reading guides and teaching material and now has an entire series of books. History of Comic Books in Education The comic book as it is known today began in the early 1930s. Shortly after the first superhero comic book was published in 1938, comic books began not just reprinting comic strips, but contained new material. Comic books attracted the eye of many educators due to their popularity with children and innovative educators began working on ways to use them to engage students in the classroom. Sones (1944) was one of the first scholars to conduct studies on the use of comic books in the classroom realizing that 95% of all 8–14 years olds and 65% of 15–18 year olds were reading comic books on a regular basis. There were curriculums created that included comic books (Hutchinson, 1949) and there was an entire volume of the Journal of Educational Sociology (1944) devoted to using comic books for educational purposes. Comic books were being researched and studied by Sones (1944) and his peers. The community of educators was so enamored with the popularity of comic books, that the Child Study Associates of America endorsed them for use in the classroom (Gruenberg, 1944). Many educators used
13 them only to support reluctant or slow readers, while some used them as stepping stones to other literature. While they were not seen as true literature, comic books had their foot in the door of education. New teaching methods are often initially opposed. Some educators, but mainly librarians, believed that comic books were literary fast food (Eisner, 2003). Some believed it curtailed learning while others believed it led to eye strain (Dorrell, Curtis, and Rampal, 1995). North (1940), a literary critic for the Chicago Daily News, wrote that parents and educators that let children read comic books were “guilty of criminal negligence” (p. 56). These educators found a leader in Frederic Wertham, a psychiatrist who believed that comic books were the cause of juvenile delinquency in America. He wrote about this in his book Seduction of the Innocent (1954) and later in the year testified at the U.S. Senate subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearing on the effects of comics as an expert (Leber-Cook & Cook, 2013). Repercussions from the trial included the instilment of the Comics Code Authority, a rating/censorship group, and the popular idea that comic books were bad for children. At this point, the use of comic books as educational tools ceased. Comic books were thus absent from the educational realm until they reappeared in the 1970s. Some forward-thinking scholars began reintegrating comic books into their curriculum (Alongi, 1974; Brocka, 1979; Haugaard, 1973; Koenke, 1981). Yet, the stigma of comic books was still strong; it was not until the 1990s when Art Spiegelman’s comic book Maus (1992) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize that the idea of comic books in education became a more widespread possibility. Other comic books, usually referred to as graphic novels to escape the stigma, are now seen as literature and worthy of study by educators. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons won the Hugo award while American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang won the Printz
14 award. Recently, Gene Yang was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (Yang, 2017). Additionally, in 2016 the graphic novel March: Book 3 won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This is the first time a graphic novel or as I call it, a comic book, has won this award (Barron, 2016). Comic books are not going away. Currently there are many educators who realize comic books are valuable teaching tools. While comic books started as being useful tools in the lower grades, they can be applied in any educational setting (Carter, 2007). Courses that use comic books as textbooks include: Media studies or language arts (Ballenger, 2006; Brocka, 1979; Monin, 2010; Norton, 2003; Schoof, 1978; Versaci, 2001), popular culture (Brocka, 1979), art education (Williams, 2008), communication (Duncan and Smith, 2009), the foreign language classroom (Ellman, 1979; Marsh, 1978), physics (Kakalios, 2002), history (Dobrowolski, 1976), multilingual (Cary, 2004), and business ethics (Gerde & Foster, 2008). There are also several books on comic studies (Hatfield, et al., 2013; Heer and Worcester, 2009; Pustz, 1999; Syma & Weiner, 2013; Thomas, 2010) and several universities such as the University of Dundee in Scotland and the University of Oregon are offering degrees in comic studies. These are just a smattering of the books about comics and their uses in education or study published now. Comic scholarship is real and it deserves to be taken seriously. The permeation of comics in our culture is undeniable, but the stigma persists. In 1944, Gruenberg noted that with comics “[t]here is hardly a subject that does not lend itself to presentation through this medium” (p. 213). This idea is continuing today and the use of comic books in education is demonstrating the potential of how to enhance instruction (Tilley, 2013). However, some educators are still hesitant to use comic books in the classroom due to either the lingering stigma or the supposed newness of the medium.
15 Stigma Fredric Wertham’s contrived uproar about the dangers of comic books and his appearance in the Senate Subcommittee hearing led the comic book community to instill their own watchdog system, the Comics Code Authority (Leber-Cook & Cook, 2013). Comics were said to impede children’s development of literacy skills and prevent children from appreciating true literature. It was also feared comic books would lead to moral decay (Wertham, 1954). Advocates of using comic books in education still see a stigma retained on the use of comic books among educators and even some students (Viadero, 2009). Despite the potential pedagogical value of comics, part of the continuing stigma may in fact be perpetuated by academics. While certain comic books are seen as viable reading material, the articles and books published by academics are mostly unillustrated texts (Leber-Cook & Cook, 2013). However, not all scholars believe this is true. Some academics are challenging this notion. Nick Sousanis of Columbia University was the first to write his dissertation in comic form. He used images to show how new avenues of learning are possible with comics’ interwoven elements (DeSantis, 2012). Nick now has his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies and is starting a comics track at San Francisco State University. He believed that this type of dissertation will be read by more than just other academics (N. Sousanis, personal communication, July 2, 2013) and he is not wrong. Jason Tondro, a fellow comics scholar included in this dissertation, is having his whole class read Sousanis’ book Unflattening for his interdisciplinary research methods course. The stigma against comics is powerful and can be seen as working in similar ways even beyond comics. Gruenberg (1944) reminded us of the stigma given to new ideas in academia. From written texts, to radio, to television, some scholars have refuted change and embraced the
16 old ways of thinking. This “irritating nonsense” where new ideas are disregarded while conventional ways are seen as the only true academic frame need to be rethought (Palmer, 1998, p. 112). Unfortunately, comics still suffer from this stigma. Change comes slowly, but it will come about and comic scholars will be crucial in this effort. Comic Books and Education In order to be effective, education has to change along with the times and the students (Murr & Williams, 1988). Today’s students are stimulated visually every day, growing up with television, movies, video games, and smartphones. The standard idea that written text is the most effective way of teaching is the norm, but with today’s technology, teaching needs to be modified or balanced. This is not eliminating reading and writing, but unless students are motivated, they are not learning. In addition to motivating students visually, teaching with comics has other benefits. For example, teaching culturally diverse students can be challenging and basic differences in the teacher’s background and the student’s background can cause stress and failure in the classroom (Svinick & McKeachie, 2011). In the United States, the ethnic and cultural makeup of students is changing day to day (Gargiulo, 2008). Comic books can help to bridge those cultural differences as the graphics and the language can convey complex information more readily (Gerde & Foster, 2008). Comic books can also bridge socioeconomic and generational gaps. I am not arguing that using comic books is the only way to teach correctly, but only that comics be included in the teaching arsenal. Films, television, and the written word are worth staying even though at some point in time all of those methods have been thought to hinder learning. Educators should not use only one teaching method, they must use many different types to engage the different basic learning styles of students—visual, auditory/verbal, tactile,
17 and kinesthetic (Dunn & Dunn, 1993). Comic books are motivating, they reflect culture, they are visual, and they can be applied to many different learning styles. Motivation and Engagement There are many reasons comic books are good teaching tools. Comic books are inherently interesting and the pictures are eye-catching. Students are interested in them and they become motivated. Comic books create opportunities for students and educators to engage in meaningful dialogue (Williams, 2008). Kay Haugaard (1973), a teacher and early proponent of comic books in the classroom, wrote “if educators ever find out what constitutes the fantastic motivating power of the comic book, I hope they bottle it and sprinkle it around schoolrooms” (p. 55). By using comic books in the classroom, educators can benefit from this motivation. Motivating students is a topic that concerns most educators (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). The complex media surrounding today’s students sometimes make traditional classroom materials seem dull or boring to the students. Using comic books as classroom teaching tools catches the students off balance and leads them to become more engaged and motivated (Versaci, 2001). This type of teaching is vital in today’s learning environment. Engagement is key. Disengaged students and those who are nonparticipants in classroom discussions can be distracting to educators. Many students lose motivation to speak in class for many reasons such as fear of being embarrassed, lack of knowledge, cultural norms, and boredom (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). By using comic books as a teaching tool, many of these fears are allayed because of the ideology attached to comic books. This breakdown of the norms of culture can motivate students to take part in classroom dialogue.
18 Students learn information unintentionally many times (Caine & Caine, 2001). The context of the learning environment and the emotion associated with that learning is very important. In a sterile emotional climate, understanding is often prevented. The optimal learning environment is relaxed alertness, where the student wants to learn and motivation is present internally. But motivation must also be present externally. Comic books can provide this motivation internally by stimulating the student and externally by the excitement of this learning method from the educator. With comic books, the words give substance to the meaning and sequences of actions. The medium is novel in that it in some ways provides more information to the reader than prose and in other ways, less. I belive that good graphic novels such as Maus and Watchmen engage the imagination in ways that no other medium can. When students’ imaginations are engaged, they take part in conversations and realized that their lives and stories are sources of knowledge, something that education seldom treats so (Palmer, 1998). This is something that is imperative in today’s educational world. Popular Culture Students are drenched in popular culture in their everyday lives. By incorporating popular culture into the classroom, educators can bridge the divide between the student’s lives in and out of school (Morrison, Braun, & Chilcoat, 2002). There should be a continuum between what is going on in the student’s life and their experiences in school. Hutchinson (1949) stated, “New learning always is a continuation or expansion of learning already possessed by the learner (p. 236). Using comic books is a way for educators to incorporate popular culture into the classroom and lead students in discussions about lifestyles, myths, and values that they already
19 possess (Brocka, 1979). Any way for students to learn is successful and the visuals of comic books seem to help that learning occur. Students often have a difficult time transferring what they have learned into the real world or even to other classes (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011). This is due to the context in which the information was learned. Making a connection between what the students are learning and their own lives should be a goal of educators (Palmer, 1998). This is true of prose books and comics books. However, by incorporating comic books as popular culture into the classroom, the students relate their learning to the real world in a new way and then can see the concepts of what they are learning in everyday activities, therefore, applying what they have learned. Although most comic book worlds are not reality, the students can relate to the characters. Comic books can also instill a love of reading, which can translate into life-long learning. As young children learn to read using the comic book, they also learn to love reading and this will then be transferred to reading more and more. Multimodal Learning Visual images are central to culture (Bleed, 2005). “The ability to understand, produce, and use culturally significant images, objects, and visible actions” is important to fully function in today’s world (Felten, 2008, p. 60). The students of today are “digital natives” who already have a certain degree of visual literacy, but all students do not naturally possess these skills. This is less a generational phenomenon and more of one that is due to exposure. Digital natives are those who “are intuitive visual communicators” and they are “able to weave together images, text, and sound in a natural way.” (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005, p. 25) Students must learn how to critically analyze and evaluate this messages as simply growing up around something does not make one an expert. Being literate means more than just
20 understanding words and text (Felton, 2008). A recent Stanford report indicates how digital natives are actually bad at understanding these ideas (Stanford History Education Group, 2016). Students are motivated by studying visuals and evaluating them critically and this leads them to become more confident learners (Bazeli, 1991). Visual literacy is becoming basic to our society and students who have visual communication skills are more employable. Today, “the current generation is more comfortable with nontext visual media” (Carter, 2007, p. 11). This means that teaching methods need to change. Multimodal learning assumes meaning is communicated through several different modes all in one piece. This type of learning is important for critical thinking skills. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has stated a need for literacy educators to help students understand multimodal texts (NCTE Position Statement, 2005, Declarations Concerning the Broadest Section). A comic book is a form of a multimodal text (Carter, 2007; Monnin, 2010). A student’s life is full of multimodal ideas and the classroom should reflect that. Luke (2003) explained that the classroom is one of the only places in student’s daily life where they are not “blending, mixing, and matching knowledge drawn from diverse textual sources and communication media” (p. 398), it is argued that teaching with visuals helps people learn. Handelsman, Miller, and Pfund (2006) claimed that by using visual frameworks students not only learn better, but also understand entire processes better. Using visuals to train students to critically understand the world “should be an essential component of a liberal education” (Felton, 2008, p. 63). Schwarz (2002) claimed, “In an increasingly visual culture, literacy educators can profit from the use of graphic novels in the classroom, especially for young adults” (p. 262). There are many types of teaching methods and educators should look for new ways to include these methods as student’s lives change.
21 Teaching and Learning Methods In traditional education, most new and different learning methods are ignored (Caine & Caine, 2001). The combination of text and graphics can be a powerful teaching tool. They can “literally ‘put a human face’ on a given subject” (Versaci, 2001, p. 62). Comic books do not only increase learning for visual learners, but also those of verbal learners (Mayer & Massa 2003). Comic books can help students learn in multiple ways. Students acquire knowledge using different techniques. This has always been true, but has never been more so than in today’s quickly changing world of technology. However, no matter what the environment, students must be engaged. One way to do this is to create a stimulating environment for the students using learning theories that will enhance student understanding while keeping their interest. Constructivist Learning The constructivist theory helps students to meaningfully construct knowledge and be able to retain that knowledge (Matthews, 1997). Learning should be active. Constructing knowledge is important and being able to connect that knowledge to personal experience is even more important instead of passively receiving the information. There is no blank slate upon which knowledge is to be written. We all have prior knowledge of some sort. Constructivism is not letting students figure out everything for themselves but rather views knowledge as an active process where learners are actively creating knowledge. Bain (2004) wrote, “When we encounter new material, we try to comprehend it in terms of something we think we already know” (p. 26). This is how we learn. Constructivism is concerned with how students generate meaning from their personal experiences and knowledge. Learning is the process of students connecting new information and
22 their prior experiences to make meaning (Naylor & Keogh, 1999). By reflecting on those experiences, students reach meaning and understanding of their world. This changes the role of educators. They must be able to explain information in a way that reaches the students current state of knowledge. This can be difficult when the educator has a class full of students from different backgrounds, different schools, different skill levels, different learning styles, etc. However, the information an educator provides will build on what students already know allowing them to connect the information with their contexts. Also important is giving the information to the students in a way that they can understand and making the students want to learn more inside and outside of the classroom. Experiential Learning According to the experiential learning theory there are two types of learning: cognitive and experiential (Rogers & Freiberg, 1994). Cognitive learning is academic memorization while experiential is applied knowledge. Experiential learning was first brought to attention by Kolb (1984). Kolb provided a framework of learning that involves a cycle of four processes. He claimed that for learning to occur, all four must be present. This is called the experiential learning model. The four processes are concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Kolb (1984) found that learning occurs when a student has an experience and wants to know more. More than just learning the information presented, the student begins generating ideas and engaging in a thinking process. This information then can be repurposed, resulting in new information that peers can evaluate. This is the basic concept of experiential learning. Yorks and Kasl (2002) viewed experience as “a process, an encounter with the world” (p. 182). Students should learn this as it is what they will encounter in the world.
23 Experiential learning is making meaning from the direct experience of that process. It is an immersion into the experience of learning. When experiencing this type of learning, it “stimulates the brain activity that leads to deep understanding” (Fogarty, 2009). Structuring learning around real life, the learning becomes more meaningful. Experiential learning is sometimes practiced to prepare students for the complex issues they will come across in their chosen occupation, acting as a bridge between their education and the real world (Strait & Sauer, 2004). It can be accomplished through activities such as games, field trips, role-playing, or narratives. The cycle starts with an even, a concrete experience (Svinicki & Dixon, 1987). This could be reading the text, a film, an example, and observation, or something from a game. Next, that experience is reflected upon. This could entail writing in a journal, working in groups, coming up with a list of questions, or writing a paper. Regardless of the reflection, it must be viewed from many different aspects. During the abstract conceptualization stage the student draws conclusions. The students could write position papers or the educator could lecture on how others have viewed the experience and then have the students discuss the similarities of their reactions. Finally, using the information from the first three steps, the students guide action that will lead back to step one, a new concrete experience. This could be expressed in homework, a simulation of sort, interviews, or a project. Kolb (1984) believed that students learn better when they are shown practical applications of the theories that they are presented. For instance, using hands on activities to experience a hypothesized effect. Using multiple methods, such as tactile and visual learning, within a single activity has also been shown to produce better retention amongst students participating in the lesson.
24 Transformative Learning Introduced by Mezirow (1990, 1991), transformative learning can be referred to as “a transformational outcome, a process of learning that is experienced by a learner, and an educational program or event designed to foster learning experiences that result in or catalyze a transformational outcome” (Stevens-Long, Schapiro, & McClintock, 2012, pp. 184–85). Regardless of the perspective from which it is viewed, transformative learning attempts to change assumptions that students’ hold due to their previous experiences. “Learning is constructed in the mind of the learner” (Fogarty, 2009, p. 173). Transformative learning is a learner-centered process that is based on reflection and the interpretation of the students’ learned assumptions. The goal of transformative learning is for the student to understand why they see the world as they do and to rid themselves of the constraining perspectives that they may have. Throughout the students’ lives they have established different feelings, responses, values, and concepts that add up to our experiences. By critically reflecting on those experiences, the student can understand why they view the world as they do. The result can be “a wholistic change in how a person both affectively experiences and conceptually frames his or her experience of the world when pursuing learning that is personally developmental, socially controversial, or requires personal or social healing” (Yorks & Kasl, 2006, p. 46). Many times transformative learning is unanticipated by the students as they do not realize that they will grow personally as well as intellectually in the course (Palloff & Pratt, 2007). Hopefully, the transformative learning experience will leave a lasting impact on a student. A study by Yorks and Kasl (2006) found that transformative learning is a whole person experience. They interviewed students on the changes they have seen in themselves over the
25 length of the course they took. Not only did the class make the students challenge their own assumptions, but they also began appreciating diverse perspectives. The new perspectives that they gained through the critical reflection was action on instead of simply thought about. They became more tolerant of others and of themselves, becoming more willing to express feelings and thoughts. Active Learning Contrary to what some educators believe, all education is not active. Bonwell and Eison (1991) defined active learning as “anything that ‘involves students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing’” (p. 2). It puts the responsibility of learning onto the learner. Students think about what they are doing instead of listening and following instructions. Students must do more than just listen and regurgitate information (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). For learning to occur, it is important for students to listen, read, write, discuss, and be engaged. When students are engaged in the class it increases the degree of retention by the student. In active learning there is more emphasis on developing the students’ skills than transmitting information to the student. Active learning utilizes the students’ prior knowledge base and then the deconstruction and the reconstruction of knowledge based on the new information gained through the educational experience (Keyser, 2000). The students become involved with the topic being studied instead of simply thinking about it. By doing this, they become not just recipients of knowledge, but they make their own knowledge. Reflective Learning In 1933, Dewey defined reflection as “active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and further
26 conclusions to which it tends” (in Andrusyszyn & Davie, 1997, p. 105). It is taking an experience and reorganizing it, adding meaning to the previous experience and opening the students eyes to knowledge to which they may have been blind. It is meaning making. It is “an interaction between the individual and the environment” (Stevens & Cooper, 2009, p. 20). Reflection is a part of the cycle of learning (Kolb, 1984). Schon (1983), inspired by Dewey, introduced reflective learning based on the capacity to reflection-in-action (reflecting while doing something) and also reflection-on-action (after the action has been done). Reflection is more than just thinking. The process of reflection occurs in a cycle (Stevens & Cooper, 2009). First there is an action, there is reflection on that action, and then another form of action. Reflection is not isolated, but part of the learning experience. One of the goals of teaching is to use reflection to bring a change of behavior (Athar Hussain, Mehmood, & Sultana, 2011). This process of action, reflection, and action is very much like reading a comic book and one reason why I believe comic books boost learning. In Brain-Compatible Classrooms (2009), Fogarty wrote, “All learning is for transfer” (p. 175). Information is portable and is transferred to each new learning situation but requires reflection. To promote critical thinking and learning, three strategies can be used. The first is cognitive meditation where teacher help student to think about their thinking in certain exercises. The second is metacognitive reflection which is self-reflection initiated by the student. Lastly is direct application, which is when the learner becomes aware “of the self-reflective process through purposeful use” (p. 175–176). All of these ways help students to learn. Comic Book Scholars Comics scholars are relatively new to the academic arena. Scholars have used and written about comics before, but not with a title. This is a self-imposed title that hopefully will
27 be accepted by academia soon. Many dissertations and theses have been written on comics. This is not an exhaustive list, but highlights many important dissertations. Dissertations There have been many dissertations using comic books as their subject and many of those have become published in book form. Recently, Nick Sousanis took the academic world by storm as he became the first person to complete a doctoral dissertation in comic book form. Unflattening (2015) was published by Harvard University Press and is the first of its kind. The American Comic Book: A Cultural History was a dissertation by Bradford Walker Wright and was completed at Purdue University in 1998. It was published as Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America (2003) and is used in many classrooms. Besides these, there are others such as Capes and the Canon: Comic Book Superheroes and Canonical American Literature by Forrest Helvie (2014) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Paul Hirsch (2013) from the University of California’s dissertation looked at something completely different by examining United State policies in Pulp Empire: Comics Books, Culture, and U.S. Freight Policy, 1941–1955. Stanford Carpenter of Rice University wrote his dissertation Imagining Identity: Ethnographic investigations into the work of creating images of race, gender, and ethnicity in comic books in 2003. Peter Coogan completed his dissertation in American Studies at Michigan State University titled The Secret Origin of the Superhero: The Origin and Evolution of the Superhero Genre in America. There are too many comic book dissertations to mention in detail here, however, a more complete, but not exhaustive list, is located in Appendix B. The subjects range from reading comics to deaf readers to the representation of the self. However, the gap in literature that is missingis the one about the comic scholars themselves.
28 Academic Programs It has only been recently that degrees in comic book studies have been offered. So, those who are teaching these courses most likely do not have a Comic Studies degree and many of them never took a class using comic books as teaching tools much less a course dedicated to comic books. I am included in the group that uses them to teach, but never got to learn with one in the classroom. The University of Dundee in Scotland offers a Comic Studies Master Degree, a MLitt in Comic Studies. The undergraduate courses offered include: “The Pictured Page: Literature to Comics,” “British Comics Writers: Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison,” and “Comics and Graphic Novels.” Postgraduate Courses include “Critical Approaches to Comics and Graphic Novels,” “International Comics Cultures,” “Autobiographix: Autobiographical and Documentary Comics,” “Science Fiction Comics,” “Literature and Comics,” “Comics and Film, Creating Comics,” and “Digital Comics”. These are courses that are full of new information that can not only help people learn, but help to educate teacher’s on how to use comics in their classrooms. The University of Calgary is looking to recruit doctoral students that want a degree in English with a focus on comics (Teige, 2014). While the program is not a degree in comic studies, the funding provided is for four years at the University, and does focus on comics. There is a track of study is available at the University of Florida in Comics and Visual Rhetoric (University of Florida, 2011). At West Liberty University in West Virginia one can get a Comic Literature Degree through their English Department that began in Fall of 2013 (Johnston, 2013). It is a literature major in Graphic Narrative, 4-year degree for students who want to study comic books as
29 literature. While this is housed in the English Department, they also hope to develop a similar program offered through the Art Department. At the University of Oregon, a student can receive a minor in Comics and Cartoon Studies (http://comics.uoregon.edu/). Students must take six classes from classes in multiple departments that include Art, Art History, English, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Literature, and Romance Languages. The class list is expanding every semester as this is such a new program. The California College of the Arts offers a MLA in Comics, which is a 3-year, intensive workshop type program that works with comic book creators as well (https://www.cca.edu/academics/graduate/comics Scholars). Recently, Henderson State University was approved to have a comic studies minor and Portland State University received approval for a Comic Studies Program. Comic Book Courses While there are only a few programs that give degrees in comic book studies of some sort, there are many universities that offer courses about comic books and even more that use comic books. While this is not an exhaustive list, the following gives a scope of the courses that are being taught. Most of the courses are offered through the university’s English department or the art department, but there are many departments offering courses. • At California State University Northridg, two courses are taught on a regular basis including a course on comics from around the world in Comparative Literature and one on American Comics through the English Department. • In the English Department at CSU Northridge, Dr. Charles Hatfield teaches Comics and Graphic Novels that is a dedicated catalog course on comics. He has also offered courses on
30 Comics and the Novel, Los Bros Hernandez, and a seminar dedicated to Art Spiegelman’s work. • At Washington State University in St. Loius, Peter Coogan regularly teaches Comics, Graphic Novels, and Sequential Art in the American Culture Studies Department. Instructors in American Culture Studies and other departments offer comics courses on an irregular basis. • At the University of Georgia, there is one comics course offered with a catalog designation of “Comics and Graphic Novels” while other courses such as Comics Theory and Practice are still special topic courses. • Graphic Storytelling is a course that Dr. Matthew Smith has offered at Wittenberg University since 2006. He also offers a summer study program for students where they write and present their ethnographies about their trip to San Diego Comic Con. • Dr. Kent Worcester offers courses at both Marymount Manhattan College and a course on Comics Criticism at the School of Visual Arts every fall. • West Liberty University has courses offered through their English Department and the Art Department. • In Arkadelphia, Arkansas at Henderson State University, several courses in comic studies are being offered. These are all listed as special topics courses in communication or Psychology but they are in the process of turning them into catalog courses with the hopes of having a Comic Studies minor. The courses range from Introduction to Comics Studies and Nonfiction Comics to Comic and Psychology and Stan Lee Heroes. • Louisiana State University offers Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels, Contemporary American Graphic Novels, Comics of the 1980s, Superhero Narratives and American Culture, and Comics and the South.
31 • Ball State University offers comic book courses in many different department including English, Religious Studies, and Anthropology. • The main campus of Pennsylvania State University offers comic book courses once a year in both the English and Comparative Literature Departments for both undergraduates and graduates (personal communication Scott Smith). Penn State also offers a 4-week course on Comics and Medicine through their College of Medicine. • Undergraduate courses in comics are taught every other semester at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. • At Northern Arizona University, a course called Superheroes and Political Theory is being offered. • An undergraduate/graduate course on comics is offered once a year at Western Michigan University through the English Department. • The College of Coastal Georgia offers course every semester through their American Studies Program. • The University of Iowa offers courses on comics regular, in several different departments. • North Carolina State University offers both Comics Book and Religion in World Perspective in their Religious Studies Department and a course on designing and drafting comics in their School of Design. • The Dickinson College English Department has two faculty members that offer courses on comics on a regular basis (personal communication Gregory Steirer). • Clackamas Community College in Oregon City offers four comic courses every year in their English Department. Introduction to Literature: Comics, The Graphic Memoir, and Popular Literature (which rotates topics within comics) are all taught by Dr. Trevor Dodge while the
32 fourth class, Creative Writing: Scripting for Comics, is taught by an instructor from the comics industry such as Kelly-Sue DeConnick or Brian Bendis. • In Painesville, Ohio, Lake Eric College offers classes focusing on Superman every Fall Semester in the Arts, Culture, and Humanities Learning Community. • At Columbus College of Art and Design, Dr. Robert Loss has taught an English course called Literature of Comics and Graphic Novels since 2010. He also has taught a course titled Comics and Narrative Illustration, which blends narrative principles with comics-centric principles. • Lehman College offers an undergraduate interdisciplinary honors course on comics every year and Dr. David Hyman recently piloted a graduate English course focusing on comics. • At Bowling Green University in Ohio, Dr. Charles Coletta teaches an undergrad American Culture Studies course called Comics and Culture once, sometimes twice, during the academic year. • There is a senior seminar called “Tebeos, historias, peppiness y monos: Comic Books in the Hispanic World” that is taught at Ambrose University in Iowa. They are developing a similar course for English Speakers that will be taught in the International Studies Department. • The Spanish Department at Whitman College offers a course titled “Voces visuales/Visual voices” every three years. • At Milikin University, the courses International Graphic Novels and The Rhetoric of the Superhero are both offered in the English Department. • At Texas Tech, two honors courses use comics. They are used in Superhero in Film, History, and Popular Culture as well as in Zombie Culture: The Zombie in Film, History, Literature, Sequential Art, and the Popular Imagination.
33 • Every semester at Indiana University, Dr. Andrei Molotiu teaches a comic book course in the Art History Department. He rotates three courses and is adding a fourth. • Columbia University offers a course on the American Graphic Novel in the American Studies Department taught by Paul Levitz, the once head of DC comics. They also offer a reading course through the English Department ever summer and a course on Comics and Education taught by Nick Sousanis, the first person to write his dissertation in comic book form. • Pace University in New York offers a Comics and Graphic Novel Publishing Course taught by Paul Levitz. The Comics Studies Society On November 14, 2014, a group that is now known as the Comic Studies Society (CSS) held its first meeting at the Ohio State University (http://www.robertloss.org/cablesandrants/2014/11/22/thoughts-on-icaf-2014). Information is still being made public about the society but at the International Comic Arts Forum (ICAF), but in 2014 history was made for comic scholars. The CSS is the first professional association for researchers and educators who consider themselves comic scholars. The CSS (http://www.comicssociety.org/, p. 2) agree comic studies is to: include the study and critical analysis of comic strips; comic books, papers, and magazines; albums, graphic novels, and other graphic books; webcomics and other electronic format; single-panel cartoons, including editorial and gag cartoons; caricature; animation; and other related forms and tractions. All Types of sequential art, graphic narrative, and cartooning are relevant. As of now, the rules for membership have not been announced but it is “open to all comic scholars” (http://www.comicssociety.org/, p. 1) but that is not defined except to add that they can
34 be working in the academy or independently. Perhaps this study will help to define who is a comic book scholar. What is a Scholar? A scholar, from the Latin term scholars from the term schola for school, is “1) a person who attends school or studies under a teacher, 2) a person who has done advanced study “a special field or a learned person or 3) a holder of a scholarship” (“Scholar,” 2014). There is much rigor and high expectation in a scholarly commitment. The term scholar has been defined differently through time and it is yet still difficult to come up with a concrete definition (Michaud, 1922). Michaud lists some of the ideals that a scholar must embrace. They are quality, steadfastness, equanimity, repose, poise, modesty, sociability, courteousness, graciousness, affectionateness, noble, humorous, generous, responsive, sympathetic, enthusiastic, stimulating, exhilarating, open-minded, and open-hearted. Yet, these are ideals, not standards. While it is not listed above, scholarship is a large part of being considered a scholar. Research and publication has been the gold standard for scholars (Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel, & Hutchings, 2008). However, there is more to scholarship than that. Boyer (1977) described the scholar as being passionate and creative and worked to expand the definition of scholarship to more than just being published. He proposed four interrelated areas of scholarship in the pursuit of knowledge (Boyer, 1977). These include discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Discovery and research is at the heart of knowledge. Boyer (1977) claimed the pursuit of new knowledge and discovery fuels excitement for the discipline, which is crucial. Linking closely with discovery, integration is the use of scholar’s research in their work. The generation
35 of new knowledge is important, but it much also be put into practice (Braxton, Luckey, & Helland, 2002). By integrating research into practice, patterns are discovered and connections are made, bringing meaning to the original work. This allows the research and scholarship to be applied to further research or as solutions to problems. All of this scholarship also leads to teaching. There are three elements involved in teaching: teacher knowledge, the transfer of that knowledge to the student, and the teacher as a learner (Boyer, 1977). If a teacher is inspiring, then the students are inspired and scholarship has been achieved. If a teacher is motivated and a role model, that motivates students to do the same. However, is this what it means to be a scholar? The preceding material creates more questions than it answers. Does one need to have a degree to be considered a scholar? Do you need to have a degree in a specific field? Is research and teaching necessities in being a scholar? Does one need to be published and if so, are there restrictions of what kinds of publications? In the emerging field of comic studies, there is the dilemma that many of the scholars do not hold a degree in comics as there were no programs at the time of their education. Does that make them less of a scholar? This is what we hope to discover. Summary of Literature Review In today’s visual culture, comic books are being accepted as teaching tools by many educators in higher education. However, comics studies as a discipline still does not exist and many of the courses must be special topics, mainly due to the stigma attached to the medium. Comic scholars are defending the medium and moving forward with their efforts to get comic books accepted.
36 Some common goals of teaching include connecting ideas, critical thinking skills, giving hands-on experience, and showing the relevance of different perspectives (Hall & Lucal, 1999). Many students do not have the skills of stripping away layers of images to see if there is anything more to the visual than their first impressions. Looking into an image to delve deeper into what it is saying is critical in a visual society. Comic books give students that skill by analyzing images just as they would a narrative piece. A huge part of critical thinking is seeing how ideas connect to one another. Analysis of images in a comic and analysis of the connections between images, words, and the story helps to develop this critical thinking skill. Comic scholars are putting the needs of their students and their education first. Many universities are offering courses using comic books and the idea of the comic scholar is growing, especially with the formation of the Comic Studies Society, the new professional association for comic scholars and teachers. But the definition of a comic scholar is still up for debate. As previously seen, the breadth of the comic courses offered by the diverse group of comic book scholars is staggering. What brings these people together for the field of comic book studies and what propels them to fight against the stigmas and stereotypes to use comic books in an academic setting?
37 Chapter Three: Methods The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and professional identities. At this juncture, comic scholars are self-identifying, but how does that affect their personal and professional life? What are their struggles? Why do they believe they qualify as a comic book scholar? How can this be investigated? By answering these questions and giving parameters, comic scholars will be better equipped in the classroom and in academia in general. This chapter presents an overview of the methods used to answer the study’s guiding questions. Details concerning the methodology, participants, procedures in collection, and data analysis procedures are offered. Design Framework Hammersley and Atkinson (1995) stated that a qualitative “research design should be a reflexive process operating through every stage of a project” (p. 24). Due to this process, the design framework (i.e., theory, data collection methods, research questions) will change the framework intertwines within itself. This does not mean there is no design, however. It is simply less restrictive and can be considered an “interactive” model (Maxwell, 1996, p. 215). While educators in general have been studied, little has been done on higher education instructors who use comic books in their courses and how this has affected them. This study begins to build a research base that further qualitative research can explore. I chose to do a qualitative study. Qualitative Research Qualitative research is “any kind of research that produces finding not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 17).
38 This is not seeking a generalization of findings, but looking for an illumination and an understanding that there are many ways to represent different understandings of our world (Eisner, 1991). Using qualitative methods is a way to help understand phenomena that we do not know much about, to gain perspective on a topic well-known, and gain in-depth information (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). It does not identify information with absolute statistical proof, but creates an account of “plausibility” (Erickson, 1986, p. 149). In addition, to giving a different method for the researcher, qualitative inquiry also gives the reader a better way of understanding. It gives “them the information in the form in which they usually experience it” (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 120). This type of research is simply more meaningful to the reader. Qualitative researchers situated in the constructivist paradigm acknowledge the availability of multiple realities, and assume that knowledge is coconstructed as individuals transact with one another in specific contexts (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). As more researchers work to separate themselves from research activities, which is nearly impossible, qualitative studies acknowledge their involvement (Ngunjiri, Hernandez, & Chang, 2010). Using direct data collection, rich narrative descriptions, process orientation, inductive data analysis, perspectives of the participants, socially constructed meanings, and using an emergent research design, multiple realities are represented (McMillian, 2011). Trustworthiness Lincoln and Guba (1985) wrote of a series of ways to perform qualitative research that establishes trustworthiness. These include credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Credibility is confidence in how true the findings are, transferability shows how applicable the findings can be, dependability show that the findings are consistent, and confirmability shows the extinct to which the findings are shaped by the respondents.
39 Credibility is important in research and is debated in the field of quantitative research. Part of showing credibility is prolonged engagement and persistent observation which is spending time to understand the phenomenon and speaking with a range of people which will develop a rapport. As I have been immersed in this culture and have many friends and acquaintances in the field already, this idea of prolonged engagement is met. 21 comic scholars from different disciplines, backgrounds, education levels, areas of study, time in the field, gender, age, and expertise. Many will have different views of the subjects and different aspects of the phenomenon of comic scholars. Additionally, my own experiences and narrative will accompany the study. Patton (1990) would identify this as triangulation of the data, using multiple methods to facilitate a deeper understanding. Transferability can also be described as thick description (Geertz, 1973). This is where the researcher considers the cultural and social relationships in the study. By interviewing the 21 comic scholars and placing their narratives within my narrative as well as the outline of what was happening not only in our culture, but in the world of comics and academic settings, this study will fulfill the technique for establishing transferability by showing how a field is created. In Vivo Coding, or Literal Coding, (Charmaz, 2006; Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) was used to “honor the participant’s voice” (Saldana, 2009) in the first round of coding. Second round coding used axial coding (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) which reassemble split data. The initial codes were reduced from 132 codes to seven categories which can be seen in Appendix Three. Dependability will be met by external auditing, which are the members of the dissertation committee. Before the dissertation is approved and a henceforth a degree granted, the committee, which consists of four approved academics, will evaluate the accuracy of the finding
40 and confirm that they are supported by the data. Confirmability will be met by the meticulous collection of raw data, summaries and notes kept, notes regarding data categories, methodological notes kept, reflexive notes, and a clear research path. As this is going to be an autoethnographic study, a reflexive journal will be kept as interviews are completed and narratives are written. This will help to record why decisions were made and if there were biases formed due to temporal situations. The values of the researcher can be important in any study, but especially in an autoethnographic study where the researcher is not only the instrument, but the subject of study. Autoethnography The form of qualitative research that I have chosen for this study is autoethnography. Combining ethnography and autobiography, autoethnography is a qualitative method that uses the self as data in order to understand “the connectivity between self and others within the same context” (Ngunjiri, et al., 2010, p. 2). Autoethnography is a form of narrative analysis and is commonly understood as a response to the changing notions of scientific objectivity (McIlveen, 2008). It aims to produce a story about the research in an objective manner. Autoethnography was born from the method of ethnography, the study of other cultures, first used in anthropology (Ellis, 2004). In ethnography, researchers enter into an unknown culture. Ethnographic studies must assume a relationship between culture and behavior, the experiences of the researcher, the style to connect the culture and the researcher, and the audience (Van Maanen, 1988). With autoethnography, the researcher is a part of the community and can express the experiences on a more personal level. It is a way to understand the experience of the research within the context of the study. Hayano (1979) was the first to use the term autoethnographer in the context of research, using it as an anthropologist studying his “own
41 people.” This is not simply reflexive anthropology as it is not just personal feelings that occur from fieldwork. Autoethnography is a qualitative method in which a particular social phenomenon is observed from an insider’s perspective (Merriam, Johnson-Bailey, Lee, Kee, Ntseane, & Muhamad, 2001). Autoethnographies are “highly personalized accounts that draw upon the experience of the author/researcher for the purposes of extending sociological understanding” (Sparkes, 2000, p. 21). The use of autoethnography requires the researcher to also be a subject in the study. Defining Autoethnography Many different definitions are given for autoethnography. It has been labeled heuristic inquiry by Moustakas (1990), studies of a personal nature by Ellis (2004), and as autobiographical genre by Ellis and Bochner (2000). This is an ever-evolving method that is still under development and produces a variety of different types of work for each researcher. Autoethnography is often mistaken as the study of only the self, which is simply false (Chang, 2008). It is not simply autobiography being that it is a qualitative method and the researcher collects, analyzes, and interprets data in a systematic manner (Ellis & Bochner, 2000). Some oppose autoethnography as simply a story about the researcher told by the researcher (Phillips, 1987). However, the truth has many faces and autoethnography provides a chance for the experience of the author, and in this case others with the same experience, to enlighten the readers understanding of this subculture. As autoethnography has multiple definitions since it is an emergent approach (Patton, 1990), and when using this as a method, the definition must be clear. My definition is after Chang (2008) and her second definition of autoethnography. I will investigate a life experience
42 but instead of including only myself in the study, I will include other participants that have had the same experiences. The focus of the research is “still anchored in your personal experience” (Chang, 2008, p. 65). This study is not just a study of the self, but searching for the understanding of others through the self. Reed-Danahay (1997) suggested that autoethnography is more authentic than straight ethnography since the voice of the insider is assumed to be truer than that of the outsider. When doing autoethnography, cultural members are interviewed, events are observed, cultural artifacts are analyzed, and personal experience is valued, not ignored (Ellis, 2004; Ellis & Bochner, 2000). Both autoethnography and straight ethnography add value, but in different ways. Autoethnography can be analytic or evocative. Most times when people refer to autoethnography they are thinking of evocative autoethnography (Anderson, 2006). Evocative autoethnography is a type of storytelling that is “akin to the novel or biography and then fractures the boundaries that normally separate social science from literature” (Ellis & Bochner, 2000, p. 74). Analytic autoethnography is ethnography where the researcher self-identifies and is accepted as a full member in the research group, has published in the area of research, and is “committed to an analytic research agenda focused on improving theoretical understandings of broader social phenomena” (Anderson, 2006, p. 375). Analytic autoethnography. While the most common type of autoethnography is evocative, this study will be using analytic autoethnography. Anderson (2006) proposed five key features of analytic autoethnography. They are that there is complete member status, the researcher uses analytic reflexivity, the researcher’s self is visible in the narrative, there is dialogue with other informants, and the researcher has a commitment to theoretical analysis. The first feature is “that the researcher is a complete member in the social world under
43 study” (Anderson, 2006, p. 379). The researcher can be born into the group, a member through chance, become a member due to their job or lifestyle, or be a convert due to their research. In being a member and a researcher, the researcher is deep in engaged dialogue. Since 2010 I have been an active member in the subculture of academics using comic books in their higher education courses. I have presented at academic conferences, comic book conventions, taught Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies classes using comic books, and have published on the topic of comic books as innovative pedagogy (Blanch & Mulvihill, 2013). Due to these activities, I self-identify, and others identify me, as a member of the group under study. The second feature of analytic autoethnography is analytic reflexivity. Reflexivity “expresses researchers’ awareness of their necessary connection to the research situation and hence their effects upon it” (Davies, 1999, p. 7). There is an awareness that the ethnographer and the participants have a reciprocal influence on the other (Anderson, 2006). Traditional ethnographers focus outward, not inward on the relationship between themselves and their data. Some may argue that traditional ethnographers expand their knowledge of self because of their experiences with others, but more so for an autoethnographer due to their position within the group. Autoethnographers “are part of the story they are telling” (Atkinson, Coffey, & Delamont, 2003, p. 62). An autoethnographer must “be visible, active, and reflexively engaged in the text” (Anderson, 2006, p. 383). This “mutual infomativity” that Anderson (2006) wrote of is a way to fit other’s experiences while looking back at their own. As I identify as a comic scholar as the others in my study do, and I am not fully aware of what that really means, I will learn a great deal about myself and where I stand within the academic community as well. The reciprocity of
44 information between myself and the group members leads this to be an autoethnographic study. Being visible and an active researcher in the text is the third feature. This is one of the main demands of autoethnography, “that the researcher is a highly visible social actor within the written text” (Anderson, 2006, p. 384). The feelings and experiences of the researcher are considered vital data. However, there is a fine line between being highly visible and having an author-saturated text (Geertz, 1988). One method to alleviate this is to engage in dialogue with other members in the subculture. I am not hidden within the comic scholar community. I present regularly at academic conferences on comics and at comic book conventions. I am a member of the comic scholar listserv and plan to be instrumental in the formation of the Comic Studies Society. I also have published articles about my work (Blanch & Mulvihill, 2013) and have more articles and book chapters forthcoming. Additionally, I have taught two MOOCs (Massive, open, online courses) using comics: Gender through Comic Books and Social Issues through Comic Books. The fourth feature of an autoethnographic study is having dialogue with informants other than the self. This helps to keep the autoethnographer from losing sight of the other in the study. Atkinson, Coffey, and Delamont (2003) remarked that no ethnographic work should have a sample of one. Analytic autoethnography is made up of “self-experience, but reaches beyond it as well” (Anderson, 2006, p. 386). Personal discoveries should always be guided by the data from in-depth interviews with informants (Karp, 1996). As I am interviewing other comic book scholars for this study, this feature is completely fulfilled. This study is not about me, it is about comic scholars, a group with which I identify. I am only a part of this world, and therefore in order to understand it, other voices will be included.
45 The last feature is a commitment to an analytic agenda. The defining characteristic of analytic autoethnography is not an emic perspective or to evoke emotion. It is to “gain insight into some broader set of social phenomena than those provided by the data themselves” (Anderson, 2006, p. 387). Instead of just reporting what is happening within a subculture, autoethnographers reveal the broader processes and social structures that then can address different theoretical areas (Davies, 1999). This study is to gain insight into what and who is a comic book scholar. This is not simply a recounting of what paths the members of this group have taken, but it is a way of understanding the social world, both personal and professional, and how this reveals more about broader social patterns. Theoretical Perspective As this is a qualitative study, the epistemological view of constructionism is taken. The idea that there is “no true or valid interpretation” (Crotty, 1998, p. 47) is extremely relevant in a qualitative study. The meaning of something is not inherent, but it is constructed and people will construct that meaning in different ways. Relative to meaning, the theoretical perspective of this study is interpretivism (Crotty, 1998). As an ethnography, which is the methodology of this study, there are assumptions that we have as researchers. In this study, looking for faculty interpretations, we are looking at the whole in order to understand a phenomenon. The methods and methodology are explained in detail following, but as you can see, the framework for this study, as in all qualitative studies, is interconnected. Methodology in qualitative studies is created specifically for the purpose of the study, but the “theoretical underpinnings” make us aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our chosen methodologies.
46 Population and Sample The population for this study is academics or other scholars who identify as comic book scholars. All of the participants are over 18 years of age and were recruited using criterion sampling from the population pool (Patton, 1990). This is purposive sampling and all of the participants were selected for certain characteristics. This type of sampling is used in cases that have detailed and rich information as this sample can reveal weaknesses, which offers an opportunity to improve the system. In this case, all of the subjects self-identify as comic book scholars. Participants were recruited from a pool of writers and educators who self-identify as members of this culture. I tried my best to find a group that represents all aspects of the group, including gender and ethnicity. I recruited 21 comic book scholars via email to set up interviews plus a single scholar to participate in a pilot study. Although this is a small sample as compared to quantitative studies, it is not for qualitative studies. Patton (1990) believed that “in-depth information from a small group of people can be very valuable” (p. 184). The insights and meaning that can be garnered from information rich interviews in qualitative inquiry have nothing to do with sample size. Additionally, when considering the field of comic studies is relatively a recent occurrence, the whole population of the group itself is not considered large. Context and Data Collection This study has emergent design flexibility. The nature of naturalistic inquiry allows designs to emerge as fieldwork unfolds (Patton, 1990). The data were gathered from internal and external sources. The collected data are from primarily face-to-face individual interviews with the participants. In today’s world, face-to-face can be either in person or via Skype. All of the interviews were one of those. A semi-structured interview technique (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003)
47 has been utilized to discern the perceptions and experiences of each of the participants. The interview questions can be found in Appendix A. A pilot interview with a comic book scholar was used to test out the semi-structured questions and prompts, leading to the questions that were structured with these inputs in mind. The questions were created to show trustworthiness and to provide comprehensive answers rather than shallow ones (Morrow, 2005). The final interview questions can be found in Appendix A. An interpretive framework guided the interviews which in turn will provided information rich in context and depth while not privileging any one paradigm (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). The participants’ perceptions and experiences guided the interview rather than limiting the participants to only answering questions posed by the researcher. An interview guide was given to the participants before the interview commenced. Additionally, analytic memos (Maxwell, 1996) were used as writing down thoughts at the moment regarding data is an invaluable tool for generating insight. Thinking about prior experiences without analyzing the information will allow the organization of this information later. These experiences can influence the study and help to “facilitate your thinking about relationships in your data and make your ideas and analyses visible and retrievable” (p. 239). Data Analysis Cultural themes cannot be studied without full transcripts (Bernard, 2006). Upon completion of the interviews, transcription occurred. Pseudonyms were not used due to the small community of comic book scholars, most which are easily identifiable by the classes they teach or their publications. All of the interviewees agreed and most expressed the idea of wanting their real identity exposed in the dissertation as they are excited about their place in the comic studies world.
48 One of the key elements in qualitative data analysis is the systematic coding of text. All the interviews were analyzed and coded using an inductive data analysis process: a system of in vivo and axial coding (Charmaz, 2006, Corbin & Strauss, 2008, Strauss & Corbin, 1998). For this study, the transcripts were combed over and different codes assigned to conceptual categories. The very first group of codes were created and then regrouped when the transcripts are reread. Qualitative data analysis can be defined as “working with data, organizing it, breaking it into manageable units, synthesizing it, searching for patterns, discovering what is important and what is to be learned, and deciding what you will tell others” (Bogden & Biklen, 2007, p. 159). Inductive analysis was used with the data for this study as it allows critical themes to emerge (Patton, 1990). This is a creative process and every study is different. The coding categories were then reexamined and combined in new ways in a process called axial coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). This helped to identify the phenomenon and built up a more conceptual model. Additionally, having an insider perspective has allowed me to “make meaning” a little clearer (Chang, 2008, p. 126). Internal data for this study was collected through a reflexive field journal kept while teaching a class using comic books as textbooks. Other internal data includes notes taken before, during, and after each interview. These notes helped as “putting out analysis immediately into notes” and begin open coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 120). Confidentiality of Data All paper representations of the data are stored in a locked filing cabinet in my home office, and all the electronic data files are password protected on my computer. Only myself and the Dissertation Chairperson, Dr. Thalia Mulvihill, will have access to the raw data. The
49 findings will be used for the development of manuscripts for publishing and conference presentations and will be shared with colleagues in a classroom setting. Rationale Creswell (1988) identified five major traditions of qualitative research: biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. With biography, one person’s experience is studied. Phenomenology aims to discover the shared lived experiences of a group of people and one phenomenon. Ethnography uses participant observation to experience a culture. A single event is researched and analyzed in a case study. Grounded theory seeks out a theory for a single phenomenon that was shared by others. Autoethnography is unique in that it takes from all of these traditions. Denzin (1997) defined autoethnography as shifting the “ethnographic gaze inward on the self (auto), while maintaining the outward gaze of ethnography, or looking at the larger context where self experiences occur” (p. 227). While I am turning the lens on myself, I also cannot tell the story through my words alone. By including many voices from the culture to which I selfidentify, it allows many interpretations at one time (Olson, 2004). Having both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in anthropology, ethnography is familiar to me. In an ethnographical study, the researcher studies and analyzes a particular group within their culture. They act as both a participant and a researcher while using the data to construct a social understanding based on lived experiences and feelings as much as what is seen. However, being as I am a member of the culture I am studying, autoethnography seemed a natural fit. It is simply ethnography written in a narrative form where the author is included in the story. In this study autoethnography will combine my pedagogical experiences with others’ experiences and
50 communicate it in a way that will help to contribute a deeper understanding about this unique group of innovative educators. Representation The findings from this study will be possibly used to develop a book or articles for publication, for conference presentations, and the development of a seminar, website, or class for the education of teachers who want to use comic books in their classroom. Further, the information will be shared with others via classroom presentations or presentations at various comic conventions and institutions. Summary of Methods Purposive sampling was used to identify participants who were teaching, researching, or who previously had taught a higher education class using comic books as textbooks. The method of analytic autoethnography was chosen due to the subject self-identifying as a member of the researched group. Data was collected internally with a journal and memos and externally using semi-structured interviews with 21 educators. The collected data was analyzed using open coding methods. By using my voice and others, I will move beyond emotions and stories to demonstrate deep levels of reflection and analysis and will connect these to broader themes in the area of comic book scholars using multiple sources of evidence, not only myself, but others in the field of study. This is a complex social arena of which I am only a part. This study is grounded in self-experience but reach well beyond it as well. It will help to gain insight into this phenomena of comic book scholars. It will be a way to understand the social world of comic book scholars and analyze how their experiences can reveal much about the broader social structures and processes.
51 Chapter Four: Findings My relation to comics will always remain with me. I’m in this for life I think, already. -Rik Spanjers Overview of Findings My journey to where I am now has been interesting and totally uncharted. If you were to tell me ten years ago that comics would be so important in every part of my life, I would have doubted you. I would have loved to hear it, but would have been doubtful. Many of the comic book scholars that were interviewed feel the same way. This chapter begins with a brief introduction to the comic book scholars who participated in this study and who have become a part of my story, as well. Next, I present the findings from the interviews that were derived from axial coding, which consists of developing codes and then findings. As this is an autoethnography, the findings will include my path to becoming a comic book scholar alongside examples of other’s experiences. The Comic Scholars The scholars included here vary in so many ways, as can be seen in the descriptions below. Twenty-one interviewees, not including myself, are incorporated in my story. While this is an autoethnography, these people and their experiences are essential to this story. Identity formation is more than just one’s self. The “other,” those surrounding us, help to shape our identities and they play a primary role in the formation of our identity. Below are brief introductions to each of the participants in this project including my relationship with them. Some of the participants were well-known to me before the interviews, some I did not know until the interview, and some have become good friends since the interviews. Along with the comments contained within their interviews, these introductions
52 should help you to understand not only who these comic scholars are, but also their vital role in the formation of my identity as a comic scholar. These are no pseudonyms as the world of comic scholars is small and the members are easily identifiable. Janis Breckenridge Janis Breckenridge is an associate professor of Spanish at Whitman College located in Walla Walla, Washington. She has relatives in the area near my home and was kind enough to travel to meet me and do our interview in person. She informed me that she and her mother, who I also had the pleasure of meeting, both took my Gender through Comic Books MOOC and they loved it and wanted to meet me in person. After coffee, Janis and I completed the interview and could have talked for many more hours. On her next visit, we plan to do exactly that. If this study has done nothing else, it has enhanced my network of comic scholars and brought me new friendships. Gail deVos Gail deVos is an adjunct professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. She identifies as a storyteller and a consultant, telling stories in public libraries. She has taught the course Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries. One of the interviewees for this project actually petitioned to take this course during his studies as it was one of the only courses offered on comics at that time. She is an amazing person who signs her emails with “Yours in stories” which warms my heart. Chris Galaver Chris Galaver is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington and Lee University. He wrote the book On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics No. 1. We have never met but continue to keep in touch due to this project.
53 Charles Hatfield Charles Hatfield is a professor of English at California State at Northridge. He is also the President of the CSS, where I serve as a board member. Charles is the epitome of a comic book scholar as his credentials show with many publications in comic studies including Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature developed from his dissertation. Charles and I have only briefly met in person, but meet online regularly during CSS board meetings and communications. While our face-to-face contact has been brief in the past, I am sure we have many good times ahead of us discussing comics. Ian Hague Ian Hague is a lecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies at the University of the Arts in London, England and is based out of the London College of Communication. His books Representing Multiculturalism in Comics (2014) written with Carolene Ayaka and Comics and the Senses: A Multisensory Approach to Comics and Graphic Novels (2014) are essential to comic scholars. He is the founder and director of an academic organization that circulates and promotes comic scholarship called the Comics Forum and organized their annual conference in Leeds for many years. While attending the Thought Bubble Conference in Leeds one year, I had the privilege of meeting Ian and we have been in sporadic contact over the years. Forrest Helvie Forrest Helvie is the Coordinator, for the Developmental English program at Norwalk Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. He also contributes articles to The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Studies, Newsarama, and Sequart. He taught his first class on comic books in 2016. Forrest and I have met several times at conferences and conventions and plan to collaborate many times over in the future.
54 Gene Kannenberg, Jr. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. is the Africana Library Assistant at Northwestern University. He has served as Chairperson of the International Comics Art Festival (ICAF) and started the website ComicsResearch.org which features information on comics and the Comics Research & Such site which focuses on comics scholarship. His publications include 500 Essential Graphic Novels. He also reviews comics on the Comics Alternative Podcast. Susan Kirtley Susan Kirtley is an associate professor and the Director of Rhetoric and Composition at Portland State University (PSU). While I had heard of her and read her book, we did not meet until we were both on a Comics and Education panel at Portland Wizard World, a comic con in Oregon. After the panel we talked for a long while and I asked her if she would be a part of my study. Fortunately she agreed and we became fast friends. We also serve on the board of the CSS together and see each other at our virtual board meetings every month or so. She developed the Comics Studies Program at PSU, has won an Eisner award for her book Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass, and together we have decided to create a comic studies castle where comic scholars can live and teach. Andrew Lesk Andrew Lesk is an Assistant Professor for the Department of English at the University of Toronto. He has written countless papers on comics and has organized comic conferences. While never meeting, we keep in touch via the comic scholar list-serv and email. Paul Levitz Paul Levitz has written comics, edited comics, and was the president of DC comics, working for the company for over 35 years. He is now teaching courses such as Transmedia and
55 the Graphic Novel and the American Graphic Novel at Columbia University and publishing courses at Pace University. His book Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel was nominated for the 2016 Eisner Award for best academic publication and several other of his books have won various other awards. Paul and I met while I was doing research on Mort Weisinger, a former editor at DC comics. Following that interview, Paul and I met many times and have had wonderful conversations about teaching, the comics industry, and comics scholarship. During a Comics Pro meeting, Paul and I had breakfast together and he asked how my dissertation was progressing. I told him and he asked if he could be included in the study. I asked him if he identified as a comic scholar and after a brief pause to think, he said, “Yes. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but yes.” So, we set up an interview. His co-instructor, Jeremey Dauber, was also going to be interviewed, but as we could not set up a time that worked for both of us, he was not included. As someone who has literally done it all in the comic book industry, I am honored that Paul agreed to be interviewed for this study and that I can count him among my friends. A. David Lewis A. David Lewis is a Faculty Associate and Manager of Faculty & Student Online Engagement at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health (MCPHS). I knew of him due to his book, Graven Images. When I taught my first MOOC, I had the students introduce themselves “twitter” style so I could try to respond to as many of them as I could. After reading hundreds of them, I came to one who was interested in religion and comics. I started typing a response that he should get in contact with A. David Lewis, a brilliant comic book scholar who specializes in religion. Fortunately, I looked at the student’s name before sending it and saw that it was David who was the student. I became instantly intimidated. A year later, we met in
56 person at a convention and became fast friends. We now are in contact on a regular basis and both serve on the CSS board. And for the record, he was a fantastic student. Roland Mann Roland Mann is a former comic book writer and editor who now teaches writing for Full Sail University in Florida. He teaches in the BFA Creative Writing Program and specializes in writing for Comics and Animation. Due to having his own small press line of comic books for four years in the late 1990s he is invested in studying small press and independent comics. We have never met before and have been in limited contact. Christopher Murray Christopher Murray is at the University of Dundee in Scotland where he teaches modules on comics as part of the English and Film Program and runs the Comics Studies Masters Program which leads to a named degree (MLitt in Comics Studies). He also supervises seven PhD students working on comics. We met on the comix-scholar list-serv and have been in contact for a few years. We try to meet up at conventions but our schedules never mesh up. Some day we plan to meet, even if I have to travel to Scotland to visit the program. Tom Shapira Tom Shapira is a MA student of English Literature at Tel-Aviv University, Israel, where he was first student to graduate with a BA by writing a paper about the works of Grant Morison. He is also a staff writer for Israel’s leading comics blog, Alilon.net, and an occasional participant in the blog’s biweekly podcast. We have never met but keep in communication via email. Matt Smith Matt Smith, formerly an associate professor of communication at Wittenberg University for 15 years, has just taken a new position as Director of the School of Communication at
57 Radford University. Matt and I met due to his field study at Comic-Con International where a group of students attend the convention and examine the dynamic interactions between fan cultures and the marketing strategies employed by the cultural industries and then present on the last day of Comic-Con. A student of mine was enrolled in his field study, and I offered my services to Matt for any assistance. Since then, we have become close friends, seeing each other regularly at conventions and making trips to visit each other, including a trip to conduct this interview in person. I will miss him being so close and wish him nothing but the best in his new position. Nick Sousanis Nick Sousanis was the first person to complete a dissertation in comic book form. He has just accepted a job at San Francisco University as an assistant professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies. After he earned his Ed.D. from Columbia University, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Comic Studies at the University of Calgary. I met Nick through an email after an article about him appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Many people forwarded the article to me, but one in particular emailed it to me and wrote that I should contact Nick joking that we should be best friends. This is interesting because after that, I did email him and we have become very close friends, even though we have only met in person a few times. After a few email exchanges, Nick invited me to present at an American Educational Research Association (AERA) roundtable with him and several others in San Francisco, where he is now employed. After our proposal was accepted I made plans to attend, but due to a conflict in schedule could only be there for one day. However, Nick and I made the most of it. We spent all day together, before and after our roundtable. It was an amazing day and at that point, our friendship was cemented. After that, we would meet here and there at conventions and conferences, but there is
58 just not enough time with Nick. He is one of my personal heroes in the world of comic book scholars and I believe has helped to bring comic studies to a whole new level. And he is an amazing friend. Rik Spanjers Rik Spanjers is a PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam located in the Netherlands. He was my first interview for this project and was very patient with my nervousness at starting this new research project. His views are close to mine on writing for both academics and for the general public, so we talked about this after the interview had concluded. Talking with people like Rik is one of the many benefits of the research I am doing. We hope to meet soon at a conference or convention. Craig This Craig This works at Wright State University as the director of Institutional Research and First Year Seminar Instructor and works at Sinclair Community College as a lecturer. We met at a comic convention in Ohio where I was a guest as well as coordinator for the educational panels. He submitted a panel which I accepted. After that first meeting, we kept in contact and he invited me to participate on several panels at his university including ones on immigration and diversity. Craig and I keep in close contact and hope to coauthor some articles together soon. Jason Tondro Jason Tondro is an Assistant Professor of English at the College of Coastal Georgia, where he teaches World Literature, freshman composition, and Cultural Studies in the American Studies program, always involving comics and graphic novels. He wrote the first dissertation on comics and visual rhetoric at UCR where he argued that superhero comics are fundamentally
59 romances in the tradition of Malory, Spenser, and Ariosto. He blogs as Doctor Comics and while we have never met, I feel as if we have. Marcus Weaver-Hightower Marcus Weaver-Hightower is the department chair for Educational Foundation and Research at the University of North Dakota. During the interview, I noticed a Wonder Woman and R2-D2 Mr. Potato Head in the background and knew he and I were of the same strain. While I have never met Marcus in person, we have exchanged many emails and hope to see each other at an AERA conference soon. Rob Weiner Rob Weiner works at Texas Tech and is the first faculty member with the title Integrated Scholar. He is the library liaison to the College of Visual and Performing Arts and Film Studies and teaches classes related to popular culture. He has written or edited more than ten books and published in wide variety of journals including the International Journal of Comic Art, Journal of Pan African Studies, Shofar, and ImageText. Someday we hope to cowrite a book together. Findings All of these comic book scholars have been integral to the formation of comic studies as well as in the formation of my identity as a comics scholar, either personally or in their body of work. That they took time out of their busy personal and professional lives to participate in this study shows their drive to further the impetus of comic studies. Their enthusiasm and tenacity is critical to the field and their faith in me to complete this study is amazing. There are seven findings that emerged that give an idea of the qualities and characteristics of this subgroup called comic book scholars. I used inductive data analysis including in vivo and axial coding within the transcripts to develop 132 codes that when revisited, combined into seven
60 findings. Examples of this process can be seen in Table 1. 21 scholars were interviewed resulting in 709 pages of transcriptions. These findings are Coming into Comics, From Fandom to Academia, Finding a Community, Writers and Creators, Defining Comics, Goals, and Identity Crisis. Qualitative research is not exact and not all participants fit each category perfectly, but the seven findings show what it means to be a comic book scholar. Table 1. Demonstration Table Quote In-vivo Codes I mean it’s the only reason people know who I am, I make comics. Yeah, and it’s the thing, you know, I think my history in academia is really liking it but also being really disappointed in how it tends to stay in academia and so, you know, the reason for the gaps besides playing tennis are also because I didn’t like, didn’t like its sort of stodginess its isolated nature. So for me, my return to comics showed that I could take the stuff I did in academia that I really did like but bring it to everybody. (Nick Sousanis) Well, it’s fun. I remember when I started, and like for instance, Peter Coogan is a good example, that was just a name, and I picked up the book and I’m
Identifying as comic scholar Recognition Outside of academia Making comics Dissemination to whom
Meeting people Authors becoming peers Work as fun
Central to Identity
Finding a Community
61 reading it and now it’s like ‘Oh, there’s a person.’ And it’s happening more and more, I’m actually in conversation with flesh and blood beings. It really just makes it more fun. (Roland Mann) So I started buying comic books and reading comic books and all of a sudden I had this huge collection. So I went to the university and said “I need to write these off, can I teach a comic book course?” so the material came before the course. They agreed and I’ve been teaching it for 15 years online now. Something like that. And my research still, is mostly, on folklore in the comic book format. (Gail de Vos)
Getting comics Material before the course Online teaching Research
From Fandom to Academia
62 Finding 1: Coming into Comics All of the comic scholars that I interviewed are fans of comics, myself included. Although there are varied paths, one commonality is that everyone expressed that they identified as comic book fans. Some have been life-long fans while others discovered them later in life. Some scholars learned to read using comics. I was not surprised to learn that comic scholars were fans first, at least the majority of them, as fans are resonate and reliable cultural scholars (Jenkins, 1992). Looking at our areas of fandom that we love, in this case comics, we validate that area as worthy of study. I believe that comic scholars started as fans, whether they became so early in their lives or later, and this love of comics is what motivates them to use them in their scholarly pursuits. Below is the evidence of this, beginning with my path into comics, continuing with those who were passionate about comics from the start, the influences of the Batman, those who went back and forth with comics, and those who came late to comics. My beginning. For myself, I started reading comics early on but not the typical comics that most kids start out reading. Most children begin with superhero comics. I began with Prince Valiant and it was only because it was a cool book that my parents had on the important bookshelf. Now, it was not really an important bookshelf but I did not know that. It was simply a space where oversized books would fit but when we are small, the map of our world is different than it is to adults. So on this important bookshelf was a book for adults that had pictures. Pictures! I could not read all the words in the book yet, but I could read some of them and the story told in the pictures let me know what else was happening. These were different than the “picture books” that simply showed an image of what the text described. This book showed two storylines, one in the pictures and one in the words, something that I would not realize until I could read. I could “read” this storyline in the pictures. I was amazed. I carried
63 that book around all the time. I accidentally tore the dust jacket and was mortified, but my mother told me it was okay. I am sure at the time that they did not realize how this one book would change the trajectory in my life, especially so far down the road. But change my life it did. The other comics that I read were the funny pages, the cartoons in the paper every day. I especially loved Sunday comics because they were in color, but who did not? There were so many of them to read and I devoured them all, even Rex Morgan M.D., which I did not really understand but I still read. My favorite comic was The Family Circus but I think that was because my grandmother loved that comic. She would cut them out and glue them in a scrapbook. When I would stay over at her house, a real treat, she and I would sit on the couch and read the comics in that scrapbook while we drank lemonade. She would sometimes drink iced tea because she could spin the ice in her glass and make more tea. I thought that was brilliant. And I thought those comics were brilliant as well. Even the one panel ones, which most of them were, made me laugh and think of what must have happened before that moment in time and what must have come afterwards. That one panel expressed so much that led my imagination in so many places. Sometimes my grandmother and I would talk about what we think would have happened and we had different ideas of the outcome. That is a great thing about comics—they leave so much open to interpretation that everyone can have a different experience. I did not think about this at the time, I just thought they were funny. Comics were my first real love. Not superheroes, but the medium of comics. That said, I watched all the superhero television shows as a kid—Spider-Man, Isis, Wonder Woman, reruns of Batman ‘66, Shazam, The Incredible Hulk and also shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. I cannot count the number of times that I spun
64 around trying to become Wonder Woman. It has not happened yet, but that does not mean I am giving up. But everything changed in May of 1977. My Uncle Tom took my brother and me to go see a new movie that was out on the day it opened. It was called Star Wars. I had no idea what to expect and I would have never thought it would change my life, but after that day, all I could think about was Star Wars. I became obsessed. My parents probably should have been worried, but I think they knew I would be okay. I wanted everything Star Wars—clothes, toys, trading cards, comic books, jewelry, cereal, cookies—I mean everything. I would put up signs about Star Wars at the local ice cream shop where I bought my packs of Star Wars cards. My mom even bought me Wonder Bread so that I could get the special cards. I went to the local flea market to the “guy” who would trade cards and merchandise for things I needed. That is where I got my Yoda mask that I wore when I stood in line waiting to get in to the 12:01 AM showing of The Return of the Jedi. All I knew was that Star Wars was the most important thing in the world and that I wanted to be the flea market “guy” when I grew up. This is rather amusing to me now because in some ways, I am that “guy.” There are a lot of kids that come in to my comic shop (more about that later) that think of me in that same way. I can see it in their eyes. And I take that very seriously because I know that no matter what someone else thinks, that is an extremely important responsibility. And Spider-Man taught me all about great responsibility growing up. So, with the addition to Star Wars in my life, a different direction was taken. I read any science fiction books I could get my hands on. Fantasy Books, too, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Harrison Ford aka Han Solo became my favorite actor and I started watching everything he was in. Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round was on television at 1:00 on a Sunday morning and I stayed up to watch it because Harrison Ford was in it. What I did not realize was that it was only for about five minutes, but that did not matter to me. My dedication to things is
65 an important part of this story because it plays a big part in my life. When I love something, I love it with all of my heart and that love never really dies for me. Comics is one of my loves. A passion. Some comic scholars just do not remember a time before comics and never stopped loving them. A. David Lewis began reading comics at an early age and never stopped. He grew up in a home that promoted all types of literacy, comics being one of them. I was reading comics alongside young adult fiction, alongside plays and scripts, poetry, it was part of a diversified young literacy, but my parents were enthusiastic for anything that widened my vocabulary, that satisfied my creative drive, my creative vision, sometimes they would buy the comics for me, sometimes I would buy them for myself. I know when I was sick, I have vivid recollections of being brought home a copy of John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four when I was sick at home from elementary school. I also know that one of the things that lured me into comics, the seduction of the innocent, was Marvel Comics licensing of The G.I. Joe and Transformer properties, I was playing with the toys, so I had to read the comic book adventures. That enjoyment and appreciation for comics continued throughout my life, but it continued largely, or adjacent to, or meshed with and link with, a love of all literature. And I found more and more that one actually fed the other. That loving Shakespeare let me appreciate Sandman more and vice versa. I read comics into college, all throughout college, I was actually encouraged in college to write on comics, my—William Flesh, who’s by profession I think a Miltonist and a Shakespeare scholar encouraged me to write papers for class on Neil Gaiman’s work and on Alan Moore, and that really opened a door for me, that I could both enjoy comics and study them so long as I had the traditional tools. Literary theory, or now religious studies, uhm…yeah. So it has been an ongoing endeavor, love, and study. The idea of comics as just another form of literature is something that I learned early on, also. When I was reading Prince Valiant, I did not think of it as anything but reading in another way. To me, it was just a fancy book. When David claimed, “Loving Shakespeare let me appreciate Sandman,” he is referring to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman 1988 series, one that reshaped the world of comics for many people. This book helps to bring comics into mainstream culture and showed the world that comics were not only about superheroes. At the same time, reading the works of Alan Moore, most notably his Saga of the Swamp Thing series, that came out about the same time, fueled David’s love of comics and helped to merge that love with academia.
66 Susan Kirtley started reading comics as a young girl when she learned gender stereotypes while looking at comics books. She of course defied stereotypes and has never stopped. Just for the official record, I started reading comic books in elementary school because I was told that girls don’t read comic books and I have a contrary personality and I do the opposite of whatever I’m told to do. So, I was on the playground and there was a belligerent classmate that said, “girls don’t read comics” and I thought “oh, oh yes they do” and so I read them with a vengeance with a passion to prove him wrong but when I started reading them I thought “why wouldn’t I read them, these are amazing” you know there were, it’s just, it really was like a romance with punching. There’s so much going on and there’s all this drama and there’s all kinds of personal conflicts and interesting characters. So, I started reading superhero comics in elementary school and have read them my entire life and over time I was like the older I started reading because I grew up reading, because I grew up in Oregon, I started reading some of the Dark Horse things and some more mature titles and I really enjoyed Concrete and Ghost and some of these titles as I got older. And then I started, when I got to college I discovered those, you know, the underground and alternative movement and so... that exposed me to different genres and different styles. So, I’ve really been reading a whole range of comics my entire life. Much like my experience in being told I could not be Han Solo, Susan’s drive into comics was gender driven with a hint of defiance. Starting with mainstream superhero comics as many people did, Susan was influenced by the publishing Dark Horse, very prevalent in the area in which she grew up, and her tastes moved to different type of superheroes. Concrete from 1986, is a hero story about a man who escapes aliens but only after they transplanted his brain into a stone body while Ghost is about a supernatural superhero. Christopher Murray has been reading comics since before he can remember and they have remained a constant in his life. I have been reading comics since I can remember. Probably since I was 3 years old. They have been a constant part of my life. They were a deeply uncool thing to be into as a teenager, but I was undeterred, and when I took my undergraduate degree in English I did a dissertation on comics and censorship which led me into Ph.D. study, and eventually the career I have now as a lecturer and researcher in Comics Studies. I have a pretty big collection, which is now a brilliant research resource.
Many comics scholars are collectors, also. This is one of the qualities of many comic book fans. The collecting part of comics is important, but for academics it leads to collecting research material. This is no different than when I collected books on archaeology when that was my main interest. But this love of collecting, as Christopher points out above, can lead to rich research material. Craig This also came to comics young but his father turned him onto comics. He was in third or fourth grade. He remembers his uncle had comics books and he recollects some Superboy and Superman stories, but the real impetus to comics was his dad. My dad was a public school teacher and he taught public school for about 38 years and when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade I was diagnosed with reading dyslexia, and my dad, being an educator, he was like ‘okay, we can work through this’ and he obviously he had me reading a lot of different things and I still do. I’m still a very voracious reader, very eclectic reader, but one of the things that he had got me started early on was comics. I think he had done a paper on comic books as education back when he got his masters back in the 1950’s. We’d go to the drug store at the time, the old Spindle Rack, we’d sit down and read and his argument was since I could see the pictures I could sort of begin to figure out what some of the words were on, what some of the words were. You know with dyslexia it’s a matter of pattern recognition, and so we just worked on that. So yeah, I think from that point on I began to fall in love with comics because I just enjoyed the story. I think in those early years I mostly read The Fantastic Four, I maybe read a little bit of Batman and Superman, but I liked the Fantastic Four. I guess being a young kid and you look and see Johnny Storm and that’s your teenage idol, that’s who you want to be. Craig’s father may have been the catalyst for Craig to become the comic scholar that he is today. Early acknowledgment of the value of comics is enlightening. But for Craig, after he began to read the comics, he fell in love with the material. Understanding that seeing someone like you, someone who was once just a regular person who gained super powers but still has the problems that you may have is important in the continuing love of this medium. Johnny Storm was a member of the Fantastic Four who got fire abilities and is a member of the elite group, yet he
68 still faces teenager problems, much like Spider-Man/Peter Parker. For a child growing up, this can be important to have these role models. Roland Mann learned to read using comics. His mother saw the value in them from the beginning when he was a reluctant reader. As I kid, in school, I was behind all the other kids because I had no interest in reading whatsoever. I would rather be outside playing. And I give all credit to my mom, she was the brilliant mom she was, standing in line at a grocery store, you know how kids can be, I spotted a comic book that had Captain America on it. I didn’t know who Captain America was at the time but I just spotted a comic book with a big colorful character and I said “Mom, I want it, buy it, buy it, can I have it, please, please, please” and mom in her brilliance, cut a deal with me. She said she would buy it for me on one condition. I said “Sure, anything, anything.” She said “You have to read it.” And I was like “Okay, sure. Not a problem.” Because I wanted it. But not realizing it, because I was a kid, I didn’t like to read. I was behind all the other kids. So she bought it, I read it. I read it again and again and again. I had to ask her questions about what things were, but the problem is it was continued. The story wasn’t finished. It was my only experience with a comic at the time and I was like “Well, I need to know what happens to Captain America.” And mom found it and said, “Okay, Same deal.” And I said “Fine, I enjoyed it. Blah, blah.” And the first probably four years I read comics, my mom bought them for me. I got to a point where I had a subscription to four comic books a month. Marvel used to mail them, they offered them in the mail, I got them in a little brown wrapper, folded in my mailbox. Once I asked for the fifth one, mom said that I had to start paying for them myself. That’s what caused me to go out and get a job as a kid, because I wanted comics. From that point, I was addicted to them as a reader and a fan, and then I discovered collecting. I found back all these back issues and was like, “what is this? I don’t know what this means?” A friend of mine took me to a used bookstore and they had a small collection of back issues. I was an Avengers fan, Captain America, Spider-Man, and I found back issues of those. And at the time, Marvel and DC would have editorial notes and would say that something happened in Captain America #100 and I would say “I have to have that book!” But of course, they were on 150 and you couldn’t get the book. But this is where I could find the back issues and I started buying them. Big geek. As natural inclinations tend to take kids, I began to write and draw my own stories. I was a terrible artist but I would write and draw them. Being motivated to read using comics is a story many fans tell, too, but comic scholars seem to take it to another level. In Roland’s case, it led him to not only publish comics but to teach about them. He was drawn to comics for the colorful images at first, but quickly realized the potential of story. Comic stories usually are published monthly, continuing storylines for months, sometimes years. That has never left him as he still creates and passes his joy for the medium on
69 to his students. Charles Hatfield started drawing comics with his older brother when he was around 5 or 6 on typing paper. His brother mostly made them, but he would “stick my name in the credits or our father’s name because having read a lot of Marvel comics, he essentially realized that a real comic book was written by more than one person.” Those were what he remembers reading before anything else. That doesn’t mean I didn’t read commercial comic books, but you know somethings are below the threshold memory—you can’t get at them. I just know that he came to comics and I followed him into a lot of what I did, if he wanted to make up a story and cast the two of us in roles, I would play that role. And if he wanted to throw my name into a homemade comic book—what was I gonna do? I picked up a lot from him. I would say that my relationship with my brother, who is a brilliant man, is one of the things that informed my earliest memories of comic books. I do know that by around age 8 or 9 I had begun to take an interest not only in comic books, but the history of comic books. We had the book All in Color for a Dime, when I was fairly young, maybe 7, and I remember images still from that book. I remember vaguely what it was about. So that was a collection of nostalgia oriented fanzine essays offered to a broader public, and part of that trend of nostalgic comic collectors going public with scholarship in the late 60’s, especially the 70’s, and I experienced that as a little kid. So when I was about 9 or 10 I was reading Steranko’s History of Comics, the two volumes of that promised series that he actually finished, and that was an enormous oversize book full of graphics as well as colorful stories, and I read that avidly, and I absorbed that. So that’s probably how I became familiar with names like Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and all those names from the superhero time. So I was absorbing that kind of work about comics at a fairly young age and when I was about 10 or 11 I, and my brother, spent some time looking the World Encyclopedia of Comics, which had just come out, we got it from the library and I remember being scandalized by the images by Robert Crumb. I thought they were really gross and terrible at the time. So a lot of it, again, has to do with my relationship with my brother and I really began buying comics of my own choosing around the age 9 or 10 and that’s when I had allowance money that I had “earned” from my parents, that is they gave it to me. And I had a lot of news stand and basic exchange experiences with comics, being a military kid, and I think Jack Kirby was the first artist whom I collected. I sort of followed him from title to title, I wasn’t that discriminating, I liked imitation Kirby too. Anybody who was trying to get that Jack look I would throw down my 25 to 30 cents for it. So I really remember collecting comics for about 3 years in the mid-70s when they were about 25, 30, 35 cents a piece at most, as we
70 say mainstream comics of the Marvel and DC variety. I saw others—I saw Gold Key and Whitman, I saw Charlton, I saw Harvey comics. I read a lot of comics I know I didn’t buy, I read Richie Rich for example. We never bought that, but I read a lot of Richie Rich. I don’t know how that happened, but I know I did. But I was really keen and into the tradition of Superhero comics, that Steranko and other people uncharted. As I said I read a lot of Jack Kirby, so I probably knew Kirby was a living legend from his work from back in the forties onward, even as I was laying down wanting to buy new comics by him 30 some odd years later. So that was how I came into it. I read strips too, I read Peanuts, and lots of other strips. I read lots of those collected paperbacks of Peanuts, which were, you could eat them like popcorn forever, but I never felt a proprietary sense towards those because comics you had to make an effort to go get, so it was a little different. It wasn’t nostalgia pressed, but something similar, I had a massive poorly bound coffee table book of Buck Rogers strips from 1929 onward from when I was about 10 or 11 that my parents had gifted me—so that was the first time I think I had poured through an old continuity strip. And I recognize, I guess, some kinship to comic books there, so I’m sure by the time I was 10 or 11 I knew that comic books started as comic strips in newspapers and things like that. And so up about to age 12 or so, approaching secondary school and adolescence and all that, I was really into comic books, so that’s how I got started. Then 8 years later when I was 20, in a fit of nostalgia I came back to them, and started to seek independent comics in the mid 80’s, and that was a different world. That’s when I got my exposure to comic book shops. I never saw comic book shop when I was a kid, even though a few existed around then—74, 75, 76, 77? I never saw that. I never went to any comic book convention, except for once to a small flea market kind of thing that my parents took me to where I paid—my god almost 3 1/2 dollars for New Gods #1, which is like 10 times what a new comic would cost at the time. I did that, but I really—whether having a convention, or a comic book store, or collecting, I did know anything about that. It was basically my brother and me—oh and one friend of mine who lived up the street for a couple of years. Starting because of his brother, Charles quickly moved to collecting comics which is a big factor in the world of comics. However, was also interested in the history of comics, something that has stuck with him all these years. Reading All In Color for a Dime where eleven comic book collector recall their experiences with comics is an experience that a comic scholar can relate to as well as fans. By moving on to both volumes of Jim Steranko’s The Steranko History of Comics that gives a concise and colorful version of the history of comic books, and something that only diligent fans read. These were self-published and today, if you can find them, they are
71 quite expensive. The comics world was promised a Volume three, but Mr. Steranko has not published it as of yet. Tom Shapira had a unique experience within the group, growing up in Israel where there is very little comic book culture. However, he still found comics and fell in love with them. I’d read some comic books, there’s some local kids stuff, and there’s some translations of Asterix and big European comics and things like Tintin and maybe some Bucky, but that’s about it. I only began reading American Style and considered myself a comic book reader when I was in my teens, let’s say 13/14? When a small publishing company began importing American Style comics into Israel. And I don’t know, it was just became a thing I did, I read books then I read comics. Unlike most other people I think I was the only comic book reader in my small, provincial, town thing for as long as I can remember. As it just became more accepted in Israel we now have 2 whole comic shops in the country, it became easier to get them. And then I went from being the only comic book guy to being a comic book fan. It was just something in the form that spoke to me more than any other type of media. Reading American comics as well as the European comics that he could find, Tom simply fell in love with the medium of comics. When something speaks to you, as Tom expressed above, it is an experience like no other. Comic scholars are passionate about comics which is refreshing. The innovation it brings to the classroom is motivating to students and invigorates the educators. Probably the comic scholar who has read the most comics of anyone interviewed is Paul Levitz. Paul was the president of DC Comics for years and has held numerous positions in the industry. However, he started the same way as most of us, as a comic book reader. He began collecting them and also publishing his own fanzine. When asked about his relationship with comics, he laughed. Well, as oversimplified as I can make it, I began as a comic book reader. I’m of the generation when that was pretty much universal in America. So, I started reading them as soon as I began to be able to read. By probably age nine or ten I began to collect them in sense of both keeping the current issues that I had and I was fortunate enough to live in an area where there was a store that sold used comics at a reachable distance that my parents were willing to take me to. I encountered the idea of comic’s fandom at about age
72 eleven or twelve and the first fanzine, one of my friends showed me. I began publishing my own fanzines almost immediately using carbon paper that progressed to Xerox fanzines in middle school. A lot of indexing work back in the days when there was such a thing as the great comics database and when I was fourteen. The dominate news fanzine at the time “Newfangled” announce a year in advance that it was going to shut down. Don and Maggie Thompson who were the publishers/editors, however you want to define it, were a young married couple with children. They wanted to have a life and they didn’t want to return the subscription money so they announced a year in advance that the subscriptions would end and you could subscribe whatever remained. My best friend who was also a comic fan of the time, Paul Kupperberg, were frustrated by this. How were we going to get the news? And we decided to start our own little fanzine, put together the $16 between the two of us. We called DC called Marvel and put out something that, by modern desktop publishing standards, looks like it was done by a couple of chimpanzees. Notwithstanding that, Don and Maggie were kind enough to give it a plug in the next issue as a possible replacement in people’s diet. We attracted a few subscriptions from that, it got a little better over the next few issues. Kupperberg dropped out, it was a little more work than he was willing to do at that point in his life, I stuck with it and I was approached by Mark Hatterfeld who had been the last editor of the “Comic Reader” a long-standing magazine that had lapsed in its publications some time before. Mark said “I’ve seen what you’re doing. You’re doing really well. Why don’t you take this over? And he handed me the subscribers on an index cards and a giant bag of dollars and quarters and nickels that he had held on to and suddenly I had probably a circulation of 700 or 800 making it the most widely read fanzine at the moment. By the time I gave it up, after a total of almost three years, I had about 3,500 subscribers or copies being distributed through the handful of comic book shops that existed at the time. It was profitable amazingly, at least by the standard of a 16-year-old kid. It had won two best fanzine awards in the award structure that was around in those days, the comic book fandom awards, and I knew everyone in the business because the business was all in New York, 95% of it anyway. Very small creative community, my best estimate is that there were only about 200 creative people working comics in those years and I probably knew 175 of them. In my senior year of high school, while I was still publishing the fanzine, I was offered the opportunity to do the letters pages for Joe Orlando, one of DC’s editors, and that began my freelance writing career. The summer I had graduated high school. Joe’s assistant was taking a vacation and he asked me if I was still in, so at age 16 and a day after high school, I was on the masthead as assistant editor. This is not possible today, it might have been legal back then but… it might not have been.
73 Paul’s experiences are unlike those of other comic scholars, however, one thread that is the same is the love of comics. But while most kids were just reading comics, Paul found the need to do more, starting his own fanzine. It must be noted that this was before the Internet and blogs and computer programs that make it much easier to publish something like this. He had to provide a tangible product that he could copy either by hand or by Xerox. This was not an easy task and demonstrates how deep the love of comics is for Paul and for many comic scholars. I’m Batman. There are comic scholars who came to comics through many different avenues, but several scholars that I spoke to referred to Batman being an early influence. Nick Sousanis cannot remember a time without comic books. In fact, he learned to read using comic books. In fact, his first word was Batman and now that he has a daughter of his own, her first word was also Batman. He remembers: Early on…so as a child, baby I had a much older brother who read comics to me including Batman and so that ended up being my first word. Which I have now gotten my daughter to have as her first word as well. I think it’s probably it’s an easy word to say for babies, but so I think my own upbringing is an anecdotal instance of the literacy potential of reading comics because I read them at such an extremely young age and I think the reading of comics may have helped me with that. So I was really into them and I really loved to draw as every little kid does but apparently I kept doing it and I liked to draw things so I made my own stories and stories of my friends and I was very young and I just kept doing it. Kept doing it, kept reading comics, kept making them. In eighth grade I launched my own little superhero comic in Junior High, so eighth grade, yep, Locker Man and that sort of grew into a much bigger thing, this was gonna be a one off thing for my locker and it turned out to be an ongoing thing that got longer with each issue and more involved with each issue. Much like Paul Levitz, Nick’s love of creating and of comics led him to create something instead of just reading comics. The more he created, the more he loved comics. His early love of comics, and especially Batman, has not faded and this one character helped to shape him into the comic scholar that he is today.
74 Batman is a recurring theme through many of the young lives of comic book scholars. Rob Weiner remembers going to see his brother play in a band concert and he was so excited that he got to wear his brother’s Batman bowtie. He embarrassed his brother by screaming at him during the concert. “Hey Larry! I’m wearing your Batman bowtie!” and my parents had given me a collection of Batman stories. And all through the years going back—I don’t remember very much about him except that I owned this book of Batman stories. The main thing that got me into comics, or the most vivid memory I have is going to a store in Michigan and seeing Tales of Suspense #39 with Spider-man and Silver Surfer #1 those images are still with me today, 45 years later. So you know I would go to the seven eleven store. Actually I did that this year too, when we lived there, go to 7/11 and buy a comic book. Some of them that I remember include—Kirby’s reboot of The Sandman (not the aforementioned Sandman, but rather a Spider-Man villain from Marvel Comics), Black Panther, a little bit later when we moved to Texas—the Human Fly Marvel comic. I met this lady, here, who works at the drug store and she collected comics and she’d give them to me and had a sort of network going where I would get comics every week from this individual. But this story that I sometimes tell is I read a story from the Legion of Superheroes where the Chemical King dies and I remember that really affected me. It was like my first lesson about death. I know a lot of people were affected by the death of Gwen Stacy, but since I had read about death before, that it never bothered me. So those are some of my earliest memories of comics and how that art, that type of storytelling, has stayed with me for so long. Batman is a very important character, not only to comic books in general, but to many comic book scholars. However, sometimes he serves as a gateway to other characters as Rob explained above. Early memories of storylines in comic books helped Rob to understand things like death as he recalls. These lessons live on. Matt Smith also has Batman in his origin story, which lead to him into learning to read. His started because of the Batman ‘66 television show. Realizing how amazing Batman was, he asked his parent if there was a way he could find out more about Batman. So, they bought him a stack of comic books. I looked at those pictures a thousand times and then realized those were words that goes with those pictures. So my poor sister, who was 6 years older than me, had to constantly read me the pages of the comics because I wanted to know what they said. Again and
75 again and again. And eventually she just got really tired of reading the same comics over and over and was pretty disgusted with her little brother bothering her, so she sent me away and said go learn to read. So, I said alright then, if that’s what it takes to get the meaning out of these things then I’ll go learn to read. And so I learned to read so that I could read comic books. And that was the first real literature I experienced in my life and it’s a literature I’ve never abandoned. Matt was motivated to read because of comic books. Noting that it was literature to him even at an early age, it was something that shaped his life and made him into who he is today. Unlike some of the other scholars, he never stopped loving comics. He just kept reading them, no matter what. There and back again. While some comic book scholars never gave up on comics, other went back and forth for various reasons. Just like I did, these scholars got distracted by other loves, whether it be boys or girls or another type of fandom. In Jason Tondro’s case, he started reading comics at a very young age and remembers: My first comic was Marvel Team-Up, I think, #72 or #74, which was Spider-Man and Hawkeye Versus Quasimodo. Which was not Hugo’s Bell Ringer, but rather a robot with one eye and hunch back. And I loved those comics and I wrote all over them and I was a terrible reader, but I loved them. And for a long time my allowance was exactly as much money as was able to buy one comic so that every week I could buy one comic. And when the price of comics went up, my allowance went up. However, later he was discouraged by his father when he read comic books. He began reading them again when The Dark Knight, Cerebus, and Watchmen made headlines. He thought being a fan is important to being a comic scholar. “There’s a great tension between comics fandom and comics study. And these two things cross over all the time because so many of us are fans.” Again, just like many other comic scholars, Jason is a fan of the medium. Rik Spanjers, one of the international participants in this study, read comics from the age of ten until he was about 20. He went to the library and read a lot of the Franco-Belgian comics
76 and ElfQuest. He forgot about comics for a while until he discovered Manga at University. He explained that it was not through comics, though, but through the animated version of Manga. It started by animation, so I saw some animations, animation feature films. When I was a bit older I started to somehow find my way back into Manga and was really intrigued by the form itself. I sort of started to do some very small research into comic book themes during my masters, which was the program in Amsterdam which is very open to all sort of different fields of study. I went and sort of did research on a Manga and then with my master’s thesis I researched laughter as a form of resistance in relation to the Joker comic book character. And when I finished this master’s research, I was a bit annoyed with the fact that I didn’t get to pay any attention to the fact that I was reading a comic book alongside to films. That really started my reading a lot of comic books once again. So I started reading and really enjoying comic books and all of a sudden I started finding all of these really alternative French comics. I really fell in love, or fell back in love, with the form. There varied paths to finding comics, but international comic scholars seem to have different paths. Manga, a Japanese style of comics books, is more popular worldwide than in the United States, however, the fandom is growing. It is more connected to animation than American comics which makes sense than Rik would find his way to comics through the films. Regardless of what did it, he did make his way back to comics, and as he said, falling in love with the form. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. is described by Jason Tondro as “the guy who was a scholar who wasn’t afraid to wear a Doctor Strange shirt. He could be the fan.” And he still is the fan, falling in love with comics before he could read. The first comic book I ever got was The True Story of Smokey the Bear from a State Park, possibly before I could read, I’m not quite sure. I have a copy of it, but I don’t think it’s the same copy because I’m pretty sure I read the first one to death. I probably didn’t really start buying comic books on my own until I was 10 years old and by that point I had already grown up on the Adam West Batman, and George Reeves Superman, and the 60s Spider-Man cartoons, and like Super Friends in the mornings. I kind of knew superheroes before I was even reading comic books, but I gravitated more towards Marvel superheroes kind of right away. As soon as I was buying comics myself, I think the Amazing Spider-Man 161 or 160 was the first Spider-Man book I ever bought, which is possibly the first book that I bought with my own money, I’m not sure, but it’s close to around there, and I kind of just went on from there. I was primarily a Marvel Superheroes comic book reader for the first couple of years at least. My younger brother was reading
77 Harvey comics and so I would read all of his stuff too, as well. So I was familiar with Richie Rich, and Hot Stuff The Little Devil especially because those were my little brother’s favorites, so I read all those. The local public library had a couple books, I think they had like Supernaturals of the 30’s and 70’s and so I was reading things like that, anything I could find in the library. One day we were at the mall and somehow I found the Pow! Zap! Wham! Comic Book Trivia Quiz by Michael Uslan actually and I think, he and his cousin, did it. And that taught me comic’s history from the beginning. I got that and very soon I got a copy of Origin of Marvel Comics, so those two books, plus being obsessed with the footnotes in Marvel comics got me to think about comic history from a very early age. I was always trying to identify artists, and follow things like that, I eventually kind of moved on from that. We went to a garage sale a couple of years after that and I bought a couple of old comic books for 10 cents a piece, which seems kind of crazy for an old book, but the woman who ran the garage sale also said ‘I have a big box of comic books without covers, do you guys just want those?’ So that introduced me to like 1950’s DC comics, superhero comics, romance comics, a lot of Archie comics, and so in this one box and those two books I had a crash course of history in comic books when I was a little kid. And that followed along for a long time, eventually I moved over to DC comics, also. I tried Charlton, but they seemed cheap so I didn’t bother with those anymore. You get burned a couple of times and you just don’t go back. Now I love them, but at the time it was like “This is really cheap, I can tell that they’re not giving people any money.” But eventually, I forget how old I was, I lost an interest in comic books for a while. I think, part of it, was the first time Spider-Man swore. It’s when he actually used a swear word, he was jumping in J. Jonah Jameson’s office and he says ‘Ah to hell with it!’ It’s probably Spider-Man 193 or something like that I forget, but I saw that and I was like ‘He doesn’t do that. Spider-Man shouldn’t swear.’ So I kind of stopped for a year or two, and then I came back, and came back again with a vengeance and that lasted for a while, even throughout high school. Then I think near the end of high school I tapered off a little bit, college I came back a little bit, tapered off a little bit. Then it wasn’t until I was in grad school for the second my Ph.D. and I was buying things off and on when I found Miles. I ran across Spider-Man Raw Volume 2 at a used book store and that kind of blew my mind. But it wasn’t really until the Ph.D. program and meeting Charles Hatfield that I really got back into comic books in a huge way. It was kind of meeting Charles and starting to do things with him—that’s when I never looked back and that pretty much hasn’t stopped since then. I understand Gene’s turning away from comics when his character swears. I once left a friend’s house, and really her life, because she was showing off with another friend by cussing. I am glad that my friends today would not do that, as I would have no friends, but at the time, it made a big impact on me. I think that it is fantastic that the same character as a different person brought Gene back into comics. Miles Morales is another Spider-Man, not Peter Parker who is the original Spider-Man, who first appeared in 2011 and who possesses many of the same powers as
78 the original Spider-Man. Miles is a different ethnicity that Peter which caused some controversy, but to me and most comic scholars, corrects a much overdue oversight. Backing in to comics. Not every scholar loved comics since they can remember. There are those who came at it “backwards” as Janis Breckenridge explained. She never read comic books growing up and her first exposure to comic books was reading Maus for a course on the Holocaust in graduate school in the 1990s. It was not a course on the medium, but was being used for the content of the book. It was in a class of experimental texts on the Holocaust. But not by a comic scholar and not by someone that truly understand text and image and that interaction and after that I didn’t read anything else until Watchmen, and the movie was coming out and I was like, well, if I’m going to watch this movie, I’d be excited to read the comic, the graphic novel first. And that’s when I started doing it for fun. I’m in my mid-20s, late 20s, maybe even into my 30s already? And from there I didn’t slow down. I loved Watchmen the movie, so I got Watchmen the book, and then started reading and then just kept reading and it was when I started my job at Whitman College, we have a summer read program, and the summer read that particular year was Persepolis, so all the new faculty and all the new incoming first years we read Persepolis together, she came to campus, we watched the movie in the in the spring semester, so it was almost this like year long course. So I came in as an academic, who kinda did it for fun, but I was much more involved in sort of the graphic novel as opposed to comics or superheroes or that kind of thing. Others like Andrew Lesk grew up reading Casper, Eerie Comics, and Sad Sack and only started with what he considers graphic novels in the past ten years. Comic scholars simply find comics. I know it is not science, but I believe comics are in the comic scholars DNA. Finding 2: From Fandom to Academia All of the comic scholars, at least those who are teaching, are using comic books as teaching tools in their classrooms. If they do not offer a course on comic books, then they are using them as textbooks for the subject they are teaching. This love of the medium that we saw
79 in Finding 1 translates to bringing what they love into their classroom. Being an academic and a fan are not that different. They inform each other and they are hard to separate. But, it works. This move into the classroom is documented below by myself and other comic book scholars. There are many courses taught by these comics scholars which can be seen in Table 2. We begin the story with my journey to the classroom. Many of the participants began using comics while teaching in graduate school, others found something that resonated in a comic similar to my story, others took over a course which changed the direction of their teaching, others just wanted to use comics, and some do not teach on comics yet or may use comics as texts in their others courses. My journey. In 1981 another big event happened in my life. My favorite actor was going to be in another movie, not a Star Wars movie, but an action-adventure movie. It was called Raiders of the Lost Ark and I could not wait to see it. I do not remember how many times I saw it in the theater but I remember that first time. In fact, every time I watch the movie, which is a lot, I remember it. All we see for the first ten minutes are people walking through the jungle. We do not see Harrison Ford’s face at all. But I knew it was him. I could tell. I watched with so much anticipation. The adventurers were encountering poison arrows and warning signs, and they kept on. When they get close to the location they are looking for, Indiana Jones brings out the map. We still have not seen his face. We see one of the guys cock his gun, the whip comes out and takes the gun from his hand. The camera pans up to show Harrison Ford. At that moment, my heart was beating a million miles a minute and I was in love. Not just with the archaeologist Indiana Jones looking for the lost Ark of the Covenant, but with the idea of archaeology. And I became obsessed once again. An obsession that also continues to this day, one that culminated in two archaeology degrees. After that movie, I would go to the library and
80 find out everything I could about archaeology and the Ark. I had to use encyclopedias and write letters asking for more information because this was pre-Internet. My parents kept all my research for me, which was quite a lot, and is really entertaining to read now. From the Ark I moved on to other archaeology like Mesoamerica, Egypt, Neanderthals, Native Americans, anything I could get my hands on. When the show Archaeology aired, I never missed an episode. John Rhys-Davies, Sallah from the Indiana Jones franchise, was the host of that show and I thought, I still think, he is one of the most brilliant people on the planet. I got to meet him and discuss archaeology, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and more and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Stick with me, there is a point to this story. While none of these loves have left my life, their importance grew and diminished during certain times. I discovered boys, besides Harrison Ford (however, I did have a picture of his sons that I just knew I would meet one day—I have not) and that changed things. I was always what most people would consider a nerd, but I did stop wearing tube socks for a short time to wear more fashionable clothing. I fell for the sport of auto racing and the Indianapolis 500 and that took a lot of my time during high school and the first few years of college as it fit in well with the idea of being a photo-journalist, much like Peter Parker. But when I dropped out of college after two years to move to California with my fiancé, the dream of being pursuing that career died. I worked in racing for years, putting all my efforts into that and then starting a family. In 1992 I had my son, Robb. Everything changed then. It is funny when you have a child how all of your priorities change because for a long time it is not about you anymore. It is all about the child. I know the experiences are different for different people, and I was not in a good relationship at the time, so losing myself in my child was one way of coping. And by doing that, the true loves of my life merged. My inner geek that
81 had been suppressed because it was not acceptable to my husband at the time, it came back. It came back to present my true self to my son. I taught my son to read using comic books. I taught him about Star Wars and Flash Gordon and all of my other loves. One of my favorite moments of my entire life was when I took my son Robb to see Star Wars Episode One on opening day. I had to wait a long time for another Star Wars movie, we all did, and even though the movie was not everything that I wanted it to be, it was Star Wars and I got to share that experience with my son. My son and I will always have that memory and we talk about it a lot. We have bonded over many things, but nothing like that moment. The only thing that can come close to that moment was bonding over comic books. Going to the comic book shop became our thing. When my daughter Grace came along many years later in 2000, she learned to read with comic books, too. I do not even really remember teaching her, she just seemed to just always read them. Her first “real” movie she ever watched was Spider-Man. She loved Spider-Man and wearing her Spider-Man shirt (from the boy’s department as they did not make them readily available for girls then), she sat in front of the television while I put the DVD in the player. I was ready to give her about ten minutes before she lost interest. She never did. In fact, when the movie ended she turned around to me and said “again.” I complied. We watched that movie a lot. It still remains one of my favorite superhero movies. So my obsessive behavior has followed me throughout life and being obsessed with comics is no exception. I never really thought of using them to teach because I never wanted to be a teacher. I never played “school” when I was young. I played “business owner” and I was pretty good at it. You see, my parents and my grandmother were all teachers and I grew up hearing about how we did not have money and my dad would have to teach summer school to make ends meet. I did not realize that most parents think they have no money, no matter how
82 much they make. But that put me off teaching. It was not until I was in graduate school for Anthropology that I found that I loved teaching. I was offered a course on semester because a professor quit and another was on leave. I needed the money and so I said yes. And after the first month I was sold. I loved it. When I was offered more classes I took them. I taught anything they would let me. I even taught in the correctional education system for a few years. I loved teaching and I loved my students. Again, I never thought of bringing comics into the classroom because I had never experienced it. Did I think comics were valuable as educational tools? Absolutely. But no one around me did. Or so I thought. Turns out there were quite a few closeted comic book readers around me. But there were many more who were not. The epiphany hit me when I was writing a lecture on Culture Change for my Anthropology 101 course. I always updated my lectures and activities because I had just recently experienced some ways of teaching that I did not enjoy. I found that if I was engaged with the material, I remembered more. If the lectures were dry and boring and stale, then no matter how much I loved the subject, I would be disengaged. I almost changed my undergraduate major because an instructor was so boring. I did not want to ever be that instructor. However, while I was writing this lecture I was also in the middle of reading Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan, Jr. In this series, all the males on the planet die in one mass extinction, with the exception of one man, Yorick, and his monkey, Ampersand. This remains one of my favorite series of all time and I think about it daily. I was totally engrossed in this book. It was amazing—still is. So, when I sat down to rework my lecture and the assignment that went along with it, I was thinking about Y: The Last Man. BAM! It hit me. This story WAS culture change. But could I use it in the classroom? Would the department let me? I knew I had to do something because I was getting tired of students not
83 reading the assigned material. I was one of those goody-two-shoes students that most always completed the readings and the few times I did not, I felt terrible about it. Would introducing a concept in a comic book be a good way to get the students to read? There was really only one way to find out. I did something I probably should not have. For that semester, I assigned the book without getting any type of permission. I just sent the order to the bookstore and also put in the syllabus that copies would be available at the local comic book shop at a discounted price. No one really said anything to me about it until students started talking about it in the other Anthropology classes. I had one professor, Dr. Cailín Murray, pull me aside to speak to me about this and she was very insistent that they would be “watching me.” And watch me they did. They watched the students come to class every day excited to be there. They would walk by my classroom and marvel at how full the class was, even halfway through the semester. They would listen to my students chatter about what we were talking about in their 101 class. Some of them even read a few of the final papers that students turned in. It was a success. Dr. Murray is now a big proponent of comic books as teaching tools and is serving on this dissertation committee. Comic books change lives. The downside was that I did put a minimum on the final paper, three pages, but not a maximum page limit. The average paper was nine pages. With 77 students in the class, that was a lot of grading. But it was worth it. One of the best experiences of my life. When I had dinner with Brian K. Vaughan and his amazing wife Ruth McKee I told them how Y: The Last Man had changed my life. Jokingly, Ruth said it had changed hers, too. It bought her a house. I own every edition of Y: The Last Man so I told them I should at least have a corner named for me in their home.
84 I continued using comics in my teaching. This culminated in my teaching a course titled Gender through Comics Books. But I am jumping ahead in the narrative. The path to that course was an interesting one. One of my professors, Dr. Thalia Mulvihill, who is also the chairperson of this dissertation, assigned a paper to the class I was taking, Women and Higher Education. Dr. Mulvihill told me that instead of writing a normal paper that I should flip it over to side B. I am old enough to understand what that meant. She said to do something different that only I could do. So, I decided to create a course called Gender through Comic Books. It was a lot of work but it was so much fun. In the class I decided we would interview creators that wrote the books we are reading. That is one of the great things about comics, that most of the creators are accessible and alive. All of this was imaginary as it was just for the paper. Part of the assignment was that we had to put together a presentation for the class. After the presentation one of the students came up to me and asked if I would present at Women’s Week, a week of amazing women talking and presenting at Ball State University. Right before the presentation, the head of Women and Gender Studies asked me if I would be interested in teaching this course in their department. Of course the answer was yes. The presentation was wonderful and I immediately started to set my plans into motion. In addition to making the tentative class a reality, I also had to secure at least 6 comic book creators to interview and set up up the media. Fortunately, I had several connections in the world of comics and also, comics people are for the most part incredibly giving people. I even cold emailed Brian K. Vaughn, one of my favorites writers, and after first saying he was too busy being the show runner for the television series The Dome he emailed back and said he wanted to take part and agreed. That was an amazing addition! In addition to Brian we had other top creators on tap. Terry Moore (cartooninst), Scott Snyder (writer), Mark
85 Waid (writer), Greg Rucka (writer), and Scott Gimple (The Walking Dead showrunner). A few weeks into the course, which was going very well, I was approached by iLearn at Ball State who asked if I would like to teach the Gender through Comic Books course as a MOOC. I said yes. Then I went to my computer to see what a MOOC was. A MOOC is a massive, open, online course. They are usually free and open to anyone who wants to enroll. This made me very happy as I am a big believer in lifelong learning. Steve Schuler, who was a great help through this whole ordeal, of iLearn even went so far as to work with me to set up and record all of the interviews the class was doing that semester. This was a great resource to have and one less thing for me to worry about. In the classroom version of the course, students would read the assigned comic book, there would be lectures about topics such as masculinity, femininity, gendered spaces, etc., we would have a class discussion about the book, and conclude with an interview with someone in the comics field. For example, for the Terry Moore and Strangers in Paradise segment, the students read the Book one of the pocket version of Strangers in Paradise. This was the first book that we read because I wanted to get away from the stereotype that all comics have superheroes. Even after I lectured about this in class, the students still expected there to be a superhero in the book. We talked about femininity and masculinity of the characters in the book, the fact that Terry is a man who writes and draws amazing women but people assume that he is a female, and more. Finally, the students came up with questions for Terry which culminated in a hour interview session where they would get up and ask him the questions, then he was wonderful enough to answer them. This pattern continued with the other books and creators and culminated in the students choosing a book on their own, if they couldn’t afford one then they could choose one from my personal library, and they wrote a paper and created a presentation for
86 the class. These presentations were some of the best I have ever witnessed. They were insightful and taught me things I did not know. On my end, this course was a success. While I was finishing up the classroom version of the gender course, I was busy learning about MOOCs and setting up that course. Making a classroom course into an online course is not as easy as one would think. Additionally, this course would be open to participants all around the world. Therefore, I had to think about all different cultures, make sure that the books I chose were available in print and online, and keep the cost of the books down to a minimum. I approached Comixology about giving a deal to class participants which they immediately agreed to, going so far as to bundling the comics and having a page for the SuperMOOC as we called it on their site. This was a big feather in our cap! Canvas was brought on board for our platform and after learning how to navigate that site, the construction of the MOOC began. We decided to try and present information for the course at South by Southwest conference that happens every year in Texas. While we did not get voted in, the trailer we did for the MOOC made a lot of noise in the social media arena. I managed to get Stan Lee, legendary Marvel writer, to voice over a trailer for the SuperMOOC. This was distributed via social media and garnered a lot of interest, especially on the comic book media sites. I am also lucky enough to have made friends in the industry who helped to spread the news of the course. We capped the enrollment once 7000 students had signed up. The university thought we would be lucky to get five hundred people enrolled in the course so this high number for a new university participating in the field of MOOCs was outstanding. I was a little skeptical of having that many students and only one assistant, Aly Caviness, one of the students from my campus course who proved to be exceptional. She remains one of my dear friends and married another friend who was introduced to her because of this course. Her main job was to help during the
87 interviews and then to transcribe them. The course ran six weeks and consisted of weekly comic book readings, articles to read, activities, and the interviews. The weekly topics covered gender, how we learn gender, masculinity, femininity, who is producing comic book culture, and gendered spaces. The weekly modules can be seen below in Table 2. For the interviews, we created a set on a blue screen and scheduled them for the same time each week. The big difference from the campus course was that we had to have students submit questions ahead of time if they couldn’t “attend” or live tweet the questions to our twitter hashtag that I would then read to the creator. Aly was a big help with this, too. They went surprising smooth. We also used the green screen to record lectures, several for each segment, that lasted anywhere from three to ten minutes each. Too long and people lose interest, so we kept them short and just made multiple videos. I made this decision because if I see a video longer than 20 minutes that has been assigned to me, I start to lose interest after ten minutes. These are real issues that instructors need to think about when planning their courses, especially ones that are online. The course was a huge success and led me to teach another course, Social Issues through Comic Books, on my own a few months later. As soon as I tweeted out that I was offering another course, Canvas contacted me and asked to be a part of it. I agreed and the course went on to be a success, using the same format but taking place over a longer period of time with more content and interviews added. This proved to be more trouble that it was worth as it was on me and a few volunteers from time to time doing the work. After having a MOOC last six weeks and four months, it is clear that the shorter version is definitely the way to go.
88 Table 2. Schedule for Gender Through Comic Books. Module Week 1: What is gender? Theories and views
Week 2: Gender and Culture: How we learn our gender Week 3: Who is producing comic book culture?
Start Date April 2
Comic Book reading assignments Strangers in Paradise 1–3 (Vol. 1), Strangers in Paradise 1–9 (Vol. 2), and Rachel Rising #1
Visit the site How Comics are Made
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Steve Wacker, and Sana Amanat
Secret Six v.2 1–7 Wonder Woman #1 Wonder Woman #7 (nu52) Birds of Prey #56
Article: Spice World by Lemish
Batman #0 (nu52)
Article: Comic Book Masculinity and the New Black Superhero by Brown
Article: Gendered Spaces: Gym Culture and the Construction of Gender by Johansson
Brian K. Vaughan
Captain Marvel 1–7 Ms. Marvel v.1 #1 Ms. Marvel v.2 #1 Daredevil #1
Week 4: Femininity
Week 5: Masculinity
Week 6: Gendered Spaces and Consuming Comics
Article: Doing Gender by West and Zimmerman
Birthright 1–12 ActionComics #1 Action Comics #267
Additional Readings Article: “Night to His Day”: The Social Construction of Gender by Lorber
Swamp Thing #0 (nu52)
Y: The Last Man #1–6 (Vol. 1) Saga #1
Teaching in school. Susan Kirtley started adding comics to her teaching in graduate school when she was teaching a memoir class. She used Lynda Barry’s 100 Demons and the
89 positive reaction of the students was overwhelming. This caused her to realize that she should try to use more comic books into her classroom. Over time it has worked. Well, I don’t know if it’s worked, but it’s and I’ve been incorporating comics more and more. I do remember that first time reading Lynda Barry and I remember one of the students saying, “Do you want to get fired?” They were shocked that we were going to be reading this. I remember thinking “No. I don’t want to get fired.” And I’ve had students say that they’ve had to hide their textbooks because their parents wouldn’t want to pay for them if they say what they were reading. So there’ve been some funny reactions to using the comic books.” Lynda Barry is an important figure in comics and one that led Susan to her dissertation topic. She is both a writer, an artist, and an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work is both fiction and autobiographical and in 2016 was inducted in the Eisner Hall of Fame, the highest honor one can receive in the comic book industry. While she is not mainstream, her books are essential in the history of comics and have made a great impact on many comic scholars, but none as much as Susan. Christopher Murray started using comics in his research when he was an undergraduate. He continued that research for his Ph.D. and also used them as a comics lecturer. He explained, I’d long felt that the comics I was reading belonged in the courses I was studying, so I brought them into my study and then put those modules on the course. It was an easy decision, and felt like a natural one, and I found my department very supportive. This experience is similar to mine, while reading a book and engaging with the material, realizing that students should be able to do the same. However, Christopher is very fortunate in that he had a supportive department as not all academics feel that comics belong in education. Ian Hague was working on his undergraduate degree and he decided to switch his topic to comic books. He was working on an English degree for his dissertation and then decided that he wanted to use comics. You know when you do an English degree you read a lot of novels and at the same time
90 as that I was reading a lot of comics, and I thought “You know that’s something I’m interested in.” I wrote reviews for the student newspaper on graphic novels and I thought “Well maybe I can do comics.” And that’s just something I’m interested in and that’s what they want you to do for your dissertation and so I did that and it developed from there. In terms of teaching, it grew out of my research because I research comics, I taught comics. The first course I ever taught was a general history course, which had two weeks on comics, the 1950s controversies around whether comics should be banned and that kind of thing. Much like Christopher’s and my own experience, being interested in comics can lead to using them in your classes. Not every comic fits into a topic, but the variety of comics available is one of the attractions of the medium. Janis Breckenridge “slowly started adding comics or graphic novels to my courses at Whitman.” She also had support from her Spanish department, where she introduced Spanish language comics to her courses which have become quite popular. Comics are not limited by language or topic, as Janis knows very well. Now I own an entire room of graphic novels and comics in English and in Spanish. And it’s just it’s just grown and grown. I’ve started a visual literacy track there, so I teach courses in film, I teach courses that are specifically devoted to comic and graphic novels, and I now teach a gateway course. We have four courses now that are gateway sequences, and students elect two of the four. And they’re in the genre, so there’s a poetry, there’s a narrative, which is what I used to teach and we have hired a new person for that, a performance studies, and now there will be a visual literacies track. And so it will at least be 50% comics and graphic novels. Resonation. Forrest Helvie started using comics to teach because of one book that resonated with his experiences as a war veteran. He saw the book and simply wondered what it was all about. It was Brian K. Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad. I loved it. It’s also interesting because it tends to be very polarizing I think for a lot of people. There are some problematic aspects to it for readers and I like dealing with problematic texts, I like when it’s not easy, and I like when it creates problems and people wanna get a little fired up about it. There’s the one rape scene in there, I know my students—we had a lot of talks about that one. But I remember I read that, and this in
91 2008 so the war is still going on, and it’s very current and it’s one of the things I do bring up in my classes. We’ll talk vet issues because I think that goes on undiscussed quite a lot and I didn’t know how to do it though. I was just bored and I thought I’m gonna try this book out and I did. And wow, like the response was awesome, everybody—I mean I did an anonymous poll to see who actually read the book and that can be pretty dangerous in an English class, and everybody read the book. Then I did another poll— alright, on a scale from one to ten—how strong was your reaction to it, either positive or negative, but did you have a real strong reaction? And you know, people were really responding to this book. I had one student who brought it to his book club of like forty people and I was like “Wow, okay.” And that was the moment for me where I’m like “I haven’t done this before, but I need to do this more often.” And then I brought in Persepolis and the same thing happened, people just exploded and it took off, and my department chair was like “Hey, what’s going on with you and comics in your class?” and I was only an admin adjunct at the time. And I said “I kind of just got bored” because I was teaching night class and in a night class you really gotta work to keep students interest because they’re coming from a full-time job and they’re going home to a family. And so I tried it and they’re loving it, I’m still working to get them to do their regular reading, but they’ll talk to me about the comics, I have students who will finish the book in the first week. And she just encouraged it and said “Well, keep them reading. Keep them doing it, keep them talking about whatever they’re reading” And ever since then. The Pride of Baghdad, which Forrest refers to as an impetus to using comics in his course, is the story of four African lions that escaped from a Baghdad zoo. The fictionalized part of the story is that they are anthropomorphic, trying to survive during the war in Iraq. As a veteran of that way, this book resonated with Forrest in a way that another medium could not. Just as I did, Forrest brought comics into his classroom covertly. After adding Persepolis, an autobiographical book about growing up during the Islamic revolution in Iran, he explained to his ideas to his department chair. Fortunately for his students, then and now, the chair was supportive. While Gail de Vos read comics only as a child, when she was “researching folk tales in popular culture, I was looking at new telling’s and reworking of folk tales in all types of culture
92 and found comics books.” She quickly realized that comic books were the closest think in print to her idea of storytelling that was out there. So I started buying comic books and reading comic books and all of a sudden I had this huge collection. So I went to the university and said “I need to write these off, can I teach a comic book course?” so the material came before the course. They agreed and I’ve been teaching it for 15 years online now. Something like that. And my research still, is mostly, on folklore in the comic book format. I understand Gail’s story as any comic scholar can. Comics can be a very expensive hobby so taking your hobby and making it your job, that can be a good thing for expenses. However, making sure to keep enjoying the fun part of it is important. Every so often I will forget how fortunate I am to be doing what I love, but am quickly reminded by friends and family to not take what I do for granted. Stepping in to comics. Craig This was asked to teach a course on Comic Books in American Culture when another instructor left. He started teaching the course every semester and it made him a more avid comic reader. Now he teaches that course at Sinclair and teaches a firstyear seminar one Superheroes in Leadership at Wright State. He remarked, “He would love to teach more, but right now I just don’t have the time to develop the course.” He plans to teach more with comics in the future. Craig is a lifelong comic fan, but now he is a lifelong comic scholar. Chris Galaver was also asked to teach a Superhero course, but he was asked by a group of honors students, which led him back to a subject he loved. About eight years ago I was asked to teach this class (on Superheroes). I started researching superheroes as a genre, and that actually resulted in a lot of pre-comics research, looking at how the character type evolved into what became Superman in 1938. And as a result of that I looked back, mostly early Golden Age material. Early Superman, early Batman, but also as a result of teaching the course I was looking at a lot of Silver Age as well. Early Spider-Man, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby material and the course I’m now teaching I have eliminated the pre-comics portion of it, so it’s now called ‘Superhero
93 comics’ and we’re delving much more into the form as a visual form. So we’re looking at a wider range of material, Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil’s Green Lantern or Green Arrow working on right now in class. Being asked to teach a course on comic books when you are a comic book fan has to be one of the greatest moments of your life. Getting to teach about Steve Ditko, the co-creator of SpiderMan, Doctor Strange, among other characters; Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America, Thor, the Silver Surfer, The Fantastic Four, and so many other Marvel character; Neil Adams, the legendary artist who helped advocate for creators pensions and helped to get recognition for the creators of Superman, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel; and Dennis O’Neil, the amazing writer and editor who wrote the well-known 1970s Green Arrow story where Speedy, the Green Arrow’s ward, was addicted to heroin. Teaching your heroes is a moment no comic book scholar ever forgets. All about comics. Nick Sousanis had a slightly different approach. When he started his doctoral program, he decided that everything he did had to be comic focused. He turned in homework in comic book form and people were receptive. He knew he wanted to teach a class on comics and they just finally let him. He was determined to include comics and did not have opposition as some others may have felt. Loving what he does shows in his finished product as Unflattening, Nick’s dissertation turned book, won the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel prize in 2016. Charles Hatfield first started using comics as teaching tools when he was a Teaching Assistant in graduate school. He was reading lots of comics while he was assigned writing workshops. Finally, when he was offered the chance to teach writing about literature, he was able to incorporate something he loved in his teaching. I was given the opportunity to teach writing about literature, where it was expected you would teach fiction, poetry, and drama. I used comics in that class. I would have it alongside 19th and 20th Century fiction or poetry. Maybe around 92. More and more often I would use a graphic novel like I Never Liked You, Mr. Punch, Jar of Fools, and Maus,
94 these are things I taught early in a larger mix. This was even before I decided to write about comics for my dissertation. Including nonmainstream comics such as Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You which is about real life experiences of the author and his difficulty in expressing himself, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mr. Punch about confronting your past, Jason Lute’s Jar of Fools that tells the story of a magician trying to find himself, and Art Spiegelman’s award winning Maus which documents his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor, were essential to Hatfield’s agenda. These books, along with the superhero books that many comic scholars love, show the range of topics that are covered in this amazing medium.
Table 3. Courses taught by Comic Scholars in this study. Comic Book Scholar Christina Blanch
Gail de Vos
Year first taught
Gender through Comic Books
Ball State University
Social Issues through Comic Books Visual Voices: Hispanic Graphic Novels Critical Thinking and Academic Writing: Visual Literacies Visual Memory Visual Narrations: The Art and Architecture of the Graphic Novel Comic Books and Graphic Novels in
Whitman College Whitman College
University of Alberta
Forrest Helvie Susan Kirtley
Schools and Public Libraries Genres and Topics in Youth Literature Superheroes
San Jose State
Washington and Lee University Making Comics Washington and Lee University Comics: Form and California State Meaning University Northridge Comics Books as California State Literature University – Northridge Comics and Graphic California State Novels University – Northridge Comics and the California State Novel University – Northridge The Hernandez California State Brothers University – Northridge Art Spiegelman and California State the Transformation University – of Comics Northridge Disability in Comics California State University Northridge The Graphic Self CU Boulder Graphic Novel as Norwalk Literature Community College Comics History and Portland State Theory, Visual University Rhetoric The Graphic University of Narrative Massachusetts at Lowell The Graphic Novel University of Toronto
2010 2008 2016 2001
2013 2010 2015
96 Paul Levitz
A David Lewis
The American Graphic Novel Comics, Graphic Novels, & The American Jew
Religion and Comics Comics Scriptwriting Comics and Literary Theory Muslim Superheroes
Cancer and Comic Books
Writing for Comics and Animation Writing of Comics and Graphic Novels British Comic Writers: Moore, Morrison, and Gaiman
Columbia University Princeton
Tufts University Georgetown Univeristy Georgetown University Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Full Sail University
Full Sail University
University of Dundee
97 Critical Approaches to Comics and Graphic Novels International Comics Cultures Creating Comics Science Fiction Comics Autobiographix: Autobiographical and Documentary Comics The Superhero Comics and Film
Field Study in Communication: The Experience at Comic Con Field Study in Communication: The Experience at Comic Con Graphic Novels of Alan Moore Graphic Storytelling: Comic Books as Culture Graphic Storytelling: Comic Books as Culture Understanding, Making and Teaching Comics: Practice, Process, and Pedagogy Popular Texts:
University of Dundee
University of Dundee University of Dundee University of Dundee University of Dundee
University of Dundee University of Dundee
Wittenberg University Wittenberg University
2011 2016 2011
98 Focus on Comics in Teaching and Learning Art, Media, and Technology: Reading Graphic Novels Theoretical and Cultural Studies: Comics as a Way of Thinking Topic in Popular Genres: Comics and Graphic Novels Comics & Culture Making Comics Rik Spanjers
Modern Dutch Literature 6: Literature and Media Dutch Comics Honors Program War and Memory Reading Comics Wartime Weddings: War Representation in Manga Analyzing Comics The Dutch Comics as Means of Education Literature without Texts—Graphic Novels without Graphics
University of Calgary
University of Calgary
San Francisco State University San Francisco State University University of Amsterdam
University of Amsterdam University of Leiden, Honors School VU University Amsterdam University College Utrecht
ARTez Zwolle University of Cologne
University of Amsterdam
Wartime Weddings: War Representation in Manga Comic Books in American Culture Comic Books and American Culture Comics and Graphic Novels in America and Britain The Superhero Narrative Comics go to War International Comics and Graphic Novels
Introduction of Comic Studies The Rhetoric of the Superhero Comics go to War Rob Weiner
The Superhero in Film, Television, and Popular Culture The Power of Comics: The Cultural Value of Sequential Art Zombie Culture: The Zombie in History, Film, Literature, Sequential Art, and the Popular Imagination
University College Utrecht
Sinclair Community College Wright State University University of California Riverside
University of California Riverside University of California Riverside College of Coastal Georgia
College of Coastal Georgia College of Coastal Georgia University of California Riverside Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University
2016 2012 2012
100 Roland Mann recognized that more programs were using comics than were when he was in school, so he figured, I have this body of knowledge, why I am not using it to help me to teach these students. I felt that it was a base of knowledge I had that would help me communicate effectively as a teacher. As a teacher, one of the things that we want to do is to make sure the kids are learning. And you can’t guarantee that, learners have to be motivated to learn. For me, it’s a power tool in my tool box that if I didn’t use, I wouldn’t benefit my students. A good many of my students get this because of the culture today. Motivating students to learn is one of the biggest challenges of educators. There are so many other distractions for today’s students. Not using something that he though benefits his students would be cheating them, something I also believe. When told that I should wait until I got tenure to use comics, I felt the same way Roland does. If I believe in something and that it will benefit my students, it was my duty to incorporate it. Not all comic scholars were willing to take that risk early on in their career. This is not exclusive to comic studies. Asa Mittman (2013) teaches monster studies and was told to “drop all this monster stuff and start doing real scholarship” (p. 2). Just as monster studies may not be seen as “real scholarship,” Mittman continues his research and writes that the monster studies field “is a renewable and self-sustaining one, and the subject of our study will be available for a long time to come” (p. 14). Matt Smith has loved comics his whole life. However, it was during his undergrad year at college when an English teacher, teaching a retrospective of popular culture course which included comics, that the scholarly part of the equation came to be. I got very excited at the notion that at college you could study comics and my instructor was not a comics expert, but he liked the idea of sort of talking about wider popular culture things. I thought this is pretty neat. If you can talk about comics in a scholarly sense, wouldn’t that would be marvelous. I did a senior honor’s thesis project as an undergraduate on comics and mythology and had great fun with that and then I ended up doing my Master’s thesis about, actually about X-Men comics letters pages that were going on and the whole AIDS metaphor that was going on with the Legacy Virus in the 90s. And then you know I sort of retreated a bit from comics, you know, as a scholar simply because I
101 recognized it would be a tough row to hoe in the marketplace to be comics official. So I did more stuff with computer media communication, took a slightly different track, but kept dabbling with comics and things here and there. And then when I got tenure, I was like why am I wasting my time, not wasting, but why I am spending what precious time I have investigating phenomena that are interesting to me but not my passion. I want to devote my life’s work to really studying what brings me the greatest joy and that’s where I really made the conscious decision that I was gonna do comics and I’m gonna do it full time. Matt took the long route to identifying as a comic scholar, but when he decided to do it, he went big. He is known in many circles for his comic studies and has published several books on his research, including The Power of Comics, one of the only textbooks for comic studies, as well as attending comic cons with students for ethnographic study. Other courses. Some scholars are not teaching classes on comic books at the moment, but will use them in their regular courses. Ian Hague is currently teaching many classes, but none all about comics. I have used them when teaching graphic design theory. I have had students working on comics for their dissertations, but I’m not teaching a comics course at LCC. I teach illustration and visual media, experience design, graphic design theory, grounding choices and thesis. So it just depends on what the student is doing for the thesis. I suppose actually in relation to your previous question, around non comic expertise, I suppose branding would be another—branding and marketing design. Tom Shapira is working on his Ph.D. now, his topic is Judge Dredd and the way the comic is used to reflect the way the Nation has changed over the last thrity years so he has not been able to teach, yet. However, he explained, I did some lectures in the University, but I haven’t taught formally. Maybe next semester they’re talking about making me a TA, but I don’t want to guarantee anything. So right now, no. Just lectures to the general audience and nothing set. I’ve written in Hebrew a lot, because well that’s my native tongue, but the problem is that there isn’t any demand for scholarly application of comic studies in Hebrew. It’s just not a developed field enough. So most of the things I write in Hebrew are for local blogs and such. Forrest Helvie uses comic books in his courses, but has not been able to teach a course solely on comic books, yet, but will soon teach his first course. He does use comics whenever he
102 can. I do teach comics within my developmental reading and writing classes—I’m so disappointed, I got to do a TED talk and they botched the video up so they can’t put it online. One of the things I talked about is how comics are dangerous because you can have some incredibly complex discussions—you can talk a lot about current events and very pointy issues that most people don’t necessarily think about because of they way it is presented in the media or in more text heavy outlets, it’s just not accessible, it’s not presented in a really easy to grab fashion. Comics—it’s right there. So I teach comics in my developmental writing classes, I taught classes including a lot of stuff from First Second, they are a brilliant publisher, if I could ever publish one thing with them in my life I would die a happy man. American Born Chinese, I’ve taught Anya’s Ghost with them, I’ve taught Boxers and Saints, but I’ve also taught Bitch Planet volume 1, I’ve taught Batwomanology, I’ve done the Sculptor from Scott McCloud, I’ve done a lot of different things and some of it is pretty accessible stuff and some of it is a little more challenging. It’s great to watch students who have always been told that they’re bad readers and they can’t read or don’t know how to read, read and like devour stuff, and go on to read more. I love that comics pretty much throws up a big middle finger at experiences that these kids have had and it encourages them to read more, I love that, I get really passionate about that. And that makes me really love this medium, it honest to god does. Marcus Hightower-Weaver has not done much teaching with comics but is working on changing that. While he will not teach a course on comics, he is “going to get to teach a class on Autoethnography and Arts-Based Research in the spring, and a whole unit of that is going to be on using comics.” These comic scholars are working hard to find ways to incorporate comics into their teaching. By including them in “regular” classes, they are solidifying comic books as literature worthy of study. After all, before the printing press made books more available, “regular” books were once looked down on in education as well. As times change, so must teaching methods. However, these comic book scholars are taking new approaches and challenging the stigma attached to comics. But they are not doing it alone.
103 Finding Three: Finding Each Other No one wants to feel alone. This is no different for scholars and researchers. While doing something new and exciting is exhilarating, I believe having peers to discuss ideas with is vital to a scholar’s productivity. The field of comics and the fans of comics have a large community, but the scholarly community is sometimes hard to find because it is so new and some scholars are still not ready to identify as members of the group. Many like Roland Mann are not sure where they fit within the field. For him, having “come from the practitioner side rather than having spent degrees studying it” is the issue. He wants to fit in but does not know where to look. Roland is not alone but this will hopefully change over the next few years as group like the Comic Studies Society and Facebook Comic Scholar groups become more popular. When I began, I felt alone as you will see in the below recollection. However, now I feel as if I have a group of scholars who understand my victories as well as my frustrations. First time comic scholar. When I started using comics in my classroom, I did not have a network of people who did the same thing. I felt very alone. In fact, I felt more than alone because I was getting the side-eye from so many other instructors. I have always felt like an outsider in my life and this seemed par for the course but I really felt like it was something I needed to keep doing. So I did. I used Doctor Strange to teach magic and religion segments and I even used The Walking Dead to teach culture change. I did some research into comics and education at comic conventions and found a small group of scholars that presented at conventions and conferences on using comics in academia. I was so thrilled. I immediately put together an abstract for a convention in Chicago, C2E2, which had an academic track, the Comics Studies Conference run by Peter Coogan from the Institute for Comics Studies attached
104 to it. It was on teaching Y: The Last Man in Higher Education. It got accepted and I was thrilled. I had been to comic book conventions before, but not as a participant. When I arrived at the convention, I got my badge and walked around to acquaint myself with the surroundings. I felt like Han Solo in The Force Awakens when he walks onto the Millennium Falcon after many years. “Chewie, we’re home.” I finally found a place I felt like I belonged. I went to the convention the next day, the day of my presentation, early and listened to the other presentations. It was amazing because people were doing so many things with comics in education and in research. I never dreamed this was something that was happening and that I could participate in. The day is a big blur because there was so much information hanging in the air and I was completely overwhelmed. I remember doing my presentation and people thought it was great and that amazed me. I was no one and these people all knew each other and had published papers on comics and it was fantastic. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is that all of these people were accepting of me. I was no longer alone. They gave me cards with their numbers and email and told me that if I had any questions or misgivings that I should reach out to them. I still cannot believe how welcome they made me feel into a community that I did not know existed until very recently. I knew this was where I belonged and that life would never be the same for me. And it has not been the same. That experience cemented my voyage into the merging of comics and academia and I would never look back. The rest of the weekend was wonderful. My dear friend, Evan, came up and we met some of our favorite comic writers and even Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca from the Star Wars movies. I got him to sign my 1978 Star Wars calendar. He was the centerfold. We just reveled in the glory of being with our kind. It was the best. That whole experience changed everything. I was no longer alone. I submitted a panel to
105 the Comics Arts Conference, which runs in conjunction with the San Diego Comic Con. The panel was accepted, which meant that I got a pass into the convention. Those usually sell out a day or two after they go on sale. I asked a friend who lived in San Diego if I could stay with him and bought my plane ticket. A comic book scholar that I met, Matt Smith—whom I interviewed for this dissertation, was doing a field school at the convention with some of his students, including my friend Evan who attended C2E2 with me. I offered my assistance and while he had everything under control, he still accepted my help. That experience bonded our friendship and we remain good friends to this day. I cannot imagine taking this journey without him. Thankfully, I do not have to. Matt and I both were recently elected to the board of the newly formed Comic Studies Society, but more about that later. Online groups. I found many of these scholars on the Comic Scholar List-Serv and I believe that is an important resource. Janis Breckenridge agreed that the comics list-serv is important. Not “a support group in the terms of is it okay that I’m doing this, but very much a resource.” While she is much like me and does not participate in the conversations as much as reads them, it still is a great way to learn about comics. The couple times I’ve asked questions, I’m amazed at the outpouring of answers, and everybody is working in their own distinct ways and areas, so I’ve been introduced to texts I would never have found. I have found that network to be amazing. It is a support group that I’ve never had with literature or resource that I does probably exist but I never tapped into, um, that I have found incredibly helpful. And the conference circuit for comics has been equally embracing and equally supportive and helpful. And so it doesn’t matter if you’re new, it doesn’t matter if you come in from the superhero angle or the sort of elite graphic novel angle. Everyone’s working together, and presenting a paper and everyone will tell you ‘Hey, you’d be really interested in this’ and so it’s a very embracing world that I’m going to the same kinds of venues, but I’m find the venues to be a different and supportive community. As comic scholars are a small group of people, it is not surprising that the group tends to support one another. However, as Janis has found support on the list-serv, I find it rather intimidating at
106 times. Some of this is due to the fact that I do not have expertise in some of the areas that people research. Sometimes the group can have very heated arguments, but that is rather expected when a group is this enthusiastic for what they are studying. As time passes and I feel more comfortable in my self-appointed role as a comic scholar, I find I am more comfortable with the list. That said, I still lurk more than participate. Tom Shapira, one of the international participants of this study, explained that he has no real support group, although as American Comics are not well known in his country of residence, that is not surprising. Well there is this group on Facebook called Comic Book Scholars which I go to every once in a while, and I have some friends in the academy, but there is no support group. When it comes to my recent work I pretty much do it on my own, me in front of the computer, with articles and books and such. I’m a very solitary person by design, by choice, but I don’t see it as a problem, I think it’s an interesting idea. And it’s always good to bounce off ideas. I am also a member of the Facebook group but find that I do not utilize it as much as I do the listserv or my other group of comic scholar friends. This could be that I see Facebook as more of a social or promotional tool rather than a scholarly one. There is no basis for this, just my observation and my personal views. However, I did reach out to the group when I started this study but received little response. Forrest Helvie explained that he is the comic guy at his institution, and does not really have a formal or real world community, so he is grateful for the Internet. I sit on the state coalition of English faculty for the community college system, I’m in the state senate for the student committee, and I can tell you there is one person in Connecticut that I know, he calls himself a comic historian. Bill Fosters, he got me my job teaching in the community college system, and he was one of the Eisner Judge’s last year. Bill is such a great guy, Bill doesn’t have his PhD, he only has his Master’s, Bill was picked for an Eisner Judge for a reason. Great, great guy, but there’s only like two of us that I really know of and he’s the better known of the two of us here. So for me, how do I interact with people? It’s all online. It’s social media, through email, that’s how I interact with others.
107 It is not always easy being the go to person for a certain field. Sometimes it can be lonely. Many times scholars at institutions will hide their fascination with a subject, much like Matt Smith recalled earlier, because it may not appear to be academic enough for some peers. Eventually, comic scholars will find each other, whether it is at a university or at a conference. Finding peers. Susan Kirtley has been lucky to have peers interested in comics at institutions where she has taught. Support comes in different forms and she never turns down an ally. Many of her allies are not going to use or present on comics but they support her endeavors. Additionally, she added, “The comics scholar community has been pretty fantastic and watching them also has been an inspiration.” She found peers at conferences, too. She continued, I remember going to a conference, I think it was MLA, and seeing Charles Hatfield there with a group of his graduate students and he was, along with a few of them, were presenting and he was sort of shepherding them around. And he was such, and is, such a benefactor in terms of comics and a mentor for people and I remember seeing him and thinking that’s the way to be. To try and be a mentor and promote comics and so that certainly gave me something to strive for. Susan and I met at a comic book convention in Portland when we were both asked to participate on a panel by Danny Fingeroth, a comic book writer and editor who also organizes panels for Wizard Comic Conventions. Some people attend conventions to get signatures, meet celebrities, or cosplay, others attend for the panels on topics ranging from gender to comics book movies. There is more discussion about panels later in this dissertation. Susan and I may have been at a conference together and not realized it, it was the more public arena of comic conventions that brought us together. This is a unique part of being a comic scholar in that there are so many ways to find each other, whether it be through academia or fandom. Many times comic scholars meet online and when finally meeting in person, it is like meeting an old friend. Chris Galaver has good friends who are comic scholars such as Peter Coogan and several other scholars that he meets up with at conferences. While it is not a massive network, he does
108 feel part of a community, and a fun one at that. Well, it’s fun. I remember when I started, and like for instance, Peter Coogan is a good example, that was just a name, and I picked up the book and I’m reading it and now it’s like ‘Oh, there’s a person.’ And it’s happening more and more, I’m actually in conversation with flesh and blood beings. It really just makes it more fun. He continued that he though that the creators that comic scholars study are really a part of the community, but it is still a small group which makes it feel more personal. I agree that because we are such a small group, it strengthens the bonds. It’s a different category because with other scholarship, particularly if you’re writing about anything other than contemporary fiction, contemporary literature, you’re writing about dead people and you’re writing in a vast field. So if you publish an article about, let’s say, Henry James, you’re guaranteed Henry James will not read it. And you’re guaranteed that it will be one of just a huge number of essays published on Henry James. So it’s so dispersed, there’s no real sense that this is going to make an impact on the field because it’s just one drop in a very large bucket. But in comics scholarship it’s really quite fun, you realize ‘this is actually a pretty small room and if I publish something the people I’ve been reading, there’s a good chance they’ll be reading what I just wrote.’ And so it feels more like a community because it’s smaller. Being recognized for your work by someone you are writing about is always a boon to your career. As Chris said, there are really few other subjects that one can study where you can talk to the person or people you are studying. Even if the people are around, the comics community is exactly that—a community and it is very accessible. This is similar to ethnography. In the past, ethnographers did not conceive that those who they were studying would ever read their work. They studied in one place and wrote in another. Now that has changed and ethnographers of all kinds write assuming that their subjects will see their work, even advise or co-author. Christopher Murray is a big believer in comics as a group and though that the building of comic scholars as a community is one of the most important things that needs to happen right now for the field of comics studies to prosper. He is the coeditor of the Journal Studies in Comics in the UK and organizes several international comic conferences.
109 I think one of the most important things we can do as comics scholars is to help and support one another. I feel very grateful for all those who helped me, and I feel a responsibility to help the next generation, and to leave the field in a better position than I found it. It would be good to recognize this aspect of the community. Comics people know what it is like to be alone. How we exist as a community, and not just individuals, is very important to me. He continued, “There is a growing group of comics scholars at my university, and in the UK more broadly” and that no matter what a comic scholar does, “anything we can do to build more networks is a good thing.” Community is important in all aspects of life but when you are treading new ground as many comic book scholars are, it becomes very important. Having someone to bounce ideas off of or simply to commiserate with is imperative to keep one’s sanity. This group of comic scholars have different communities that they turn to, but they do have communities, often facilitated by the internet. Whether they are online, at their own university, or seeing each other at conventions and conferences, the comic scholar’s community is strong. Maybe it is like Chris said and that it felt more like community because it is smaller than most other areas, but it may just be the nature of the beast. Comic fans in general are community oriented so maybe this is a trait that is carried over from there. Perhaps it is the feeling of being a group of scholarly outsiders that creates a sense of community. Finding Four: Writers and Creators, Not Just Consumers and Teachers Margaret Mead, an anthropologist, ethnographer, and one of my own personal superheroes, often wrote two versions of her work, one for academia and another for the public (Dillon, 2001). She was sometimes looked down upon in academic circles because of this. Yet, she became a household name and is still regarded highly in anthropology. In fact, public and applied anthropology is a significant subfield of anthropology now, sometimes seen as the fifth branch of anthropology along with archaeology, cultural, biological, and linguistics. Without
110 Mead pushing the boundaries, applied anthropology might still be in its infancy. Education does not just happen in academic circles. Other mediums can be used to educate and can be catalysts for people to become students or for students to pursue a topic. Many comic book scholars are not just academics, but also write for “fan” sites, create comics, or create blogs. As you will see in my story below, I wrote a comic to learn which led to other opportunities, while others. Learning through doing. During this time I was also continuing reading article after article about analyzing comics. I decided that I should write a comic, to have that experience, in order to really be able to analyze them. I got an opportunity to do this when a friend and former coworker Chris Carr asked me to cowrite a book with him about our experiences teaching in prison. We came up with a fictional idea and I then asked him if he was opposed to writing a comic instead of a novel. He agreed almost immediately. Neither of us had written a comic book before but had a lot of experience writing. We wrote up a pitch, sent it to a new online site, thrillbent.com, and it was accepted. With the help of an editor, I found an artist, Chee, who was a perfect fit. Chris and I sat down several times over the next few weeks at various coffee shops and at my home office and wrote the first script for The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood. We submitted it to Thrillbent and they loved it. We sent it off to Chee and it was such a glorious experience to get the artwork back. It is a feeling that I cannot describe enthusiastically enough. The characters we wrote were alive and it was glorious. Over the next few years, this continued. However, Chris became too busy to continue to write, so I took over the writing duties, always keeping his name on the book because it was our idea. I would have never written this book without Chris and so he deserves cocredit. The artwork is wonderful and it was assembled and lettered by the fabulous Troy Peteri, to whom I owe more than he knows. After appearing on
111 Thrillbent, the book was published in print by Dynamite. The series has been finished by us, but is still waiting to be published in book form. Unfortunately, thrillbent.com is all but defunct now, but Charlie Wormwood will live on. More comic book opportunities came up, but in addition to that, I was also penning articles for popular culture sites. I also started moderating panels at conferences and comic book conventions, both creating the content and hosting creators or celebrities. In this way, I could promote the comic books as educational tools. I appeared on podcasts such as WordBalloon, Gutter Talk, Comics Alternative, Trailblazers, Comic Book Roadshow, AGP, Gotham by Geeks, Near Mint Radio, and more, all the while touting comic books as belonging in the classroom. Below is a list of the panels on which I have presented, usually more than once at many different conventions, and panels I have been asked to participate in. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Civil War: Maybe They’re Both Right Comics as Cultural Mirrors Gender in Comics Mort Weisinger and the Witch of Metropolis Social Issues in Comics How to Read Comics Brief History of Comics Genderizing Superman Women, Gender, and Comics Building a Comic from Scratch Media Comics Comics as Political Tools Starting Conversations using Comics Music and Comic Books Genderizing Comic Books Writing Great Characters The Comic Shop Panel Sexy or Sexualized: The Depiction of Women in Comics Aw Yeah Comics Digital Comics Men in Comics Thrillbent Comics Women in Comics Self Publishing Comics
112 • • • • •
Comic Creators Consuming Coffee Creating Comics Comics for Kids Comic Shops So you want to start a Comic Book Shop Creating comics. Not all comic scholars simply write about comics. Some, myself
included as we just learned, create comics. Forrest Helvie creates comics as does Nick Sousanis as can be seen in his dissertation and book as well as his website. Marcus Weaver-Hightower got back into comics by deciding to write them. He explained, In 2006 was when my daughter was stillborn, that’s how I can date my getting back into comics. In thinking about how to write about her and that experience, I was looking for a form that could do more than what I was accomplishing or failing to with just text. It occurred to me that perhaps going back to comics was the answer; it was kind of a momentary flash of insight. I’ve been working on that ever since. That gave me the impetus to dive into the graphic novel form in ways that I never had before, and since then I’ve been voraciously consuming those. Just as researchers such as Carolyn Ellis write about moment that impacted their life through autoethnography (Bochner & Ellis, 1992), Marcus found that comics filled that gap for him. Not only did it give him a way to express his grief, but it took him back to something that he loved. Roland Mann knew from an early age that he wanted to create comic books. He knew it was not a practical way to make a living, but he felt it was his calling. As he explained, when things got to a certain point, he had to quit. But the love of creating is what drove him to teach later and to take his experience to his students. I come from a family of farmers. So when I was a senior, I knew when I went to college I wanted to write. But my dad asked me “How are you going to make money?” I said “I have no idea.” In Mississippi there aren’t a whole lot of comic book creators. There are a handful now, but back then there were none. And so I couldn’t answer him. I just knew I wanted to write. I know I want to write comics. So, I entered into college in computer science and I thought I would make money. Then I realized I hated it. I wanted to write. So, I changed my degree to creative writing. I was very fortunate that in my senior year I met some really talented artists who were at the school and wanted to do comics. So we put together our own comic because we had stacks of rejection letters, so we put our own thing together. We can do our own thing or go to an independent publisher. And that’s
113 how I got started in comics. It was picked up by Malibu Comics and it ran for two years. It was in the Comic Shop News Top Ten Black and White Comics list for about half of the run. And that led me to other work and I was a freelancer for a couple years and began meet talented folks from New Orleans and the places around me and it was one of those things where people said “why aren’t you getting work?” So I put together these teams and send them to the publishers and became a freelance editor. I call myself a packager. Began to rep people in the South and then when Malibu began to expand, they hired me and I moved out to California to become an editor. Marvel bought us and that’s how I became a Marvel editor. There was a big crash in the 90s, Marvel fired 400 people in 96, I was one of those. I stayed in comics for a while as an independent guy, did my own thing. In 2000 the industry was in such bad shape, it was difficult to make money, so I said I’m done. While I took a different path and started my education first and then decided to create comics, Roland took the opposite approach. Many students have benefitted from his decision to teach while I am decided to create as both an outlet for expression and, mainly, to understand the subject that I am studying more thoroughly. It was also a way, like Carolyn Ellis did, to teach through my experiences. Educating through other media. Many comic scholars participate in a wider community than just academia. While I consider myself an academic, I also write a weekly column for a popular culture site at 13th Dimension among my other activities. Other scholars do the similar things, reviewing comics, publishing parts of their research on more popular websites, or running their own podcasts or websites. Rik Spanjers writes for several publications on comics. Well, so I publish my research for WWII participation in comics, aside from that I’m a writer for a big Japanese pop culture magazine in the Netherlands, and a comic book magazine in the Netherlands, so I do reviews there and also interviews with, well, people who come to the Netherlands. Comic book artists, and theorists, and whatever, whoever. So that’s one area of publishing, but most centrally, which I would see as my professional life, I publish these analyses of historical representation in comics. While he is an academic, he also saw part of his professional life as publishing in nonacademic areas. These interviews and reviews, in my opinion, are important as while we as comic scholars
114 are studying the works of these creators, the creators, as stated earlier, and available to us as data and this is something that should not be neglected. Alongside his teaching and creating comics, Forrest Helvie has been doing work for several sites, including a lot of creator interviews. I publish a lot on primarily mainstream stuff, lately it seems. I do interviews an awful lot with creators, that’s kind of my big thing I do. But I do a lot of interviews, the stuff for Marvel it’s different from my News-O-Rama work. Marvel, the general tone tends to be more celebratory? Is that a good way to put it? You’re gonna know exactly what I’m talking about, right? Less critical, let’s put it that way, it is, less critical. Because let’s face it, I have to—the interview options that come up tend to focus on what’s coming up or most recent for Marvel, right? So in some form or another it’s more advertorial, whereas with News-O-Rama it’s a third party site and I know there’s a lot of complains that all the big sites are in the pockets of the big two and what not, but I am expected to be objective, I can’t have subjective statements about a person’s writing. I can’t say ‘You know the much beloved series by so and so –’ I can say something like “This series was well received by fans based on critic reviews”, that sort of thing. I do a lot of interviews, I do some articles here and there, not as many, but that would be where most of my publishing comes into play. However much Forrest loves doing the work for mainstream sites, he still puts together publications for the more academic crowd creating very blurred boundaries between the two. That has been a bit of a struggle for him when dealing with other academics and comics, but that is all part of the experience of growing pains of pairing comics and academia, I think. I’m looking at putting together a critical anthology of sorts, or really more of a how to book, by a variety of different writers that will be a how to Analyze and Review comics. There are too many people out there today that do not know how to write a critical comprehensive review of a comic book, and to be perfectly blunt looking at some of the proposals I’ve gotten from academics/traditional scholars—they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m getting way too much about the bloody narrative and they need to look at the art. I actually wrote an article—don’t forget the art. Even in the proposals I’m getting some of that. And so that I guess would be more conventional, a little bit more academic in nature and then I’ve been asked by a comic publisher to explore critical series of case studies on various creators and whatnot. Scott (McCloud) has signed up, and he’s gonna let us have some art work and we’ll do a thing for him, and we’re looking for other people. That’s a neat blending of my journalism experience with my academic stuff and like I said I have the creative stuff that I have been doing on the side too.
115 As Forrest mentions Scott McCloud, it should be noted that McCloud is not a typical scholar, yet he is included as a comic scholar, at least by others in the field. His book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is more than not the most used book in academic classrooms using comic books and quoting by more scholars than any other, in my observations. He did not write it as an academic book as Nick Sousanis did, but yet it is used in the classroom. In Israel, Tom Shapira is trying to make his mark in comics, not just by studying Judge Dredd and lecturing in university classes, but finds that comic culture is not developed enough for him to do a lot. He explained that he Just lectures to the general audience set. I’ve written in Hebrew a lot, because well that’s my native tongue, but the problem is that there isn’t any demand for scholarly application of comic studies in Hebrew. It’s just not a developed field enough. So most of the things I write in Hebrew are for local blogs and such. Sometimes about movies, but mostly about comic books. In Tom’s culture, comic studies as well as comic culture in general are not as popular or developed as much as it is in the United States. Instead of doing nothing in the field of comics, Tom is taking a different course of action and publishing on comics in any ways he can. This can do more for the field that one may think. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. began his website over 20 years ago called comicsresearch.org. He said “when I started that website I was actually able to list every book in English comics, that was a reachable and attainable goal. That’s not possible anymore, at least not for one person.” Comics have grown so much over the last 20 years, so that is quite understandable. He also hosts a podcast called Comics Alternative. It’s started off being Derek Royal and Andy Kunka, but there’s rotating guest hosts and I did like three in January, which is a lot for me. Sometimes I do more, sometimes I do less. Last year I didn’t do much because I was busy drawing 24 hours a day. But when Rusty Witek did his conversations book with Art Spiegelman, I had interviewed Spiegelman once and there was a recording of that, and we had to have it transcribed and edited, and it was hell because I had to listen to myself talk.
116 Podcasts and blogs are finding their way into education. Online identities are being negotiated in new ways to create a presence and exchange ideas in a wider field than simply the academy (Ewans, 2005). Janis was drawn to studying comics because of the boundaries that the field is breaking, which she finds refreshing. I would say that some of the most intelligent things being said are being said by fans, are being said in blogs, online. In this in this completely different kind of environment, and the academics are only now just starting to understand, or become part of this culture that exists outside of the academy. We’re behind. Connecting academic voices to popular ways of disseminating information simply cannot be a bad thing. How could it? The whole idea of research is to learn new information or way of thinking about things that can then be shared with others. The world is becoming larger and smaller at the same time. While there are more ways to disseminate information, it means people must choose where to find that information. If one learns the same material from a podcast that they could from reading an academic article, does it really make it less relevant? Finding Five: Defining Comics Defining what comic scholars are is not an easy task due that defining comics is not easy. During the interviews, the comic scholars were asked to define comics. It seems that comics resist a singular definition which is evident in the way these scholars answered this question. The answers were as varied as the scholars themselves which leads the term comics as difficult to define as the scholars themselves. Varied definitions. Paul Levitz defined comics as “I know it when I see it.” While Scott McCloud’s definition is the most popular, not everyone agreed with it. He wrote “Comics are juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” (McCloud, p. 9). David Lewis agreed with this definition but others, like Forrest Helvie believe that single panel comics should be included in the definition. Helvie explained his reasoning.
117 You can have one image which leads me to a second image, that second image actually taking place in my mind, and then I see the resolution in a third image which the artist provides. If comics is therefore the juxtaposition of more than one image, wouldn’t that one Family Circus create another one in my head? Gail DeVos explained, “Anything that has panels. Well, no because some things don’t have panels. Sequential art.” She disagreed with Helvie in that comics are “Not a single panel.” Roland Mann agreed with Gail. Tom Shapira said that when using McCloud’s definition, “you always find something just outside the definition but you want it to be a comic. A comic is what a comic is.” Regardless, McCloud’s definition is the one that got people’s attention. Chris Galaver agreed with McCloud’s definition for ease but likes “Eisner because sequential art is so easy to use.” Rik Spanjers wants to leave the definition of comics to identity scholars. He continued, “Comics are that which are called comics, are sold as comics, or referred to as comics in a wider societal sphere.” Christopher Murray thought that defining comics is “still very contentious in Comic Studies” which I have found to be true. He brought up, “Sequence has a lot of do with it in formal terms, but such definitions also operated within social contexts, so looser definitions become inevitable.” He “still likes the term “comic” as opposed to Graphic Novel or Sequential Art, as the origin of the word comic comes from the Greek “Komos”, which has links to ideas of things coming together, like panels, words and images. Fan communities, etc. The “kom” bit of Komos is linked to the ideas of things converging. It’s from the same root to words like community, communion, communication, etc. I like that.” I do, too. That is why the term comic book is used in title of this dissertation. Matt Smith likes to think about it “as images in sequence that work together to create meaning.” He does not like to “use words because you can come up with a dozen examples of
118 perfectly good comics that don’t have any language in them. I think those are common traits that you find in comics but they’re not necessary to the definition.” For him it’s sequence and juxtaposition and when “we begin to recognize that because those images exist in relationship to one another and we begin to think about that relationship, I think it’s that moment that we cross over from merely or simply art, to comics.” Charles Hatfield, President of the Comic Studies Society defined comics throughout his courses a little differently, depending on the situation. I give a lightning talk at the start of the semester in my comics and graphic novels course— which I am now teaching 4 or 5 times a year, I think. It’s gone from an annual to a four or five times a year commitment. I give a lightning talk because I can never encompass all I want to encompass in 14 weeks. I always have to try to make this point that the world of comics is enormous, and that we’re going to stake out two, or three, or four things from the world of comics during the semester. I do define it very broadly and I often tell my students from the outside that it’s perilously hard to define. On occasion I will say “For our purposes this is the kind of comic we’re going to look at”, I sometimes have done that when students have come to me proposing to write about something that seems really outside what I’m trying to teach that semester. But generally I don’t offer a hard, fast, kind of nutshell Scott McCloud like sort of definition at the start. I sometimes pass around a handout that presents four or five competing definitions and briefly discuss them. Like these different definitions and enable different scholars to look for different things. The shortest way to go about this question would be—but it’s never an easy question. In my sort of formalist toolbox thing, I give the students a handout at the beginning of the semester and we keep referring back to it again and again. I say there are three things that comic scholars usually cite and they’re all going to be important in our class. One is a mixture of words and pictures. The other is pictures in sequence. And the third thing, that can be important especially in something like comic books or graphic novels, is what I call the ‘Architected Page’. Where panels are presented together in a layout. For most of the comics we look at, they have all three of those things. They have pictures, they have pictures of sequence, and they have some kind of interesting page layout. So that would be like the center of a dartboard, center of a bullseye for me, but I also tell students about broad terms like ‘sequential art’. That’s part of my lightning talk at the beginning of the semester, these are some of the more serious terms that people will use. That basically— part of my teaching will be sequential, graphic narrative, multi panel kind of stuff. But for example in a comic study society, I wouldn’t leave that stuff out, I wouldn’t rule out single panel cartoons, I would rule out almost nothing to start with. I just know what I need to do as a teacher and I know what interests me most as a reader, which is sequential and multi panel kind of graphic narrative, often with words, sometimes without.
119 Other definitions for comics from comic scholars are as follows: “Juxtaposition of images that may or may not use text to support that narrative”—Forrest Helvie “Combination of words and pictures and drawing and sequence”—Rob Weiner “Periodicals with long stories. This excludes comics strips. Periodicals, published monthly, collected into volumes.”—Roland Mann “If it’s sequential art, it’s comics. I suppose I demand a sense of cohesion to the story and a mixing of text and image, but other than that, anything goes.”—Marcus Hightower Weaver “Simply sequential art narratives”—Andrew Lesk “Comics used to be what was sold at the comic shop. It used to be a commercial product that I enjoy.”—A David Lewis “Words and image. Images in sequence generally using words, generally in balloons, but those ‘generallys’ are very broad.”—Gene Kannenberg, Jr. “Comics are any story that appears in panel form or you have the gutters or margins in between and it’s a combination of words and pictures but not necessarily at the same time.”— Craig This These definitions are all over the place with no straight lines to connect. Ian Hague said he is “Pretty loose with comics term. I would use the social definition which is what people would produce or perceive as comics.” This still leaves us with no definition, leading us back to Paul Levitz’s definition of “I know it when I see it.” Difficult to define. I agree with Susan Kirtley in that it is difficult to define comics. Her definition is always evolving, “sort of a moving target.” She also agreed with Paul Levitz in “I know them when I see them.” No one agreed on one term. Jason Tondro said “put six comic
120 scholars in a room and tell them to define comics and they will fight until the bar closes.” And Rik Spanjers believed, “The shape and form of comics are continually changing and I would really like to sort of keep that shape and form quite open because that allows for the most creativity, of both creation of comics and the analysis thereof.” I agree. Do we need a final definition that everyone agrees on? I do not believe so. It comes down to this for me. Like Harvey Pekar said in an interview, “Comics are words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures. Comics are individual and they are what you believe comics to be. Finding Six: Goals As are many scholars are, comic scholars are goal driven. They practice with purpose. The goals of comic book scholars are as varied as the comic scholars themselves. There are those overarching goals, such as to get things published that will not only help the field of comic studies, but that will reach people. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. explained, “Sometimes academic publications can be so narrowly focused that even people who are interested in the topic that you write about don’t find them.” They need to be more visible. In fact, many of the comic scholars I interviewed wrote for nonacademic publications for that reason. Comic scholars all have goals and purposes within their field, and they are all diverse. Comic studies is so wide-reaching, and there is so much to do, that the goals of these scholars reflect that. They all agree that there is work to be done but especially in the areas of filling in gaps of study, laying the groundwork for future generations of comic scholars, self-improvement especially in the area of teaching students, and combatting the stigma still associated with comics.
121 Filling in gaps. There is a lot of work to be done in the field of comic studies. Susan Kirtley agreed, “Comics deserve to be studied critically and carefully.” She wrote a book about Lynda Barry, Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass, where she examines Barry’s career and contributions to comics. She explained that she wrote the book because there wasn’t a book about Lynda Barry and there needed to be. There’s so many areas—there’s romance comics, there’s this other, there’s so many areas that aren’t as explored. For me, that’s so exciting and in some ways I’m like “oh, that’s sad. That needs to be done!” but at the same time it’s really exciting. There’s so much work to be done so, I consider these texts to be rich, valuable, texts that deserve critical examination so that’s one of my goals is to study these texts and share the research and work with other scholars in the community as well to promote comics scholarship and education. Susan is correct in that there is so much work to be done and many gaps to fill. Finding what the “visual does to our ideas of remembrance and our ideas of constructing history” is one area where research needs to be done. This is what Rik Spanjers saw as his goal. I thought that the comic book was one of the ideal places there because it’s somewhere half way between the visual—I think it’s a bit more visual than textual, but let’s just say for conversational purposes half way between visual and textual in its representational form. To me, it’s a great tool in which I can sort of start to unravel this very difficult, intertwining, of let’s say history and media. And how sort of media shapes our history, but also how history has shaped the different media in which we represent it. So there’s a very thick Gordian knot there and comics really enable me with the objects in which I can sort of slowly, not really untangle it, but play with the knot a little bit. And the task is then, sort of a broader task, so on the one hand I do have to say I have multiple tasks. So on the one hand there is this broader academic question. On the other hand there is an attempt to foster more attention for the medium in my home country. Where traditionally at the University there has not been much attention for it. The department where I am now has not done anything with comics before, and since I’ve been working here and doing some teaching here I’ve been able to get more and more comics into the curriculum and let students engage with this other form as well. I do see that as somewhat of, let’s say, immense or positive development. Not per say because I think comics are inherently positive or good, but I do think there are very interesting stories that are being told in comics just as there are interesting stories being told in books, or on television and I think that all of them deserve attention from students and scholars. Laying the groundwork. Christopher Murray believed his job is not only develop the field of comic studies and advance the knowledge about comics and its history, but also to lay
122 the groundwork for the next generation of comics scholars. He felt like his life has led him to being a comic scholar. He believed, “All my choices have led me to this.” Christopher’s goal is very similar to that of Charles Hatfield. Charles wants to not only help to establish the field and make the path easier for those yet to come, but to also keep improving himself and his knowledge about comics. One is to establish things that will outlast me. The course is going to outlast me. The Comic Studies Society is going to outlast me. Right? So that’s a goal. I didn’t have that before, it was pure independent study all the time. It was exciting but also hard. I want to be part of a movement that will help facilitate the work of other comic scholars and students. I want to be part of creating things that make a pathway for others. Also, I want to keep writing about comics and getting better at it. My goal as a writer is to turn the light on for some people. They might be academic, they might be nonacademic. As you know, lots of comic fans have an appetite for self-directed study and they will pick up academic books on comics. They sometimes put them down just as quickly if they don’t like what they see, but they will try. That’s one reasons I keep telling the publishers we have to make these books less ugly because comic fans are designed literate. They don’t want ugly. If you want to sell beyond your 1500 copies, you better start recruiting working comic artists to sign covers for example. Not the ugly clip art you see so often or these plain covers that you see. It’s nice to reach anybody who has an interest in the form. Obviously I’ll be writing for other academics because that’s what I’m trained to do and that’s how my work will be disseminated in academic presses. I hope I make people look at comics differently, not necessarily look at it my way, but to look at it more broadly, to be open to other ways. And again, I hope I will be part of a movement that will leave things behind, that makes it easier for other upcoming comic scholars to do what they want to do. So part of it is the valuation of comics, I tend not to talk about that very much. I would like people to have a better understanding and a more positive sense of the value of comic art. I want people who do what I do have resources when I’m not around. Robert Weiner believed that being an ambassador to comics is important. He believed that comics studies is a legitimate academic and scholarly study, but the rest of the world needs to understand it. I think that it’s getting better, but there are still contents all over the place and institutions who still have a hard time with the idea or legitimizing comics, and we shouldn’t have to do that anymore. I think we’re over it, we need to act like—and here’s the direct answer to your question. As though comic studies is the greatest thing on the planet and we have
123 nothing to justify. Now the problem comes in spinning it to your administrators and the rest of your colleagues, okay? Because they might not notice that, so it’s all on how you spin it. Why is this important, you know? You’re teaching about Spider-Man, how is that art? Well, let me show you how it’s art. Look at this picture by Alex Ross. Put this is in a gallery. Jack Kirby’s stuff? I had my students read it this semester. So it is up to us to somehow get out of our little bubble, because I see a lot of comic—academics just like to be in their narrow area, and that’s it. Maybe I don’t really stick in that world because I’m all over the place, I believe in going out there and saying this is really cool and you need to think it’s cool, too. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. started his website to get more information out to the public. His goal is to write, which he finds difficult, but he just wants to write more. His main goal is to: be more me in a more public way, try to get more things published that will reach people. Somethings that I’ve published in academic places I’ve never seen anyone referred to. Maybe they suck or sometimes academic publications can be so narrow focused that even people who are interested in the topic that you write about don’t find them. Self-Improvement and Teaching. Most comic books scholars agree with Charles that there is a lot to learn in the field of comics and self-improvement is key. It is such a varied subject, after all it is a medium not a genre, and in addition to the stories, there is the aspect of the art, the history, the creators, and so much more. Tom Shapira said that his main goal is to improve himself and learn a lot before he even considers himself a scholar. He wants to be someone who can say something: Truly deep and important about the field of comics. And after that I want to help. I remember I recently read, let’s say a Douglas Wolk’s book, or Geoff Klock’s How to Read Superhero Comics and Why, I think which was the first academic book I read on comics. And it sort of blew my mind. I thought this is so much greater than just a story. I really liked The Dark Knight Returns and that’s reading his interpretation. It is so much more than just a story, it’s is so much bigger. Which is, I think, one of the things a good academic should do— should help you understand the work and the other work in the world, in a whole different way. But for me to do that, I still really need to improve myself.
124 Good research is one of the goals for Ian Hague, although just as his identity is changing, so are his goals as a comic book scholar. He explained, “a few years ago I would have a much more clear sense of direction I hoped to take the field in a way, or to push the field. And I think that’s still true because I think there’s elements of the field, in a sense, that are quite limited. So I still think there is a focus on, say, literary analysis—close readings. Which, perhaps, don’t take as much account as they could of the physical forms of comics and material elements, questions of economy and economics. I think I would like integrate, or bring in those elements more, but I think you can see if the field of materiality becoming much more of a physical concern than when I was starting my PhD. I suppose I’m interested in the bigger concern around things like digital materiality as they apply in comics and comics are very interesting medium because in some ways they seem to be ahead of the game compared to other media. I suppose I would be interested bringing in that more nuanced discussion of platform comparisons and things like that, but that will that particularly steer comics and comic studies in a particular direction perhaps will raise questions that other people aren’t raising. Wanting to teach new writers how to create good comics is a goal for Roland Mann. Coming from the world of creating comics, he wants his students to understand comics themselves. I want them to have an understanding of comics, and know why they are doing it. I want them to put thought into it and know why I want this scene to be two pages or why do I want it to be only one page or why do I want two pages with no dialogue at all. I want them to think about it from the creative aspect of it and know what you are trying to communicate as a creator, not what a scholar is going to interpret it as, but what are you trying to communicate to your reader who is really your audience. That’s the role I play, that’s my goal. That excites me. Forrest Helvie felt a little differently in that he though he needs not only to write in journals and teach but also to publish creatively. He felt he needed to create comics to be able to critique them, something I absolutely agree with as this way of thinking drove me to create my own comic. I would not review comics anywhere as well as I do, as I’d like to think I do, if I hadn’t had the experience of trying to create them. That taught me a lot about attribution of the work being done, I was very quick to assign credit to various elements of the art and I’ve
125 subsequently learned that’s not the case. Likewise, talking to a lot of creators in my different interviews has helped me understand the process of how things work. Talking to colorists in various interviews has helped me to understand and analyze the panels. Like I can start to identify now when the artist is cutting corners and it’s actually the colorist or the inker who are really responsible. Like I can start to label off some of the pencilers out there who make a lot of money and are really popular, and it’s actually their inker and colorist who are cleaning up their line work, filling in a lot of gaps, and what the fans love has to do with what the colorist and inker are doing because of an incredibly loose penciler. I would have no idea about that without getting into the trenches, so to speak, kind of getting out of the ivory tower and going down to ground level and talking to people and seeing how it works. So my role, I think, as a scholar—I need to know how the medium works and for me that involves helping create, that means talking to people and understanding the various different permutations of the comic creating process. I think that means, maybe in some cases, opening some discussions. I’ve got some coming up on breaking into comics for News-O-Rama, I’m not offering answers, I don’t think I’m in a position to offer answers because I haven’t broken in, but I think I can open some discussions, right? And did the one piece with Scott talking about the writers program and that got a lot of great discussions going. And you know how do people break into other publishers started happening, I’m like “That’s a good thing, right? It gets people thinking and maybe that encourages some people to do things. Well, that’s great.” I think also my job as comic scholar is I love the medium and to encourage people to try it out, and I do that more often I think in the classroom than anything. Although I think even with writing some reviews, encouraging people to look thoughtfully at what they read is good, but I think those are some of the ways in which I see my role. I don’t think I’m ever gonna write a watershed moment book, Nick’s (Sousanis) got that covered. Craig This agreed that seeing how media shapes our history and vise verse is important. He though that as a comic book scholar it is important to get students to really read comics books, not just read through them. So not just read them as entertainment, but to read them as a serious scholarly book worthy of study. I think for the most part I have done that because I’ve talked to students really like the class and they go back and read the comic books. I think, for me, being a comic book scholar is looking a specific area in our history and our society and analyze comic books and contributing back to pretty much—how did comic books help us at that point in time? How did they help us understand society at that point in time and how do they help us understand society back at that point in time. I think that’s what I’m trying to do as a comic book scholar—I want people to understand the comic book and the context in
126 which it was written, but help us understand how we got to this point in time and whatever changes have been made for the good or for the bad Combat stigma. Matt Smith has not shied away from being a “regular” academic on his campus. For him to appear “normal” is important because he thinks it may work against what he is trying to do if he appears to different. His main goal is to combat the stigma of comics and comic studies and continues that getting comics accepted is also important. I want to diminish it in my lifetime so that a new generation doesn’t even think of it as a stigma. And to fill in the gaps. We can sit around and argue with people until we are blue in the face that comics are legit but I think once they see a textbook, and an encyclopedia set, and a methodology book, and a history of the field, it’s harder for them to argue that it’s not legitimate when presses are publishing these things, when people are buying these things, when classes are being held on these things so I think you’ve got to look at the long game. You need to raise the profile over time. It’s not going to happen with one appearance on Ellen or whatnot, it’s got to be the long game. We need to make it just like film studies where no one thinks twice about it being a legitimate way to focus your attention. Also believing that getting past the stigma of comics is important, Janis Breckenridge wants to expand what is recognized as valuable in comics. She believed that there are a lot of texts worth of critical attention that should be taken seriously and this is a critical moment in comic studies. I find that I’m I’m entering the field at a moment, especially in Spanish studies, but even within English departments or the art departments, where the study of comics being taken seriously is relatively new. I found that the earlier articles when I first started would always begin with these apologies. And I’ve had students who have that as their model and they want to have the first page of their thesis be, “Oh, well comics hasn’t been taken seriously” and I’m like that whole first page has to go. You start here where you’re actually analyzing a text. We’re not apologizing for this anymore. So in part it is that, it is the recognition that these are hybrid texts, complex hybrid texts worthy of study, worthy of academic scholarly treatment, etc. And to get past that stigma. And I think most people, people within comics studies are well past that. It depends on the institution. My institution is very supportive, so I’m I’m lucky and able to do this. But I know others struggle to have their courses in comics in taken seriously.
127 Nick Sousanis’ goal is for comic studies to not be just someone writing about comics or creating comics, but to “work their issues into comics form. I think it is so vital for us to have that.” As someone who has also created comics, including his dissertation, he continued to explain about how there is still a stigma that people need to get past. That’s why it’s harder to say who I am as a comic’s scholar, some of it in my own work I want to know how comics work better so I can make better ones and I can teach better ones but I think I am just as interested in sort of proselytizing to get people to see what they know already and what they can do once they get their hands in there. So I think having comics are sort of ubiquitous as a communication thing is key and then I think the other things, the fronts that everyone else is working on, I think comics is just one of the things we do, but then there are these super heroes studies and gender studies, and there will be all those things to be there but I think it would be less of an uphill that we have to face. When people hear comics, this isn’t what they are expecting at all. They are expecting something cute or superhero-y that explains things to them and I think we still have a long way to go to get past that. The most fun explanation of a goal for a comic scholar is the idea of El Guapo from the film The Three Amigos and Mark Singer. He believed that the stigma attached to comics, comic studies, and comic scholars is what some may call their El Guapo. Jason Tondro tells the story using El Guapo from the movie The Three Amigos (1986) as an example. In the movie, three silent movie cowboy stars are hired to save a village from their bad guy, El Guapo. They think it is a movie job so they are surprised when El Guapo is real. The movie is about facing your own personal El Guapo, whether it is lack of education, shyness, or something else. Now I love Mark (Singer) he is one of my dearest friends and I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like to, but you know we all have an El Guapo, as I’m quoting The Three Amigos now. And for some of us El Guapo is lack of an education, or some of us it’s a big hairy guy that wants to kill us, but there are scholars out there in the field who I will never stop looking up to and admiring. Singer is one of them and Charles Hatfield is one of them and these people just do such amazing work and I am so in awe of everything that they do. And all I can do as a scholar, who is inferior to them, is to just keep trying to be better in my field. I mentioned Randy Duncan a few times, we haven’t talked for a long time Randy and I, but I very much appreciate his argument. Sometimes I feel as a comic scholar we have to defend the field and we have to justify it in the eyes of our peers. Now Randy says “Stop doing that”, but we can’t stop doing it due to the very fact
128 that in my hiring interview, my field was casually dismissed as a bygone relic of nerds and has-beens. At the same time we have to avoid being too obsessed with our own defense, but the way we get to the point that we no longer have to defend our work is by putting out great books. Nick’s (Sousanis) is a great example. Charles Hatfield’s book on Kirby is another great example. Now we put out these amazing books and they change the way people think, and we’re gonna have to live through a whole generation of “comics aren’t for kids anymore” stories. But at some point those stories will stop being made, they’ll be seen as boring even to the people who write them. And we’ll be able to just treat our field like any other field. To get to that point, I just want to try to be the best scholar that I can be. I’ve been very, very lucky. People write to me and ask me to participate in their books, like “Will you write a chapter on X?” and I am so lucky because so many of my fellow scholars in other fields don’t get to do this. They have to submit papers blindly to journals and CFP’s. And I almost never have to do that, it’s not gonna last. It’s not gonna last, it’s a very short temporary phase where people ask me to participate. I am so gratified and lucky that I get to do that. Then what that means is I’m kind of writing whatever they want me to write. So what I end up doing is building up a huge backlog of projects that I want to write the day everyone stops remembering my phone number. Very soon. In fact it’s already started to happen. So when people stop asking me then I can delve into my big bag of stuff I want to write about and begin writing my own projects again. It’s very gratifying and wonderful and exciting to be in our field because there’s new journals coming up all the time, there’s new book proposals coming up all the time, scholars are young and exciting and they are open minded, and we still have the oldest generation of comic scholars, they are still with us. When we lose that generation it’s going to be a terrible blow, but when that happens people like Charles and Mark, they’re going to ascend and they’ll be the old men in our field and the rest of us will still be laboring in their footsteps. So I guess that’s what I am—I am just trying to beat my El Guapo.” Everyone has an El Guapo. Finding Seven: Identity Crisis Not all comic scholars see being a comic scholar as their central identity. Comic scholars seem to wrestle with their identity. Identity is a tricky subject as most people have several identities and “identity is a process” (Sarup, 1996, p. xvi). Comics scholars are inventing themselves right now, even as this is being written. Discussing Foucault’s conception of the self, Sarup explained that identity is “constituted through certain ‘practices’ or techniques which are determined by the social context but are mediated through an active process of self-fashioning by
129 the individual” (p. 88). There are few guidelines for identifying as a comic scholar. Some like Gail de Vos consider it a secondary specialty to her main identity in storytelling. Others absolutely believe that being a comic book scholar is central to their identity. Those like Andrew Lesk do not see it as a choice, but something he does as part of his job. Some believe that they have a duel identity, very similar to the superheroes that many comic scholars study. And others, like myself, have carved out several identities in the world of comics. Central to identity. Janis Breckenridge regards being a comic book scholar as central to her identity now, although it was not always that way. It took a few years to “redefine myself and add this component to the department at the same time. The stars aligned.” She identifies as such it is what she does. It is what I primarily do now, in terms of my profession, in print and in teaching. I’m in a position where in both in my own personal career path and in an institution where the department was changing a lot and transforming. I have an institution that is very supportive of creating a visual literacy, you know, sequence of courses. It’s not an official track. We don’t, we’re not a big enough school for that, but there is very much the gateways course I was describing earlier that leads to upper level seminars in the Spanish department, that focus specifically on the visual. Janis continued that there are issues in identifying as a comic book scholar. She is unique on her campus because she does so. She does not know if it is a benefit of not, but she does so regardless. I have received a lot of internal grants, I guess that my institution has been incredibly supportive, so there has been a lot of internal grants that I have been given to work with students and coauthor with students, there’s a thing called a Cross Disciplinary Teaching and Learning Initiative I’ve gotten twice to work in visual narrative. So it brings together people in various disciplines. There’s a professor in French I’ve worked with, the art gallery on campus, a couple of the staff members of that. The art department has worked with me, both studio art and sort of the art critics on campus. And so we’ve been able to bring together sort of the cross-disciplinary, conversation about “How do we incorporate a text?” or “How do we see summer teaching creative writing?” Or in the studio art department, we’ve had Sam Alden, if you know his work. He is a graduate of Whitman, and so he worked both with the English department and the studio art department. So
130 they’re, in part, I’ve sort of started facilitating conversations among us, and I’m not sure we would have had otherwise through these grants as being seen as the visual literacy person on campus. I don’t know if that’s a benefit to me. I think it is a benefit to the students, and I think it’s a benefit to the community within campus, that by having various people that identify in these ways, and maybe not as their primary area but something that they do, um, has sort of brought together a community working in graphic novels and comics. So that’s been fun. Christopher Murray said that it is absolutely central to his academic identity as 95% of his teaching and all of his research is in comics while he publishes books, articles, chapters, reviews, and create comics in his role as a comics scholar. While his degree is in English Literatures, “I don’t publish in English and Film Studies these days, although there is some crossover, as I write about the relationship between comics, literature and film.” Robert Weiner explained that being a comic book scholar is central to his identity and that others identify him that way, too. Obviously you’re talking to me, people contact me all over the world related to comics. I get contacted about lots of things related to popular culture because I’m known as sort of the popular culture guy, but comics—they know me as the guy who teaches the super hero class. In every single class I’ve taught so far—I’ve taught about Zombies, James Bond, and those kinds of things. I’ve used them all in some way. So guilty as charged. Nick Sousanis agreed that people know who he is because he makes comics. Not just any comics, but his dissertation to be more exact. In fact, that is how I came to know Nick. I mean it’s the only reason people know who I am, I make comics. Yeah, and it’s the thing, you know, I think my history in academia is really liking it but also being really disappointed in how it tends to stay in academia and so, you know, the reason for the gaps besides playing tennis are also because I didn’t like- didn’t like it’s sort of stodginess it’s isolated nature. So for me, my return to comics showed that I could take the stuff I did in academia that I really did like but bring it to everybody. And not by making it dull or simple but my finding different ways to get at it. I think that’s, you know, people say “are you going to continue your work in comics” now that I did this thing and of course I am. It’s hard, I’m slow at it. It’s hard to do it- I could turn out more articles or something if I didn’t but I think I get better at it as I do it. I want to just, you know, I like that we’re pushing what publishing can be and what thinking can look like. I think that’s become-maybe that’s why it’s hard to say I’m fully a comics scholar because I’m more interested in comics as an education tool, not tool- took sounds too problematic.
131 Comics is a way to express ideas, as a way to express learning and in order to sort of push what all of these things look like, what thinking looks like. Yeah, I mean comics I’m interested in sort of related things like sketch notes and um as a person I like superheroes stuff because that’s what I’ve grown up with and I’m still into it but as an educator that’s not an area I’m particularly interested in because, you know, I’m must more interested in the utility of the form for anyone. Susan Kirtley agreed that being a comic book scholar “is central to my identity as a scholar.” But she continued that it is not her only interest, even though she heads the comic studies department at her university. I think that I have a roaming mind and a lot of interests which is sometimes people confuse as, it might look to others like I’m all over the place, but in my mind there are so many connections. It all makes sense to me and hopefully I can translate that to a cohesive identity but you know, people think that medieval women writers “what’s that all about in relation” but we have these wonderful illuminated manuscripts. For example, from Christine de Pizan and she has these really interesting correlations with the text and the image. Then we think about text and image and comics scholarship today. So, for me it makes sense and to me comics is essential. Absolutely essential to the work that I do and not secondary but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love rhetoric as well. I wrote a piece about invitational rhetoric and comics and things like that so they’re all part and parcel of my academic identity. Roland Mann said that being a comic scholar is central to his identity. But as many of us do in the world of academia, he has added a caveat. In trying to get work in academia, (the love of) comics is often something I have had to kind of downplay because many times when I have applied for a job to teach your standard traditional English, comics are not held in high regard in many places. So I have to kind of downplay, which is very tough to do because it’s been most of my life, and taught me to read, got me into college, and so it’s been my life and for me to go and interview somewhere and downplay my experience in college has been kind of tough. But I feel many places I’ve had to do that. But to me, for me, this is part of my primary being, comics. For Charles Hatfield “it’s absolutely central” but he was not sure he was going to be able to say that when he took his job fifteen years ago. He thought it might be something he could do on the side if people were kind, but he had no idea it would be something that he was known for.
132 Now, it is a huge part of his life and identity. It may not be all the marbles for my teaching, but it’s half or two-thirds of what I teach, which surprises me. As much as it surprises anybody because this field has just grown, and crested like an enormous wave, I feel like its crested like an enormous wave. So yeah, I also think that being a comic scholar influences the way I think about academia in general. Me thinking more open some things and less patient about other things – in other words it affects the way I think about more noncomic related things. It affects the way I think about disciplines and departments and programs, and what academia does well and what it doesn’t do well. So it has really affected my outlook, beyond my research, teaching, publishing, it has sort of changed how I feel about being an academic citizen is how I put it. It just sort of changed that – it’s an enormous topic, but it has kind of some level of change at how I look at the profession I’m in. Dual identities. Marcus Weaver-Hightower also has several interests including qualitative methods, food, comics, and boys that “waxes and wanes depending on who I’m talking to and what I’m working on at the time.” So, his identity depends on his connections to others. While comics is high on the list, he said “if I were to be forced at gunpoint to say my one central identity as a scholar, I suppose it’s gender because that’s what I always come back to, even within the other three realms—gender and methods, gender and food, gender and comics.” Forrest Helvie believed it is also hard to pin down, thinking that he has two professional selves, which is easy to do with comics as using comics with another topic is common in comic studies. He explained, I have my comic self and my teaching self. I’m first and foremost, as a professor, I’m a teacher. I don’t teach literature; I teach developmental English. I teach, and you know you’ve taught in prisons, I get a lot of those students or I get a lot of their family members, a lot of kids who are struggling, I get adults who change careers. So that’s my day-to-day profession, but on the flipside if I’m going to think of myself as an academic in any way, shape, or form it has to do with comics. That is my professional area of expertise apart from my teaching expertise. Craig This also believed he is living two lives. At Wright State he does data and statistics and teaches one course on comics, but is known as the comic book person at Sinclair University
133 in Dayton, OH. At Wright State, he is known as Clark Kent. He explained that there was a story that the newspaper did on him and he referenced Brad Meltzer’s Ted Talk where he said “It’s not about the Superman, it’s about the Clark Kent who becomes the Superman to do the great things.” So when they wrote the article, he told them: That’s who I emulate, Clark Kent, I wanna be the person that goes and does the great things as Superman’. And that’s when it stuck. I have a double personality, so is it central to my identity? Probably depends on where I am. Which universe am I in that day? He is planning on getting his Ed.D. and writing on superheroes, and at that point, he believed that being a comic book scholar will definitely be central to his identity. Chris Galaver saw his role as a comic scholar secondary although he teaches a course on Superheroes and wrote a book on the origin of superheroes. It’s literally secondary in the sense that I was hired as a creative writing professor that is my primary area. I started exploring comics scholarship really for fun and I definitely do identity as a comic scholar and see that as a major part of my personal and professional identity, but my main field is creative writing. However, Chris chooses to identify as a comic book scholars because he does not see an alternative. He defined a scholar as “someone who brings a scholarship and its defined by field” and as he is producing scholarship on comics, he believed he simply fits the definition. Changing identities. Some scholars, including myself, feel a little odd claiming membership as a comic book scholars. Marcus Hightower-Weaver agrees. There’s very few other things where I’m hesitant to claim an identity in them in terms of my scholastic life, but I am much more hesitant when it comes to comic studies to claim identity. And maybe it’s just because there is so much out there and so many different topics that I’m not sure that I feel like I have covered even a small amount of what I probably should know, but that’s to be expected I suppose. Maybe I just need to get over it. For other scholars, such as Ian Hague, the identity is changing. He explained that the identity has changed over the last year, with comics moving from a central role to a more
134 secondary role now. He noted, before this year, after I finished my PhD, I was working as a designer and I had actually moved that into a full-time capacity at an agency, and during that time I was still doing research on comics and publishing things. But since getting the job at LCC that has given me the scope to approach a larger project, really. Although teaching hasn’t allowed me to do that research yet, but this summer will be sort of a more formal start on that research, and that will be around a more general conception of materiality in relation to media, digital media, and that will include comics, but that won’t be the main focus. So I suppose I would say that it is becoming secondary, but I’m not disregarding it, I’m still writing in the field, and I’ve still got some smaller research projects on comics. It’s transitional at the moment. A different kind of identity. Not knowing what my identity as a comic scholars is led me to have another identity in the world of comics. I started running a comic shop. Around 2014 my local comic shop was going to go out of business. My partner at the time and I decided to invest in the shop to keep it afloat. One thing led to another, and I ended up running the shop. Partners came and went, but the consistent part was me. Now, in 2017, I am sole owner of Aw Yeah Comics in Muncie, Indiana and a part-owner of Aw Yeah Comics in Harrison, New York. It is not easy to run a business, have a family especially as a single mother, write comics and academic articles, and finish your dissertation. Thankfully, my chair Dr. Mulvihill, has the patience of a saint and also knows how to get me motivated. I always joked that her students need a Dr. Mulvihill doll that they could squeeze and it would say “I know you can do this,” “I have faith in you,” and “You are so brilliant.” The comic shop takes up a lot of my time and some of this dissertation was written at the counter when there were no customers. Running the shop is a full-time job and writing comics and pitches for comics takes up a lot of my time. I attend around fifteen or so comic book conventions every year, some being one day local shows and others are international shows that take up a week of my time. It is a very busy life and one that I am grateful for almost every day.
135 I try to run the shop in a way that involves the rest of my life. I am a big believer in community and as a comic book scholar, I believe that is something that we all must do. Spreading the word about comics is important as without people reading comics, no one will understand why being a comic book scholar is important. The love of comic books is real to comic book scholars. None of us came to comics the same way, but we all feel something for them. Jason Tondro said that he is jealous of my owning a comic book shop “because that’s one of the few jobs better than being an academic.” He is not wrong. Summary In this chapter I announce the findings discovered in the 21 interviews with comic scholars as well as my self-examination into my journey to identifying as a comic scholar. Experiences of comic scholars were examined, coded, gathered into seven findings, which represent the dominant qualities of a comic scholar. These findings are unpacked and discussed in Chapter 5.
136 Chapter Five: Discussion How does one become a comics scholar? We do it. We do it. -Nick Sousanis Overview I have experienced much personal growth through this study and it has led me to better understanding of my place not only in the world of comic studies, but in the world of academia as well. I started this study with several research questions. RQ1 asked how do educators describe their lived experiences of being comic book scholars in higher education and how has it affected their personal and professional identity? RQ2 asked how do educators describe the experiences and the influences that shaped their decisions to use comic books as a pedagogical method or research area? Summary of Purpose and Findings Comic studies is a relatively new field and most of the research done so far has been on the comics that are being utilized or how to use them in the classroom. However, very little attention has been given to the scholars themselves, those who are pushing the boundaries of this new field. To fill in this gap, I pursued the task of trying to find out what the qualities of a comic scholar are, beginning with myself. This required me to dig deep into my own experiences, using autoethnographic techniques, along with interviewing others who identify as I do. Through linking my experiences in conjunction with 21 other comic book scholars which I interviews, I built a set of findings that give a better understanding of the qualities and characteristics of this unique group of scholars. What I found out was that there are many similarities and differences of why and how comic scholars began using comics, their experiences have more similarities. Most feel that they
137 are comics scholar because that is who they are and have no other choice. What is very interesting is that the definition of a comic as seen in chapter four is as varied as the comic scholars themselves. So, what is a comic scholar? Discussion of Research Questions RQ1: How do educators describe their lived experiences of being comic book scholars in higher education and how has it affected their personal and professional identity? Most comic scholars do not think that you need credentials to call yourself a scholar. Scholar is a tricky term that is hard to define. Gene Kannenberg, Jr explained that people study things “because they have an interest in it, it speaks to them somehow” and Jason Tondro explained that it is an interesting term. My department chair is English. He teaches English and he is from England and he refuses to call himself a scholar because he sees it as a boast. A Brag. He studies Flannery O’Conner, but he would never call himself a scholar because he is a humble man. I guess scholar kind of is a marketing term as I’ve come to think of it. But it’s kind of like the sexier version of academic. Somebody who studies these things for a living, who writes, publishes, and teaches on these things, but the word scholar also implies some kind of level of success at it. That is you’re not just an academic, anybody can be an academic. Which is not true, but to the average person on the street, anybody can go to school. But can you be good at it? And I think that’s what a scholar is. A scholar is a quality adjective for Academic. In the end, Jason believes that while he thought the term has a marketing approach, it is basically “somebody who studies these things for a living, who writes, publishes, and teaches on these things, but the word scholar also implies some kind of level of success at it.” Forrest Helvie does not use the term scholar “because it feels very ivory towerish.” He prefers the word critic. This is because scholar is identified with academia. I think in traditional academics the way one becomes a scholar is through the degree path and through publication and you firm up that scholarship title more with the quality of your publications and with the name brand of the publishers—with whom you publish, and where you teach. Critics however, don’t have to be encumbered by an academic title,
138 but a good critic is just as important. They wrote the book on criticism when it comes to film, and yet, no PhD’s, didn’t teach at any established universities that I know of. And I think that’s why I like that term a little better, because comics scholarship, comics criticism does not require its experts to possess that academic pedigree, you can have it, but you don’t need it. Nick Sousanis remarks that both he and I are “in places where our work has allowed us to be out in the world with or without a degree behind it.” But he wanted a degree, as I do, because he wanted to teach and you must have a degree to teach. But he does not believe all works of scholarship have degrees behind them. You have to have the right credentials so credentials certainly make some difference, they authenticate a scholar, publications do, but I think that scholarship at least, you know, the work a scholar does, you know, like Brian Talbott’s Alice in Sunderland, like that is a scholarly work. There’s no question it’s not a scholarly work, it’s invested in the literature, it’s invested in historical- it is a scholarly reference- it has all of the things. I’d hate to use the word rigor because it’s such a lousy word in education right now but I think there is something about doing scholarship that a scholar does that means there’s, you know, there are ensconced in the field. Chris Gavaler never thought about defining scholarship as he does not think background matters. “If you produce scholarship, you are demonstrating expertise in the subject.” Most, such as Ian Hague, do not believe you need to have a degree to be a scholar but though that the research is important. The work of a scholar probably goes into the realms of context and theory. Which, perhaps, the work of an anonymous caller might not, although I think a journalist would include a lot of contextual, theoretical work, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that scholarship as such. But I suppose what I’m trying to differentiate here is reviewing from scholarship, in response to a single text might be scholarship if it’s perhaps if that response is driven by a certain research methodology. But I don’t necessarily mean everybody who writes anything about comics is a scholar because they are producing something in response to a text. I think I do draw a distinction between comic scholarship and comic studies, and I would say there is a lot bigger field of comic scholarship than there is comic studies. Although, comic studies is becoming for formalized and more substantial in recent years. But what is a scholar? Gosh. I don’t think there’s any kind of formal requirements, but I suppose a more methodological approach, careful, careful,
139 methodological approach as opposed to responding based on —I don’t know. Because I think everything, to some degree, influences my opinion, but trying to get outside of yourself and think more critically is, I suppose, torture.” However, a comic scholar is a completely different animal. In fact, the comic scholar discussion list out of the University of Florida, got the name comic scholar on a whim. There used to be a group called the Comics and Discussion list. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. remembered when the change occurred and explained, There were a lot of people who were reading alternative comics, and a lot of those people happened to be in grad school at the same time or had recently gotten their degrees. A lot of us wanted to talk about things we were doing in our teaching, and it felt like it was intruding on the original purpose of that list. So, we started to figure out that maybe we needed our own list to do this and our thought was ‘this can be a list for academics who study comics.’ Somebody came up with comic scholars, it might have been Charles Hatfield even, just tossed off the cuff. Before we could even think about it, one of our friends who owned his own server threw up a server and started a list—COMXSCHL dash list. That was before Florida, it was a free-standing list hosted by a friend’s server. So we kind of got that name—Comic Scholars list. But in our heads we were all thinking that primarily it was a place where people who were in academia and studying comics could gather and talk because there are a lot of academic specific things—we didn’t necessarily always talk about comics, but there were issues in the academy that we were encountering that we thought would be helpful to have a place to talk about. But we call it the Comic Scholars list instead of the Comic Academic’s list. The term scholar is definitely broader than just somebody with an academic degree because there are a lot of people—I think Will Eisner is a well-known scholar of comics who wrote books on comic theory—he didn’t have an academic degree. You can point to lots of people—R.C. Harvey did a lot of stuff, and these are just from years ago, but I think the scholars list really benefited from having people who were just an academia in it in ways that we didn’t consider it first when we set the list up. Christopher Murray believed that a comic writer or artist can be a comic scholars “but they need to be involved in activity that is more that creative for example, historical or theoretical work. They need to be offering a critique or commentary and be working within a logically defensible methodology.”
140 Some comic scholars feel inadequate to be called a comic book scholar. Myself included. The world of comics is vast and more and more information is created every day and no one can read and study it all. Susan Kirtley felt inadequate. She recalled, When I was thinking about doing the Lynda Barry book with Mississippi Press and there’s a wonderful professor by the name of Tom Ange, I don’t know if you know him, and I talked to him because I was interested in doing this project because I really felt like it needed to be done. And I said to him “my training is not in this area” and I remember we were at this conference and he sat down with me and said to me, “tell me about your favorite comics, tell me what you like” and then I went on, I sort of monologue for about 20 minutes, Concrete and Ghost and I went on. Long, long, long and he kept asking me questions. After I monologued for about 45 minutes he said “You’re going to be fine, you should do this.” I think he sensed the excitement and the passion and the sort of encouragement that I would be able to find out what I needed to know along the way. So, I still have this insecurity about being called a comics scholar because it’s such a challenging field because you have to know about art, you have to know about history, you have to know about the history of comics, you have to know about publishing, you have to know about all of these things and I wasn’t necessarily or particularly trained in a lot of these areas and I had to learn which was both exhilarating and exciting and daunting. So there are still so many areas that I am woefully unprepared to talk about. My student will ask me, “Let’s talk about manga” and I’ll be like “ahhhhh” and it’s fascinating and I love it, I just don’t know enough. I do have difficulty sort of assuming that mantel. I am a comics scholar because there is so much I don’t know. But what I, I do try and remind myself is that like Tom and others say “you’ll be okay, you’ll learn what you need to know” and that enthusiasm for the subject matters. Recently I was elected as a member-at-large for the newly formed Comic Studies Society (CSS). This is the first professional association for comic scholars, whether they are independent or in academia. The CSS “seeks to foster diversity in comics studies, including diversity in scholarly discipline, career position, job niche, and culture and personal identity” (www.comicssociety.org). This group came up in the earlier interviews, before I ran for the board. Forrest Helvie and I spoke about whether to get involved or not and he gave this advice to me. He said,
141 You’d be a better person than myself to have to join I think than because when you consider what you’ve added to the field, the super MOOCS you did, right? That got a lot of attention across the board, academic and in the general mainstream audience. Who cares about completion rates, the fact is you have a lot of attention on that throughout the course. I would say it would be weird to not have you in that when you’ve had something to say when it comes to comics in the classroom. I don’t necessarily know that I’ve had that impact, but I still feel like—playing in the pool for at least six years now and for this field it seems like a chunk of time and I haven’t published at Harvard press or anything like that, all small scale stuff, but the one benefit I would say to my comics journalism side is that I’m consistently present. I’m there a lot so I know a lot of what’s going on both in the haute taut, but also in the everyday user end and I don’t know as much as you do obviously. I’m sure you get a lot more behind the scenes kind of stuff. But there’s a lot of conversations that take place that I don’t post in my articles, and so there are a few books I’m looking at on my shelves and very interested in how they came together and now I know. And so I think in that regard I should go, I probably have at least a few points I can add to those conversations, I think it’s just a personal distaste for the haute taut academics and that’s something I gotta get over I guess. In the end, we both did join with me becoming a member of the board. Comic scholars struggle with their personal and professional identity because it is not a defined field and possibly because of the term scholar. Paul Levitz, while he does teach, is not a scholar by definition but yet, as Roland Mann said about Paul, and I agree, “I don’t know if he has a degree, but if he does or doesn’t have, I would consider his word on something as truth before I would take someone with a Ph.D. that I don’t know who they are.” Scott McCloud, whose book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993) is used in countless classrooms, also does not fit the classic scholar description, but as Nick Sousanis said, You wouldn’t say anyone higher on earth than him probably but at the same time Charles Hatfield or Bart Beaty, you know they’ve read everybody’s scholarship on the field and a different kind of thing. In his case, he read every comic he could get his hands on and did it in a very different way and I’m starting to convince myself that he is a scholar. I mean, he’s clearly approaching it scholarly but we- at least in the academy as for scholarship that is in the literature that has already been done. I don’t know that would change that work at all, it would just have a different ground to it. RQ2 asked how do educators describe the experiences and the influences that shaped their decisions to use comic books as a pedagogical method or research area?
142 Comics books scholars are also fans of the medium. Not all scholars have been life-long fans, but they all came to comics one way or another, whether it was because their siblings read comics or they saw one of the colorful bestapled fables on the rack at the grocery and begged their mother for it. However they came to comics, the important point is that they did find them. And the love of the medium not only shaped them personally, but influenced them enough that they decided to use it in their classrooms or their research. Comics scholars are who they are. Rob Weiner believed, “We need to get over apologizing and just accept the fact that this is worth studying” regardless of what you anyone else things. Comic scholarship is new and exciting, especially for students. Chris Galaver explained, “With other scholarship, about anything other than contemporary fiction, you’re writing about dead people are you’re writing in a vast field. So if you publish an article about, let’s say Henry James, you are guaranteed Henry James won’t read it.” It is also just a drop in the bucket of articles about past writers. With comics, “you realize this is actually a pretty small room and if I publish something about people I’ve been reading, there’s a good chance they’ll be reading what I just wrote.” Gene Kannenberg, Jr. identifies as a comic book scholar because it is what he knows how to do, more than anything else he does. He continued that it is not just the comics book, it is more than that. Although when I first started off I was purely looking at traditional 32 page comic books that was the whole thing. I remember from the first PCA (Popular Culture Association) I went to John Lent was always there telling us that ‘You’ve got to spread your critical focus, you got to look at other countries and stuff like that.’ And I’m like ‘I can barely focus on what I’m doing right now.’ But at the same time he wasn’t wrong. Especially the first couple years I was going to PCA there were a lot of people talking about comic books, sometime comic’s books that they had just read, that had just been published. There was a lot of haze and discool, which there is nothing wrong with that, but as an up and coming graduate student trying to look at the future, that also felt kind of limiting to me. I was also a part of it at the same time, so there’s a little bit of self-loathing there as
143 well. I sort of try to cast my net wider, and wider for things like that. So again it’s a small thing—not just comic book scholar, but comic scholar. But again I don’t really know how to do anything else as well as I know how to think about comics, I didn’t monetize that as well as I’d like to. Janis Breckenridge said it is what she does now, in publishing and in teaching. She is known as a visual literacy person now at her school. I don’t know if that’s a why, but I think that’s a why in terms of a motive, but it’s a why in terms of because my academic identity has become the visual literacy in the Spanish department person and then the comics, I mean, like I said, I teach film and I teach photography as well, but comics is actually what I know better, and the direction I pursue when I write. Robert Weiner chooses to identify as a comics scholar for many reasons but mainly “because it’s who I am, whether it’s comics, music, culture, it’s like blood to me.” While he does acknowledge that it’s work and it may not always be fun, but for the most part he enjoys it. He continued, you wanna sometimes take a step back, sometimes I’ll try to get things and read for fun, and try to not have an analytical perspective and just enjoy the story. And the thing is I don’t think people really understand, and this is something I’ve tried to explain to my class this semester is that the universe, say Marvel and DC and Archie are way more sophisticated and difficult than anything Tolkien ever wrote, but Tolkien created something himself, just by himself. This is something that—hundreds of people have created and work on to create a semi continuous, coherent universe.” Susan Kirtley believed, “Now I’m in a position where I have tenure where I can be a comics scholar and speak from that position and lobby and advocate for more positions for more legitimacy.” She believed that her position allows her to say that comics studies is acceptable. She does not plan on shying away from what she is because I never shied away from it in terms of saying this is what I studied, around graduate school. When I was as an undergrad my comics and my scholarship just didn’t come together, mostly because we weren’t really allowed to study comics in school and it wasn’t until much later in my academic career that I was able to study comics. I think it’s important to identify that way in terms of lobbying for resources for myself and others and there have been questions in the past in terms of will I get tenure in terms of publications, in terms of these sort of professional achievements where people have
144 wondered “are you sure you wanna… go that direction?” But it was important to be that. If I was going to get tenure I was going to get tenure based on who I am and, and then it would be a good fit.” Jason Tondro identifies as a comic scholar for many reasons but mainly for one reason. I have the best gig in the world! I’m going to get tenure because I have a big publications list, but I’m not going to get a pay raise and I’m never going to make a six-figure salary, but this is the tradeoff. Right? Like the secret to life is A) Don’t be a dick. And B) Do something that you love. I identify as a comic scholar A) Because it’s fun to be a comic scholar and B) Because that’s what I do. And you know, here in America, we identify with our careers, people ask you “What do you do?” that’s who you are and what I do is teach comics. If we had an English program where I could be teaching the Chocolate Milkshake—Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, then maybe I wouldn’t think of myself as much of a comic scholar as I do. But that’s where the boots on the ground have walked me. For Craig This, it is a sense of pride and identity. He shows that pride by putting a lot of effort into writing articles and to get that scholarship out to the public. He felt rewarded when people ask him to do talks or for his opinion. I don’t think people are really going to ask me my opinion—well they do. They ask me about all the movies that come out and I say ‘Don’t judge a comic book by its movie.’ I haven’t had business cards made up, I probably should. I guess it’s just a part of my identity, it’s part of who I am, I enjoy that. I guess I identify myself as a scholar because I take pride in what I’ve done and I feel proud of what I’ve done and it becomes a badge of honor. I don’t see any shame to it. Gene Kannenberg, Jr. simply cannot stop being a comic book scholar. “No matter where I go it follows me or I find a way to bring it to where I am or what I’m doing somehow” Even when he tried to get away from it, comics kept creeping back into his work. Nick Sousanis is a comic scholar because “we do it because we have no choice.” He explained this by using a comic book example. “It would have been easier not to be Spider-Man, but I mean, you got all the power you got, you got a responsibility to do something with it.” He continued that he knows he did something different and novel because people got excited about it. For him, he got to talk to people to whom he has looked up to his whole life.
145 He continued that identifying as a comic book scholar has given him many opportunities to talk to people who are excited about comics and his work has given them motive, which is an odd feeling when he is doing something he loves so much. I think to me, who sits and talks a lot, I loved making comics as a kid and I love reading them as a kid and I definitely kept that tamped down for a long time. I kept doing it but my own experience, my own thinking of what comics could be, was limited. Limited by our cultural perceptions and past history. So I think for me to come back into the fold and then really dive into it, it’s really life-changing in that I think it’s been very positive but it’s also affected how I think and how I want to teach and what I think it important in teaching. I’ve always believed these things but it’s more demonstrated and I think, like I said, I did this work in comics because I like making comics and I could make it accessible but still smart. But what I think has emerged out of it as I figure out the next big project is, I think it deals with this more is that this is the literacy- it’s a way of thinking that we all have and we all need. I think when we work this way, it changes what we can do. It definitely changed what I could do. If I’d written a book on scholarship vs. the comic I wrote certainly they start out similar but they go in very different directions because of how I made it and I think that brining that kind of literacy in changes us and it should be encouraged rather than not. So I think to me that’s been transformative. I think that it would have been slightly different if I wasn’t a comics person at all and became one. It was transformative but in my case I was a comics person but also as much as I loved making it, I thought that’s what I do for entertainment or what I do for fun but it’s not what my real work is. Now I think this work is so much better than what I can do elsewhere and I can like and find later but I think this is something that is really much more powerful so I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Yeah. Further Implications for Practice While it is true that there are few places for comic scholars to find jobs for their identity as a comic scholar, that is fine for some people. A. David Lewis explained, “We don’t have the ‘here’s a degree that makes you a real comic scholar’ yet” and he is fine with that. Due to that reason, A. David Lewis saw that comic scholars have to be “bold enough, dedicated enough, and can overcome odds” to become what they envision. Where Are Comic Scholars to Be Housed? One of the main issues is where a comics studies program should be housed. Ultimately I
146 would like to see the emergence of dedicated comics studies departments, but the diversity that comes from inhabiting spaces within other disciplines is also healthy. We shouldn’t necessarily be building disciplinary walls at a time when other disciplines are trying to become more interdisciplinary and less constrained by such boundaries. We are currently a highly interdisciplinary field, which is part of the strength and breadth of the expanding bubble of comics scholarship I discussed earlier. A balance is needed between the two. It can be much like Tom Shapira describes as “eating soup with a fork.” Most comic scholars “amble and twist from different fields but it’s not comic book learning.” Right. You can eat soup with a fork, “but it’s not the ultimate way to eat the soup, right?” While, most comic scholars see this field being interdisciplinary, Robert Weiner wants to see more comic studies department, though. Right now it’s all over the place, and that’s fine as long as people are teaching about comics and they’re happy about it, that’s great, but I can see a need or a department of comic studies in the same way with film. I just think that it is an evolutionary step and I personally would really like to see that happen. I don’t know how you can get a university like Harvard to have a comic studies department—University of Texas, Austin to have a comic studies department when lots of people are teaching classes all over. Like here, we don’t have a qualified film studies, although we do have a film studies minor. We have people who teach film everywhere. So in the end people who include comic groups in different classes and like I said I do believe interdisciplinary may be the way to go. Everything we as scholars we need to not be so dramatic about what we define as comic studies. I hate putting things into the box. We can debate all you want and get down to the nitty gritty, but you know what I don’t care. To me a comic is still a comic. Even though I know a lot of scholars will be made at me for saying that, but they’re altogether wrong. Comics are not animation, but they’re related to animation. They’re not film, but they’re related to film. Comics have provided a great deal of influence to other disciplines and to me that’s what fascinating and gets me excited. Jason Tondro agreed that comic studies should be interdisciplinary due to Nick Sousanis’s book Unflattening. He does not “want to overstate the importance of Nick’s book, because we have to see how it plays, but I was blown away, in particular his PhD field.” He believed that this will not happen in the next decade because academia tends to move “as slow as
147 the Vatican, like everything, it’s holy written. So it’s not gonna happen now, but for the next several years it’s going to continue to be fractured and slivered.” For a long time, Gene Kannenberg, Jr. did not think that comics studies should be a department. He also belived that interdisciplinary studies was the way to go. But: Comic studies are not just one thing and I’m not sure that a department of comic studies would be kind of—I mean I know there are departments of film studies, and I suppose that would be one model that you could follow, but again comics are not just literature, and they’re not just art, there’s the historical aspect, there’s the publication history aspect to them. And for me, interdisciplinary studies model is really the way to go. You can get people who are specialists in literary studies with an interest in comics, or people who are interested in art history with a specialization in comics, and students can benefit from all these different kind of approaches. If everybody is kind on in one department, unless you’re creating something brand new, it’s really hard. I’m not sure that the universities community can afford that model necessarily. I mean how often do new departments just come in and create—it’s a whole lot easier to I just think take paper work level to create an interdisciplinary studies program and again I think that’s what would really be helpful for students, and for fellow academics as well, because you get to benefit from working with people who have totally different training from you, totally different focus from you, different theoretical frameworks.’ Susan Kirtley knows a little about where comic studies should be housed as she has started a comic studies program at Portland State. She explained, the research I do is translated in a very tangible way in terms of an academic program, so I’m creating this program and I’m scheduling courses and I’m doing outreach with local comics creators and asking them to come do presentations and teach for us and I’m supervising all of our internships because we have internships with Dark Horse and Only Press and Milk the Criminal Masterminds (Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s company), writing letters for my students who are not going to the PhD’s in comics so my research has translated in a very tangible and labor intensive way in terms of my service to, I hope, the scholarly community as well as the students. While Portland State does have a comic studies program, it’s still an interdisciplinary program, which can be challenging due to the way universities are structured. Susan explained that departments are compartmentalized and that makes it a huge logistical challenge to create something that is interdisciplinary and I didn’t realize how big of a challenge when I went into this. I know that a lot of programs are developing in English departments, I think that’s one way to go but certainly not the only
148 way. The program right now at Portland State is interdisciplinary in that we have classes offered throughout the university so in English but we also have a scholar in world languages which is teaching our manga class, we have scholars in psychology which are teaching, we have obviously great teachers in art. Shannon Wheeler is teaching a comic creations class. We have Brian Bendis and David Walker teaching writing classes and that’s with the English department and Diana Shoot is teaching history for us. So it truly is interdisciplinary. But in terms of funding and things like that, it is very difficult because, I remember saying “oh, I want to have this be an interdisciplinary program. Can’t we just have a fund that goes to comics?” and they said “No, the accountants have to funnel the money to a department so, it has to go to English because you are English and you are creating the classes. And I resisted it because I was like “nooooooo interdisciplinary. I don’t want this!” But at the same time, people have to get paid. So there will be little challenges. In my dream world I have a comics castle and we would have all kinds of scholars from different departments coming together. Some probably permanently teaching comics, maybe some from different departments visiting and doing classes. Yeah, I don’t have the answer because I know what I would wish for which is all of these disciplinary specialties coming together but I’m still challenged with trying to make that happen within a university structure. Nick Sousanis believed that the default place for comic studies is for it to be interdisciplinary. He explained that there are many elements to comics that all play a part— visuals, text, cultural significance of it, etc. All of these elements combine to do one think. There are many takes on this type of work and it is nice to see the different perspectives. He explained that a friend of his taught a class coming from a cultural studies background and he explained, He had a whole bunch of takes on the work that I just wouldn’t have thought of so it was really great to have that. We both taught a class, we had so much different ways of looking at things that was really fun. You know, it’s a challenge sometimes but it’s also such a chance to see things from a different way and comics needs that, there’s no way to know everything. There’s no way to have every perspective so- but I think the question of where to put it is tricky because institutions like places to put things. Charles Hatfield’s home in in the English Department and while he believed that comics are literature, that is an argument he is not as concerned about as he was at one time in his life. He believed that there is an interdepartmental aspect to where comics should be in academia.
That may be because I’ve just been emboldened by the growth of comic study or maybe because I’ve met other English professors here and there who are not worried about if something is literary or not. So that’s liberating, it’s kind of refreshing. I was still worried
149 about whether it was going to be literary when I did my dissertation, finished it, and eventually became my first book, I’m still worried about that. So literary or not, I feel like I have a decent home in the English studies program, that’s true of a lot of people, I think more in English programs than anywhere else. In Higher Ed is where comic studies has taken hold. Lauguage and Literature more broadly, but English in particular. That said I’m really trying, especially with the CSS, broader recruitment. That we have film studies people and art historians. We need more art historians in this field, there are very few who are publishing and teaching in comics. Here’s the thing, we have an interdisciplinary field with all the disciplines of literature, of language and narrative storytelling, but also the disciplines of art and art history, mass communications, sociology, all these things are tangled up in comics. Comic scholars have been coming out of those fields and many more besides, so what we have are people who are trained in one discipline. They’re philosophers, they’re sociologists, they’re historians, they’re artists, they’re English profs, whatever, who have decided to study this multidisciplinary form and that means that so many of us have a specific set of skills that have been honed by studying other things. Like Matt Smith’s research questions and mine might be slightly different. There’s a lot that Matt and I can talk about but he has to answer to a different kind of department or disciplinary culture than I do. That’s one of the things that I love about comic scholarship is I go to conferences and I talk to people who are not English profs. I mean, I like my colleagues in English, don’t get me wrong, they’re great, but I love talking to people who are not in my discipline. I think probably that the optimal thing would be programs that are interdepartmental, if we’re talking about higher ed and the way that we create more courses and majors and such. In comics it’s probably going to be through interdepartmental programs where there’s a kind of sharing out of faculty. I’m thinking about what Ben Saunders has done at the University of Oregon, it’s done pretty well and even before he launched the Comics and Cartoon Studies Program, we spent hours talking on the phone about how he was gonna do it and whether it was gonna work. He’s an English Prof, he’s a Renaissance literature scholar but he has managed to recruit some colleagues from the language programs, people who teach languages like French, people who teach Japanese studies as well as some artists and there’s enough people to sustain the minor created at the University of Oregon. That’s sort of an interdepartmental endeavor that wouldn’t have gone anywhere without Ben and Ben’s an English Prof. But he’s responsible for coordinating arranging teaching assignments for people who are not English faculty and it’s a cooperative venture. As complex as that is, and it can be terribly complicated and political but I think that’s probably the way to go because the odds of creating new department cultures with higher education already in crisis is difficult and after all many of the skillsets already in exist in these other departments. However, if you don’t have a department of your own, you’ll always be seen as a second-class citizen, at least at many schools. But the interdisciplinary/interdepartmental route is the most likely way to go except in creative arts programs or studio programs possibly, at Art Schools. In terms of the liberal arts and sciences, it feels like we’re not likely to have many comic studies departments no matter how robust this field becomes. Although Charles is a big believer in comics studies, he is not quite sure if there should be a comic studies major.
150 A comics studies minor, enriching an already good resume could work. I’m asked all the time what’s an English degree going to get me? Imagine the conversations about a comic studies major? That may be a glass ceiling limit on our growth. Janis Breckenridge thought that it has to do with the size of the institution and the resources that they have, as comic studies is a new field and programs are just developing. We’re just starting to see programs in the U.S. that are developing around comics studies, whether that’s in an undergraduate institution or research institutions like Florida that actually can confer degrees. I think right now where we are is multiple disciplines are starting to incorporate the visual and the graphic novel and the comic within courses. That used to be unusual. I don’t think that’s unusual anymore. I think having actual sequences of courses like I’m developing in Spanish within Spanish is unusual at this point. I don’t think it will be. It is now. But you are starting to see people finishing Ph.D.s in the comics, as you are. Finishing their Ph.D.s in the comics field in a variety of ways that’s you know my 20 years in the institution, that’s new. And when they get jobs, that’s not going to just ignore that. They’re going to incorporate what they’ve done in their in their dissertation. So I think smaller institutions are gonna have a harder “sell” to give the resources necessary to having a full program in comics studies. But I think eventually that might happen in the same way it happened with film studies.” Many scholars think that Comic Studies should be its own department but doubt that it will happen because of the culture of academia. Forrest Helvie explained, “Ideally I would love—wouldn’t it be nice if it was in it’s own department? I would really love to see that. But I know it won’t, we don’t have the culture for that.” He continues to explain that with comics it is: like this beautiful conglomerate of the humanities and fine arts, you’re taking the arts and you’re taking literature and you are creating something new, fresh, and different, right? How are you going to get an anti-intellectual oriented society to buy into that when the primary and secondary schools are stuck dealing with performance based education? How are we going to have something that’s meant to enlighten? So realistically I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think it’s going to have to be the passion/love project of faculty who live in other departments. You have a lot of colleges that have honors programs, you don’t have an honors program department chair because the honors program is a conglomerate of “Okay, you know what I’m English faculty member and I’m going to teach these honors courses” but I still work for my department chair in the English department. You might have a program coordinator or something. Somebody who does the administrative work for the honors committee. So you could potentially have a comic studies program, but administratively speaking, that program is going to be owned by a department. So if it needs to have the English label or the arts in humanities label for outsiders to accept it fine, call it what you must, as long as it has a seat at the table, the same size seat, the same place setting as everyone else, then at the end of the
151 day isn’t that what matters? Craig This hoped that comics studies will be its own department someday, but though that it will not happen simply because of the state of academia in today’s world. However, he saw another way that a comic studies degree could happen. I think there could be an alliance of comic book scholars coming together. Where you could almost create a degree, but going across various universities and picking it up before you come on out. So I can really see something like that—where you have all these different comic book scholars from all these different universities and colleges offering courses, which at the end of time, after you’ve taken 120 credit hours and passed, you would have a degree on comic studies. Maybe it doesn’t reside in any one department or any one university, but it just becomes this confederation of schools that you earn this degree here. Rik Spanjers though that comic books should not be its own discipline as much as a “discipline within disciplines.” He adds that if comics books were just another way to approach or analyze something next to other types, it would be validating. He agreed that interdisciplinary is the way to go but everything has to do with funding. In a system where you’re constantly in between this, it can be a very difficult thing to do. So the big plus of having your own discipline is that you can actually appoint your own teachers, and have financial stability for people who are doing that research. As I said if you have more and more structure of an open bachelor, which I think is gaining popularity, now also in Europe we’re sort of trailing behind the US and England in these sort of matters often. With the open bachelor structure I can imagine that there might be space for comic book studies to keep offering in between. I really like the idea of words with image studies as a sort of institutional embedding in which we do not limit ourselves to the comic book as a medium, but more as the interaction between words and images and how these play in different media in different times because then I think we will still have the benefit of having literary scholars in dialogue with art historians, historians, and sociologists, and all these different kind of scholars who might be interested in questions concerning the pictorial versus the textual. Matt Smith is on the same page of having comic studies be its own department but still be housed in another department. He compares this to another university’s Popular Culture department. I think the next step is the kind of model at Bowling Green where the Popular Culture
152 department has a head and I think one of two faculty but mostly interdisciplinary, pulling people from across the university. I think that’s the way to build something viable for the future. While Paul Levitz does not consider himself a comic scholar in the sense of scholar, he does teach and has a lot of experience with perception. He suggested, I think you legitimately could have American Studies, which is the faculty I teach at Columbia and Princeton. I think it would neat to have a Comics Studies degree a few more places, certainly. And it wouldn’t hurt in the process but the main thing is the academy really recognizes, like any institution, it recognizes peerage and our peerage is pretty weak. We’re a bunch of upstart little lads and ladies, we’ve got a viscount or two but we can’t, we can’t point to our Pulitzer Prize winner. We’ve got Pulitzer Prize winners who’ve written stuff that’s important in comics. Michael Chabon, he’s one but he doesn’t keep writing about them. He hasn’t made his reputation based on that per se. We’ve got Pulitzer Prize winners that teach or McArthur winners that teach things that touch on the comics and use it like Gina Diaz but you can’t put together the panel for the MLA association, a meeting that says “here’s the Harvard guy, here’s the Yale gal, here’s the Pulitzer Prize winner that chooses to teach at some dipshit university because that’s where they want to live, here’s the Skidmore professor who’s written 15 brilliant articles. Conclusion So why do these scholars become comic scholars, myself included? There are few departments that focus on comic studies and even few positions for comic scholars. As Jason Tondro explained, “There aren’t positions for comic professors and so I don’t really have a job market anymore.” When I taught the MOOC Gender Through Comic Books, many people told me that colleges would be knocking down my door trying to hire me. Not only is my door still standing, no one even knocked. There were plenty of accolades and such, but no job offers of any kind. Nick Sousanis experienced a similar situation. After he wrote his dissertation Unflattening, people were telling him that he would have no trouble finding a job. That was not was happened. He explained, I have both sides of people saying “yeah it will be easy for you” and then other people say like “well it won’t because they won’t, there isn’t a home for you that make a lot of sense.”
153 I think there’s this strange dichotomy. As you know, I was out on the road like all the time and if I wasn’t on the road I was skyping in someone’s class or the book has showed up in so many places and it showed up long before I graduated. Before it even won anything or started to talk about it so yeah money and I have had this sort of meteoric whatever, some little thing. Whatever it is in the academic realm of scholarly comic books but at the same time I think you know, you’re coming up with 1,500 to fly someone somewhere to talk about something, you can do that. To get a tenure track line for a job that doesn’t exist, you know, when does it mean to get a new job period from any one year to two years later for it to be approved and another year later it gets listed so it could be up to 5 years before a job gets listed and then if there’s only one person on the planet that fits the job you are looking for, or that’s you, it’s not likely that they are going to do anything even if they want to. Every place I’ve visited in the last year has said “wow it would be great to have you here” and I say “yeah, that would be great with a job: and of course the job was always “no.” All these people that say “at first people will be snapping you up” they don’t have jobs, they don’t have one sitting around and may not already know they are interested. So then people who maybe couldn’t create jobs wouldn’t know, why would they? So I think obviously the academic job world is terrible right now, if we graduated in the 80s or 90s I think we’d have our- if we graduated in the economic times of 80s and 90s someone would know what to do with us comics people then. The conditions that were then are still now- you’re doing this things, I’m doing this thing would be no problem; there would be a lot of place with extra money saying “let’s do this thing.” Now they let 500 people apply for one job that isn’t that great, so I get it. On one hand I think at times I was pretty annoyed at it, like why are you- if one more invitation to speak or interview I’m going to follow the person. Whyone of these emails is going to be an invite for a job? It’s like no one is getting jobs and I’m one person, outside of comics, I’m a maker of things. I could be in an art school but I don’t quite fit into an art school. I’m a theorist but I make things so they’re not quite sure. I get it, these invitations- I wrote an intentionally box-defying thing so, you know. The trouble with being a forerunner, the excitement of being a forerunner is that you get a lot of attention, the trouble of being a forerunner is that the world isn’t necessarily ready for you to have a home, so you know, we have to make our own. I got lucky, this place I went to the place I got a job, this is maybe more off the record but, they weren’t looking for me. This job was not, the description had enough to allowed me to apply for it and I needed someone to state that would be slightly unusual people but there were at no point looking for me. Even a week before my interview I called and asked what I should prepare and the lady said, the chair said “You know, we’re not really sure what to do with you. You just come and do your thing and we’ll see if we can figure it out.” You know, it changed what the search was based on them saying “oh, we could go this way” but it wasn’t, you know. Yeah. That’s my story. Final Thoughts That is the story of comic book scholars. You cannot go into it expecting to find a job easily or to find a home in a department for sure. Especially not a comics studies department as they are few and far between. However, it will do one thing. It will give you swagger. Gail de
154 Vos explained that identifying as a comics scholar has given her identity “swagger” and continued that it’s an exciting field. It’s exciting and because it’s so wide open there’s lots of openings for people to come in from different directions. So it’s, in that case, a very welcoming field. I think that maybe because I’m in the library field, and things are quite closed sometimes, and I’ve never fit into any of those square boxes ever, it’s nice that there are no square boxes for me to fit in and just come. So that’s part of it. The other thing is that the more of us that agree with it, or identify with it, the more people will take it seriously. So that’s a part of my education part, that is what I do, this is why I do it, so come on guys, buy into it. Matt Smith agreed that there is a “coolness factor,” especially with younger colleagues and students, but the problem is there is no financial or tangible benefit. In terms of the academy, where we aren’t at except for that one job in Scotland, it’s not like major American academies are saying they want to hire a comic scholar. We’re not there. Until we get seats at the table, when we have universities saying we need one of these because this is something people are studying and students are coming to university to study it, when we’re there, we’re going to be something interesting. But we’re not there. So, there’s no benefit professionally because it doesn’t open doors for you. In fact, I’ve seen close friends who have struggled, they can’t get the doors open. But yet, he still self-identifies as such and he has been employed by several universities. Not everyone will understand why these scholars identify as comic book scholars. Many people will still be dismissive of comics and the field in general. In fact, Andrew Lesk remembered, “I learned about graphic novels only in about 2005 or so, when a friend suggested I read Chester Brown’s Louis Riel, with an eye to teach it in a Canadian Lit course. I said something along the lines of, “Graphic novel? What kind of shit is that?” But I was open to looking at it. I did….and the rest is history. My first published article was, in fact, on Lousi Riel.” One of the main jobs of comic book scholars will be to gain acceptance for comics and their scholarship. Many of these comic scholars have taken a chance on their career by working with comics. Charles Hatfield said that he “risked my career on it.” He was told that writing his dissertation on comics with close off many opportunities. I was told the same thing, even by
155 people who consider themselves comic scholars. Charles chooses to stay in this field because: I could say because it’s what I’m into. I try to understand why I choose certain things. Sometimes in the rush of enthusiasm, you try out things for reasons you can’t expect. I went through all my courses and exams proposing to work in a different area. I found that I was putting a lot of time and effort into an area where I was receiving no credit, I was reading comics and studying comics. I went whole hog somewhere between 1993 and 1995. I was worried about not finishing grad school and I just wanted to finish. Even if it didn’t lead to job offers, I just decided this is what I really wanted. Whatever it takes, I thought, this is what I want my dissertation to be about. It’s gotta be about something I love to death. Paul Levitz asked the question “Why pursue a Ph.D. specializing in this if there are no seats to occupy? One answer was given by Gene Kannenberg, Jr. He said “because it’s a thing that I know how to do best.” I agree. In academia, there is no guarantee of getting a job regardless of your specialization. Why not do something you love?
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164 Appendix A IRB Submission Materials
Office of Research Integrity Institutional Review Board (IRB) 2000 University Avenue Muncie, IN 47306-0155
Phone: 765-285-5070 Fax: 765-285-1328
IRB Human Subjects Research Application & Narrative PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR INFORMATION The Principal Investigator (PI) MUST be a Ball State University Faculty, Staff, or Student. Principal Investigator (PI): Department: Email:
Christina L. Blanch
Degree: MA Telephone: 765-717-0635
Affiliation (Pick one):
BSU Faculty BSU Staff BSU Graduate Student BSU Undergraduate Student
Principal Investigator Research Experience: 1. Have you ever been a Principal Investigator?
2. How many years have you been conducting research in any capacity?
165 3. Have any of your prior studies been suspended or terminated by BSU or a third party?
4. Have you or any member of your research staff ever been sanctioned for unethical behavior in research activities?
If yes, to #3 and/or #4, please explain:
FACULTY ADVISOR INFORMATION If the Principal Investigator (PI) is a STUDENT (Graduate or Undergraduate) with Ball State University, a BSU Faculty member advising or supervising the research must be listed below. Faculty Advisor: Dr. Thalia Mulvihill Department: Email:
Degree: Ph.D. Telephone: 765-285-5463
FACULTY ADVISOR ASSURANCE STATEMENT As the Faculty Advisor for this study, I certify that I have reviewed and support this protocol and approve the merit of this research project and the competency of the investigator(s) to conduct the project. My involvement in this study is as follows (check one option): I will be involved in this project. My name is listed and my responsibilities (described in the Key Personnel section) include supervision and oversight of this project. I will be involved in this project. My name is listed and my responsibilities (described in the Key Personnel section) are limited (e.g. data analysis only). I affirm this investigator has the competency to conduct this research study without my supervision or that of any other faculty or staff Member of Ball State University. A Faculty Advisor MUST electronically sign this study for all student research projects before the protocol is submitted to the IRB for review. When you sign this study as the Faculty Advisor, you are also agreeing to the terms in the Faculty Advisor Assurance Statement above and accepting responsibility for ensuring that the terms of the Principal Investigator Assurance Statement are met. HUMAN SUBJECTS RESEARCH TRAINING
COLLABORATIVE INSTITUTIONAL TRAINING INITIATIVE (CITI) As of January 1, 2010, Ball State University policy requires that all PI’s, faculty advisors, and key personnel complete the CITI Training. To comply with the educational requirement, you (and all key personnel for this project, including faculty advisor) must have completed the online training modules on the protection of human subjects. For more information and link to CITI’s website please go to the Office of Research Integrity website: http://cms.bsu.edu/About/AdministrativeOffices/ResearchIntegrity/CITITraining.aspx Have you and all Key Personnel completed the online training modules?
If no, please list who has not completed the CITI Training and a proposed date for completion:
*If this is your first BSU IRB submission, please include a PDF copy of your CITI Training certificates, along with other key personnel. PLEASE NOTE: If this is a Federally funded project, the PI and all key personnel must also complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training, along with the Basic/Refresher Course. The RCR training is located on CITI’s website. OTHER TRAINING Are there any specialized training(s) required for your project (for example, certification for medical procedure, training in crisis response, etc.)? Yes No If yes, please explain and state if key personnel have been trained:
KEY PERSONNEL List all Key Personnel, other than the PI, who will have a role in the research project:
Department/Other Institution, Organization, or School
Title (Co-PI, Research Asst., Faculty Advisor, etc.)
Dr. Thalia Mulvihill
Dr. Mulvihill will have access to the raw data an will help to guide the study.
*Attach additional personnel, if necessary, as a separate document titled “Additional Key Personnel” Principal Investigator Agreement: I have read and understand Ball State University’s “Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research” as stated in the Faculty and Professional Personnel Handbook, and I agree: a. to accept responsibility for the scientific and ethical conduct of this research study, b. to obtain IRB approval prior to revising or altering the research protocol or the approved informed consent text, and c. to report immediately to the IRB any serious adverse events and/or unanticipated problems occur as a results of this study. The Principal Investigator MUST electronically sign this study within IRBNet prior to submitting this protocol to the IRB for review. When you sign this study as the Principal Investigator, you are also agreeing to the terms in the Principal Investigator Assurance Statement above. EXPORT AND DEEMED EXPORT CONTROL The below questions are required by to be answered as part of Federal Export and Deemed Export Control Regulations and as part of Ball State University’s Export/Deemed Export Control Program. These regulations apply to any transfer of, release of, or access to, controlled technologies/organisms either to a foreign country or by a nonpermanent resident foreign national in this country. Key definitions: Foreign National: A foreign national who is any individual who is not a natural-born US citizen or: (1) is granted permanent residence, as demonstrated by the issuance of a permanent resident visa
168 (i.e., “Green Card”); (2) is granted U.S. citizenship; or (3) is granted status as a “protected person” under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). Dual-Use: The technology/organism has both civilian and military uses. Fundamental Research: “…basic and applied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily published and shared broadly within the scientific community.” (15 CFR §734.8) In general, for research to be considered “fundamental” it needs to have unrestricted access and/or dissemination (such as through publications, public presentations, available on the Internet, etc.). Proprietary results/data/products (or where these are will not be publically available) are generally not considered fundamental research. Released: When technology or organisms are available to foreign nationals for visual inspection (such as reading technical specifications, plans, blueprints, etc.); when technology is exchanged orally; or when technology is made available by practice or application under the guidance of persons with knowledge of the technology. Technology: Specific information necessary for the “development,” “production,” or “use” of a product. Use: Specific information necessary for the operation, installation (including on-site installation), maintenance (checking), repair, overhaul and refurbishing of a product. 1. Does the research involve any of the below situations? Yes (Complete this section) No (Skip to next section) • • • • • • • Government. •
US Federally funded and the funder will control/restrict the release of research results/products. Research is funded by and/or will flow through a foreign government. Involves proprietary technologies and/or computer/communications source codes. Uses technologies/organisms that are classified as “dual-use.” The research/data/product has (or will have) release and/or access restrictions (beyond a reasonable/customary review period). Research involves classified information/technology. Technology/software/data being used is under the exclusive control of the US
Involves controlled/restricted weapons, law enforcement, security/surveillance, and/or nonpublically available encryption technologies and/or information. • Uses GPS technologies in a foreign country. • Technology/software/information will be transferred to, released to and/or left in a foreign country. • Involves items known to be on the Commerce Control List by the Government Printing Office (GPO). The file is updated every 48 hours. (http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov) • A member of the research team is a non-permanent resident foreign national (please also fill out question #3 below). If yes to any, please explain:
Is the purpose/product of the proposed research to be “fundamental research? Yes No
Supplemental information about non-permanent resident foreign national research team member(s): a. Is the foreign national(s) in this country? Yes No Working both here and abroad b. Has the foreign national(s) filed a new (revised) I-129 Form, or other appropriate Immigration form, with BSU’s Human Resources Office? Yes No Do not know c. What is the foreign national’s country of citizenship? d. d.
If the research/data/product is classified as “fundamental research” or determined to be exempt from Federal Export Control or Deemed Export Control regulations then no special license(s) will be required. If controlled Exports/Deemed Exports are (or will be) involved, then specific Federal licenses may be required. RESEARCH PROJECT INFORMATION PROJECT TITLE: Leading a Comic Book Life: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences Using Comic Books in Higher Education
SUBJECT INFORMATION Number of Subjects (Estimate or Range):
Female Both Male and Female
Age of Subjects-
SUBJECT POPULATION Normal Adult Population Students (≥ 18 years old)
170 Minors/Students (≤ 17 years old)* Pregnant Women (for studies involving physical experiments, examinations, and medical research)* Prisoners* People with Diminished Capacities* Persons undergoing and/or receiving health, medical, rehabilitative, treatment/services, etc.* Persons undergoing Social/Psychological counseling* Other (explain): Educators that have used Comic Books to teach in Higher Education Courses
*Protected Population: This will require either Expedited or Full Board Review. Please explain the purpose of using this population:
SUBJECT RECRUITMENT Will the study be advertised on any media? Yes If yes, what media will be used? (Check all that apply) BSU Communication Center (Mass BSU Email) Radio Departmental Pool/Email Flyer/Print Television Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Other (explain):
Recruitment Procedures: Please describe your recruitment procedures: Send emails to authors who have published works or identified themselves as comics scholars. Snowball sampling may be used as those who agree to be interviewed may suggest other educators.
SUBJECT INCLUSION/EXCLUSION CRITERIA State any Inclusion Criteria that the subject must meet to be considered for the study: Must be over 18 and must have used comic books in their higher education courses.
State any Exclusion Criteria that would eliminate the subject prior to the study or after the study has started (e.g., the subject experiences symptoms that would put him/her at great risk, or the subject is not adhering to the protocol, etc.):
POTENTIAL RISKS/DISCOMFORTS TO THE SUBJECT Will there be any anticipated potential risks or discomforts to the subject(s) during the study? Yes No If yes, indicate whether the study is minimal risk or greater than minimal risk and explain. (The federal regulations (45 CFR 46) define minimal risk thusly: “…the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves that those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests.”):
MINIMIZING THE SUBJECT(S) RISK Describe the precautions and safeguards that will be in place to minimize the risks to the subject. For research involving the risk of physical injury, describe the available emergency care in the event of a research-related injury. For research involving psychological risks, describe any plans for intervention (including reporting that may be mandated by federal/state law or licensure) and the events or subject responses that would prompt the exercise of such plans: Although a disclosure of the participants’ identities could be a potential risk within a qualitative study, every precaution will be taken to protect the participants’ privacy and confidentiality, which includes confidentiality of and access to any records (i.e., raw data such as interview recordings and transcriptions that produce narratives based on the qualitative data analyses, the student-researcher’s field notes) generated as a result of the proposed research. Any information provided by the participants involved in this research will be kept confidential. The participants’ pseudonyms will be used during the data analyses and in writing about the study and communicating its findings.
SUBJECT AND STUDY BENEFITS Describe any potential benefits of the research to the subject and/or to society. Incentives and enjoyment of the study should not be considered as benefits. Keep in mind that some studies may not involve direct benefits to the subjects, but instead benefits may be accrued to society rather than to the individual. If
172 there are no benefits to the participant, then state, “no direct benefits.” No direct benefits
PROJECT SITE LOCATION (Location of data collection, interviews, or site where study will be conducted) Ball State University/Burris Laboratory School Building/Lab: Room Number(s):
Off-Site Location Location(s): Comic Conventions
Off-Site School School Name and Location:
Internet (Be sure to read any policy regarding data ownership and protection) Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Online Survey Survey Monkey Qualtrics, InQisit Other: Skype
Other Internet Sites:
IU Ball Memorial Hospital Please contact Alfreda Bright- [email protected], BMH’s IRB to coordinate IRB review.
173 International Countries List Countries:
U.S. Based Field Study Other (Explain):
PLEASE NOTE: For research conducted at non-BSU institutions or organizations, a Letter of Support is required. The Letter of Support must be on the institution or organization letterhead and signed by a person of authority to grant access to the site (ex. Director, Manager, Principal, Superintendent, etc.). The Letter of Support is to be uploaded on IRBNet as part of your package. An email message is NOT sufficient to meet this requirement. In cases where sites, agencies, etc. have not been identified yet, please indicate this in the narrative and make sure to upload these into your protocol once the letter is obtained. This is handled as a Modification process once the project has been approved. COLLATORATIVE/MULTI-SITE RESEARCH PROJECTS Will the proposed research project be conducted as collaborative research (i.e., research that involves two or more institutions/organizations that hold Federalwide Assurances and have duly authorized IRB’s)? *Federalwide Assurance- An institution committing to Department of Health Human Services that will comply with the requirements in the HHS Protection of Human Subjects regulations at 45 CFR part 46. Yes
(If yes, please fill out the section below)
No (skip this section)
Provide the name of the other institution(s) and IRB contact person(s) below:
Please check the items below that are applicable: All applicable IRB’s will be reviewing the protocol independently of one another. PI of record is requesting that BSU act as the IRB of Record for the proposed project. The other institution(s) will accept BSU’s IRB approval or will be defer IRB review to BSU. In the case of a deferral, please fill out and have all parties sign the IRB Deferral Request Form and submit that
174 with the application package. A complete and signed IRB Deferral Request Form is needed before final IRB approval can be granted. PI of record is requesting that BSU defer to another institution’s IRB (must be duly authorized and the institutions must have a currently active Federal Wide Assurance on record with OHRP). In the case of a deferral, please fill out and have all parties sign the IRB Deferral Request Form and submit that to the Office of Research Integrity for review. The other institution(s) does not have an IRB and/or a current Federal Wide Assurance. FUNDING Is the project currently funded?
Is funding being sought for this project? Yes
If yes to either question, please answer the following questions: List the agency(s) and/or sources: BSU Funded/Support Federally Funded (Please also fill out the Significant Financial Conflict of Interest section) Name of Federal Agency (i.e., NIH, DHHS, NSF, etc.):
Private (Corporate, Foundation or Individual Sponsor) Name:
If the title of the grant application or contract differs from the title of the IRB protocol, also specify the grant/contract title:
SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST, CONFLICT OF INTEREST/CONFLICT OF COMMITMENT STATEMENT If this research project is Federally funded, either directly (ex. you are the grant recipient) or indirectly (ex. you are a sub-awardee), have you (PI) and your BSU research team members (faculty, staff, and/or students) filed the Annual Significant Financial Conflict of Interest (SFCI) Statement form? Yes No If no, please explain:
I and all applicable BSU research team members have also reviewed the BSU “Policy on Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment” and have filed, or will file, all necessary paperwork (if applicable). This includes student researchers. The policy can be found on pages 200–203 of the Faculty and Professional Handbook. DATA CONFIDENTIALITY/ANONYMITY Describe the provisions for maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of the subject and data, as appropriate. Data is considered to be anonymous only if there are no means by which the researcher may identify the subject with his/her data at any time during the study. When coding the identity of the subject and his or her data by using personal identifiers, there exists a means for identifying the subject, and therefore the data is considered to be confidential. Any information provided by the particpants will be kept confidential. With the permission from the participants, interviews will be recorded using a digital recorder or a skype recording computer program. The recordings will be transcribed, but participants’ names and other identifying information (e.g., college affiliation) will not be included in the transcriptions. After each interview is transcribed and its authenticity is validated by listening to the interview recording and reviewing the transcription, the original recording will be deleted from the digital recorder; hence, within the context of this study the interview transcriptions (or narratives) will be regarded as data. Further, the interview narratives, field notes, and the narratives generated through the analyses will be stored on a password-protected computer. Any printed materials, for example printed transcriptions for the purpose of the analysis and hand-written field notes or furnished artifacts will be kept in a locked file cabinet in either the student-researcher’s home or faculty supervisor’s (Dr. Mulvihill’s) office. Only the student-researcher, the principal investigator (Christina Blanch) and the faculty supervisor (Dr. Thalia Mulvihill) will have access to the interview recordings, transcriptions, and field notes. A copy of the participant informed consent form is attached.
176 DATA- COLLECTION, STORAGE AND SECURITY 1. Will any information regarding participant’s identity (e.g., names, student IDs, etc.) be recorded? Yes No If yes, please explain why and what security measures will be taken:
If yes, will the identifying information be stored with participant’s responses? Yes No If yes, please explain why and what security measures will be taken:
2. Are you planning to use the participant’s identity on publications or presentations? Yes No If yes, please explain:
3. Will you be using Audio or Video Recording for your study? Yes No Will the recordings be used for presentations or publications? Yes* No *If yes, you will need to have the participant sign the Media Permission Form (located on our website) 4. Where will the data (electronic/paper) be stored during and after study is complete? (Check all that apply) Locked Cabinet/Office Password Protected Computer/Flash Drive/CD/DVD Home- Indicate the secure location the data will be stored in the house: Locked filing cabinet
177 Other (explain):
3 years 5. How long will you keep the data? If the data is being retained indefinitely, please provide an explanation for why and ensure that an easy to read version is also provided in the Informed Consent:
6. Who will have access to the raw data besides yourself? (Check all that apply) Faculty Advisor Research Team (Co-PI, Research Assistant, Graduate Assistant, etc.) Off Campus Collaborator Sponsor Federal Agency (NIH, FDA, NSF, etc.) Other (Explain):
SPECIAL TYPES OF DATA 1. Will educational records or information found in educational records, as defined under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) be used? Yes No If yes, has the institution performed a FERPA assessment to determine if an exemption to the FERPA signed release authorization requirement been met, or will you get signed authorization for release information? Yes No If yes, please include a copy of the assessment (or letter from appropriate school official) or a copy of the authorization form to be used. If no, please explain:
2. Will health, medical or psychological records or information found in the medical records, as defined under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), be use? Yes No If yes, has the applicable institution’s Privacy Officer performed a HIPAA assessment to determine if an exemption to the HIPAA signed release authorization for research requirement exists, or will you get signed authorization for release of information for research? Yes No If yes, please include a copy of the assessment (or letter from appropriate Privacy Officer) or a copy of the authorization form to be used. If no, please explain:
3. Does this study involve any deception or coercion? Deception- includes withholding information for the purpose of the study. Coercion- includes intimidation, threats or force to participate. Yes No If yes, please describe the nature of the deception or coercion and include a copy of the debriefing script:
COMPENSATION 1. Are subjects being paid or receive incentives for participating in the study? 2. Are subjects being reimbursed for expenses? 3. Will students receive extra credit for a course if participating in the study? 4. Will students receive class or departmental research credit for their participation? 5. Is there a completion bonus? 6. Will there be compensation for research-related injury? 7. Other (explain):
Yes Yes Yes
No No No
Yes Yes Yes
No No No
8. 8. If you answered “YES” to any question, provide an explanation. If you are paying participants, provide the source of those funds:
If you are using BSU funds, you will need to contact the BSU Office of University Controller (765285-8444) or visit their website for procedures and policies regarding tax information to be collected from participants. http://cms.bsu.edu/About/AdministrativeOffices/Controller/Resources/APGI.aspx SUBJECT FINANCIAL EXPENSES Will subjects have any financial expenses to participate in the study? (i.e.., travel/gas, food, hotel, etc.) NOTE: If a participant has to travel to the location site to participate in the study via car, plane, train, bus, etc., they will incur financial expense. Yes
If yes, please explain:
STUDY NARRATIVE/PROTOCOL PURPOSE OF THE STUDY State the objectives of the research and, when appropriate, any hypotheses you have developed for the research. The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators’ perspectives and experiences with the use of comic books in their courses and how it affects and informs their teaching and their professional identities. Research questions involve: 1) experiences of educators who use comic books; 2) what factors have shaped their experiences; 3) and what is the value in using comic books in the classroom.
RATIONALE Explain the need for the research. Describe the data that the project is expected to provide and how the data will contribute to existing information in the field. Provide a concise description of the previous work in the field. Findings from this study may help educators to modify their pedagogical methods in ways that will benefit students.
RESEARCH REFERENCES/CITATIONS List any references/citations that you researched based on your study purpose and rationale for your project. If no references/citations not used, please explain. Lincoln, Y.S., Guba, E.G. & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry: The Paradigm revolution. London: Sage. Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Method. London: Sage Publications. Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
METHODS AND PROCEDURES Describe the study and design in detail and all procedures in which the subject will be asked to participate. If surveys and questionnaires are used for the study, how will be returned to the researcher? If the research involves more than one visit to the research location, specify the procedures to take place at each session, the amount of time for each session, the amount of time between sessions, and the total duration of the participation. If multiple researchers will be involved in the project, identify who will conduct which procedures. Upload all surveys, questionnaires, interview questions, or any other study instruments to IRBNet as separate documents. The PI will meet with each individual subject at a mutually convenient site for the interviews which will last approximately 2 hours. A semi-structured (Patton, 1990) interview protocol will be employed. During the interviews, subjects will be asked a variety of questions regarding their use of comic books as teaching tools in the classroom and their experiences during the classes. The semi-structured interview questions are attached separately. The interviews will be recorded using an audio-recorder or a skype recording computer program. The interviews will be transcribed verbatim by the PI (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) Pseudonyms will be used in place of the participants’ real names, as well as the names of any persons and /or places mentioned in the transcript or in any report or publication. An inductive data analysis process will be used whereby a system of open, axial, and thematic coding (Saldana, 2009; Strauss and Corbin, 1998) will be employed to arrive at the findings.
INFORMED CONSENT Please indicate what type of Informed Consent (IC) will be used for this study. (Check all that apply): Adult Parental Permission (Minors) Child Assent (This needs to be written in age appropriate language)
Informed Consent Waiver Request: Are you applying for an alteration of the IC process or a waiver of the IC signature requirement? Yes No If YES, check all that apply and explain: Anonymous Online or Paper Survey Phone Interview Signed Informed Consent will be the only piece of identifiable information collected and there are risks associated with identification. There are significant (additional) risks to participants by signing the Informed Consent. International/Cultural Taboo Participants are illiterate or literacy comprehension is a significant concern. Other:
If any box is checked, please explain:
PLEASE NOTE: If English is not the primary language of the participants, then the IC form must also be written in the participants’ native language. Include the translated IC forms with your package and a statement as to how (or by whom) the IC’s were translated. OTHER DOCUMENTS AND FORMS List all additional documents and forms required for your study that you submitted on IRBNet. Make sure you attach the documents and forms with your IRBNet submission. Email requesting participation Interview Script Informed Consent Form Interview Questions
The new package created for submission for this Human Subjects Research Application and Narrative must be electronically signed within IRBNet by the Principal Investigator (and Faculty Advisor, when applicable). Your electronic signature indicates your certification that the information provided in this document is accurate and current.
182 Introductory Letter
Dear (Educator name here): I am collecting information regarding the use of comic books in higher education for my dissertation titled “Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books.” I would like to interview you to gather data for this study. The interview would take approximately two hours and can be scheduled at your discretion. I would appreciate your assistance in this study and encourage you to take part in this unique study that will contribute to innovative pedagogical practices in higher education and could help to define this emerging group of comic book scholars. I can be reached at [email protected] at any time to set up an interview time and location, answer any questions, or to clarify any parameters of the study. Thank you for your assistance in this endeavor. Christina Blanch Department of Educational Studies Ball State University Muncie, IN 47306 [email protected] 765-717-0635
Consent Form Study Title Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books. Study Purpose and Rationale The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and professional identities. Findings from this study may be used to help define the comic book scholar and help comic book scholars with their identities. As of this time, there is no agreed upon definition for a comic book scholar as there are limited programs to receive degrees and very few comic book scholars teaching that have degrees in a comic related field (as they did not exist when earning their degrees). It may help to place the field of comic book studies in the broader spectrum of academia. Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria To be eligible to participate in this study, you must identify yourself as a comic scholar. Participation Procedures and Duration For this project, you will be asked questions about your feeling and perceptions on the your education, identity, and experiences. It will take approximately 2 hours to complete the
183 interview. Audio or Video Tapes For purposes of accuracy, with your permission, the interviews will be audio taped or recorded with a skype recorder. The records will be stored in a locked filing cabinet during the process and will be kept indefinitely. Data Confidentiality or Anonymity The raw data will be maintained as confidential but pseudonyms will not be used due to the small nature of the comic book scholar community. Storage of Data Paper data will be stored in a locked filing cabinet in the researcher’s office. The data will also be entered into a software program and stored on the researcher’s password-protected computer. The data will be kept indefinitely. Only members of the research team will have access to the raw data. Risks or Discomforts The only anticipated risk from participating in this study is that you may not feel comfortable answering some of the questions. You may choose not to answer any question that makes you uncomfortable and you may quit the study at any time. Benefits One benefit you may gain from participating in this study may be a better understanding of what comic studies means across different disciplines. Voluntary Participation Your participation in this study is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw your permission at any time for any reason without penalty or prejudice from the investigator. Please feel free to ask any questions of the investigator before signing this form and at any time during the study. IRB Contact Information For questions about your rights as a research subject, please contact the Director, Office of Research Integrity, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306, (765) 285-5070 or at [email protected]
184 Study Title Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books. ********** Consent I, ___________________, agree to participate in this research project titled, “Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books.” I have had the study explained to me and my questions have been answered to my satisfaction. I have read the description of this project and give my consent to participate. I understand that I will receive a copy of this informed consent form to keep for future reference. To the best of my knowledge, I meet the inclusion/exclusion criteria for participation (described on the previous page) in this study.
________________________________ Participant’s Signature
Researcher Contact Information Principal Investigator:
Christina L. Blanch, Doctoral Candidate Educational Studies Ball State University Muncie, IN 47306 Telephone: (765) 717-0635 Email: [email protected]
Dr. Thalia Mulvihill Educational Studies Ball State University Muncie, IN 47306 Telephone: (765) 285-5463 Email: [email protected]
185 Interview Script Christina L. Blanch Ball State University Study Title. Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books Interview Script. The following statement will be read to the participants before the interview begins. The interview will not begin until verbal consent has been given to the PI by the participant. Before we begin, I will read this information to you which will explain the purpose of the study and the procedures and participation information. The purpose of this dissertation is to gain an in-depth understanding of educators who identify as comic book scholars and how their experiences affect and inform their personal and professional identities. To be eligible to participate in this study, you must identify yourself as a comic scholar. You will be asked questions about your feeling and perceptions on your education, identity, and experiences. It will take approximately 2 hours to complete the interview. For purposes of accuracy the interviews will be audio taped or recorded with a skype recorder or a similar program. All raw data will be maintained as confidential and will only be accessed by the research team. However, pseudonyms will not be used due to the small community of comic book scholars. You may choose not to answer any question that makes you uncomfortable and you may quit the study at any time. Your participation in this study is completely voluntary and you are free to withdraw your permission at any time for any reason without penalty or prejudice from the investigator. Please feel free to ask any questions of the investigator before signing this form and at any time during the study. Do you understand this information and agree to be interviewed?
186 Interview questions Christina L. Blanch Ball State University Title. Searching for the Comic Book Scholar: An Autoethnographic Study of Educators’ Experiences with Comic Books. Interview Questions. The following are a list of questions that will be included in the semistructured interview. 1) Describe your personal experience with comic books. 2) How do you define a scholar? Published author? Publish in certain journals? Teach in the field? Researcher? College degree? 3) What are your political and social views? 4) What is your area of expertise? 5) If you have a degree, in what field did you get your degree? 6) How has that degree helped with your role as a comic book scholar? 7) What do you publish, teach, research in your field? 8) How do you define comics? 9) Why do you choose to identify as a comic book scholar? 10) What reactions do you get from other scholars when you identify as a comic book scholar? From colleagues? From friends? 11) What do you believe your role is as a comic book scholar? 12) How do you present yourself as a comic book scholar? 13) Do you present at conference about comics? If so, what kind of conferences? 14) What do you think are your qualifications to be called a comic book scholar? 15) When did you start using comic books in your research or your teaching? How did you come to that decision?
187 16) How has identifying as a comic book scholar affected your pedagogy? Do you integrate visuals into your teaching more readily? 17) Do you have a support group of comic scholars? Please explain, if yes. If no, would you be interested in having such a group? 18) Where do you see the field of comic studies headed? Housed in another department such as English, Art, Education, or Popular Culture? 19) Can a comics scholar be a comic writer/artist without a degree? Please explain your answer. (Ex. Paul Levitz, Trina Robbins, Scott McCloud) 20) Do you think it is harder on you being a comic scholar than it would if you were in a more traditional area of study? 21) Did you ever take a class in higher education that used comic books as teaching tools? 22) In your opinion, what are some of the best scholarly books or articles on comics? 23) How do you think using comic books fosters effective learning? 24) What is your opinion on the value of comic books in higher education? 25) What criteria do you use when determining what comic book to use in your studies?
188 Appendix B Comics Dissertation List Ayala Garcia, P. (2009). Comic books and the experience of self-fulfillment: A study with high school students (Order No. 3348569). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304866578) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304866578?accountid=8483 Aydin, A. V. B. (2012). The comic book that changed the world (Order No. 1530823). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1267139830). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1267139830?accountid=8483 Baldwin, F. N. (2011). The passage of the comic book to the animated film: The case of the smurfs (Order No. 1511409). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1012121057). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1012121057?accountid=8483 Battistelli, B. (2004). Cinematic superheroes: A study of image and narrative comprehension in the contemporary comic book film adaptation (Order No. EP30306). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305054169). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305054169?accountid=8483 Beda, G. M. (1996). Comic art as medicine: “Calvin and Hobbes” and the subjective nature of reality (Order No. 1382549). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304355347). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304355347?=8483 Bernstein, S. (1949). Behavior and interest patterns of comic book readers and non-comic book readers in a tenth grade (Order No. EP56118). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1627780313). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1627780313?accountid=8483 Berry, M. S. (2007). The use of Scott McCloud’s transitional theory in comic book analysis as a paradigm for creating an effective critical mime theory (Order No. 3282919). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304712758). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304712758?accountid=8483 Black, J. O. (2014). From audience to public: Comic book fanzines in the seventies and eighties (Order No. 1556253). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1540775010). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1540775010?accountid=8483 Blakely, W. P. (1957). A study of seventh grade children’s reading of comic books as related to certain other variables (Order No. 0022073). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (301916980). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/301916980?accountid=8483 Branscum, P. W. (2011). Designing and evaluating an after-school social cognitive theory based comic book intervention for the prevention of childhood obesity among elementary aged school children (Order No. 3475137). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (900691442). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/900691442?accountid=8483
189 Brown, E. H. (1982). Wholistic reading comprehension through comic book art production (Order No. 8223110). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303063614). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303063614?accountid=8483 Brown, J. A. (1997). New heroes: Gender, race, fans and comic book superheroes (Order No. NQ27882). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304394534). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304394534?accountid=8483 Burke, B. P. (2012). Using comic books and graphic novels to improve and facilitate community college students’ literacy development (Order No. 3546922). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1267740425). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1267740425?accountid=8483 Bush, W. S. (1997). Reaction as image: Comic books and American life, 1940–1955 (Order No. 1387118). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304401378). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304401378?accountid=8483 Caraballo Cintron, F. (2003). The comic book as an alternative medium for the teaching of basic reading skills (Order No. 1416202). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305289814). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305289814?accountid=8483 Carpenter, S. W. (2003). Imagining identity: Ethnographic investigations into the work of creating images of race, gender, and ethnicity in comic books (Order No. 3090132). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305308472). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305308472?accountid=8483 Carter, J. D. (1995). Comic book violence and aggression (Order No. 1375871). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (231595384). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/231595384?accountid=8483 Casey, R. F., IV. (2003). Visual depictions of the stages of grief within 9-11 comic books (Order No. 1414968). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305274565). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305274565?accountid=8483 Castleberry, G. (2010). Incorporating flow for a comic book] corrective of rhetcon (Order No. 1485531). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (744523612). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/744523612?accountid=8483 Cross, D. J. (2011). An historical and visual rhetorical analysis of superman comic books, 1938– 1945 (Order No. 1508388). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1010410203). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1010410203?accountid=8483 Davidson, S. M. (1959). Culture and the comic strips (Order No. 7322942). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (301902367). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/301902367?accountid=8483 Dean, M. P. (2000). The ninth art: Traversing the cultural space of the American comic book (Order No. 9984840). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304638887). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304638887?accountid=8483 Di Fazio, J. S. (1973). A content analysis to determine the presence of selected American values found in comic books during tow time periods, 1946–1950, 1966–1970 (Order No. 7407366). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (302658352). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/302658352?accountid=8483
190 Dorrell, L. D. (1980). Comic books and circulation in a public junior high school library (Order No. 8117417). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303019569). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303019569?accountid=8483 Edwards, B. (2008). Motivation and middle school readers: Graphic novels, comic books, and free voluntary reading time (Order No. 3304228). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304486184). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304486184?accountid=8483 Evans, D. K. (1995). Social and political commentary in superhero comic books: A critical history (Order No. 1378461). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304278061). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304278061?accountid=8483 Fawaz, R. (2012). Heroic measures: Comic book superheroes and the cultural politics of popular fantasy in postwar America (Order No. 3502748). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1009081573). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1009081573?accountid=8483 Flannery-Quinn, S. (2003). The portrayals of male parents in Caldecott award-winning American picture books (1938–2002): Examining the culture of fatherhood presented to young people (Order No. 3081654). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304133851). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304133851?accountid=8483 Frail, J. H., Jr. (2004). Powers and abilities far behind those of mortal men: An examination of the comic book industry and subculture through a feminist sociological perspective (Order No. 1422495). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305070563). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305070563?accountid=8483 Gerard, S. (2006). Drawn onward: Representing the autobiographical self in the field of comic book production (Order No. MR19660). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & ThesesA&I. (304982847). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304982847?accountid=8483 Glutek, T. L. (1986). Differences in children’s perception of gender roles in comic books and parents (Order No. ML32011). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303477295). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303477295?accountid=8483 Gordon, I. L. (1993). Envisioning consumer culture: Comic strips, comic books, and advertising in America, 1890–1945 (Order No. 9313860). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304049957). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304049957?accountid=8483 Gronsky, D. G. E. (2009). Frame to frame: A historical analysis of the evolution and propagation of the comic book film (Order No. 3351333). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304869731). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304869731?accountid=8483 Hall, R. A. (2011). The Captain America conundrum: Issues of patriotism, race, and gender in Captain America comic books, 1941–2001 (Order No. 3480639). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (900573461). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/900573461?accountid=8483
191 Hanna, E. M. (2014). Making fandom work: Industry space and structures of power at the San Diego comic-con (Order No. 3636561). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1615824432). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1615824432?accountid=8483 Harbi, A. (2011). Using the comic book to teach human values as bedrock for good governance (Order No. 1500206). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (898971952). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/898971952?accountid=8483 Hayes, J. R. (2012). Goddess in a cape: Feminine divine as comic book superhero (Order No. 1519169). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1095402095). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1095402095?accountid=8483 Heath, P. J. J. (2012). Funny in the funnies: The formalist comedy of comic strips (Order No. MR88059). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1039725556). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1039725556?accountid=8483 Heisler, F. A. (1944). Characteristics of elementary-school children who read comic books, attend the movies, and prefer serial radio programs (Order No. 7308589). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (301836467). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/301836467?accountid=8483 Helman, A. (2010). A cognitive-behavioral anger management comic book for adolescents (Order No. 3436967). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (846918446). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/846918446?accountid=8483 Helvie, F. C. (2013). Capes and the canon: Comic book superheroes and canonical American literature (Order No. 3604316). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1476211593). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1476211593?accountid=8483 Hirsch, P. S. (2013). Pulp empire: Comic books, culture, and U.S. foreign policy, 1941–1955 (Order No. 3559797). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1354493165). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1354493165?accountid=8483 Hopkins, K. (2011). Superheroes & the small screen: Articles on the representation of comic book characters on television (Order No. 1505314). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (918661253). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/918661253?accountid=8483 Howard, S. C. (2010). The continuity and extension of African-American communication dynamics through black comic strips (Order No. 3402778). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305205277). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305205277?accountid=8483 Jerome, C. (2013). Encounter at comic con (Order No. 1542127). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1425296640). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1425296640?accountid=8483 Johnson, R. N. (1998). Mainstream and margins in the postwar British comic novel (Order No. 9836700). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304458079). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304458079?accountid=8483
192 Krusemark, R. (2014). The role of critical thinking in reader perceptions of leadership in comic books (Order No. 3681365). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1655594810). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1655594810?accountid=8483 Kurzrok, A. (1993). “The kids from ‘Help.’ look at loss and life”: The inception, conceptual framework and creation of a comic strip and psychodynamically established text for increasing psychological awareness and motivating insight orientation and personal growth in the lay public (Order No. 9423682). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304078877). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304078877?accountid=8483 Langager, R. (2006). History in the gutters: A critical examination of Chester Brown’s “Louis Riel: A comic-strip biography” (Order No. MR29886). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304955902). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304955902?accountid=8483 LaTouche, J. (2005). Comic books and communities of memory (Order No. 3170480). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305394091). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305394091?accountid=8483 Lesko, L. K. (2013). Is Wonder Woman truly a feminist icon, just another mysogynistic instrument or something else entirely? Tracing the female form in comic books from the Golden Age to today’s graphic novels (Order No. 1542869). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1427377149). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1427377149?accountid=8483 Leung, M. M. (2010). “Fight for your right to fruit (c)”: Development and testing of a manga comic promoting fruit intake in middle-school youth (Order No. 3418569). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (753565358). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/753565358?accountid=8483 Lippert, D. L. (1991). Alienation and comic books: The construction of good and evil in “the Fantastic Four” (Order No. EP24432). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303928466). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303928466?accountid=8483 Lunning, N. F. (2000). Comic books: Sex and death at the edge of modernity (Order No. 9954775). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304607284). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304607284?accountid=8483 Mahoney, C. C. (1997). A content analysis of family relationships in six superhero comic book series (Order No. 1385068). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304356230). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304356230?accountid=8483 Mann, L. J., I., II. (2011). Reading comic books aloud to young struggling deaf readers: A descriptive study (Order No. 1514085). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1021958501). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1021958501?accountid=8483 Marques, S. G. (2009). The funny pages in black and not-quite-white: Race, class and Imperialism in American comic strips, 1924–1929 (Order No. MR63215). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (578464089). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/578464089?accountid=8483
193 Marshall, S. (1992). Toward a literary treatment of comic books (Order No. MM71205). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304030762). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304030762?accountid=8483 Martin, G. I. (1992). Secondary English students’ responses to classics illustrated comic books (Order No. 9324913). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303992389). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303992389?accountid=8483 McKenna, L. (2014). A disease of purchase: Consumerism culture and comic books (Order No. 3668037). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1647473137). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1647473137?accountid=8483 Miller, J. A. (2001). Critical analysis of comic strips: A semiological approach (Order No. 3010854). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (252319694). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/252319694?accountid=8483 Moeller, R. A. (2008). “No thanks, those are boy books”: A feminist cultural analysis of graphic novels as curricular materials (Order No. 3331264). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304607149). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304607149?accountid=8483 Nelson, A. G. (2012). “Holy ethical dilemma Batman!” comic books and the development of moral understanding (Order No. 1513943). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1021826447). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1021826447?accountid=8483 Nystrom, E. A. (1989). A rejection of order, the development of the newspaper comic strip in America, 1830–1920 (Order No. 8923147). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303789130). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303789130?accountid=8483 Okamoto, R. (1999). Pictorial propaganda in Japanese comic art, 1941–1945: Images of the self and the other in a newspaper strip, single-panel cartoons, and cartoon leaflets (Order No. 9921187). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304527119). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304527119?accountid=8483 Pensky, V. I. (2012). Comic book art is a visual language that continues to influence societal change and heighten creative innovation within other entertainment medias (Order No. 1522137). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1314408570). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1314408570?accountid=8483 Plencner, J. M. (2014). Four-color political visions: Origin, affect, and assemblage in American superhero comic books (Order No. 3673110). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1652552657). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1652552657?accountid=8483 Raphael, J. (2007). Four color marvels: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and the development of comicbook fandom (Order No. 3283503). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304823206). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304823206?accountid=8483 Rendace, O. P. (2000). New forms of cultural production: The case of the North American comic book industry (Order No. MQ59198). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304643532). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304643532?accountid=8483
194 Rogers, M. C. (1997). Beyond bang! pow! zap!: Genre and the evolution of the American comic book industry (Order No. 9732173). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304355457). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304355457?accountid=8483 Rubenstein, A. G. (1994). Mexico “sin vicios”: Conservatives, comic books, censorship and the Mexican state, 1934–1976 (Order No. 9511521). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304120927). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304120927?accountid=8483 Sawyer, E. A. (2014). Postfeminism in female team superhero comic books (Order No. 1567146). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1625968421). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1625968421?accountid=8483 Schulz, M. (2005). Caped commodities and masked memories: The American comic book industry, collective memory, and the superhero (Order No. MR04316). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305374980). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305374980?accountid=8483 Seastrom-Probandt, K. (2012). The comic book superhero: His amazing journey to connect and communicate with society (Order No. 1514170). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1026563272). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1026563272?accountid=8483 Sedlar, J. H. (2008). The construction of humor in Spanish and French comic strips: A sociolinguistic perspective (Order No. 3353209). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304695336). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304695336?accountid=8483 Simmons, E. B. (2010). Humanizing the humvee: Personification techniques and visual rhetoric as used in a U.S. army technical comic book (Order No. 1476365). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (366437043). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/366437043?accountid=8483 Smith, B. (2009). Spandex cinema: Three approaches to comic book film adaptation (Order No. 1464539). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305089115). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305089115?accountid=8483 Smith, S. H. (2012). Catherine Jeffrey Jones’s “Idyl”: The comic strip in science fiction and art (Order No. 1512857). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1022992433). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1022992433?accountid=8483 Soper, K. D. (1998). Seriously funny: A history of satirical newspaper comic strips in twentieth century United States (Order No. 9830186). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304471749). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304471749?accountid=8483 Sousanis, N. (2014). Unflattening: A visual verbal inquiry into learning in many dimensions. Stephens, D. G., Jr. (2011). Target audience children: An analysis of U.S. propaganda through the comic book medium (Order No. 1502959). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (913390392). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/913390392?accountid=8483 Stoermer, M. (2009). Teaching between the frames: Making comics with seven and eight year old children, a search for craft and pedagogy (Order No. 3390308). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304902585). Retrieved from
195 http://search.proquest.com/docview/304902585?accountid=8483 Swartz, J. A. (1978). The anatomy of the comic strip and the value world of kids (Volumes I and II) (Order No. 7908225). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (302896619). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/302896619?accountid=8483 Thanki, D. (1997). Motivations behind the public display of comic strips (Order No. 1386909). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304358937). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304358937?accountid=8483 Thomas, D. M. (2003). The axis powers as depicted in United States super-hero comic books, 1938–1945: A study of the evolution of attitudes toward the enemy nations and their populations in American comic books during World War II (Order No. 1417416). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305272904). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305272904?accountid=8483 Thomas, R. W. (2005). American comic books and their reflection of cold war attitudes, 1945– 1970: A study of the depiction of communism and of communist nations in United States comic books from the end of World War II through the height of the Vietnam war (Order No. 1429561). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305369008). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305369008?accountid=8483 Trautman, C. (1992). Comic strips: A novel vehicle to promote second language proficiency. Another aspect to teaching for understanding (Order No. EP12255). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304024696). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304024696?accountid=8483 Tullis, B. N. (2014). Constructions of femininity in Latin/o american comics: Redefining womanhood via the male-authored comic (Order No. 3628458). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1559962045). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1559962045?accountid=8483 Ujiie, J. K. (2005). Read junk. It’s good for you: Dispelling the myths surrounding quality literature, comic books, series books and bestsellers (Order No. 3180341). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305423503). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305423503?accountid=8483 Urban, A. (2012). Literacy in ACTion: Using theatre to read the word and the world through critical pedagogy, image theatre and comic creation with youth (Order No. MR90244). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1197769966). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1197769966?accountid=8483 Vergara, R. A., II. (1990). Humanizing mass media: Alternative approaches to comic books during Allende’s Chile (1970–1973) (Order No. 9034582). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303876362). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303876362?accountid=8483 Wainer, A. M., Jr. (1996). Mythic expression in comic book technique: Mythopoeic aspects of Batman (Order No. 9817613). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (304339758). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304339758?accountid=8483 Warburton, T. L. (1984). Toward a theory of humor: An analysis of the verbal and nonverbal codes in “Pogo” (comics strips) (Order No. 8418368). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (303288743). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/303288743?accountid=8483
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198 Appendix C
Finding Coming into Comics
From Fandom to Academia
Coding Chart Axial Codes Loving comics from the Start I’m Batman There and Back Again Backing into Comics
Teaching in School Resonation Step into Comics All about Comics Other Courses
In Vivo Codes Reading comics alongside other things Enthusiasm/passion/love Buying for self Encouraged to write on comics Backing in Manga Batman Uncool Family members Constant Defiance Gender boundaries Learning to read Drawing/creating comics Comics history Collecting Finding comics Inside the industry Death Literacy potential Lessons Reluctant Readers Colorful images (23) Cautiousness Motivating students Stealth Graduate School Getting fired Hiding texts Author impact What I am reading Supportive departments Writing reviews Growing out of research Visual literacy Resonation Enthrusiasm Write-off Teaching another course Asked to teach
Finding a Community
First Time Comic Scholar Online Groups Finding Peers
Writers and Creators, not just Consumers and Teachers
Learning through Doing Creating Comics Educating through Other Mediums
Varied Definitions Difficult to Define
Teaching your heroes Incorporate what you love Owe it to the students Wanted to include comics Getting comics Material before the course Online teaching Research (25) Needing a network Feeling alone Online groups No support group List-serv Support like no other Working together Peers Comics mentor Who/How I want to be Conventions Conferences Responsibility Small group Outside of academia Authors becoming peers Work as fun (17) Writing using other mediums Podcasts Reviews/Interviews Blogs Publishing Writing about experiences Failing with just text Field not developed enough Mainstream sites Less critical Creator first Publish where you can Expressing grief Ways to participate Dissemination of information World bigger and smaller (16) Hard to define Know it when I see it Sequence Scott McCloud defines Panels
Filling in gaps Laying the groundwork Self-improvement and teaching Combat stigma
Central to Identity Duel Identities Changing Identities A Different Kind of Identity
Sequential art Sold as comics Images Purpose Layout Commercial products Defies definition Comic strip? (13) Goal driven Practice with purpose Narrow focus Varied approach Work to be done Really reading comics Contextualizing Stigma Writing books Long game El Guapo Self-improvement Teaching Sense of Direction Curriculum Understanding comics Publishing creatively Media shaping history (18) Identifying as comic scholar Recognition Department changes Grants Cross-disciplinary teaching Benefits to students Ways to express Publishing Making comics Roaming mind Downplay comics Cresting a wave Affecting attitudes Waxes and waning Two selves Double personality No alternative Hesitation Changing identity Comic shop (20)