As of last Wednesday, I have entered a whole new realm of geekdom. Most people keep their interest of comic books or sci-fi to a purely amateur, general level. I have become a genuine scholar of the geek arts. Or, at least I will be when I complete my college course on comic books.
The course is specifically called Visual Words: From Comic Books to Graphic Novels. My fellow students seem to be predominantly made up of people working towards a diploma who were looking for an easy gen ed. Since there is no diploma for comic book appreciation, I’m taking this course purely for my own enjoyment. And to brag to other nerds.
Honestly, though, I’m really looking forward to the unique opportunity that it provides. With my other comic book fan friends, all we really talk about is trivial stuff. “Can you name all of Batman’s Robins?” “Can you believe they brought Bucky back?” “Before Watchmen is so lame, right?” But this class is going to be about analysis and discussion. I’m hoping to broaden my ability to discuss comics from a literary stand point.
The reading list is pretty cool. The only two I’ve read previously are Pride Of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Nico Henrichon and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The other three are Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Death Ray by Daniel Clowes and Signal To Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Admittedly, these are a bit more literary than my general comic book interests lay. For example, I would have suggested Scott Pilgrim or The Authority or even the great Superman story “For The Man Who Has Everything.” I think those better exemplify a typical comic book story.
But, who am I to question the choices of our illustrious instructor. She (yes, gentlemen, the teacher of this class is indeed of the fairer sex) has picked comics that go from a more commercial standpoint to a more scholarly one. For instance, Baghdad is about a group of cute lions who escape from their zoo in Baghdad and wander through their war torn city. While the subtext definitely presents an interesting take on war and its effects on bystanders, the Disney-esque art style helps make it more palatable for a broader audience. Persepolis, on the other hand, is a more realistic depiction of war and the toll it takes. This is a biographical graphic novel about the author’s childhood in Iran during the late 70s and 80s. I’m looking forward to the inevitable comparison of the two stories.
Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the weeks where we discuss Watchmen. Each class is supposed to be three hours and, according to the syllabus, three weeks are supposed to be devoted to the critically acclaimed comic book. Is nine hours really enough time to cover the ridiculously dense 12 issue maxi-series? I guess we’ll see. But, considering how big it has become since the movie and the recent announcement of the prequel stories, I imagine there will be quite a few perspectives on the topic.
So far, I’ve only had the one class. It was a quick getting to know you class, so I don’t even know if it really counts. Tomorrow is when we get into the really nitty gritty stuff, and I hope to keep you posted on anything particularly interesting that we learn. If you want to follow along, Persepolis is the first book on our reading list. Let me know what you think!
Graham Becksted is having a hard time keeping up with his monthlies while reading these graphic novels for class. He leads a hard life. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 64th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.