Friday, August 31, 2007


There’s something new in the classroom this week. From Lerner’s Graphic Universe collection come two hybrid comics, which are part of the Twisted Journeys series. Remember the old “choose your own adventure” books from back in the day? Here you have them presented in a new prose/comic format. I cannot wait to give it a look-see. Issue 1 of The Mice Templar came in this week too. I’ve been waiting for this title and I am glad to get my hands on it.

  1. The Mice Templar
  2. Teen Titans Go! 46
  3. Twisted Journeys 1: Escape from Pyramid X
  4. Twisted Journeys 2: Captured by Pirates

Friday, August 24, 2007


(Issue #1)

(Issue #2)

AUTHOR: Antony Johnston and Dan Evans
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
GENRE: Western/Fantasy

PAGES: 32 pages each
COLOR: Full Color

The world of TEXAS STRANGERS is a semi-alternative universe that has connections to our own. Not quite our world and not entirely new either, this story makes use of known landmarks and history and combines that with magic and fantasy, all of which is centered around a western backdrop.

Twins, Madara and Wyatt, have come back from Alaska to claim back their family’s homestead located in the Free Nation of Texas. During their travels they run into Black Bart and his gang of thugs. Fortunately for these two, the Texas Rangers (known as Strangers) get them out of a jam and save the Shimshi tribe from annihilation over corporate greed.

Beneath the adventure, there is a darker story. Before leaving Alaska, Madara found a knife in her father’s old things. For some reason she decided to take it with her. Whenever she brandishes it, the knife seems to take on a life of its own, speaking to her and controlling her thoughts.

A western fantasy is not everyone’s bag. So TEXAS STRANGERS will not appeal to everyone. For those of us who thrive on a good genre mix now and again, it can be a real adventure. Kin to the now defunct television show, Firefly, and the subsequent movie adaptation, Serenity, TEXAS STRANGERS is a western themed story with fantasy elements intertwined. There are six shooters and cowboy hats, horse-drawn carriages and old time saloons. There are also ogres, orcs, and elves all topped off with a heaping dollop of magic.

That is right up my alley, so not only was I excited about finally getting my hands on this book, but I devoured it in nothing flat. I like the escapism of it all and the adventure. I also appreciate that I have questions about the mysterious knife. I want to know about its background and history and discovery why “it must be laid to rest where it was born,” an obvious nod to Lord of the Rings.

This book is aimed at young kids; however, the story is so packed that it might make it hard for some readers. I know that young comic book reviewers, Sarah (8) and Shelby (11) both had a hard time following the story without help. Having high expectations for students is a good thing.

Likewise, it has some elements that teachers and parents will want to know about ahead of time. It is a western, so there are saloons and whiskey, guns and gambling. Then you throw in magical spells and some may be offended. I wasn’t. I found it all to be harmless, but you deserve to know everything.

This is where you can identify this book as a children’s title. The art is created in such a way as to appeal to a younger audience. It is colorful and concise. The backgrounds do not distract the younger reader, but rather add to the progression of the story. Considering some of the dialogue might be hard for young kids, the illustrations add stability to the story helping kids to decode the story.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: All ages
All Ages Reads: Ages 8 and older
Comics in the Classroom: 12 and younger

Kids may need a lesson in Yoda-speak in order to make sense of the way the elves reverse words. Help them to understand you may be required. Students may also need help deciphering the Scottish accent of the ogre. As I described above, some children may have a hard time with the story. This is not a bad thing. Indeed, it can be a benefit in learning about storytelling about the beauty of re-reading in order to fully understand something. Sometimes enlightenment comes from study. Besides, we teachers need to remember to allow kids to try aim high.

I wonder how this title would work in a classroom that is exploring Native Americans and frontier days? While TEXAS STRANGERS is obviously not historically accurate, it could be used in combination with a classroom text or trade book to help spark interest in the pioneer time period. So many students find history boring. This might be a way to introduce the subject in a conceptual way. The title lends itself to a discussion of the influence of the French, the Louisiana Purchase, Mexico, and of native cultures.

I suspect that this TEXAS STRANGERS will appeal to more boys than girls, even though one of the two main character’s is a strong female. That is just hunch.

A preview of TEXAS STRANGERS is available here.

Recommended with Reservations
I think this book is perfectly fine for use in the classroom; however, I acknowledge that there are those who would object because of the fighting, firearms, saloons, whiskey, gambling and magic. So I recommend this book with reservations in hopes that most will be willing and able to use it in their classroom. I will.


I’ve had another banner week with comic book titles coming in like gangbusters, all of this just in time for my school to start back and my workload to take a serious jump. Some of these I am not familiar with at all and some I have requested.

As an aside, I am changing the “Comics To Be Reviewed” section in the sidebar. The items listed will now be in alphabetical order. Take a look see.

  1. Alterna Tales 1
  2. Birth
  3. Diary of the Black Widow 1-3
  4. Formera 1-2
  5. Legion of Superheros in 31st Century 5
  6. Man in the Iron Mask (2 of 6)
  7. Marvel Adventures: Avengers 15
  8. Morbid Myths 1-3
  9. Novo 1-2
  10. Phantom 18
  11. PX! Vol 1
  12. Risers 1-2
  13. Ruin 1 (of 3)
  14. Spectrum 1-2
  15. Stykman 1-3
  16. Sunny Hills 1
  17. Tellos Collosal Vol 1
  18. Treasure Island (3 of 6)
  19. Unit Primes Vol 1
  20. Vogelein Vol 1-2

Friday, August 17, 2007


Mark Evanier
ILLUSTRATORS: Ramon Bachs and Raul Fernandez
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books
GENRE: Action-Adventure, Humor

FORMAT: Trade paperback
ISSUE: 1-3
PAGES: 72 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-10: 1-56971-982-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-56971-982-4

This trade paper includes three stand-alone stories about Shrek and the gang. All the stories take place after the first movie. Lord Farquad is dead, but he is still around in ghost form. He is still obsessed with Princess Fiona and wants her dead so he can marry her and take over the spirit world. Besides Lord Farquad there are others who are plotting the demise of Shrek et al., which makes for interesting misadventures.

The stories are straightforward and intended for a young audience. Characters, good and bad, from other fairy tales are still included and make up the whole of the book. From one adventure to another Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona are fighting to save themselves or others.

It is a good read for kids and will keep their attention, especially as they are already familiar with the characters. Donkey still makes his humorous and sometimes awkward comments making for funny reading.

Either the scribe or the typesetter made big booboo right off the bat when the ghost of Lord Farquad asks where Shrek and Flora have gone on their honeymoon. Kids will pick up on that instantly as they know that the princess’ name is Fiona not Flora. That is the only time it happens.

In a story about the construction of a dam, the writers use a play-on-words by contrasting the word “dam” with “damn”. It’s only used once and it is the only curse in the book. It is there and you should be aware.

The art is great and is reminiscent of the movies, without the look of cgi. The illustrations are bright and inviting. There is nice movement between panels and the story is clear.

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Recommended Age: Ages 8 and older
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

This comic is appropriate for all ages, but if it is to be read alone then I would suggest the child be around 8 years old.

The SHREK stories are full of references to classic fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. These stories could be a good jumping off point to read some of those classic stories to very young children.

For older kids, the stories read pretty quickly, so students should be able to read a story in a short amount of time. So this book would be great between assignments. This is a book that is designed to foster the enjoyment of reading, as opposed to the studying of material and I would suggest keeping it that way and allowing students to have fun.

I like this book to help students discover that reading is for fun. It is important that children discover the beauty of reading for fun and not be stifled by always being forced to read for academic purposes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


What a crazy week for the classroom. Because of my trip to Wizard World Chicago, I have an especially large list this week. For those of you who are new to The Graphic Classroom, I keep a running list of the comics I have to review in the sidebar. You will see that the comics listed in this post will show up there. The comics to be reviewed list is in a pseudo-hierarchy. Typically the comics at the top of the list are the ones next in line to be reviewed. However, I do have a habit of moving things around a bit – editorial discretion and all that. Any books that came into the classroom this week through my comic book shop will be in next week’s list. Enough chit-chat. Let’s jump to the comics from the con that came into the classroom this week.

  1. Antigone
  2. The Batman Strikes! #30 (signed)
  3. The Brick City Bunch #1-2
  4. Ed & Red’s Comic Strip #1-2 (multiple copies)
  5. Foxwood Falcons #1
  6. Go-Go Gorilla and the Jungle Crew #1
  7. Hero by Night #1
  8. Honor Brigade #1-4
  9. Mr. Big
  10. Patrick the Wolf Boy volumes 1-2
  11. Robin Hood
  12. Space Weather (nonfiction)
  13. Texas Strangers #1-2
  14. Time Flyz
  15. Torpedo #1
  16. White Picket Fences #1-3
  17. The Young Explorers #1

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Great Con Experience

(My daughter, as Hawk Girl, with other super
heroes at Wizard World Chicago.)

(This is but a small piece of the con.)

Three days of comic book bliss. Let’s see here. How do I write this blog post without boring you to death with my “Aunt Bessie’s vacation to Florida extravaganza?” With 148 photos (60 of which I have posted on my personal photo web site) and plenty of stories to tell, it’s no easy task. I’ll try to break it up into sections for your reading pleasure.

Understanding Comics
I went to the con for one main reason: discover new comics for use in the classroom. I want my site to be a resource for teachers, school librarians, and parents who may wish to introduce comics and graphics novels to their students.

I wanted to meet comic creators – writers, illustrators and publishers – and discover new books that would be perfect for the classroom. I struck gold. I found fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and drama, high quality comics and those that have some work to do. I have to thank my friend, Linda, who works at a print shop. She was able to get me about 50 color business cards with only a two-hour notice. It’s a good thing I had the cards. I think it adds legitimacy to my endeavor and I know they helped me come home with so many media copies of titles, almost more than I could carry. Good thing I thought to bring an empty backpack with me to the con; it came back full.

I spent the whole of Friday and much of Saturday talking with comic creators about the need for high quality comics that can be used in the classroom. Much of today’s comics are not suitable for kids or the classroom. Comic geeks tend to like their girls with big boobs, little clothing and in compromising positions. I got a lot of laughs from some creators when I asked them if they had anything for kids. I know that there is a major untapped market in comics for kids. We just have a lot to do to convince creators to make them, publishers to print them, and parents and schools to accept comics as a legitimate form of literature. I know that it is and so do others, which is why the American Library Association is also promoting comics and graphic novels in libraries.

Not all creators are adult-only minded. Two such creators are Josh Elder (MAIL ORDER NINJA) and Russell Lissau (THE BATMAN STRIKES). Both of these guys get it. They understand the importance – the need – for high quality children’s comic literature and both are committed to the endeavor. I have previously reviewed MAIL ORDER NINJA and I highly recommend it. I have not written a review of THE BATMAN STRIKES yet (although I have read one issue), but I have two copies on my desk, one of which is signed by Lissau. I was bummed that I didn’t take my MAIL ORDER NINJA books with me to have Elder sign them. He emailed me before the con to tell me he would be there, but I had already left.

(Russell Lissau, left, and Josh Elder, right.)

It takes people like Elder and Lissau to change the children’s literature landscape and I will there with them reviewing and promoting their works in an effort to help our youth read for enjoyment again. It seems that many comic writers begin thinking of all-ages comics when they have children. I can not recall how many times a writer at the con would tell me about the moment they realized that they could not show their work to their own children. That is the point when those creators realize that children and teens are being left out of the comic world. I believe that things are changing rapidly, and that we will see the backing and support for all-ages comics and their use of in the classroom.

The Con

Once you’ve gone to a major comic book convention, you realize that everyone just calls it “the con.” You hear it all the time: “How’s the con going for you so far?” or maybe “Enjoying the con?” I just find that funny, I guess. It was huge. I can’t really describe it except to say that it took me all of Thursday night, Friday and most of Saturday to do what I came to do and see what I needed to see. It was that big. From what I understand, the Chicago con is a garage sale compared to the con in San Diego, Ca. I can’t imagine it. This was bigger than a football field and full of thousands of people buying and selling comics, toys, movies, games, posters, stickers, and other pop culture stuff. There were comic creators on hand to sign things and movie stars as well. Actor Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs) was there signing autographs. Lou Ferrigno from The Incredible Hulk tv show was also there. He signed an educational Hulk poster for my future classroom.

Once The Goals Were Met
After my initial job of making contacts with creators, I was free to play. I was on the hunt for some comics that I had previously been unable to find. I found out about THE LONE RANGER comic with issue 5. So I was missing the first four and they are a bit hard to find. You never know about a con. You might find what you want and you might not. If you do find it, you may discover that it is expensive. That is how it is with THE LONE RANGER #1. I found it for $30, $15, $10 and finally, after looking long and hard, I found it for $4. I snatched that puppy up quick. I also found the other three (issues 2,3 and 4) so I was a happy man.

I also went with the intention of finding some copies of TEXAS STRANGERS (issues 1-3) and WHITE PICKET FENCES (issues 1-3) for the classroom. I’ve heard a lot about both of these titles and I have been anxious to get my hands on them. Mission accomplished. I was also lucky to get a sketchbook of the much anticipated, THE MICE TEMPLAR by Bryan Glass and Michael Oeming. The big surprise find for me was a signed copy of the George R. R. Martin piece, The Hedge Knight. Martin is one of my favorite prose writers. His ability to craft an emotional and engaging piece of fiction is a thing of beauty. His novella, THE HEDGE KNIGHT, was turned into a comic by Image. This find was for me, rather than the classroom, and I almost passed it up until my wife spoke up and told me to buy it. I’m glad she said so and I’m glad I bought it.

The Journey to the Con

Drive or fly? We weren’t sure what to do, but realized that driving would probably be our cheapest alternative, even considering gas prices. Then a friend suggested we take the train. Train? Mass transit. Comfortable. More environmental than driving our own car. Perfect. So we drove to St. Louis (as Springfield doesn’t have an Amtrak station) and caught the train to Chicago. The train going out was a double-decker super liner. There was lots of room between seats, a foot rest, and plenty of room to fully recline and not bother the person behind you. It was comfortable. There was a dining car and a lounging car with seats and tables. The train coming back was less comfy but better than an airplane. No dining or lounge car, but it was fine. Best of all, I didn’t have to drive in Chicago. I must admit to you all that big city driving makes me a bit nervous. I don’t like it all. I don’t mind it if I am following someone else, but I hate to go it alone. So this was a nice alternative.

(My daughter and I checking out
scenery from the lounge car.)

The wife and daughter really loved the train ride. We played cards in the lounge car, got up and walked around, had a convenient restroom, and read too. Well, they read. I get motion sickness so I stuck to the iPod. It was a fine time and I would travel by train again. I see what folks talk about when they travel abroad. Trains really are the way to go. I don’t see why our nation is so reluctant.

The Cab Ride and Chicago-style Pizza
We’ve all heard cabbie jokes, but never having been in New York or taken a cab in a huge city, it made little sense. The taxi driver that picked us up at the train station was a lunatic. This guy had people honking at him from pick-up at the Amtrak station all the way to the hotel, a 35-minute taxi ride of terror. This nut job, I swear to you, drove on the shoulder of the 5-lane expressway. People got in this guys way, he went around them despite the rush hour traffic. Cutting people off, nearly running them off the road, nothing was off limits to this guy. I was convinced we were going to get in a wreck. I don’t really see how we didn’t.

I thought if I made conversation with him, he might calm down. It didn’t work, but the conversation was interesting enough. We were in Chicago. We wanted to try an authentic Chicago-style pizza pie. So we asked him. Always ask a local about the best little hole to eat in. He suggested this little Italian pizzeria. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Dominos. I kid you not. The cab driver suggested Dominos Pizza as the best Chicago-style pizza. I quit talking with him after that and just prayed that we would not get in a wreck.

We ended up asking the concierge where to eat pizza. It was yum. We ordered a large pizza with sausage, hamburger and pepperoni, and a small cheese for the little one, and a salad. That was nearly $50 by the way. Everything in Chicago was expensive, but I’ll get to that later. That was way too much pizza, even for us. Three days later, we were still eating on it and we never actually finished it. I had no idea how thick these pizzas were.

(This was the small pizza.)

The Prices
I promised to talk about the prices. Holy cow! I had no idea. Our hotel was connected to the convention center and the whole complex was close to O’Hare, so the prices were outrageous. A can of coke in our mini-bar was $4 a pop. A package of M&M’s was $3.50. That’s to be expected. The food at the convention wasn’t really much better. We did finally find a restaurant close by that was a basic American grill – $21 for plenty of breakfast for the three of us, and it was much better than the hotel restaurant called O’h. At first we thought it was called that because of the proximity to the airport. It’s because it was Oh so freaking expensive. The breakfast buffet was $17.50 and they didn’t even have biscuits and gravy! The prime rib dinner at night was $35. Needless to say, we were glad to find the other diner so we could avoid O’h.

This vacation contained a lot of firsts for my daughter. I love documenting those. It’s so much fun to see a child experience the wonderful aspects of the world. She had a good time and asked me if we could come back next year. I love it that my daughter loves comics. It’s something else we can share together. We read comics together all the time.

(My daughter posing with Spidey.)

We thought ahead and knew that she could get bored, what with all the shopping and standing. So my wife packed my daughter’s Hawk Girl Halloween costume. Boy, am I glad we had that thing. Once she donned her HG costume, she was the center of attention, which is here she likes to be. We couldn’t walk anywhere without being stopped for a picture. She did her share of picture asking too. She nearly stalked Spider-Man at the convention. He finally figured out that she loved him and he would pick her up and talk with her and the like. She talked to him about Mary Jane and how she loved him. She even told him that she knew he was really Peter Parker, but she did it quietly because she knew his identity needed to remain secret.

We talked a lot about costumes and she mentioned that she thought some folks thought she was the real Hawk Girl. Deep down inside, she knew that he wasn’t really Spider-Man, but part of her wanted to believe he was. Fine with me. That is the beauty of the child’s imagination so I don’t mind indulging her. It will not last forever. The world will school that imagination out of her soon enough.

The End
It was a worthwhile trip for me and should aid me not only with my website, but with my master’s thesis as well. Ultimately, this entire endeavor will help mold me into a better teacher. For that, I’m glad to pay the high prices. Besides, it is all kinds of fun.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I am headed to Wizard World Chicago this week. It is the first big con I have ever been to. I have gone to Planet Con in Kansas City a few times, and blogged about it, but it pales in comparison to Chicago. I have my business cards in hand and I am going to meet with the publishers, writers and illustrators who are involved with comics for kids and teens, especially those titles that can be used in the classroom.

Send me an email if you are going and would like to meet me. If you are interested in the use of comics in the classroom then I want to meet you, whoever you are. I will be sure to share my thoughts and photos with you when I get back.

You can contact me at:


Laura Buller
PUBLISHER: DK Publishing
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Hardcover
PAGES: 64 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN 13: 978-0-7566-2941-0

Who were the ancient Egyptians and what were their lives like? HISTORY DUDES: ANCIENT EGYPTIANS tells all while dropping a modern scratch on these really cool dudes with a 21st Century slang. Kids will love learning about agriculture, architecture, customs and festivals, fashion, government, writings, religion, myths, burial rites, pyramids, battles, and economy. There’s nothing better than having fun while learning.

These dudes have their problems as well. Writer Laura Buller, in her attempt toward kid-speak let her hair down a bit too much and cursed a couple of times.

“By November, the waters have retreated, leaving a layer of silt (a rich mud). Now it’s time to get to work. Damn” (page 7).

On page 21 she writes: “Doctors even deal with dental problems. This dude has the toothache from hell.”

There are also a few direct references to the drinking of alcohol, beer and wine. In one case the workers on the pyramid joke about needing a cold beer after work. Most schools have strong anti-alcohol programs and so teachers, principals or parents may object to the references to drinking.

There were also a couple of typographical errors. One involves the female goddess Sekhmet who is referred to as a “him” (page 39). The other is where a sentence ends prematurely:

“She rules as regent – the name for a dude who takes over when the real ruler can’t rule, for some” (page 55).


My Rating: Ages 10 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8-12
All Ages Reads: No review
Comics in the Classroom: No review

I recommend this book for ages 10 and older, mostly because of the amount of reading involved and the vocabulary used. Kids younger than that may get frustrated with the reading level and need help in understanding it.

This is chock full of information on the life of the ancient Egyptians and could be used in many ways by children doing research on Egyptians. It would also be a great starting point to entice a reluctant reader to find out more. The full color illustrations and great presentation should make the search for information fun.

As for the grammatical mistakes, those seem to be a fact of life and can be found in many modern works of literature. I am all for making a game out of finding those mistakes. Students can learn from that as well as they can from being lectured about the need for proper grammar and spelling.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: When I originally wrote this review, I gave it a "Recommended with Reservations" because of the profanity. After two years, I decided to change that recommendation to "Recommended".)

Friday, August 3, 2007


I had a good one come in this week by one of my favorite writers, George R.R. Martin. Martin is a fantasy writer and is New York Times bestselling author. He has penned the still-unfinished SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series (one of my favorite series of all time). He has also written a famous prequel to those books called THE HEDGE KNIGHT. I have never read this piece of fiction, but have always wanted to. Amazingly, THE HEDGE KNIGHT has also been turned into a graphic novel, which came into the classroom this week. I have so many books ahead of it, and it is killing me not to jump right in.

Anyway, off to the list of comics in the classroom this week:
  1. The Hedge Knight
  2. Teen Titans Go! (#45)
  3. The Batman Strikes (#35)


AUTHOR: Sid Jacobson
PUBLISHER: Hill and Wang
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Trade Paperback
PAGES: 144 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN 10: 0-8090-5739-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-8090-5739-9

The 9/11 Commission released its report of the September 11 events in December 2005. This report was so large and complex that no one was reading it. In an unprecedented move, the Commission enlisted the help of veteran comic book creators Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón to recreate the Commission’s report. Knowing that the American people have lessons to learn, these two creators have adapted the report in graphic novel form to make it accessible to the general public. Specifically, the intention was to reach a new set of readers and engage more citizens in the process of studying in order to understand this major event that has shaped our lives.

According to the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, this adaptation maintains a “close adherence to the findings, recommendations, spirit, and tone of the original commission report.”

Even those who do not find nonfiction or historical accounts very interesting will find themselves engaged by this graphic novel. The information is presented in such a way as to be easily accessible for the reader and very enjoyable. The information is frank and factual and helps us understand the most influential event in modern history.

The art is clean, concise and colorful and it helps guide the reader in making connections between the information and how we, as Americans, have been affected.

My Rating: Ages 12 and older (high school-aged preferred)
All Ages Reads: No rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

While this book could be used in a middle school, I think the best audience would be high school students. They would be more prepared to make sense of the difficult vocabulary used.

There are so many things that an effective teacher could do to help students study the events of September 11, 2001. Using this graphic novel is an excellent way. This book lends itself to the use of twin texts. Having students read this factual account and combining that with a first-hand account of someone who was in New York at the time could help students internalize the information and be able to make connections between the event and the ramifications afterwards.

Highly Recommended
This belongs in every social science teacher’s room and school library. An event such as what occurred on September 11, 2001 should be studied. Considering this graphic novel is an official adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report, it has a rightful place in the classroom and is worthy of study.

Stan Lee, the most famous of comic creators, had this to say: “Never before have I seen a nonfiction book as beautifully and compellingly written and illustrated as THE 9/11 REPORT: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION. I cannot recommend it too highly. It will surely set the standard for all future works of contemporary history, graphic or otherwise, and should be required reading in every home, school, and library.”