Friday, December 28, 2007


The second NYC KIDS' COMIC CON is coming March 29, 2008! And this time, one of the co-sponsors will be the NEW YORK COMIC CON!

The focus of this comicon is to bring young people, parents, artists, and educators together for a fun and enlightening view of the industry. Specifically they are inviting teachers, librarians, and more to show them how the comic book field works and how it can support literacy and other academic goals.

All of this without the gore, extreme violence, nudity or vulgarity. How about that? They report that it will be a full-blown all-age event.

March 29, 2008
10 am- 6pm

Bronx Community College

I would love to go and speak, but I do not know if I can do either. The graduate student’s wallet is pretty thin these days. We will see how things go. I would love to take my wife and daughter and really have a good time.

For more information contact: Alex Simmons at


Scoop, a free newsletter from Diamond Comic Distributors, had an article on using comics in education. In addition, Diamond wants to know what you think about using comics in the classroom. You can do so by emailing this person:

The comic movement is growing … and fast. This is the perfect time to embrace a new technique and help students discover reading for enjoyment and learning.

Read the article here.


(The cover art of THE HOBBIT graphic novel.)

(Interior art of THE HOBBIT graphic novel.)

Think ahead just a bit – 2010 to be exact. That year will be the perfect year to re-introduce your students to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Middle Earth opus. This time, you should be able to gear it for younger kids.

THE HOBBIT is coming to the silver screen and you are in luck because there is both a traditional book and a comic book adaptation. Just think of the literature connections, compare/contrast opportunities, religion-related themes, epic hero story exploration, and great story telling that will be at your finger tips that year!

Considering the price, I suggest you start building your collect of the comic adaptation now, so that you will have multiple copies for your students. The same goes for collecting copies of the original book as well. I already have a copy of THE HOBBIT graphic novel and it is a great rendition of Tolkien’s story.

Just so you know, Rankin/Bass (the guys who did all the claymation Rudolph et al. Christmas movies) also made an animated version of THE HOBBIT. I watched it as a kid. That cartoon was my first introduction to Tolkien and I fell in love with his universe.

Before the movie comes out I will review the comic adaptation. You can keep up with the goings-on at THE HOBBIT BLOG, the official movie site. Thanks to Scoop for breaking the news.

You can buy the comic adapation at:
Barnes and Noble

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Using comics and graphic novels in the classroom is a movement that is gaining momentum. As more groups such as The American Library Association, the mainstream media, and of course, The Graphic Classroom bring light to this form of literacy, the acceptance of the movement increases. This also means that more and more teachers, who were previously unfamiliar with comics, join the fray.

Once a teacher decides to use comics and graphic novels in the classroom, then the teacher must also find ways to access and store those comics. It can take time to build up a classroom comic library and not all school libraries stock comics, although more and more are doing it. Assuming that a teacher is building a good number of comics for the classroom, how does that teacher store and protect those comics safely?

Graphic novels are safer than comics because of their size and thickness. Graphic novels can be stored right on the bookshelf like any other paperback. Comics are a different story. Comics are more prone to damage and so care must be taken to protect them. It can be an expensive endeavor for a teacher to collect and purchase his own comics for use in the classroom and there is no need to increase that expense by experimenting with different comic book products. I have outlined here my recommendations on how best to protect your comics in the classroom.

Bags and Boards
The most popular and economical way to preserve comics is to bag and board them. The bags are clear, polypropylene sleeves with a flap into which the comic is placed. The flap is then pulled over the top and sealed. Because comics are flexible, the standard is to “board the comics”, which means sliding an archival safe white board into the bad behind the comic. This gives stability to the comic and protects it from being bent or damaged.

There are different sizes and types of bags. Most of the comics that I have collected are Current (Modern) Age comics. I do not recommend using older comics –Silver or Golden Age – in my classroom because of their age and cost. Comics from the 1980’s to present are considered part of the Modern Age and will make up the bulk of what most teachers offer.

The typical sizes for bags are as follows:
Current Age bags can tend to be a bit tight fitting requiring a fine touch to get the comic inside the bag safely. The problem is that children are not delicate, so this is not the best solution. BCW Supplies, a wholesale and retail comic book supplier, offers a Current Age Thick bag, which is designed for modern comics, but it is slightly larger (7 x 10 1/2) than the traditional Current sized bag. The comics slide easily into and out of the bag with no problems, yet the comic does not have too much room to move around. The Current Thick bag still uses the normal Current size board, which is available anywhere.

Not all retail comic stores will carry BCW brand named supplies and those that do may not offer the Current Thick bags. However, BCW also offers a retail site where individuals can order directly from the manufacturer. Because none of my comic book shops in the area carry my bags, I order directly from BCW. An appropriate substitute would be to use Silver Age bags and boards. They are easier to find as all comic shops will carry this size bag and board, but I find they have a bit too much room.

Traditional Bags versus Re-sealable Bags
The typical way of sealing a comic inside a bag is to tape the flap shut. The problem with this is that when you try to remove the tape to read the comic, it can tear the bag. The tape also stays on the flap, which increases the likelihood of snagging the comic on the tape as you remove it from the bag. Kids are going to do this and it will ruin your comics. I recommend using re-sealable (also referred to as flip-and-stick) bags. These bags have a strip of adhesive on the bag and do not require tape. I have experimented with different re-sealable bags. Some have the adhesive on the flap and others place the adhesive on the back of the bag. A bag with the adhesive on the flap is worthless in the classroom as kids are bound to get the comic stuck to it. Again, I recommend BCW’s Re-sealable bags because the adhesive is on the back of the bag. These are what I use.

Comics that are bagged and boarded need to be shelved or stored in some way. The comic book industry makes cardboard and plastic boxes specifically designed to hold comics. These can be purchased at almost any comic book shop. These boxes come with lids and are available in long and short sizes. Long comic boxes can be hard to manage and move, so I recommend purchasing the short boxes. They will save your back and are easier to place in small spaces.

Plastic dividers are also available. I use these with my comics to make them easier to locate in the box. These are plastic rectangles with tabs on the top. These are used to divide the comics by titles in the box. You can affix labels to the tabs showing the titles. This way children can find the comics they are looking for easily. Most comic shops will either stock these or be able to order them for you. Just ask. Brand names do not matter.

I recommend making the bulk of your comics easily available to students. We want to encourage students to read and easy access means more reading after an assignment is finished early. However, there may be comics or graphic novels that a teacher feels need to checked out or limited for some reason. The title may be expensive, controversial, or very special. Certainly a teacher can limit accessibility to these comics or graphic novels by putting them behind the desk or in a special box. However, a teacher needs to take care that the children are aware of the titles and the rules or norms that determine how or when a student can get access to these special titles. I do recommend that if a comic is very special – very precious – to you for any reason, then that comic stays home. If you want to display a very special comic that is not to be read, then there are acrylic comic book displays that do protect the investment from little hands.

Comics Versus Trade Paperbacks
Should a teacher keep comics, graphic novels, or both in the classroom? There is no right answer, but The Graphic Classroom recommends that a variety of materials be available to students. This includes stocking both comics and graphic novels in many styles, genres, and reading levels.

It is true, that many publishers will collect several issues of your favorite comic book series and publish it as a trade paperback. Typically, purchasing comics in a trade paperback format is cheaper and will last longer than an individual comic. It is a good way to stock a classroom or school library with comics. It is entirely possible for a teacher or librarian to only offer trade paperbacks and there is really nothing wrong with that. However, there is something nostalgic about reading a story from individual comics. Teaching children to respect and care for something is a good lesson and comics can help them do that. They can learn how to care for and protect individual comics.

Reading Levels
Comics tend to have a high level of interest with students. Some titles have Lexile or AR levels available. However, I caution teachers about limiting student access to comics based on reading levels. Because of the high interest, students may be interested in challenging material. I recommend allowing students to self-direct their use of comics and give them to opportunity to explore what they are interested in and can read. Because of the pictures, students may be able to read higher-level books than typical. I recommend giving students unfettered access to the classroom collection.

My Recommendations – An Overview
  1. Always bag and board your comics. Period.
  2. Use BCW’s Current Re-Sealable Bags –Thick (7 x 10 1/2).
  3. Use any brand acid-free Current sized board.
  4. Store comics in short comic boxes with lids.
  5. Use dividers between titles.
  6. Keep comics easily accessible to students.
  7. Stock both individual comics and graphic novels.
  8. Stock a variety of titles, styles, genres and reading levels.
  9. Do not restrict titles based on reading levels.


My family and I are ready for the holidays. We will be gone over Christmas so there will not be a review next week. I will, however, be taking some books with me to read and review over the holidays. This week, I leave you not with a review, but an article on how to store and preserve the comics in your classroom.

Notice that Linnworth Press has a new book out – Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids listed below – on how to chose comic books and graphic novels for children. I haven’t read it yet, but it is packed with titles, publishers, and pictures.

  1. The Cryptics #3
  2. Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids
  3. Glister Vol. 3
  4. Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #9
  5. Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #19

Friday, December 14, 2007


Volume 1

Volume 2

PUBLISHER: Pantheon Books
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Two trade paperbacks
VOLUME: 1 & 2
PAGES (1): 159 pages
PAGES (2): 136 pages
COLOR: Black and white
ISBN-10 (1): 0-394-74723-2
ISBN-10 (2): 0-679-72977-1

Art Spiegelman climbs the rope and rings the bell with this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his parents who endured it all. MAUS is indeed powerful in its presence and breathtaking in its sadness and honesty about the family’s fight to live in a world where their very existence was despised, but this is no typical tale of the Holocaust. This is about how such horrors permeate the very soul and trickle down to the children of survivors.

Spiegelman weaves two tales of woe. The first is of his father and mother, Vladek and Anja, and their journey through the Hell that was the Holocaust. The second centers on the ramifications that befell the Spiegelman clan post-war. Affectionately called “Artie” by his father, Spiegelman exposes the holes in his family structure – the suffering and sorrow that surrounds the family – straining the father-son relationship.

MAUS is painful to watch, painful to read, painful to experience. There is so much sadness, too much for one family to endure, and it shows in the scars – superficial and subconscious – that influence every aspect of the father and passed down to the son.

MAUS is more than pain. It is a befuddling story of human psychology. That Anja kept the strength to endure the hate, only to take her own life after the war was over is but one aspect that confounds and angers me. How can Vladek be the victim of such hatred and yet harbor his own hate for African Americans? It is this irony and hypocrisy that makes MAUS resonate. It is a real story about flawed people and the pain of the human existence.

It is certainly an interesting choice to use the comic format to tell his story. It is daring to then portray the characters as animals, but through his careful crafting between time lines and the intricate weaving of meta-fictional storytelling, Spiegelman ends up with a story that transcends his own family.

Missouri State University was hosting a book talk on Jewish graphic novel literature at the time I read MAUS. As one member of the group noted, Spiegelman uses a technique described by Scott McCloud in his book, Understanding Comics, whereby the characters are drawn with little detail while the backgrounds are much more detailed. The generically-drawn characters allows the reader to assume the role of the protagonist, while the detailed backgrounds set the stage for a genuine experience. Most American comics, in contrast, are very detailed which creates space, according to McCloud, between the reader and the text. The technique worked in MAUS.

The art of this graphic novel, the crafting of the visual story, is compelling in itself. Spiegelman layers the art in a way that is not typically used in other comics. He also creates panels in which history and present collide and resonate.

My Rating: High School

To be used in a classroom setting, I would probably wait until high school before introducing MAUS. The work is powerful and deserves to be studied for its many intricacies.

MAUS is about the Holocaust and it pulls no punches.

There is not enough space to write about how MAUS could be used in the classroom. As a piece of literature, the story works on many levels. The role of God in the lives of persons and the feelings of betrayal are but one aspect. The effects of tragedy on the victims is unconsciously passed down to children and even grandchildren. The definition of “survival” is key to understanding this book. The crafting of the art itself deserves independent study. MAUS is indeed a piece of literature that deserves the acclaim and the awards it has received.

Highly Recommended
MAUS is probably the most am not sure that another title will come any time soon. It is chilling, gripping and absorbing and I do not have a category or recommendation high enough for MAUS.


Finals are finished but there will be no laurel-sitting for me. I have much to read, write, and review. I am worried about getting all my writing commitments completed by the time the next semester begins. Marvel and DC titles make up this week’s list. Check it:

  1. The Batman Strikes #40
  2. The Man in the Iron Mask #6 (of 6)

Friday, December 7, 2007








AUTHOR: Russell Lissau (30, 35, 37), Josh Elder (36), Bill Matheny (38), Jai Nitz (39)
PENCILS: Sanford Greene (30), Christopher Jones (35-39)
INKS: Nathan Massengill (30), Terry Beatty (35-39)
PUBLISHER: Johnny DC (DC Comics)
GENRE: Superhero

FORMAT: Monthly comic
ISSUES: 30 & 35-39
PAGES: 32 pages each
COLOR: Full color

From the ad sheets …

#30: The unlikely dynamic duo of Bruce Wayne and Alfred faces a squad of high-tech thieves. Then Catwoman gets involved.

#35: The Joker and Harley Quinn take control of the airwaves!

#36: Gearhead's turning Gotham City into a gigantic demolition derby! Batman's going to need all the help he can get, even if that means letting Batgirl get behind the wheel of the Batmobile!

#37: Killer Croc's home are the sewers of Gotham City, and that "home" has led him straight to the Batcave! Batman's not going to be happy when he meets the cave's newest guest….

#38: Poison Ivy's out for a night out on the town, but don't worry — Batman and Robin are hot on her tail! What can the Dynamic Duo do when no one in Gotham City has seen Ivy committing a crime?

#39: The streets of Gotham City are free of criminals, and it's Black Mask's fault! Can Batman figure out how to stop a criminal who isn't committing crimes?

I’ve been collecting THE BATMAT STRIKES for five months now and finally have enough issues that I feel I can read the series and give it a fair review. I sat down with a half dozen issues, one of which was signed by Russell Lissau, and gave it a whirl.

THE BATMAN STRIKES is exactly what I thought and hoped it would be. This title promises to be a traditional superhero comic intended for children and it delivers on that promise. The stories are exactly what very young children need: self-contained and to the point. There are not any story line diversions or complicated histories to sift through. The writing is tight and the story moves along very quickly and is driven mostly by the action.

One aspect that Johnny DC kept, more of a product of the days of yore, was the “letters” section at the end of the book. Ranging in ages from 4 to tween, kids are welcome to send in letters about and drawings of the elusive bat. These letters may seem trite and self-indulgent from the perspective of an adult, but to children these letters are a link to others who are like them. My friend, Larry, often speaks of wearing his cape, consisting of an old towel, to school on his first day of kindergarten. To Larry, and to many children across the nation, the comic book allows for self-expression and self-visualization, that other forms of entertainment do not.

The students in your classrooms will love reading these letters and may be inspired to write their own letters and submit their own illustrations. (If you think just a bit, such a letter could fit nicely into a state standard.) If a student is inspired enough to write a letter or send an illustration to a publisher, then that is a child who is hooked on reading, a child who has a vested interest in what he or she is reading. That is a child who loves reading. Mission accomplished!

The art is blocky – square – with heavy inks and lots of contrast. Details are sparse, but this is consistent with the art on the animated series. I was not sold on the art at first, but as I continued to read the illustrations grew on me. The illustrators do a good job moving the story along and creating action. The placement and design of panels seems to push the reader through the story, which works well in a self-contained story aimed at younger readers. In the end, kids will feel that this title is designed just for them.

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Rating: For Kids

Johnny DC is the line of comics that DC publishes specifically for kids. I think all of the titles are tie-ins with animated shows on Cartoon Network or the WB.

The story lines begin and end in the same issue and this is an important aspect for teachers. First, this means that every issue is a story unto itself. So the teacher is not required to collect every issue in order to maintain continuity. If a teacher misses an issue or more, then the story is not interrupted. Secondly, this means that a student who finished his or her work early can pull out any issue of THE BATMAN STRIKES and conceivably have it read by the time the class moves on the next assignment.

Thirdly, these short, action-dominated stories are a part of differentiated learning. Self-contained, action stories are easy for struggling students, and students with disabilities, to read alone or with a friend. To that student who has given up on reading, THE BATMAN STRIKES and other similar titles may well be the thing that can give the confidence boost needed to help a student to discover reading for enjoyment.

As I mentioned in the Story Review, I think a teacher could use the Letters section in the back of the book to get kids to want to write. This can include higher order thinking skills as student predict what has happened, connect it to something that has already happened, or make suggestions on what should happen in the future. Students frequently asks Johnny DC questions about upcoming issues and what will happen. What a venue. And to top it all off, maybe some of your students’ letters will be published. How cool is that?

If you are tempted to think that comics are not real literature, then think again. Comics can help you keep students engaged, on task, and even help you meet your state and district educational standards.

Other titles in the Johnny DC line include:
  7. TINY TITANS (to be released soon)

In other news, when I attended Chicago Comicon in 2007, I met up with writers Russell Lissau and Josh Elder. Click here for that article. We discussed, among other things, the need to have good all ages comics and graphic novels. Many comics have abandoned their roots in order to appease a more grown-up audience; however, the original comic consumer – the kid – is still out there and in desperate need for good comic literature. I’m glad to see that there are dedicated comic writers and illustrators, like Lissau and Elder, who work for the younger reader.

Do not pass up the chance to offer students titles such as THE BATMAN STRIKES, just because we adults have been told that comics are not real literature. THE BATMAN STRIKES is an important aspect in the hierarchy of comic literature that is a part of differentiated instruction. It is literature and needs to be offered in the classroom. You may find that your inclusion of such a title makes all the difference in that hard-to-reach child’s life. THE BATMAN STRIKES rocks.