Friday, October 31, 2008


By Nate Stearns
Staff Writer

When I was young and matriculating, I was told by my 19th Century British literature professor that if I ever mistook Dr. Frankenstein for his Creature (never, ever ever Monster) I could expect to find myself looking to get a law degree because English would not have me. I spent the entire semester in mortal fear that I would inadvertently blurt out Frankensteen, Franekensteen!

People take FRANKENSTEIN seriously.

So, when the good folks at Classical Comics decided not only to create a "Quick Text" version of FRANKENSTEIN but also an "Original Text" version, I was worried. I imagined that somewhere – in a dusty garret no doubt – my old Brit lit teacher was gnashing his teeth and bellowing into the dark, moonless night.

Still, I think Dr. Oberon shouldn't worry. FRANKENSTEIN (for those of you who only know the Abbot and Costello version or the old SNL Tarzan, Tonto, and Frankenstein versions) recounts the story of Mad Scientist (those fools at the Royal Society will rue the day! rue the day!) Victor Frankenstein as he cobbles together a misshapen Creature out of various freshly buried body parts and a dash of well-placed lightning. Things go badly. The Creature turns out ugly and with a predisposition to rip things limb from limb (though he talks like Lord Byron on steroids) and threatens Victor's girlfriend if he doesn't make him a girlfriend. Dr. Frankenstein, on the other hand, spends a lot of time moping and contemplating the morality of playing God.

FRANKENSTEIN is one of those rare great canon works that have the potential to hook teenage boys; the seesawing between mordant philosophizing and bloody violence offers them a rare bridge between violent fantasy and powerful literature. It's particularly surprising that the Victorian never-a-sentence-when-a-paragraph-would-do style translates so well to the graphic novel format. At first, I expected to see a dinky picture of Frankenstein staring off into space while several baroque paragraphs crowded down the side of the page, but in fact the picture-to-word ratio seems pretty reasonable. The abridged graphic novel adaptation strikes an effective balance between provocative art and well-rendered text. Something I would not have thought possible until I saw it.

It takes a few panels to get used to the art style. Declan Shalvey's style is undoubtedly gothic and more than a little reminiscent of superhero comic books. The Creature sports a wild mohawk and the text is highlighted with several Keblams! and Crrracks! The page is broken up with more or less typical panel breaks, but there is enough variance to give the story movement. Because it is a melodrama and a gothic horror story, the arching skeletons dripping with worms feel appropriately creepy.

Click to enlarge page 40

Click to enlarge page 53

Click to enlarge page 54

These graphic novels are clearly produced with teenagers in mind. The Original Text version gives teachers the option of providing students with clear visual aids in understanding the sometimes intricate storyline and frequent digressions. There is even a back section that details how the Frankenstein story grew from Mary Shelley's Can-you-Top-this horror story-athon with Percy Shelley and Lord Byron to inducing Kenneth Branagh to run around with his shirt off, screaming "It's alive! It's alive!"

I'd love to see educational research that tackles whether these types of books result in increased reading comprehension; I suspect it does, but I'd like to know. In an ideal classroom, a full set of these for a British literature teacher would leave many of my colleagues weeping with happiness. Even the Quick Text version could be a welcome addition as it introduces the classic story to students in an even more digestible form.

Though, I worry sometimes that students might suffer from Baz Luhrman disease. When I show the Australian director's version of Romeo and Juliet, I always expect students to appreciate the updated guns for swords milieu, but often they are irritated that a movie that seems so clearly made for them is forcing them to decode Shakespearean English. Why can't they talk normal and make this into a "real" movie instead of an educational one? Some students want there to be a bright line between that which is entertainment and that which is school. It might take a pretty skillful teacher to convince a skeptical classroom that literature – which is so relentlessly grouped with such good-for-you standbys as broccoli, flossing, and early morning jogging – can be both.

Highly Recommended for high school students

ADAPTED BY: Jason Cobley
ILLUSTRATOR: Declan Shalvey
LETTERING: Terry Wiley
PUBLISHER: Classical Comics
GENRE: Traditional literature in comic format

FORMAT: Softcover digest
PAGES: 141
COLOR: Color
ISBN-13 (Original Text): 978-1-906332-15-0
ISBN-13 (Quick Text): 978-1-906332-16-7


By Chris Wilson

COLORS: Lovern Kindzierski
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
GENRE: Horror, Traditional Literature in Comic Format

FORMAT: Hardcover
PAGES: 186
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-082543-0

Coraline, that is C-O-R-A-line not C-A-R-O-line, moves to a new but bizarre home so big that it has been turned into multiple flats. The other tenants are strange, but the weird factor doubles when Coraline finds the odd locked door that appears to be bricked up.

Once she gets through the door she finds herself in a new world, very similar to her own home environment, with one buttoned-up exception. The new parents she finds in the other world have been waiting for her and are very reluctant to let her return to her original home. It takes clever and cunning to solve her problem.

The story is mysterious and a tad on the scary side, what with the buttons-as-eyes, bizzaro-world parental units, and red-eyed rats. The illustrations of those people is disconcerting to say the least, and is representative of the rest of the art – muted colors and a unnerving calmness that keeps the reader creeped out throughout.

In what I assume is an attempt to maintain the essence and voice of the original text, Russell’s adaptation is a bit too heavy on the obvious and unnecessary narration, telling the reader things that are depicted in the story. On page 36, the narration describes the actions of the rats.

They swarmed up him, burrowing into his pockets, into his shirt, up his trouser legs, down the neck.

This narration is printed directly on top of the picture depicting the same scene, which is rather redundant as we can see the image.

Most of the narration works well to set a tone and a voice for the narrator, wherein the reader can clearly imagine the sound of the voice; there are times when it works well, but in several instances, especially in the first half of the story, it is a bit distracting and maybe overused.

Other than that, the book delivers a story that is calm yet uncomfortable, a world within a world, in which our own parents don’t see so bad after all.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8 and older

The graphic novel might be a bit much for some younger readers, as visualizing the illustrations adds a lot to the reality of the story.

This is a spooky scary story.

As always, having original prose and a comic adaptation can make for leveled readings, and interesting compare-and-contrast evaluations.

Click here for the preview.

Kids love to be creeped out, just ask any librarian and they will tell you the horror books go fast. That makes this a nice edition for any classroom. It is free from blood, guts, cursing, monsters, and magic, making it more suitable for some.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


By Chris Wilson

Classic literature adaptations, nonfiction, manga, and historical fiction are just a part of the offerings this week. So many goodies it’s hard to know where to start. The United States Constitution is a good place considering how entrenched we are in the democratic process right now. Perhaps one is more inclined to read something lighter, something that takes the reader away from the fray.

Here’s what came in this week:
  1. Claire and the Bakery Thief
  2. Dungeon
  3. Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #41
  4. Marvel Illustrated: The Illiad
  5. Night Witches #1 (of 3)
  6. No Girls Allowed
  7. A Sam and Friends Mystery: Dracula Madness Book 1
  8. Thor #11
  9. The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
  10. Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives Vol. 2


By Chris Wilson


Harper and The Graphic Classroom have teamed up to offer the very first Halloween giveaway ever to grace our hallowed hallways. The lucky winner of the giveaway will receive a free copy of THE SIMPSONS™ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR: DEAD MAN’S JEST.

From the press release of DEAD MAN’S JEST: Master of mirthful mayhem, Matt Groening, meets the Monsters of Rock (Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, and Rob Zombie) in a heavy metal, Halloween-inspired Rock ’N’ Roll odyssey of head-banging, tongue-wagging, dead-raising frights and frivolity. Even “Mr. Nice Guy” Pat Boone gets in a “metal mood” with a twisted tale of dastardly demons and righteous redemption. From donut batter to ghoulish splatter, you’ll be tricked and treated to a chaotic comic collection chock-full of thunder-clapping hell spawn, chainsaw-toting monkeys, televisions run amuck, bible camp ghost stories, lime-flavored Squishee monsters, toilets of the damned, vampire tombs, the Evil Eye, and a very special tribute to EC Comics, the forebears of witty horror and suspense comic storytelling. It’s the Halloween jam of the century that’ll blow your mind and rock your soul!

If that isn’t enough, this Sunday is THE SIMPSONS™ annual Tree House of Horror television experience. The annual Halloween special is one of the most popular and anticipated episodes of the year.

How Does The Cavalcade of Classroom Comics Work?
We invite our readers of all ages to submit their own mini-reviews to the Cavalcade of Classroom Comics. Think of it as our own version of Reading Rainbow. Readers create a short review where they introduce their favorite piece of comic literature and tell our readers why they should read it. We will get a sense of what people enjoy reading.

We also encourage students (elementary, middle school, high school, or home school) to participate (with parental permission). Participants should submit their own mini-reviews to the Cavalcade of Classroom Comics. Only one review per person is allowed. What a great writing assignment and it is authentic and real-world. It also fulfills a persuasive writing standard.

We will take submissions until Friday, November 14, 5 p.m. CST, at which time we will close the contest and all entries will be entered into a random drawing. Once we have a winner, we will contact Harper and have the book sent out.

  • Name of the Reviewer
  • Full Address of the Reviewer
  • Age of the Reviewer
  • 100 words or less
  • Title of the Work
  • Author’s Name
  • Illustrator’s Name (or penciler, inker, colorer, letterer, cover artist)
  • Format (comic, graphic novel, trade paper)
  • Issue Number (if applicable)
  • Publisher
  • ISBN number
  • Explanation Why You Think It’s Great

By submitting your mini-review, you are giving The Graphic Classroom permission to have your mini-review published and the submission becomes the sole property of The Graphic Classroom. We will only print the first name of the reviewer, his or her age, and the city/state in which s/he lives. Like this:

Chris, age 35
Springfield, MO

All submissions to the Cavalcade of Classroom Comics will be published on the site soon after the contest ends, but only one person will win the contest. Please keep in mind, we have not yet reviewed this book, but it is THE SIMPSONS™ and it is Halloween. If you are a minor and your parents don’t approve of THE SIMPSONS™ or Halloween, then you can opt out of the contest but still submit your mini-review for publication. Just let us know that you do not wish to be in the random drawing.

Email submissions to Chris Wilson,

Monday, October 27, 2008


By Chris Wilson

Sorry for the late edition. The auction of my late grandmother was this weekend and I had no idea how much work it would be. Better late than never. Last week’s info is published below. We have two more Halloween-inspired reviews (Nancy Drew & The Picture of Dorian Gray). Two more reviews are coming at you later this week, which will wrap up our month-long nod to all things creepy. Next month expect to see some articles and reviews on democracy and world affairs.

To the list:
  1. A Christmas Carol (Original Text & Quick Text)
  2. Claire and the Bakery Thief
  3. Family Dynamic #3
  4. Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #4
  5. No Girls Allowed
  6. Tiny Titans #9
  7. Usagi Yojimbo #115


By Michael Schofield
Staff Writer

ADAPTED BY: Roy Thomas
ARTIST: Sebastian Fiumara
COLORIST: Giulia Brusco
LETTERER: Dave Sharpe
COVER ARTIST: Gerald Parel
PUBLISHER: Marvel Illustrated
GENRE: Adapted Literary Classic/Horror

FORMAT: Hardcover
PAGES: 152 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-10: 0785126546
ISBN-13: 978-0785126546

For all the demand from well-meaning teachers and librarians, there is – at least by any active graphic reader – a stigma on classic adaptations. In the shadow of award-winning, poignant originals, classics squeezed into this medium – for all their literary merit – are often hollow. And, in me, a nigh hypocritical conflict of interests: I read and have read graphics for many years, I challenge any great novelist to stand against a storyteller like Warren Ellis or Mike Carey. At the same time, I'm a Librarian with an English degree and a Victorian Studies penchant, and if there be just the one way to get teens a white whale, then I'll give-over my thirty pieces to an industry who I think take advantage of an ever-more-popular, once cult, medium.

So I added to my YA Collection the Marvel Illustrated Oscar Wilde. Adapter Roy Thomas admitted in his foreword that Wilde's sort of lengthy rhetoric doesn't necessarily lend itself to illustration, but it turned out okay. The story of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is one of Victorian dandy-aristocracy and a fat, ironic guffaw at sensibility and beauty-this and beauty-that, wherein our hero swaps his soul for the surface ever-youth of his own portrait. It's dangerous and it's dark and appropriate for Halloween.

Sebastian "Melmoth" Fiumara's art is rich and colorful; sharp expressions and fully-painted panels give to the graphic a sense of period realism that can kinda-sorta attune to nineteenth-centuryishness. Memory and recall are distinguished from present action in sepia, daguerreotype-like light; imagination is a slur of a red-tinted scene behind the full-color present tableau, which reinforces the multidimensional quality of a story with the swish of a brush. And his painting of Dorian's portrait itself is pretty suave, IMHO.

To Roy Thomas and the letterer Dave Sharpe's credit, much of Wilde's own words make it into the narrative boxes and dialogue-bubbles without crowding-out the pictures. And while most of the story is narrated in this way, it never seems like it is word-heavy. In fact, because a lot of DORIAN GRAY is philosophical, Roy Thomas manages to express a lot of this visually rather than copy-and-pasting paragraphs of the book. The following's from the forward:

For the most part [these] had to be omitted. But then, this was an adaptation, not a reprinting of the work itself, which was readily available elsewhere. Comics and graphic novels, like films and television, lend themselves most readily to telling the story, and there was plenty of story to tell, even in a relatively brief novel.

A lot of the story is introspective, but Fiumara pays as much attention to the internal landscape of DORIAN GRAY as his dashing and foppish exterior. Dorian never ages; but somehow, the vain and fragile youth becomes conflicted and mature by the end of the comic without any readily noticeable changes to his mockup.

I am pretty awe-struck by the ever-present push to smother younger and younger students with canon literature. When Mark Twain isn't on the ban-list down here, he is being read to middle-schoolers. I bring this analogy up because part of the reason these authors made it to canon is because they often portray something seedy about humanity, even when all in good fun. So while THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and suchlike are adapted into graphics to be sold to younger students – which sounds super marketable – I don't know whether the publishers take into account how dark these stories can be, and how unlikely they are to be taught as comics in the classroom.

Here's the thing: the adapted Dorian Gray is really remarkable, but having the real horror of Dorian's world brought from a monochromatic page to striking visuals – pertaining to suicide and murder (and the disposal of the body) – makes it awful poignant. I'm all for relentless gore and I generally root for the bad guy, but there is a panel in which a man hangs himself simply because he once associated with Dorian Gray, and it caught me off guard. It's not particularly artful and it's not like he's disemboweled, but it is pretty sad.

My Rating:
High School
So because the adaptation can do this, I wholly recommend it for High Schoolers: there's a LOT that doesn't make it from the novel, so it ain't a substitute, but what it doesn't omit it nails (even the boring parts of the novel are boring in panels – which, trust me, is probably how it should be). Were it my lecture, I would likely supplement the novel with Fiumara's art on the big screen, as I don't see - even though the adaptation is good - there being much demand for the novel after the graphic (that'd be a feat!, IMHO), but it is most certainly worthy as an aside. I can't imagine talking Dorian Gray again without Fiumara’s panels, which I will definitely do if it ever came up again.

Recommended with Reservations

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is a good horror show, but there is enough to keep it out of the hands of someone easily moved. It's not scary; you're not going to go EEEEEEEEE! after Dorian does something Dorianish, and you'll definitely be able to sleep (it might put you to sleep!), but it is pretty dark. There is a lot of underbelly truth to this supernatural soul-selling stuff, and it's best to be prepared for it.


by Chris Wilson

Stefan Petrucha
PUBLISHER: Papercutz
GENRE: Mystery

FORMAT: Digest paperback
PAGES: 112
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-1-59707-086-7

The drama gets going in this fast-paced mystery, when Nancy shows up at the ball in the same dress as hateful fashion diva Deirdre. Such a dilemma means all drama breaks loose. Heaven forbid the handsome Ned see the dreadful debacle. The class act she is, Nancy offers to leave to alleviate Deidre’s tantrum. On the way out the door Miss Drew is kidnapped, making her the mystery. Who? Why? What will be done? The list of culprits is long, the solutions small, but leave it to Nancy to save herself and with the help of her friends, finger the perpetrator.

A rather stylized and sharp-cornered rendering makes for a modern comic suited perfectly for tween and teen girls. It is appropriate for any child, boy or girl, but it seems geared for young females. Nancy Drew is the contemporary female protagonist: She is intelligent, caring, strong, observant, and meant for greatness. She does not wait to be rescued; rather, this clever young lady carves out her own destiny by using her mind and solving her problems. Nancy Drew is a class act.

My Rating: Ages 9 and older

I did not find a publisher’s age recommendation, but the work of Papercuts tends to start around ages 8 to 10. This book may be a bit hard for 8-year-olds, most at least, so I recommended starting with 9-year-olds. The truth is, I would hand this over to any interested kid.

Nancy Drew is kidnapped.

Powerful females can be hard to find in literature, and stories that support positive roles for intelligent girls and women are of utmost importance in the classroom.

A collector’s hardcover (ISBN 978-1-59707-087-4) is also available.

When I read girl-power comics I think of my daughter and the kind of woman I hope to raise. Books that portray women and girls as intelligent, strong, caring, loving, responsible and respectful are gems in my book.

Friday, October 17, 2008


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer

Spookiness abounds in this graphic retelling of the classic Washington Irving story (put out by Stone Arch) in which a timid schoolhouse teacher runs up against fanciful tales and terror in a small town. Blake Hoena retells this story (with illustrator Tod Smith) with attention to details. The wiry schoolmaster – Ichabod Crane – is portrayed like a scared rat with something devious up his sleeve (that something being the affection of the lovely Katrina, whom Ichabod attempts to woo away from the juvenile prankster Brom Bones).

The story is layered with ghost stories from the town's history, including the tragic tale of the Woman in White who was caught in the ice storm near Raven Rock, the story of the traitor spy who was hung from the tree along Sleepy Hollow Road by the townspeople, and, of course, the saga of The Headless Horseman who seems to prey on the town's schoolteachers in the dead of the night.

The two main plot developments of Bones' jealousy over Ichabod's interest in Katrina and the culmination of the ghost stories on Ichabod's imagination merge one night as Ichabod is returning home from a party at Katrina's house by way of the shadowy terrain of Sleepy Hollow and is confronted by The Headless Horseman himself. The reader is never quite certain whether it is Ichabod's own fertile mind, a Brom Bones' prank, or a real ghost that confronts and chases him through the night. Nor is it explained what happened to Ichabod in the aftermath of the attack. All that is left for the townspeople to find the next day along with some tracks from Ichabod's horse and a smashed pumpkin. The story ends with a new schoolteacher in town and a child, holding up a horse shoe, asking the innocent question of Ichabod's replacement in the classroom: "Sir, have you never heard the legend of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow?"

Illustrator Tod Smith is quite effective in establishing and maintaining a creepy tone through the book. Darkness abounds in the art, and at the crucial moment when The Headless Horseman attacks Ichabod in the night by throwing a green, rotting head at the schoolteacher, Smith works a certain magic by slowing down the action, frame by frame, until the head hits Ichabod with a solid "wham!", sending his glasses flying and ending the scene dramatically. The ghost tales told to Ichabod earlier are also rendered nicely, giving an air of eeriness to the stories. We can see Ichabod being both obsessed with the ghost stories unfolding around him but also showing fear that these ghosts might still inhabit the Earth. And Ichabod himself is nicely drawn as a long, gangly man, with sharp nose, that is distinct contrast to his main rival, Brom Bones.

Washington Irving used the idea of the gaps in the narrative to relay this spooky tale, and Hoena keeps that technique in tact. For young writers, this is a valuable lesson in not telling the readers everything. A hole in the narrative allows the readers to tap into their own imagination, and young writers might want to use this technique for their own spooky stories. This book also comes with a set of discussion questions (including one topic around the use of satire and humor) and writing prompts (such as, what happens to the new schoolteacher who comes after Ichabod Crane?). Finally, young writers could also dream up a ghost story for their own town, using real geographic locations for the setting of their stories.

AUTHOR: Irving, Washington
ADAPTED BY: Blake A. Hoena
PUBLISHER: Stone Arch Books
ISBN 10: 1-4342-0446-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-4342-0446-2

AR QUIZ NO.: 120190
DEWEY: 741.5

I would highly recommend this book for upper elementary and middle school readers, although some high school readers might also enjoy it. There is an attack on Ichabod in the climax of the story as The Headless Horseman throws a head (or is it a pumpkin) at Ichabod Crane. And one of the ghost stories told to Ichabod shows a man being hanged from a tree for being a spy. There is no blood or gory graphics however, and I believe it is appropriate for most older audiences. I would refrain, perhaps, from allowing younger elementary students from viewing the pictures in this book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


By Chris Wilson


GENRE: Super Villains
PAGES: 32 pages each
COLOR: Full color

The five stories in the series, all narrated by The Joker, center around one of the super villains in the Batman continuum. They were originally released one per week for five weeks, each with a different writer and artist.

Joker’s Asylum: The Joker
Written by Arvid Nelson
Art by Alex Sancez
Cover by Andy kubert
In “The Joker’s Wild” we are privy to one of the clown prince’s little pranks, with a moral. The Joker presents us with a life scenario, a wicked one, and lets life unfold spontaneously, opening up the underbelly of corporate greed for all to see.

Joker’s Asylum: The Penguin
Written by Jason Aaron
Art & cover by Jason Pearson
In “He Who Laughs Last” the Joker tells a tale of pain and woe, of love and pranks, a story that leads one short penguin to denounce true love. In high school, Oswald Cobblepot fell prey to a joke at his heart’s expense, when he received a fake love letter from Allison. Flowers fall, hearts break and the young Oswald is exposed, hurt and vulnerable, pitiful. Fast forward and we find the Penguin surrounded by sycophantic bar flies drunk on his power. When he frees a woman from bondage, her love is pure, transforming him. That is, until she discovers his dark, vengeful side and his lust for revenge.

Joker’s Asylum: Poison Ivy
Written by J.T. Krul
Art & cover by Guillem March
Poison Ivy, who was an experiment gone awry, gets revenge on everyone involved in the erection of the new luxury estates and more importantly, the destruction of the wildlife in the woodlands that once stood in its spot in this story titled “Deflowered”. Carefully, calculatingly, she plots the death of all the entrepreneurs involved. It takes Batman’s keen intellect to figure out the pattern and put a stop to deathly plans.

Joker’s Asylum: Scarecrow
Written by Joe Harris
Art & cover by Juan Doe
A group of teens get together for a more sexually advanced twist on spin-the-bottle. The boy pulls a name from the pot, and then he and the lucky girl go upstairs for a quick, seven-minute hook up. All the while, the popular girls have plotted to expose the one girl who was invited as an intended victim. Little do they know that this lonely girl’s psychiatrist is more pathological than the average head shrink, and he intends to enact some victimization himself. Lucky for the teens, Batman gets involved in “Dark Knight of the Scarecrow”.

Joker’s Asylum: Two-Face
Written by David Hine
Art & cover by Andy Clarke
A facially disfigured man tries to peer-counsel Harvey Dent in “Two-Face, Too”. Dent will have none of it and decides to show the man that despite their injuries, their situations, their backgrounds, their pain is not the same … yet. The man is forced to choose between his soul and his wife: Murder the Batman, who is hanging and helpless, or his wife will experience an acid drip to the face. The man chooses poorly and his life is never the same.

The first installments of Joker’s Asylum are spectacular in presentation, beautiful in art and story. THE JOKER is unbelievably creepy, dirty, and scratchy. His desire is a simple one: To expose the world for what it is, to create chaos because he can, because he loves to, because he needs us to burn our blinds and see the world as he experiences it – Decadent, devious, and depraved.

PENGUIN is horrific in its plausibility; many a teen boy has been the object of cruel jokes, or the bug beneath the crushing Mary Jane of a beautiful but insensitive girl. To have the two occur together is unforgivable and the pain Oswald feels runs off the page and bleeds onto the floor. His puppy dog eyes, the sadness at his realization that he has not found love or acceptance is nearly too much to bear. Allison’s hag-face is enough to want revenge of our own. When Oswald does find acceptance and love later in life, we cheer him despite his super villain status. We hope, somehow, her love will be enough to turn him. Alas, that never works. The sorrow is not only hers but ours as well, as we watch our heroic super villain, the one we dared care for, follow his infamous path.

Not the traditional horror comic, I suppose, but the first two installments in this 5-part series are creepy enough for any sane person. After all, humanizing and understanding the villain can be the most disturbing experience. Pain, suffering and revenge are very real, indeed. Perhaps too real?

The other three issues – POISON IVY, SCARECROW, and TWO-FACE – are fine yarns, but the power and poignancy is not as strong or overpowering in the latter issues as it was with THE JOKER and PENGUIN.

Chris’ Rating:
High School
Publisher’s Rating: No Rating

As with many pieces of literature, this would not be appropriate for all classes. But for the class that wishes to study psychology, crime, terrorism, and personal responsibility, THE JOKER and PENGUIN, especially, could be excellent resources.

There is a small amount of profanity, more prevalent in the latter three issues. A single “damn” is the only curse word to grace the pages of THE JOKER, and PENGUIN has none. These are not meant for children. They are dark stories. In PENGUIN, the Joker is sitting in his cell ready to impart a new story on the reader when Two-Face, from the next cell, interrupts. The Joker says to him: “Harvey, I will chew your eyeballs into jelly if you don’t mind your own damn business.” Not for kids, but very funny and telling.

POISON IVY, SCARECROW, and TWO-FACE have more profanity as well as sexual content, including partial nudity and sexual games.

Evil – pure, unadulterated evil – is the topic at hand these days and the exploration of evil and the circumstances that are involved in the paths chosen are significant. Our choices, our ability to cope with problems, are a significant problem for teachers, as we try to instill personal responsibility in our students. While we do not have any real life Penguins or Jokers, we do have real terrorists, flesh and blood psychopaths that seek the destruction of certain peoples or groups, cultures or religions. Sometimes it is to promote one idea over another and for others it is because they can. Either way, the stories, albeit inside the superhero genre, are apropos for the modern day student living after 9/11.

Studying psychology, understanding the mind and the soul, prepares us to make good decisions, appropriate choices, in our own lives and helps us to learn to cope with the challenges and nasty nature of life.

THE JOKER: Highly Recommended
PENGUIN: Highly Recommended


I found THE JOKER and PENGUIN to be outstanding pieces of comic literature, activating my emotions and trapping me inside the stories. The other three were not as successful and had more objectionable content.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


By Chris Wilson

There are several books on the list this week that we have been looking forward to and others that were an unexpected surprise. All in all, it was a good week for comics. Young and old, there is something for almost everyone.

Up this week are two Halloween-inspired stories. The first is a spooky tale of a sleepy little hollow by middle school teacher, Kevin Hodgson. The second is clownish tale of woe by this reviewer.

And now the list:

Friday, October 10, 2008


I mentioned the presidential comics from IDW Publishers that came into the classroom this week in my mostly-weekly list. The staff and I are talking about these comics and making some plans for next month. So keep in touch. But before the election hits, you should seriously consider these comics as part of your classroom.

I haven't read them yet (and I am making no official age or appropriateness recommendation), but I think it is important that we give students authentic literature when we study democracy and the electoral process. You do not need me to tell you that no election in recent history has been as important as this one.

A "Who I Would Vote for (If I Could Vote)" essay could be very interesting and gradable, assuming there is a well-crated rubric to outline the qualities of a good essay versus a poor one. As I've said before, mock elections and the comparison of that classroom data to local, state and national data could make for an interesting, engaging and curriculum-based lesson or unit.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


By Chris Wilson


AUTHOR: R. L. Stine
ADAPTED BY: Gabriel Hernandez, Greg Ruth, and Scott Morse
PUBLISHER: Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic)
GENRE: Horror

FORMAT: Paperback
PAGES: 139
COLOR: Black and white
ISBN-10: 0-439-84125-9

Werewolves, scarecrows and abominable snowmen romp the pages of this graphic adaptation based on three of R.L. Stine’s popular horror series of the same name. Stories include: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena.

Told in black and white, each story is rendered by a different artist, appealing to a wide range of tastes. The stories are typical for the Goosebumps series, with plenty of age-appropriate spook and creep to satisfy the young soul searching for fun horror.

Talk to any librarian and she will tell you that the horror books fly off the shelves. The GOOSEBUMPS graphic novels are no exception as kids will flock to them – the spookier the better. Monsters and frightful tales are at the soul of our literary culture and many kids get into it.

GOOSEBUMPS is excellent for kids as the stories are goldilocks; that is to say that they are just the right amount of scare.

My Rating: Ages 9 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 9 and older

This series of books is about monsters and whatnot. Nothing bloody or gory, just good old-fashioned horror.

Horror is well liked and hotly sought after by children. They are drawn to the scary, so this book has a built-in audience, even among those who do not like to read. For the teachers who promote a lot of writing experiences, kids will love to come up with their own horror stories, without a lot of prodding and poking.

Other books in the series include: TERROR TRIPS, and SCARY SUMMER. Click here to see a sample from each book.

The GOOSEBUMPS series, be it novel or graphic novel, are solid horror stories for kids. They will read the stories, and the books may, indeed, draw some students who are not interested in other types of stories.


By Chris Wilson

Things are heating up politically and I’m sure many classrooms across American are using the presidential election as a way to talk about democracy and connect current events to curriculum. Interestingly enough, the presidential comics came in this week and I am very excited to read and review them. Look for a review in November.

We are in the second week of our Halloween themed reviews. This week’s review comes from Scholastic and is an old favorite adapted into a comic.

To the list:

  1. The Dark Tower: Treachery #2 (of 6)
  2. Dragon Prince #2
  3. I Kill Giants #4 (of 7)
  4. Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #19
  5. The Lone Ranger #14
  6. Marvel Adventures Hulk: #16
  7. Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #44
  8. Moby Dick
  9. Presidential Material: John McCain
  10. Presidential Material: Barack Obama
  11. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #3
  12. The Stand: Captain Trips #2 (of 5)

Friday, October 3, 2008


The Classroom has produced some articles of interest to most teachers and librarians. You might have missed them, so every so often I remind the new readers of their existence. You will notice that these articles are listed in the sidebar.

This is an exhaustive list of all the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and RECOMMENDED comics we have reviewed. The list is categorized by age to be even more helpful. Take note that the recommended ages are generally the lowest recommendation and does not mean that the title is not appropriate for older students. In fact, many times a title may be appropriate for a middle school student, but it may be best suited for high school. So use those age recommendations as a guide only. Otherwise, you may miss out on some fantastic comic literature for your older students. This list is always changing as we continue to review, so check back often. If you are new to comics, this is a great place to start.

These are my recommendations for the best way to keep your comics safely stored in your classroom. This article speaks directly to the 32-page, pamphlet-style periodical comic book that everyone is most familiar with.

The bios of the staff members can be found in the sidebar. Just in case you want to learn more about the people who review comic literature for you. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008


By Chris Wilson


RELATED ARTICLE: An Interview with Capstone Press on Interactive CD’s

AUTHOR: Scott Nickel
ILLUSTRATOR: Steve Harpster
PUBLISHER: Stone Arch Press
GENRE: Horror, Science fiction

FORMAT: Reinforced library binding
PAGES: 48 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN 10: 1-59889-035-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-59889-035-8

The fourth grade students have a substitute teacher, but something is just not right. Luckily for Trevor, he had to use the restroom. When he got back to class the other children had all been turned into zombies who … loved homework. He realizes things are bad when his best friend, Bo, would rather do math than play video games. It is up to Trevor to figure out how to save his best friend, save the rest of the class, and get to the bottom of the mysterious evil substitute teacher.

I gave this to my 7-year-old second grader and she powered through it. She is a good reader though, averaging 45-55 books per month. I gave it to her while she was reading in bed. She took it, read it and gave it right back. I asked her what she thought of it she laughed and said: “It was funny.” There you have it from the mouth of a honest-to-goodness kid in the recommended age range.

The art is very child-centered. There are only 2-3 panels per page, the inking is heavy, the colors bright, and the panel movement is straightforward.

My Rating: Ages 6-10
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grades 1-3
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 3-5

Guided Reading Level: K
Lexile: 350L
ATOS Level: 2.3
AR Quiz: 103434
Dewey: 741.5

There is nothing of concern, unless the subject of zombies is a problem.

Many students really enjoy scary stories about creatures and such. This is the perfect opportunity for comic monsters.

The teacher has access to an interactive CD, where the entire book can be projected onto a screen and read as a whole-class activity. A Reader’s Theater is also available, which could be a lot of fun for children.

Right off the bat, the reader is given a clue as to Mr. Winklepoof’s real identity: “I am Mr. Winklepoof, a genuine substitute teacher and not an escaped mad scientist wanted by the law.” The children should pick up on that and make the connection that they should be skeptical of Mr. Winklepoof. They should refer back to the title, his strange statement about not being a mad scientist, and then make predictions about what might occur in the story.

NIGHT OF THE HOMEWORK ZOMBIES can come with Reader’s Theatre and an interactive CD. An interesting tidbit is that the book is constructed with at least 10 percent post-consumer waste, a teaching opportunity for those teachers who are concerned with the environment.

This is a great comic for the emerging young reader and struggling elementary reader. It is funny and appropriately written for a young audience.


Welcome to October and The Graphic Classroom’s second annual month-long comic reviews of all things Halloween. We have a nice lineup of scary and spooky that runs the gamut of ages from early elementary to high school (and older). You are in for a treat and possibly a trick, although I don’t know how I would trick you.

We will start the week off with a zombie comic meant for the very young: NIGHT OF THE HOMEWORK ZOMBIES.

Here’s the list of comics that came into the Classroom this week:
  1. The Batman Strikes #50
  2. Optical Allusions
  3. The Sandwalk Adventures
  4. Voltron: Defender of the Universe #3