Saturday, February 28, 2009


By Nate Stearns
Staff Writer

I teach, among other things, 10th grade English and part of our curriculum is a career unit – a 3-4 week exploration of the work world and the skills needed to be successful there. Practically, this means that students pretend to interview each other (Why should I hire you?), job shadow their moms at the Century 21 office, try to imagine what life would be like as an adult, and whether they should run screaming to the hills and live off moss and grubs in the Olympic National Forest.

One difficult aspect of teaching the career unit is finding materials that both give useful and accurate information as well as strike the right tone of honest advice without being unbearably condescending. Many of the articles and career books currently on the market tend to boil down to telling kids “Don’t be such a kid with your Halo and your Brittney Spears! You’ll be in the work world soon and the Chinese are gonna eat your lunch if you don’t learn differential calculus and theoretical physics.” I am constantly looking for something that students can relate to. Of course, it also has to be an honest appraisal of what you need to be successful.

Daniel Pink’s THE ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY BUNKO is a radical and fascinating attempt at career advice. Eschewing WHO MOVED MY CHEESE pablum, Pink couches his guide in a manga comic book that tells the story of Johnny Bunko: a blander than bland salaryman stuck in a dead-end job at Boggs Corporation. Through a series of implausible (but very manga-rific) events, Bunko comes into possession of magic chopsticks that summon a magic sprite who leads him through the six most important career laws. These laws range from 1) There is no plan to 6) Leave an Imprint and Diana, the manga sprite, illustrates each one by whisking Bunko and his friends away to various places so he can experience her wisdom firsthand.

Reading Bunko, there is a certain level of shock that a career guide could be this much fun and contain pictures! For anyone used to the genre epitomized by THE SEVEN HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE and similar tomes, it takes some getting used to. Also, Pink is known for books like A WHOLE NEW MIND that argue that right-brained, out of the box thinking is the most crucial skill set necessary for the 21st century. You might not agree. Maybe kids do need to learn differential calculus. Still, if you put that together, you get a unique, entertaining career manual that is especially appealing to high school students. I do have to say that the advice tends to be very general and exhortatory and for some that might be too vague. Also, some of the language (“bullcrap” and “numbnuts”) is juvenile. However, some of the advice can easily apply to a student’s academic career and is a handy way to begin discussion on how students see their place in the world of work.

Rob Ten Pas’ manga-flavored artwork should be especially accessible to students — or at least that group of students who still hold fiercely to their Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z days. It’s a good mix of the realistic with the fantastic and chock full of girls with big eyes and swooping action panels. There may be issues with the fact that students might associate the style with the younger/less serious middle school years and thereby aren’t able to take the messages and ideas seriously. It might help to discuss the fact that in Japan the manga comic book format is often used to explore serious and adult themes or subjects.

Highly Recommended for High School
The book succeeds in being an enjoyable but thoughtful exploration of what it means to have a career. I can imagine students questioning the wisdom of some of the advice, but that might actually make Bunko stronger and more effective — it can serve as a springboard to discussion and writing in a way that a more traditional career book might not.

Author: Daniel H. Pink
Illustrator: Rob Ten Pas
Publisher: Rivehead Books/Penguin
Genre: Business/Career

Format: Softcover Digest
Edition: First edition
Pages: 160
Color: Black & White
ISBN-10: 1594482918
ISBN-13: 978-1594482915


By Chris Wilson

Author: Olivier Ka
Illustrator: Alfred
Publisher: NBM Comics Lit
Genre: Autobiography

Format: Hardback
Pages: 122
Color: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-56163-543-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-56163-543-6

It is not at all possible to write a charming autobiography about the molestation of a boy by a priest; however, Oliver Ka has somehow managed convey his heart-wrenching deluge of emotional devastation in such a way as to keep from mashing the reader into a messy quivering puddle huddled in the corner. He is all at once, honest yet delicate in his true-life portrayal. WHY I KILLED PETER is the closest thing to charming any molestation story could ever come; his graphic novel is remarkable.

Young Ka lived a life full of juxtaposition. He lived with his hippy French parents and vacationed with his strict Catholic grandparents. He swam naked with adults and was threatened with Hell if he played with his “peepee”. For the most part, he was left to make his own decisions about God and religion, allowing him a pastoral-liberal childhood.

His development was hastened when a trusted friend and priest molested him one night at a summer camp. Like many children, Ka not only kept his secret well into adulthood, but also pretended the incident was unimportant.

Years later, in an attempt at catharsis, Ka wrote this book and had his compatriot illustrate it. The two went back to the priest’s summer camp – who was thought to be dead – and was surprised to find Peter alive and well. Ka then finds himself conflicted again. How does one confront his perpetrator face-to-face?

Ka’s story is, at its core, a story of paradox and hypocrisy, multiple messages and oppositional indoctrinations. He spends much of his life confused about his own understanding of the world, until he puts Peter to rest.

Illustrated example of the push-pull in Ka's life.


The first thing most people want to know before reading a book such as this is:

  • Is the molestation scene depicted?
  • Is it graphic?

Yes, the scene is in the book, but it is not overly illustrated. The panels are very dark with black and blues and some shapes of heads or hands. No sexual organs or positions are displayed. The writing is more graphic in the sense that Ka describes his realization that he is not massaging Peter’s tummy but his genitals. Any further portrayal of molestation is left to the void. The entire event takes up 11 pages out of the total 112.

Beyond that, the art is what gives much of the book it’s distinctive and charming characteristic I described earlier. The colors and lines are simple and reflect the youthful nature of the boy of the time. It makes the excellent but traumatic story tolerable and less convulsing. Click here for a preview.

The art is whimsical and comforting despite the subject matter.

Chris’ Rating: Mature readers
Publisher’s Rating: Mature readers

I debated even writing a review of this book, as it is not appropriate for children, teens or many young adults. However, I found the story so strong that I felt compelled to discuss it.

Child molestation is the most serious of subjects and one must be aware to never put this book in the hands of children, teens or most young adults.

Of any classroom, I think WHY I KILLED PETER could only be appropriate in the college classroom, if at all. From a psychological point of view, this title is an excellent book to use when discussing pedophilia and the deep emotional damage of the victim. Ka is concise and candid about his feelings – deconstructing his confusion and the impact of the molestation on his life. His reflective nature gives us keen insight into the mind of the child victim and the adult survivor.

As for literature, the cathartic nature of writing and the fine quality with which Ka constructs his story makes for the perfect advanced learning experience. The aspiring writers can learn how to express their deep feelings and also be reflective and introspective.

Highly Recommended for Mature Adults Only
Yes, Ka’s life was full of dichotomy, which comes through the story and the illustrations. The crafting of his book – the sensitive and charming nature of the art set against the tragic story – gives the reader this strange sense of two worlds colliding together and allows us to experience his free pastoral life while simultaneously feeling his emotional and physical turmoil. It is a discombobulating reading experience, to say the least, but one worth reading.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


From the Editor

My group of fourth graders seem much more interested in trade paperbacks and graphic novels than pamphlet-style comic books. I really don’t know why that is and I haven’t run into that trend before, but I find it very interesting.

In other news, I had two boys from another fourth grade class ask to borrow some comics today. One of the boys has asked before. Because of the school-wide spelling bee, I was sort of subbing in their room today so I agreed. The one boy pounded through the first volume of Mail Order Ninja and asked for another. He loved it. The other boy read one of the Star Wars Clone Wars trades. Despite the changes (and those strange days always wreak havoc in the classroom, these two boys read furiously, as if their very happiness depended on it. I love it when literature affects students.

Here is the list of books that came in this week:
  1. Batman: The Brave and the Bold #2
  2. The Dark Tower: Treachery #6 (of 6)
  3. The Man in the Iron Mask
  4. Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #45
  5. Sonic Universe #1
  6. Usagi Yojimbo #118

Sunday, February 22, 2009


By Larry Litle
Contributing Writer

Author: Scott Nickel
Illustrator: Steve Harpster
Publisher: Stone Arch Books

Genre: Science fiction
Format: Library binding
Pages: 33
Color: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-59889-033-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-59889-033-4
Guided Reading Level: K

David and Ben flunked their history test because they did not study. When Ben’s older brother, Darrin, created a time machine, David and Ben try to go back in time to study and retake the test. Things go wrong and the boys end up back with the dinosaurs. They start to have fun with the plant-eating dinosaurs until the carnivorous T. Rex shows up. David and Ben must to get back to the future before T. Rex gets them.

This is a fun story about time traveling and dinosaurs. When I was a young boy, I loved any dinosaur book I could get my hands on and I would have loved this BLAST TO THE PAST. This book also hits on personal accountability and choices at a kid’s level.

My daughter loved the dinosaurs in this book, proving to me that dinosaurs transcend the gender gap.

The art by Stever Harpster is perfect for young children in its clear comic book style.

My Rating: Ages 7 to 10
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8 to 10

This is a great story for the elementary classroom. It helps kids think about needing to make the right choices and being responsible for one’s bad choice such as playing video games instead of studying. I think the boys will love it.

This story has a Reader’s Theater along with a teacher’s version, allowing it to be read allowed in class and discussed afterwards. There are questions, writing prompts and Internet sites for further study at the end of the book.

I would highly recommend this book for second to fourth graders.


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer

Lewis Trondheim has to be one of the funniest comic book writers out there right now and, as evidence to this statement, I present two books from the First Second publishing house – TINY TYRANT and KAPUT & ZOSKY. In both of these comic adventure collections, Trondheim (who is joined by illustrator Eric Cartier in KAPUT AND ZOSKY and illustrator Fabrice Parme in TINY TYRANT) packs each and every story with the nuttiest characters and plot devices that you, or your children, could dream up. Just the premise of these books is enough to tickle the funny bone.

TINY TYRANT is about a 6-year-old kid named King Ethelbert who runs his own little island like a true spoiled brat who believes himself to be more powerful than he actually is. As a result, he gets his just rewards time and time again. His tantrums spark fear in his subjects, but they seem to know that this, too, will pass. After all, Ethelbert has the attention span of a little child and nothing stays in his focus for long. The comical tales include one where he discovers a cache of knock-off figurines of himself that were made in China. This discovery of contraband fascinates him (Ethelbert has a big ego for a little person and is thrilled to see the toys made in his image) but also gets his royal dander up, which leads to an outlandish detective investigation into the toy operation. In another tale, Ethelbert is so bored with other kids his age that he ships them all off to another country (after tossing aside his first idea to flush all the children down the toilet) and as a replacement, he has scores of robotic replicas of himself created for his island. He assumed they will be the perfect playmates, until he realizes just how annoying the robotic Ethelberts are. Unfortunately, this insight does not translate into Ethelbert reflecting on his own personality.

The main characters in KAPUT & ZOSKY, meanwhile, are two purple aliens out to conquer and loot any planet they can find. They rarely accomplish this, thanks to the misadventures and roadblocks that Trondheim throws in their path. The book begins with a wonderful sequence in which the two alien invaders spy Earth from their spaceship, and declare it ripe for the picking. Upon landing on Earth, Kaput and Zosky, and the reader, realize something: our heroes are both smaller than a bug. They gulp at the sight of a spider and leave town as quick as possible. There is also the story in which they land on a planet that is a Democracy. Instead of using force, they decide the best way to take it over is to run for the office of President. They promise everything and anything, and get elected only to be run out of town when the residents start demanding accountability (providing a nice editorial on what it is like to be part of an election process). Interspersed between the stories of Kapot and Zosky are one-page comics called THE COSMONAUT. These wordless visual stories track the adventures of another hapless, but nameless, human space explorer who thinks nothing of taking a photograph of a new species, and the blasting it away, only to get his comeuppance at the end when he notices a alien taking his photograph.

There is a wickedly delightful sense of humor that runs through both of these books by Trondheim that had me laughing out loud and anyone, regardless of age, would be well-served to get a good dose of either on any given day.

The artwork neatly matches the frenetic storylines in both of these books. There is always more going on than meets the eye and gags and jokes abound everywhere you look. The artwork in TINY TYRANT is little more subdued. Illustrator Fabrice Parme uses empty space on the page to the story's advantage, and there are few clear-cut frames. This allows the story's visual humor to spill over from one sequence to another. And, to be honest, the Tiny Tyrant himself, Ethelbert, is such an incredibly cute kid, with a big grin and wide eyes, that it would be hard to dislike him, even as he is wreaking havoc on the world around him. This contrast between the art and personality works a certain magic on the reader. On the other hand, KAPUT & ZOSKY is packed to the hilt with funny drawings by Eric Cartier. It may be that aliens and strange planets drifting in unknown sectors of the Universe give the artist a bit more freedom, particularly when you consider the wide range of bizarre creatures that our two heroes meet along the way. Cartier is wise to give us contrasting main characters, too, with Kaput looking like a fat little punk rocker sporting a red mohawk and Zosky taking on the resemblance of a cerebral hot dog with hair. If that sounds odd to you that's because it is, and intentional, I'm sure.

Both of these books could provide a launching pad for some potentially interesting creative writing. The TINY TYRANT certainly raises the question of what would students do if they were suddenly thrust into the role of ruling an entire island as royalty. What would their ideal island look like? And, if they were to be the queen or king, who would be the foil to their character (as Ethelbert has both a cousin who is king of a neighboring island and Princess Hildegardenia, who uses complicated words that confuse our boy king)? Who would give them tantrums and what would those tantrums look like? (Do we really want to know? Maybe we could just ask their parents).

As for KAPUT & ZOSKY, well, who wouldn't like to live the carefree life of meandering through space, taking over a planet here and there, and going off on adventures? I think KAPUT & ZOSKY would be a good place for character development for students. Asking students to create two characters who complement each other and who feed off each other (and think of Abbott and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy, or maybe even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) is a valuable exercise that forces the writer to map out the personality qualities and quirks of character creation. In addition, the story that I mentioned above concerning a planet built on Democracy might provide an interesting, and humorous, entry into the world of politics and the art of pandering and delivering on promises.



  • Format: Softcover
  • Color: Full color
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Pages: 80
  • Publisher: First Second
  • ISBN-10: 1596431326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431324

  • Format: Softcover
  • Color: Full color
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Pages: 128
  • Publisher: First Second
  • ISBN-10: 159643094X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596430945

I would rate this as a Highly Recommended for students in the elementary levels through high school, although my guess is that the cute covers might dissuade some older students from ever opening them up. Both books are fun adventures in which the characters get their full due for any transgressions of personality. For example, Kaput and Zosky periodically do blast the beings on the planets they stumble upon but there is nothing showing overt gore or violence. The victims just disappear into a puff of smoke. Most of the times, the two aliens apologize for their blasting, albeit to a cloud of vapor. And, like his counterparts in the other book, the Tiny Tyrant – King Ethelbert – never really ever causes much harm to anyone other than himself.

There are some who might find KAPUT & ZOSKY mildly offensive, as the two aliens have very little concern for the populace or planet they are invading (except for the last story, in which they are mistaken for Cabbage Patch kids and nurtured by a motherly alien creature) and they often leave the visited world in shambles. (Which, come to think of it, is the story of colonization throughout history).


From the Editor

Lesson plans, grading papers, portfolios, resumes, job interviews: the semester is in full swing and the stress is pretty tense, but it is good. Teaching is exactly what I’d hoped it would be and the rewards are tremendous and fulfilling.

I am reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as our daily read-aloud and the students are enthralled. I continue to refer back to the graphic novel adaptations of Greek mythology when we process what we read and my fourth graders are responding with interest and intrigue. On Thursday, a knot of 6 students pulled out the graphic novel about Perseus and did a picture walk. They want to know more and be able to predict what might happen. It’s exciting to see them so engaged in the process of reading.

Ah well, off to the list for the week, and it is a heavy dose of comic medicine:

  1. After the Challenger: A Story of the Space Shuttle Disaster
  2. Billy Blaster: Ice Caves of Pluto
  3. Billy Blaster: Mind Thief
  4. Cartoon Nation: Liberty
  5. Cartoon Nation: Women’s Right to Vote
  6. Digestive System with Max Axiom
  7. Dragon Frog
  8. Eek & Ack vs the Wolfman
  9. Fire in the Sky: A Tale of the Hindenburg Explosion
  10. G.I. Joe: Origins #1
  11. Jason and the Golden Fleece
  12. Marvel Adventures Avengers #33
  13. My First Graphic Novel: The End Zone
  14. My First Graphic Novel: Goalkeeper Goof
  15. Perseus and Medusa
  16. Powerful World of Energy with Max Axiom
  17. Rapunzel
  18. Recon Academy: Nuclear Distraction
  19. Recon Academy: Shadow Cell Scan
  20. Solid Truth about States of Matter with Max Axiom
  21. Three Little Pigs
  22. Tiny Titans #13
  23. Understanding Viruses with Max Axiom
  24. Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation
  25. Zinc Alloy vs Frankenstein

Sunday, February 15, 2009


By Chris Wilson

I have been withholding some information from you educators and comic lovers, and the time has come where I feel pretty secure in releasing the information. Over a year ago, two professors from San Diego State University – Drs. Barbara Moss and Diane Lapp in the School of Teacher Education – contacted me about contributing to a book they were writing.

I was thrilled to be able to share my work, research and passion for comics with throngs of teachers across the US and the world. So I agreed and got to work,writing, editing, researching and developing lesson plans between semesters and during breaks. The book, Teaching the Texts Children Need to Succeed on High Stakes Tests and in the Classroom, is comprised of several chapters addressing innovative research-based techniques to help the 21st Century student.

My chapter, as you have already guessed, is titled Using Comic Literature Across the Curriculum and offers research, national standards, techniques, and two inquiry-based lesson plans. I just finished the final edits to my chapter and have submitted them to my editors. At least at this point, my work is complete assuming they do not wish to make more additions or corrections. I am amazed at the time-consuming and tedious process of book publishing, but I am thankful for the opportunity.

When the book is finally published and on shelves I will let you know. I just had to share my success and excitement with you.

Teaching the Texts Children Need to Succeed
on High Stakes Tests and in the Classroom

Edited by Dr. Barbara Moss and Dr. Diane Lapp
Guilford Press

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Power Pack: Day One

Skrulls vs Power Pack

By Chris Wilson

Author (Day One): Fred Van Lente
Illustrator (Day One): Gurihiru
Lettering (Day One): Dave Sharpe
Covers (Day One): Gurihiru

Author (Skrulls vs PP): Fred Van Lente
Pencils (Skrulls vs PP): Cory Hamscher (1-4), Jacopo Camagni (3-4)
Inks (Skrulls vs PP): Cory Hamscher (1-4), Norman Lee (3-4)
Colors (Skrulls vs PP): Gurihiru (1-4) and Wil Quintana (3)
Lettering (Skrulls vs PP): Dave Sharpe
Covers (Skrulls vs PP): Gurihiru

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Genre: Superhero

Format: Monthly comic
Issues: Power Pack: Day One #1 - #4;
Issues: Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1 - #4
Pages: 32 each
Color: Full color

Franklin Richard is the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, from the Fantastic Four fame. He is not a superhero like the rest of his family, but he is a genius like his father. When the Four must go into space to fight off a great galactic evil, Franklin must stay with super physicist, Mr. Powers and family. In reverse, the children of the Power family (Alex, 12; Julie, 10; Jack, 8; and Katie, 5) are preteen superheroes, a fact the children feel necessary to hide from the Power parents.

Franklin knows of the Power children’s secret but he does not know how their secret came to be. So, during the sleepover Franklin asks them to share their origin story. What a story it is, complete with Pony-creatures, power-seeking Skrulls, and a prophecy.

The entire story is told over eight issues, split up into two story arcs. The first arc, Day One, tells how the Power Pack first received their abilities. The second arc tells of the impending Skrull deception to frame the Power Pack and gain control of the empire through the use of anti-matter.

The first arc drug along a bit and was a tad soft for my taste, what with all the pony-headed Kymellian and Julie’s rainbow powers. The shape-shifting, lizard-like Skrulls help make up for that. The second arc was more exciting and complex. The Powers had to uncover the secret of who framed them, and then seek to thwart the efforts of the Skrulls by uncovering the secrets to the hidden prophecy, which was full of puzzles and riddles just ripe for the classroom.

Franklin Richards and the Power kids are resourceful and intelligent, courageous and persistent. They are good role models for kids, while still being kids who disobey and get into trouble.

At the end of every issue, Marvel has included a 2- to 4-page mini comic, much like a long comic strip. These are delightful little stories with cartoony caricatures of the Power Pack. Kids will love these; they are quite cute.

The cover art of SKULLS VS POWER PACK #2 says enough about Van Lente’s humorous writing and the artist’s ability to make these good kids still relevant to the modern child. Crack me up! I’ve always liked Van Lente comedic bent ever since I read ACTION PHILOSOPHERS.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 10 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Rated A (for all ages)

Creatures do die, but none of them are human.

First of all, I would take my time with SKRULLS VS. POWER PACK #4. The kids have to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to understand the prophecy. This is very similar to the tests Harry Potter et al. had to undergo in THE SORCERER’S STONE. It would be very easy to incorporate the puzzles and riddles into the mathematics and logic curriculum. Solving these puzzles beforehand or during would also help students comprehend the story and give them a reason to read.

This story relates to the Skrull invasion occurring across the Marvel Universe titles at the same time.

Kids as superheroes? Why not? While you are at it, throw in some logic games (found in the story). What fun!


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer

I suppose most folks will have Brad Pitt in their heads when the words "Benjamin Button" are read, but the graphic novel interpretation of the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald is more true to the original and allows much of Fitzgerald's satirical look at the Golden Age of the United States filter through with unexpected charm. The adaptation of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir (with illustrations by Kevin Cornell) comes out just in time to ride the coat-tails of the big budget movie, so I approached it a bit cynically. But how can one resist the cover, which shows the newborn Benjamin Button in a crib holding a rattle but with a long white beard and a set of weary eyes looking out into the world?

If you don't know, the story tells how Button was born old and then got younger as he aged (the premise, we learn in an Afterward here, came from something that Fitzgerald had read of Mark Twain – so inspiration is everywhere). The book is told in sections, as Benjamin moves across time from the 1860s into the 1920s. It's a story of human connections and also, a critique of the class system of Baltimore. The advantage of a graphic novel is that we can see time turning both ways on the faces and bodies of Benjamin and the people around him. It is an odd story, no doubt, but one worth investigating.

Cornell uses a limited palate of colors, giving this book the effect of old photographs. I found it quite remarkable that Benjamin does seem to grow younger before the reader's eyes, sometimes incrementally, from frame to frame. We want to laugh at Benjamin at the start of the story (see cover for example) and yet, there is a sadness associated with Benjamin's situation.

During the middle of the story, when Benjamin is at the height of his power and influence, the artwork glows. At the end of his life, as Benjamin becomes a toddler and then a newborn, the pictures start to fade as the world fades in on the only person who mattered to him: his nanny who fed him. And then, the picture turns dark as Benjamin no longer ... exists.

Certainly, this graphic novel could be a useful companion to the story (Does anyone teach this one, or is The Great Gatsby the only Fitzgerald book that high school readers experience?), and it might be an interesting undertaking to compare the movie version (set more in modern days) and this version of the story. A young writer could use this story of inspiration and write a story from back to front, telling a tale in reverse.

• Format: Hardcover
• Pages: 128 pages
• Color: Full color
• Publisher: Quirk Books (October 15, 2008)
• ISBN-10: 1594742812
• ISBN-13: 978-1594742811
• Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches

I would recommend this for a bookshelf in a high school classroom or library. There is some romance here but nothing inappropriate. I don't think the story would engage middle school readers and it is probably not so appropriate for elementary readers (not for content, per se, but in terms of reader engagement).


From the Editor

We had parent-teacher conferences this week. One parent, who is also a teacher, sent me a note that I wanted to share with you. Their names have been removed.

Mr. Wilson,

You have been good for [my son]. Thank you for getting him into reading.


Naturally, I am scanning that note and putting it in my job portfolio (with the parent's permission), but the note means much more than just a nice comment to which I can refer when I am seeking employment at a district. This short note goes to the larger picture of what we (the writers and readers of The Graphic Classroom) are trying to accomplish.

When the reading research is applied then students are given true choice over their reading. As you may or may not know, comics rate within the top three choices of students.

When we educators rid ourselves of our antiquated, roadblock-beliefs about reading and learning, we are free to follow the research and open doors for students to grow, develop and learn. This is true of my work even during student teaching.

I combine my belief in comic literature as a bridge to reading motivation and development with my belief that I, as a classroom teacher, must create a social literature community where students want to share their stories with others. What I am finding is that this social sharing goes beyond my classroom and bleeds over in the home. I've heard from several parents that their children are sharing their comic literature at home.

I don't just bring in comics and stop there. I talk with my students about reading, stories and what they like. I do this as a class, in groups and individually. It is important that we build relationships with students if we are to succeed. I offer specific recommendations for my students, helping them pick books (comic or traditional) based on what they find interesting. When I do this, they feel special and see the literature as exciting and personal. The results are phenomenal and I find that parents and guardians are amazed that their child wants to read, desires to read, or asks for books as gifts.

My findings are not abnormal. Several researchers have made similar findings, yet there are still many teachers are reluctant to allow students access to comics for fear it might affect standardized testing or stunt their growth.

What we know, and what many parents are discovering, is that when students have true choice, their reading motivation increases, their Lexile level increases, and they finally discover reading for pleasure. Those old tecahing beliefs and habits are hard to change.

So enjoy the list of comics that came into the Classroom this week. Perhaps you, too, will find that comic literature transforms your room and your students. If you feel compelled, share your stories in the comments sections. If you are struggling with comic literature, we can talk about that, too.

  1. G.I. Joe #2
  2. Marvel Adventures Superheroes #8
  3. Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #48
  4. Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen #4 (of 5)
  5. Super Friends #12
  6. Three Musketeers (premiere hardcover)
  7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #3 (of 8)

Saturday, February 7, 2009


By Chris Wilson

What are we doing?
Why are we doing it?
What do we call it?

Instinctively, I think most of us who use comics inside our classrooms know what we are doing and why we are doing it. Certainly, the research supports the use of comics and graphic novels in the classroom – the bulk of which can be found in my graduate seminar paper, the chapter in a literacy textbook I am writing, during Michael’s and my presentation at the GIE conference, and in the textbooks by Dr. James Bucky Carter and Terry Thompson.

What we do not seem to know – and have heretofore not settled upon – is what to call this thing of ours. As a collective, the members of the comics in the classroom movement are debating the issue right now, and significant time was given to the subject at the GIE conference.

The titles thus far include: Graphica (which was the name of the conference), Sequential Art Narratives in Education (SANE) offered by author/educator Bucky Carter, and Illiterature (Illustrated Literature) jokingly offered by comic creator Jimmy Gownley. What we have been using around here is the term comic literature.

Why Comic Literature?
I choose the term comic literature in March 2007 when I started The Graphic Classroom mostly for simplicity’s sake than anything else. Comic literature accurately describes our movement in no uncertain or confusing terms. It is a term that Joe Q. Public and academia can both understand immediately, allowing us to discuss and debate the real issue: How does comic literature affect our students, their reading motivation, and their learning?

My objection to graphica is two-fold. Firstly, the term is convoluted and requires further explanation to the public and to academia. Lastly, the term graphica plays directly into one of the major stereotypes that surround comics: They are adult-oriented materials filled with over-sexualized women and violent scenarios geared toward horny, 20-something boys still living in adolescence. One conference-goer even mentioned that the word graphica sounds like erotica.

Dr. Carter prefers the term sequential art narrative in education (SANE), which is a strong nod to Scott McCloud and his incredible work in comics. Those of us who are familiar with McCloud’s first book, Understanding Comics, find solace in this term as it accurately defines what comics are. I am inclined, however, to use this term as part of our definition rather than the title of the movement. In the words of a different conference-goer “it is too clunky.” I think I agree as most elementary and secondary teachers are going to find sequential art narrative cumbersome and those outside academia are not going to be properly equipped to make sense of the term.

Regardless of the term we settle upon, we are going to battle the stereotypes of comics that currently exist. It will take time. However, keeping our words simple, concise and accurate allows us to concentrate on the reasoning behind the use of comic literature in the classroom. Research supports the use of comic literature, students respond enthusiastically, and comic literature can be connected to and used to achieve goals set forth by standardized tests.

I respectfully submit my preference for comic literature as the accepted term to define this incredible movement that is making a significant difference in the education of elementary, secondary and even post secondary students.

Please feel free to weigh-in with your thoughts, comments and discussion. We can have a healthy debate right here in the comments section.

Friday, February 6, 2009


From the Editor

What you see this week is a culmination of last week’s list, books from the GIE Conference and this week’s titles. It’s some kind of list, eh? There is so much, I know, but I encourage you to look through the list carefully. There are some real gems – something for everyone and every age.

Enjoy the plethora of comic literature and related materials (categorized by type) for this and previous weeks:

Comics and Graphic Novels
Adventure Comics #0
American Widow
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1
Cupcakes of Doom
Dark Tower: Treachery #5 (of 6)
Dragon Prince #4
Franklin Richards Son of a Genius: Dark reigning Cats & Dogs
Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde
Joey Fly Private Eye: Creepy Crawly Crime
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #44
Planet Saturday Comics Vol. 1
Shrugged: A Little Perspective
The Stand: Captain Trips #5 (of 5)
Supergirl #3
Usagi Yojimbo #117
Wolverine & Power Pack #4 (of 4)

Textbooks for Teachers
Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6
Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel

Comics Magazines
Previews #245 (February)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Rocco Staino, School Library Journal, was one of the several conference goers who attended our presentation at the Graphica in Education conference in New York last week. He stuck around and talked with us afterwards.

I have something to share about what our movement should be called (read the article), but I am not ready to share that just yet. Stay tuned for our thoughts, some pics, and more hodgepodge from the first conference about comic literature in education.