Archive for September, 2010

A Witch’s Brew

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Tomorrow begins the month of October, so it’s time to start putting out those Halloween decorations, including some carved pumpkins! While we couldn’t find any comics to teach you how to do that, Simon Mackie does show you what to do with the squishy, delicious innards after you cut them out: make pumpkin soup!

In fact, the start of October means we’re well into the harvest season, when lots of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables will grace our tables. It might be a good idea to brush up on your cooking skills before Thanksgiving, so why not start with a quick guide to blanching and shocking vegetables, courtesy of Tea Fougner? She also has her own bit of soup advice to impart, showing how to make three different vegetable soups (Autumn root veggie puree, celery and onion puree, and veggie stock), all using the same pot!

Going Gaga in November

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Undeterred by the threat of legal action, Bluewater Productions is going ahead with the publication of FAME: Lady Gaga #2, focusing on her career instead of her personal life. They’ve made a few colored interior pages available to peep over at MTV’s Splash Page; click through to the gallery at the bottom of the post.

Written by CW Cooke with art by Dan Glasl, the comic comes out in November and retails for $3.99.

Electronics Comics

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Remember when Radio Shack was a place where you could go to buy radio parts? Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe when you look at all the cell phones, digital cameras, and DISH Network subscriptions on display in your local store, but there once was a time when they were serious about ham radio operators and other hobbyists. They were also pretty serious about outreach—get kids interested in electronics today, and tomorrow you have a customer.

In this vein, Radio Shack published educational comics to extol the virtues of electronic goods to kids, especially Radio Shack-branded goods. Whiz Kids took the fiction route, using original characters Alec and Shanna to tell stories that extolled community values with a (sometimes heavy-handed) dose of product placement nestled into the narrative.

On the more nonfiction side of things there are the Science Fair Story of Electronics and History of Electronics series, which are more geared toward providing as much information to students as possible, though later issues of History of Electronics featured comic industry stalwarts Superman and Archie and Friends.

There’s a lot of interesting retro kitsch to be found in these old comics, watching the characters ooh-and-aah over things we take for granted. There’s even a bit of presumption in there, such as in a section on space travel:

Inaccurate future speculation aside, the historical bits are still accurate, providing a thorough, though brusque, overview of the electronics industry’s development.

The Whiz Kids comics have proven to be somewhat popular, and can be viewed at various places throughout the web, though the presentation here is probably the best, despite the use of Flash.

(thanks to Alex)

Letting Loose the Ban Hammer

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It’s Banned Books Week here in the United States, which means plenty of articles and displays about books that have faced removal from schools and public library systems due to objectionable content. Graphic novels are no stranger to challenges, and the ALA has put out a list of popular graphic novels and the reasons they got in trouble, including a few nonfiction titles—one that you would think normally beyond reproach:

  • Blankets by Craig Thompson – Sexually explicit content
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Sexually explicit content
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman – Anti-ethnic

Banned Book Week started September 25 and lasts until October 2.

(via Blog@Newsarama)

World Comics Power

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Comics are a great communications tool for people in impoverished areas because of their highly visual nature and ease of access; even people who don’t know how to read can still enjoy a comic, and they don’t need complex or expensive equipment to make one. With that in mind, the World Comics Network conducts a series of workshops teaching local peoples how to make “grassroots comics,” focusing on topics that matter to them and hopefully encouraging discussion and debate. Starting in India, the program has spread to nearby Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, and even further abroad to Africa (Mozambique, Benin, Tanzania), Latin America (Brazil), and Europe (United Kingdom, Finland).

The program has also began to touch upon comics journalism, using the medium not just to encourage debate, but to disseminate information in the first place. Programs are currently being set up at various universities throughout India.

Most of the comics created by the World Comics Network are intended for local distribution only, photocopies that are passed around, or in some cases, put on exhibition by the roadside for passersby to view. However, a handful of professionally printed compilations are available, including Understanding Gandhi Through Comics and Whose Development (about development projects in India).

Out and About: New York Comic Con 2010

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The New York Comic Con schedule is up, and while it’s a little light on events dealing specifically with nonfiction comics this year, there are a few points of interest:

Rationalizing Comics and Sequential Art in the Classroom
Friday, October 8
3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

This workshop will feature educators discussing their reasons for bringing comics/sequential art into the classroom, focusing on both reading and generating comics. Practical suggestions, along with evidence illustrating student learning, is discussed. Participants will be encouraged to bring ideas for discussion in small groups.

Extending Conversations about Graphic Novels
Friday, October 8
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm

Educators will discuss how to use graphic novels to extend learning beyond literal comprehension, including engaging in critical literacy activities. Social studies, art, and English/language arts educators will be paired to discuss how to make cross-curricular conversations and move students’ understandings beyond the classroom. Participants will engage in an activity which pushes them to think beyond the confines of the classroom walls.

Remembering Harvey Pekar
Friday, October 8
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

After 35 years of innovating in—having virtually invented—the personal comics genre with his American Splendor series, Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar died this past July, in the middle of several projects finished and unfinished. This panel celebrates Pekar’s life and work. It includes Harvey’s editor on The Pekar Project, Jeff Newelt; artist on Harvey’s The Quitter and other works, Dean Haspiel; Peter Kuper, who not only has drawn for Harvey, but as a comics-loving kid in Cleveland, spent much time hanging out and learning from him; and Rick Parker, an artist on The Pekar Project. The panel is moderated by Danny Fingeroth, who memorably interviewed Harvey at The YIVO Institute in 2009, and wrote of Harvey’s importance in The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels. Some surprise last minute guests may appear on the panel, as well.

Comics and Graphic Novels in the Secondary English/Language Arts Classroom
Saturday, October 9
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Educators who utilize texts in the secondary English/language arts curriculum will discuss practical ideas for including particular graphic novels in the classroom. In particular, educators will discuss how to embed graphic novels in the traditional curriculum by connecting graphic novels/comics with canonical texts and helping students create their own texts. Educators will think through criteria they can create to evaluate appropriate gns for curricular adoption.

Political Cartoonists
Saturday, October 9
5:15 pm – 6:15 pm

Join some of the best, current political cartoonists!

Unusual Manga Genres
Saturday, October 9
8:45 pm – 9:45 pm

Thanks to the importing of manga you can read veterinarian manga, salaryman manga, fishing manga, and manga about baking bread! Erin and Noah from the Ninja Consultant podcast present the absolutely most insane manga titles available in English – and a few titles which won’t be translated anytime soon.

The Sons of Liberty, a Graphic Novel: The New World of Historical Fiction
Sunday, October 10
11:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Sons of Liberty, a new graphic-novel quartet for middle grade readers and beyond tells the story of two young slaves in the wake of the Revolutionary War. History is brought to life in full color by the illustration of Marvel Comics veteran Steve Walker and Oren Kramek. Join authors Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos and illustrators Steve Walker and Oren Kramek in conversation about the creation of this new series.

Culinary Manga
Sunday, October 10
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm

Competitive bread baking manga Yakitate!! Japan is just the tip of the culinary manga iceberg in Japan! Join Erin and Noah of the Ninja Consultant podcast as they discuss manga about gourmet food critics (Oishinbo), pastry chef manga (Antique Bakery), and several series about wine (Drops of God, La Sommelier).

In addition, you’ll be able to see Ian (and his friends) talk about podcasting and blogging at the…podcasting and blogging panel. Check it:

A Geek’s Guide to Podcasting and Blogging
Friday, October 8
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Room 1A17

This panel is designed to show how to start and promote your very own podcast. The world of podcasting has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five years and many people do not have a clear guide on how to podcast. This panel will walk you steps of podcasting and give advice on all aspects of having your own show.

You’ll find Ian at the Comic Timing booth (table 524) in Podcast Alley on Friday and Saturday (near the events stage), while I’ll be mostly wandering the floor and panels for those two days. We’ll both be absent on Sunday due to a prior personal engagement.

Criminal Justice for Kids

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Reading, writing, math, history, science—of all the things kids learn in school, one of the things we usually don’t teach them is how to deal with being arrested. It can be a pretty daunting situation for a juvenile, with no concept of how the system works and no control over the situation; in the criminal justice system, they’re largely at the mercy of adults.

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) seeks to return some power to kids who get arrested by creating a special comic to walk them through each step of the process, laying out what’s expected of them, and most importantly, letting them know that getting arrested won’t ruin their lives. With that thought in mind, it will probably make everything else—from the initial arrest to family court—go much smoother.

I Got Arrested! Now What? is one of a number of fold-out posters from Making Policy Public (part of CUP) that help explain public policy to ordinary people, but the only one presented as a comic. The art is by Danica Novgorodoff, and the issue was produced through a collaboration among with the Center for Court Innovation and the Youth Justice Board.

(via Doodles and Dailies)

Making Genetics a Little Less Alien

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The explanation of how DNA works can be as complicated as the organisms it helps put together. And yet, because this knowledge is essential to understanding the entire field of biology, we expect students to learn all about this alphabet soup, from ATGC to XX and XY.

In The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, writer Mark Schultz and artists Zander and Kevin Cannon attempt to construct a comprehensive primer that not only explains each component and how each process works, but to make sure they come together into a  complete picture, better to ensure a true understanding of the subjects rather than a disconnected series of facts. They do this by wrapping it up in a science fiction framework, taking us to the the distant planet of Glargal. There,  the sea-cucumber-like invertebrate Squinch have fallen upon hard times; an unspecified genetic disorder is starting to affect the asexual populace, and their best scientists have been tasked with finding out why. Bloort 183, a scientist with the Royal Science Academy, believes the answer lies in the genetic diversity of Earth’s biology—but first, he must explain how it all works to His Supreme Highness Floorish 727.

The reader basically stands at the side of Floorish 727 as Bloort lays it all out, starting with the most complicated concepts first—how the molecules all come together—and eventually working his way up to the cellular level, trait inheritance, and finally practical applications of this increased genetic knowledge. It might not seem like a good idea to start with the hardest stuff first, but as Bloort explains, knowing how it works on the molecular level is essential to understanding everything that comes after. I can concur, coming from an educational background where the concept of inherited traits was introduced first, without any explanation of the underlying mechanics, and then years later did I only learn the rest, which only served to confuse me. Reading this book stitched everything together into a cohesive narrative, and I do feel I have a better grasp now.

Not that I would recommend replacing a traditional textbook with this graphic guide; the science fiction premise may cause some to take it less seriously, and the artists’ tendency to anthropomorphize the molecules in order to facilitate understanding sometimes obscures the actual chemical process—no good for those who are looking to study genetics beyond this primer. But for those who just need a solid conceptual understanding, this is a good way to go. Each step is delightfully illustrated, and when the content starts to get too heavy the writer is fully aware of the problem, having Floorish stop to summarize each section in case he (and we) missed anything.

At 142 pages (plus a glossary) The Stuff of Life may not seem long, but it’s one of the densest graphic books I’ve ever read. It treats its subject and its readers intelligently, and appropriately enough for a comic, with plenty of humor. Highly recommended.

* Note: Try to get a copy of the second edition if it exists; the first edition reprinted page 44 twice, accidentally replacing page 36.

The Stuff of Life: a graphic guide to genetics and DNA
written by Mark Schultz
illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon
edited by Howard Zimmerman
published by Hill and Wang (New York, 2009)
ISBN 978-0-8090-8938-3

A Baker’s Half Dozen

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

People love baked goods—cookies, cakes, bread, buns—so what’s not to love about baking comics?

Cookies are a popular item, either to bring to the dessert table at Thanksgiving or to give as gifts for Christmas. Jin Wicked recommends the latter in her biographical web comic, A Dollar Late and a Day Short. In a series of strips from a few years ago, she outlines easy recipes for sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and lemon cookies (with frosting). Though she doesn’t fully illustrate the process for each, she still gives the exact measurements needed (essential in baking) and she doesn’t ask for any complicated or obscure techniques in her directions. She even gives instructions for plating…with a punchline.

For the more adventurous among you, Madeleine Ball has a brief primer on how to make sourdough starter—it really is that easy.  This is her only cooking comic, though she does do the occasional science-themed humor comic along with a regular series of science gag cartoons.

Though it’s not about how to bake bread, Ryan Alexander-Tanner of Williamette Week did a profile of Dave’s Killer Bread a few years back, presenting it in comic style instead of a standard text with photograph; it’s certainly fitting for someone as unorthodox as Dave Dahl. Dave was happy enough with it that he asked Ryan to create his logo.

Beyond Hicksville

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Dylan Horrocks might be best known for his mainstream work as the writer of Hunter: The Age of Magic for DC/Vertigo, or for his Harvey and Ignatz Award-nominated graphic novel, Hicksville. But his body of work is rather diverse, from contributions to various indie and small press anthologies, to a handful of nonfiction comics of an educational or political bent.

Back in 1998 he worked on Spin, a comic about dealing with emotional stress, created at the bequest of the Ministry of Youth Development and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Though the SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand) program is still ongoing, the comic does not appear to be available on their website at this time. You can view a few sample images on Horrocks’ site.

Also in the public interest is Red Hot, which was commissioned by the Hepatitis C Resource Centre and deals with—you guessed it—Hepatitis C, namely how it’s transmitted and how to prevent it. A guy named Ben meets an old friend named Jenny who’s been afflicted by hep C, and though wary at first, he learns to accept her condition. It conveys all the necessary information quickly and without being preachy. The entire thing is available to read online.

In a more artistic bent, he’s done a few comics as music columns, talking about his relationship with “Tabula Rasa” by Avro Part, and an interview with Brazilian musician Egberto Gismonti (conducted by Graham Reid).

One interesting project that may never see the light of day is A Pocket History of New Zealand. Horrocks calls it a “work in progress” but also gives no anticipated completion date, uploading one page for us to gaze at and wonder: