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Showing posts from May, 2008

Comic and Scholarship

The semester is over and now we will get to the hard work of considering the good, the bad, and the ugly of the class this semester. While I and my colleague felt good about some of the aspect of the class, we struggled with others. We will touch base about what the future holds later. What I really want to do is point out that overall, our efforts are paying off. This October our article on the transition from pulp era adventure magazine to golden age comics will be published in Studies in American Culture. If that was not enough, this month we were quoted in CNN.COM story on the Ten Cent Plague, a new book about the anti-comic scare of the 1950s. Follow the link for more information.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/05/08/comic.books/index.html

Body Image in Comics

When I first chose my topic for my research paper, “sexuality and body image in comics”, I figured that I would find many books and sources on that topic. It seemed to me, that the unrealistic body image representations in comic books would have caused much controversy in the early twenty-first century. Even though I did not find as many sources as I would have liked, I did discover some interesting information. A large part of my research paper was dedicated towards the effects of the portrayal of the super-heroines body images, and why comic book editors drew women in that particular way. First of all, women were drawn with large breasts and long legs to appeal to and attract young men. This is a very obvious reason since the allure of skimpy dressed women in tight costumes sparked comic books sales. However, another reason why super-heroines were dressed as they were is because it gave a chance for success. The super-heroine, Phantom Lady used her sex appeal to “distract her male f…

Civil War

Civil War must have been my favorite comic books that we read throughout the semester. I thought it was really cool how it took place in today’s age. Although it was always interesting to read comic books that appeared in the early twenty-first century, it was more difficult to relate to them since they reflected the lives of Americans at that particular time. Civil War, on the other hand incorporates important people of today’s society, such as Larry King on CNN and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan in a night club. I also thought it was interesting that the conflict in Civil War symbolizes a similar conflict that the United States deals with today. The issue of Civil War is the fight between the “good” and the “bad”.The superheroes are supposed to sign the registration act which requires them to reveal their secret identity and work for the government for compensation.As many superheroes refuse to join the other side, the main theme of Civil War becomes “whose side are you on?”.In toda…

Sorry to steal this last one about Astro City...

Although we didn't spend a great deal of time talking about it in class, I very much enjoyed reading Astro City - I felt that it was really fresh and, despite it obvious references to other existing superheroes, really unlike anything else that we had read. The characters had depth and issues and we got to see aspects of superhero life that just aren't ever discussed, such as dating and how exhausting it is to try to save the world even when you can travel thousands of miles a second.

My favorite story (that no one else seemed to like very much :)) was the one about the woman from the haunted hill who comes into the city and is more afraid of what she encounters there than the monsters and demons lurking around her town every night. Obviously this story was a reference to tradition vs. change but even superficially, it was so strange and intriguing and that was what really made it interesting. I've always been fascinated by narratives, whether in literature or film, that ju…

Astro City

I think one of the comics I most enjoyed reading this semester was “AstroCity”. While the characters could clearly be linked to the classic comic book characters, like The Samaritan to Superman and Winged Victory to Wonder Woman, they were far enough away to be portrayed differently and perhaps more realistically. They give a different spin on the old character types that draws the reader in.
One of the things that has always bothered me about Superman is his seeming invincibility. He always succeeds and is happy about helping people- he is just the regular Boy Scout. The Samaritan, on the other hand, is a worn down Superman. He still feels it his duty to help everyone, but he feels the stress of always helping people and never having a spare moment to just relax. Showing this weakness, this perceived flaw, makes him a much more likable character. Rather than being the unattainable form of perfection, people can sympathize with him, if just to a small degree.
I also liked how this story…

I am Iron Man (guitars rocking out in the background)!

So, I saw Iron Man last night and I have to say, I was really impressed. In the past few years, comic books movies have really exploded (no pun intended) onto the scene and while some of them are really well-executed, others... not so much. When I saw that IM had a 95% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I seriously did a double take. For any film (let alone a comic book movie) to be that well-reviewed, it has to be pretty amazing and I was pleased not only because of the movie itself, but because of what it meant for the way that people view comic book movies overall in our culture.

I wasn't very familiar with the character of Iron Man before we read Civil War but after having read that graphic novel and seeing the movie, I'm was very intrigued. Tony Stark seems to be one of the more complex characters I've seen and I think that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast because he can pull off the intital outward arrogance and inner emptiness as well as the transformation of T…

Mythology and Superheroes in Comics

Ohhh my goodness... When I decided on trying to analyze the mythological origins and references in superhero comics, I had no idea the can of worms I was opening up... On the one hand, it was awesome to see just how many connections there were between superheroes and psychology/mythology/philosophy, but all the information also made it terribly difficult to distinguish what I should be using and how to tie it all together. When I was talking to one of my sorority sisters about it she said, "Oh yeah, well, research essays are kind of like putting together puzzles..." and I think that really sums up what writing this paper was like for me. Fortunately, I was really interested throughout the whole process and I very much enjoyed writing the paper.

Being a psychology major, I was especially interested in reading about the Jungian archetypes that had a lot of parallels with major modern comic books superheroes. I was also able to incorporate Joseph Campbell's "hero cycle&…

My photo essay

When I heard that we'd be doing a photo essay for this class, I was a little confused but excited too since I'd never really even heard of a photo essay before and I thought it'd give me a good chance to be creative... It ended up being a lot harder than I thought because my essay actually needed to have a theme rather than being just a random collection of comic-related photos...

I settled on the idea of showcasing the parts of comic culture that are more ambiguous and that kind of stealthily creep into our lives and make us comic fans without even realizing it. Big examples of this are comic book movies, merchandise with cartoon characters on it, and toys that we play with when we're little that are related to comic culture, like action figures and dolls. I also noted the "8th season" of Buffy that became available in comic form, which was a really kind of a blatant way for comics to say, "Hey, here I am, I'm important!" to a group of people wh…

Photo Essay

I really liked the photo essay. I thought it was a fun and interesting way to get into the topic of comic books. One of the things that the photo essay really helped to accomplish was that it forced me to go out into the community to figure out how comic book culture was influencing contemporary culture. To be truthful, it is not a subject I had ever really given much thought to before. Even in class, while we were discussing the topic, it never really hit me everything that the comic book industry influences.
The photo essay let me discover things that I knew, but never really noticed before. For example, I knew there were superhero themed movies out, but I had no idea that they were making a parody of superhero movies. And I had a vague idea that they make foods in fun shapes, but it was not until I was searching for superhero themed products that I realized there was Spiderman shaped macaroni and cheese.
The photo essay was also what prompted me to go out and discover the comic book…

Online Comics

The use of the internet as a tool to discuss and be further exposed to comics is really cool. I really enjoyed the web page “Women in Refrigerators”. They way it opened the topics to creators and let them personally give their opinions and viewpoints on the subject were fascinating. They were also very helpful while I was writing my research paper. Having responses like this available online gives an opportunity to further understand comics that would have never been available otherwise. If someone had taken the initiative to question why there are certain trends in comics or why the creators are portraying a topic in a certain way, before the internet was available, it would have stuck with that one person. The internet however allows for a free flow of information and ideas to become available to the wider public.
It was also rather neat how comics are being made available online. Essentially everyone has access to a computer. Putting comics online furthers their availability for the…

Availability

One week we were discussing the comic book shop and comics as a business. To share my own experience with comics, it is quite possible to go through life without ever picking up a comic book or ever seeing one. My first experience ever actually holding a comic in my hands was for this American Graphic Media class. If I am not just an oblivious anomaly, it is no wonder that the comic book industry is on the decline. Before this semester, I didn’t even know where to buy comic books, let alone that they had their own shops. It seems that if the comic book industry wants to entice new readers, rather than just retain their old ones that are already acquainted with the industry, they need to promote the actual comic books more actively and make them more readily available.
In the comic book Golden Age of the 1940’s and 1950’s the comic books were available on the newsstands and grocery stores, places the general public has ready access to. I rather think that comics should try to go back t…

Copyright

The topic we discussed in class was about the debate over copyright. Those that argue against having a copyright say that the copyright infringes on peoples freedom of speech. It was suggested in class that the copyright was originally initiated in the United States to promote the creative processes and encourage inventions. That originally the copyright was only good for a very short period of time- just 14 years, and then it was public domain. But over the years, the time for which the copyright was viable has been extended.
It seems to me that the copyright should extend for a person’s life time, if not longer. That anyone other than the original creator of an idea can profit on the ideas seems rather wrong. Or at least if another person works on the idea and adapts it, that they give the credit where it is due and don’t act as though all of the concepts were their own. For some things, where a corporation owns an idea the rules should be a little different. I think Disney should ha…

What Defines A Superhero

In Chapter 3, Coogan defines what it is to be a superhero. The three primary conventions that define a superhero are: their mission to benefit humanity, superpowers, and an identity consisting of a codename and costume. The other conventions of the superhero genre include: supervillains, superhero physics, limited/ helpful authorities, superteams, sidekicks, etc.
One of the figures that we have studied this year that obviously pertains to the role of a superhero is Superman. Stated in the very first comic, his mission is to aid humanity. He has superhuman abilities, like jumping huge distances, really good hearing, and super strength. He also has a dual identity, transforming himself from the average citizen Clark Kent to Superman- a hero with a costume that indicates his identity with the chevron and uses bold primary colors.
The Black Condor’s mission is to protect the American public- which he does when he attempts to save Senator Wright and later when he finds out the President has …

Oh Yeah, American Graphic Media!

You know, when all is said and done, what a great class this was. When will we ever get a chance to study comic books for a whole semester in our journeys toward scholar-hood. Most likely never again. I have had several of my friends come up to me and roll their eyes at the subject material for this course. At first all I had to defend myself was throwing out nifty, trivial pursuit-like facts about comics like the man who invented Wonder Woman graduated with a Ph.D. from Harvard and invented the Lie Detector machine, or some man named Thomas Nast created the images of Santa Claus and Uncle Sam.

That was fine and all, but that did not convince my friends to believe in the credibility of American Graphic Media. Much time has passed since then, and now I fell more prepared to face the challenging assumptions the course still has. Now I can talked about how the Nuclear age of the 1950s was reflected in comic books with stories of the ill-fate Atoman, and Captain Marvel's nuclear holoca…

I'm Batman...

Images from www.shortpacked.com
The theory presented here is actually very interesting and valid. The image of Batman stepping on a rake makes me giggle every time I think of it. If this idea were embraced more often, Marvel and/or DC could corner a niche market with a series monthly completely comedic, over-the-top revisions of well-known characters. Marvel has done this to an extent with its "What If" series of comics, and DC joined with Dark Horse to create the darkly comedic "Joker/Mask" crossover, but an overall cynical view of the industry's otherwise most beloved characters would be refreshing.





More Bat-Antics:

http://www.shortpacked.com/d/20050218.html
http://www.shortpacked.com/d/20050131.html

My Take on Copyrights

From a business/economic perspective, copyright laws make plenty of sense. Anyone who does creative work for a living would like to be sure that no one else can begin stealing the source of their daily bread.
However, from a creative standpoint, copyrights inhibit free thought and place creative minds in a more concerned, "am I allowed to use this?" state. Traditionally, in the world of comics, the only new perspectives we get on classic characters are those approved by the publishers themselves. New revisions are now sometimes available on the internet (see the picture in a previous post of the Peanuts dressed as Watchmen), but rarely do we get new, interesting views at characters whose qualities many may take for granted. Consider "Punisher kills the Marvel Universe," a fun one-shot comic in which the Punisher murders just about every other hero Marvel has ever produced, including all of the X-Men AND their villains. The overall effect is fanciful and darkly …

Retconning-- Or, Repairing the Past

Although we didn't specifically study this in class, I think it is something worth discussing. Also, I was prompted to write this by a previous blog post about Spiderman revealing his secret identity in Civil War.

When Marvel decided to take such a big step by publishing this comic, they shocked readers and convinced them that Spiderman's world would never be the same. Then along came One More Day, a controversial story that erased this event completely and once again restored Parker's secret identity.
This is not the first time Marvel, or any comic book company, has done this. Consider how many characters have "died" at least three or four times. Sometimes even seeing the corpse is not enough to convince readers. Also consider the third X-Men film, in which (SPOILER) the writers make the strong decision to remove Magneto's powers, only to hint that they are being restored in the end of the film. While this may be typical of movies in general (always lea…