English | Studies in Popular Literature and Mass Media
L210 | 2191 | Foster

L210 2191 FOSTER
Studies in Popular Literature and Mass Media

11:15a-12:30p TR (30) 3 CR.


The goals of this course will be to examine the generic diversity of
the American comic book as a hybrid medium of visual art and print
fiction, as well as to discuss in detail specific examples of the
medium and its potential, using Scott McCloud's Understanding
Comics.  The first half of the course will provide a historical
introduction, while the second half will focus on close readings of
a selection of important texts from the mid 1980s to the present.

Texts for the course might include at least one example of early
comic strips that demonstrate the influence of avant garde art
(either Krazy Kat or Little Nemo in Slumberland).  Depending on
availability of texts, we will read some short examples of comics
from the 1940s that translate the pulp fiction genres of romance,
war, western, science fiction, horror, detective, or true crime into
graphic storytelling form.  We will then read some examples of what
has become the dominant comic book genre, the early DC superhero
comics (Superman, Batman, and/or Wonder Woman, along with Art
Spiegelman's recent book on Plastic Man).  We may discuss the
development of these DC comics in the 60s and 70s (Bizarro Superman,
Jimmy Olson), but we will certainly discuss the "realist" turn in
early Marvel superhero comics and the attempt to make the superhero
genre relevant to youth audiences in the 60s and 70s (Fantastic
Four, Spiderman).  One goal of the class will be to understand the
ways in which superhero comics functioned as a site of cultural
debate and contestation, and the ways in which this genre has been
continually redefined and reimagined.

At this point in the course, we will begin to focus on more
contemporary revisions and alternatives to superhero comics, such as
Chris Claremont's X Men, Alan Moore's Watchmen, and Frank Millerís
work (possibly including The Dark Knight Returns, Elektra: Assassin,
or Sin City), or the Milestone comics line, with its multicultural
take on the superhero genre.  But we will also spend some time
discussing the significance of 60s underground comics, and the later
emergence of alternative comics.  Examples of the latter might
include Spiegelman's combination of historical fiction and
the "funny animal" comic (Maus); Joe Sacco's documentary journalism
(Palestine); feminist comics (Roberta Gregory's Naughty Bits);
autobiographical comics (Julie Doucet, Adrian Tomine); some examples
of DC's alternative Vertigo line of  horror/fantasy comics,
especially Sandman or Swamp Thing; David Mack's Kabuki; Larry
Marder's Tales of the Beanworld; Dave Sim's Cerebus; Ho Che
Anderson's King; Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library/Jimmy Corrigan.

Assignments will include midterm and final exams, as well as a
series of short essays (probably 3 4) during the semester.