ENGL 300: The Graphic Novel George Mason University (Spring 2011)

5May/11Off

Hark, A Bayou Rebel!

Posted by agreeng

Without a working router I was without internet for most of last week and as such forgot all about this. But as I was making a blog post about the strips I showed to the class last time I suddenly realized I hadn’t shared the (meager) fruits of my (equally meager) Bayou related research. So here it is anyway! It being a one-week late entry for The Searchers, the new hit show on AMC. Speaking of AMC an interesting article I found about Bayou was actually just a short piece about the adaptability of Jeremy Love’s work into the screen medium. Television screen that is, as I realize it already exists on the screens of computer monitors the world around. This would of course be the second time I’ve found something dealing with the nature of converting comics to cinema and further illustrates how many players, both big and small, in the comic book world are relying on adaptations and merchandise to make a profit on their work.
I also read an interview with Jeremy Love about his past and the influences that went into creating Bayou. I find it interesting that this is the second recent literary example I’ve come across of an African American creator leaving behind the South as a child and then revisiting it as an adult. The other was the work of a young playwright named Marcus Gardley who, similar to Love, lives in California but writes about his family’s home of the south.
Finally, the webcomic strips. First I showed Odysseus the Rebel which is the story of Odysseus as the first atheist. Unlike most webcomics this is not an inherently comedic strip and instead tells an ongoing narrative as opposed to being short one-and-dones. It’s also by established comic book creators Steven Grant (best known for creating the Punisher for Marvel Comics) and Scott Bieser (largely unknown for doing indie-graphic novels). The second webcomic I showed was Hark, A Vagrant. Hark is a more traditional webcomic in that it is short one-and-dones and they are intended to be humorous. It’s also created by Kate Beaton (best known for having a weapon named after her in Fallout: New Vegas) an up-and-comer who didn’t really have much to her credit before starting the webcomic. But hey I think it’s great!
And there you go, another over-produced, under-satisfying episode of… The Searchers!

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4May/11Off

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Posted by Kristine Brown

This is what I was going to present on yesterday, but unfortunately the Dr. McNinja website was down and I couldn't get it to load. Fortunately, now it is back! Check it out, it's totally hilarious (if you need proof, it rated #3 on Cracked.com's listing of the 8 funniest webcomics). It's about a doctor, who is also a ninja. Or a ninja who is also a doctor. Either way. He's supposed to be a batmanophile whose ninja parents are disappointed in him for pursuing a career where he saves people, rather than killing them. Not that he doesn't kill people. He kills tons of people. Sometimes with the help of his secretary. Who is also a gorilla. Okay, that's enough.

Filed under: First Readers 1 Comment
3May/11Off

Just To Name a Few. . .

Posted by snigh

I didn't know which web comics to choose (I have twenty bagillion bookmarked right now), so here's a list of some pretty descent ones I know of:

1. Rice Boy: A surrealist story wherein the titular character is thrown about by fate to fulfill a prophecy.Order of Tales is good, too, but this is worth spending a night reading and pushing off a paper. . . which I wouldn't know anything about. Nope.

2. Romantically Apocalyptic: Green screens, actors, and some intense patients make this one of the most involved web comics in existence. I think.

3. Happle Tea: Mythology is hilarious on its own, so really this guy's just lazy. Well, except for the whole scripting, drawing, inking, and  coloring thing. Other than that, freeloader.

4. Scary Go Round: This is the only sci-fi/horror/comedy comic I know of that's lasted long enough to have "eras." I wonder why?

5. Girl Genius: Look! Steampunk that isn't made weird by Will Smith!

6. Gypsy: Proving once and for all that too much learnin' will, in fact, give you brain freeze. This is a hint.

7. Blip: God is a jerk, and I'm not sure about Satan yet.

8. Hanna is Not a Boy's Name: Yeah, yeah, vampires, werewolves, wizards, and zombies are overdone. But this one's pretty!

9. Subnormality: Because, looking over this list, I realize that having 9 links is way better than having just 8. Also, this comic is pretty thoughtful and funny, too. But mostly because I'm OCD.

Filed under: First Readers 1 Comment
3May/11Off

2 More Random Web Comics

Posted by Phil Scofield

The 1st one just recently stopped being written.  It is called "Oh My Gods!"

The 2nd one is just a really ADD about video gamers.  It is called "Ctrl+Alt+Del"

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3May/11Off

Some online comix

Posted by nberry1

Saturday Morning
http://fistfulofdeathrays.blogspot.com/?zx=64fe4819dbe461d3

This Is Web Comic that Is published by an old roomate of mine. I knew him when i was drawing comic Books in Atlanta, he Is currently lives in Los Angelos. This comic actually comes with a warning you have to select through.

I Box Publishing(Star Drop)
http://www.iboxpublishing.com/

Mark Oakely was technically discovered by Dave Sim(creator of Cerebus) And The readers of Cerebus. He debuted His First comic--Theives And Kings(Fantasy epic) in an issue of Cerebus. He has been publishing his own work for about 14 years. He is a bit of a comic book purist and is known for making 'wholesome,' child friendly comics that intellectually stimulating enough for adults. He experiments with printed text in many of his comics.

Get your war on
http://www.mnftiu.cc/category/gywo/

Similar in style to 'Hipster Hitler,' 'Get your war on' is satire created right after the US went to war with Afghanistan the first time

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30Apr/11Off

The Boundaries Broken: Past & Present, Magical & Real

Posted by cpetrus2

            I think the idea that the past never really dies and that it still has an impact on us today, as discussed on Thursday, is a very important theme in Bayou. Looking back at the comic book, a number of symbols of the past ran throughout the comic such as the tomahawk and the statue of the Confederate general, both in issue four. I think it’s also significant that the creators of Bayou introduce these items through a different style of comic book format than the rest of the story. For example, the tomahawk axe is introduced through a past story told by the main character’s uncle, and the panels are colored in brown tones and have a more classical penciling style, kind of like some of the panels in Nat Turner. The statue of Confederate General Bogg is not introduced in a different style graphically, but it is shown through a completely different type of narrative. The comic book, as a medium, seems more like a newspaper. And, the writer of the newspaper is a local southerner, who holds General Bogg, one of the villains in story, in high regard. In the magical realm of the story, the General is an opposing character to the heroes, but he gets killed by another person from the past. Stagolee is introduced in issue eight slitting General Bog. In issue nine the readers are give a back story to Stagolee as he is walking down a field from left to right. I feel like the panels during that scene convey the idea that the past is literally moving forward to the present as Stagolee’s story is being explained. Through all these effects, the creators of Bayou are emphasizing the theme that the past is breaking into the present, or perhaps the past never died, just like the idea that the magical realm is breaking into the real world.

30Apr/11Off

A Week Reading Bayou

Posted by slawrene

This week in class we focused on a multitude of different topics. The two that stood out the most to me were the religious overtones and references made within Bayou and the electronic format of the graphic novel.

The religion topic started with Thursday's powerpoint presentation, which discussed how Bayou was influenced  by many different religions and then went on to give examples. Among these examples were the dark and evil presence of the devil that exists in the character of Stagolee and the reference to the great flood and Noah's ark that was made at the juke joint with Reverend Bear.

The topic I found most interesting was the electronic format and how it differed from the print version of the graphic novel. On the comiXology website, each page is displayed one at a time, taking up the entire computer screen. Therefore, you cannot view two pages side by side like in the printed version. This causes the reader to miss a few things the writers included. One feature comiXology does offer that I found interesting is that you can view each individual panel separately. While this doesn't allow you to see the bigger picture that is the whole page, it does allow you to direct your focus toward each panel and the contents within it. By view the novel panel by panel, you may be able to realize something you may have skipped over if the entire page was visible. The electronic format has many features and is a completely different reading experience from the printed form.

29Apr/11Off

It’s not even past

Posted by ehackett

Just wanted to highlight and/or revisit this idea from Faulkner's brain in relation to Bayou. I think the notion that we talked about in class, as the past being a constantly hanging thing, always present and reoccurring, influencing the present and the future is a pretty truthful and complex idea. The fact that a comic in the 2000's can revisit the planes of the past and make them bright again is a baffling kind of idea to think about. This occurrence of the old rekindling in the form of the new seems to back up Faulkner's words pretty seamlessly. By taking the recent past (recency depending upon perspective) and shaping something new, "the past is never dead, it's not even past" holds true. But I'm rambling right now. What I mean is, this notion of creating new from old ideas, ways, existences etc. in terms of time backs up Faulkner's words in a metaphorical sense: that is, it's not even past as the "past" representative of time or an idea of time as humans know it. However, if we read Faulkner's statement more literally, time becomes less important. If we read: "it's not even past" as "it's not even itself," now this statement suggests something about the past being something else entirely, or not entirely.
So if the past is not the past as we know it in terms of just what happened before now, the wtf is it? Your guess is as good as mine. But I guess that maybe it is Bayou that is this "otherly" sort of past. The past is never dead. Yeah okay, we understand, Maus brings back Holocaust, Fun home brings back Bechdels childhood, Bayou brings back the racist South. But do they really bring them back? Or are they bringing back something else? Maybe, I dunno, whatevs. poop

28Apr/11Off

Bayou’s “Shelf Life”

Posted by Kristine Brown

For my link this week, I wanted to post this really (no, really, it is very) short interview that Jeremy Love did with Comic Book Resources online. My main interest in this interview was specifically for this question that CBR asks Love: "Knowing what you know now, and how popular “Bayou” has become, do you wish you would have released it in a traditional format from the outset?" I thought this really tied in well with the discussion about the digital form that we were having on Tuesday, but I have to say (And maybe you will agree) that Love's answer was fairly anticlimactic. He responds, "Not at all. I love the “shelf life” of a web comic. “Bayou” wouldn’t be as widely read if it were released traditionally. This story, more than anything, needed time to cultivate a following." Interesting that the interviewer and Love seem to talk about it as if the digital form and the book form are these interchangeable ways of selling comics, the online form simply sounding like a better way of advertising them, and of reaching a larger audience in general. In class we approached this topic as if the comic had specifically been written for the digital format, and while in part it probably had, it doesn't seem like Jeremy Love would have changed it at all if it would have been originally released in print. I guess I just wish Love had had a more in depth answer that maybe, possibly, included a small mention of how the mediums were different, and that that had had an impact on why he choose the online format for Bayou (instead of just saying that web-comics have a longer "shelf life").

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28Apr/11Off

Searching for the Bayou

Posted by rpaul2

For Jeremy Love's Bayou, I found a few different interesting and worthwhile links.

An interview with Love conducted by Publisher's Weekly really caught my attention. In it, Love talks about the benefits of writing specifically online -- he says it's easier to work with surprising the reader. Not only that, Love likes the fact that he can interact with his readers online as well.

And from Graphic Novel Reporter, I found a pretty good review of the novel!

More so than any other, I think this review captures more critical places where the novel shines. The reviewer points out Love's great "ear for dialogue" and "sense of historical perspective." Sure, I appreciated both while reading the novel, but I hadn't really seen it pointed out in any review I read on Amazon or elsewhere.

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27Apr/11Off

Bayou and the fey

Posted by jairhart

After reading some of the first readers posts, and remembering what was discussed in class, I found myself agreeing with what Daynee Rosales was talking about with Bayou being almost like Pan's Labyrinth meets Nat Turner.  Both of the stories of Bayou and Pan's Labyrinth deal with themes of racism, and how the perspective of the main character radically changes as she enters a world of a decidedly fey nature.  After it opens up with a lynching, where Nat Turner ended with one, Lee dives into the pond and reemerges in a world straight out of a dark fairytale.  In this world of talking animals, bizarre magic and a skewed view of history where the line between illusion and reality starts to blur.  There's the fact that Lee is a child, so there is a certain level of exaggeration on her part, and some of the events that happened to her could be in her head, that if you suffer enough emotional trauma, you could potentially retreat into a world that's all in your head.  Then again, she really could have talked to a drunken, lecherous bear-priest.  You never know.

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26Apr/11Off

“JESUS WEPT, MOTHER F#*%ER!”

Posted by agreeng

Bear with me here, I know that late posts aren't accepted but I'm doing this one anyway, because I wanted to get it out before the Easter holiday weekend and the food service hell that it is engulfed my life, but I failed. So here I am anyway. Also, the title of this post doesn't actually come from The Unwritten but rather from Rick Moody's novel The Diviners but it is close enough to one of Mr. Bun's lines that I felt it appropriate (that or I just love that line).

I also am going to outright state that I suck at Weekly Reviews because I'd rather just hone in on one topic and discuss the shit out of it. Well, maybe not that much discussion, but still. So today's agenda is a response to a question posed by the illustrious Prof. Sample himself. Is the Unwritten just a collection of cheap literary references (paraphrased)? I couldn't adequately answer this in class but having re-read both volumes I feel like I am a little more equipped for the task. The answer: No.

….

Well I guess I should probably “Show My Work” in the words of innumerable math instructors from my youth (whom would probably be tickled pink that I've managed to apply something they taught me for a “real world” purpose).
The Unwritten isn't a collection of cheap literary references, it IS an ever expanding tapestry OF literary references. The difference is in the “cheap” part. Without them there would be no story. They would be cheap if the story itself could exist independent of literary references. Sort of like how the Xenosaga games for the PS2 don't really need those Nietzsche quotes in their titles to work as a game or as a narrative and they could be considered guilty of a cheap use of a philosophical reference. But the Unwritten is more like an Austrian Death Machine song that use of lines from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies as their lyrics and thematic grounding point. That's the entire purpose of their music. To re purpose shitty dialog into terrible yet awesome heavy metal. Without the reference there is no music (or a career for Quentin Tarantino). Without the literature before it there would be no The Unwritten. It almost seems like Sample's friend just isn't that into post-modernity. I can dig. As much as I love the mash-up of reference, genre, and style that marks the movement there's always some asshole that takes it to far and ends up without a genuine work as a result (fuckin' Jeff Koontz, lookin' at you).
But I feel that Mike Carey (whom is, by the way, currently writing the best X-Men comic out at the moments) and Peter Gross have created a valuable work that does need these references to exist but is not itself without an underpinning of narrative that make them click in a satisfying manner. The influence of fiction on reality is a common theme amidst modern (or post-modern) creative types (almost as if they're saying “Look at me, I don't cure diseases but I still matter”) and it is a theme worth exploring. Because fiction, whether literature or hearsay, does matter and it does impact our lives. This para(theticals)graph hopefully illustrates that (there are too many of them, sorry) you can tell one story and a completely different one and have them both matter. Even if that matter is composed of highly dense mass of literary Easter eggs hidden in a story that, if removed, has several egg shaped holes that will surely cause it to fail a home inspection (what too many mixed metaphors too?).

I also find it interesting that Paul Cornell, the man who wrote the intro to Volume 2, lists his I'm sure famous to the Brits screen writing credits but utterly fails to mention that he also writes comic books. His Marvel comics miniseries Wisdom is actually quite excellent and even has to deal with the very same theme of the fantastic and fictional becoming altogether real (albeit his story involves Oberon and H.G. Wells and has a lot more punching involved).

26Apr/11Off

Pan’s Labyrinth Meets Nat Turner

Posted by drosales

 Once I got over the fact that I was reading a web comic and focused on the art/story line, I couldn't help but find parallels to the two mentioned titles.

The art reminded me of a more youthful version of Nat Turner. Perhaps I'm making the connection because Bayou also deals with themes of racism and discrimination, but I think it also has something to do with the point of view. For example, in the opening chapter we see a man hanging from a tree, not unlike the final scene in Nat Turner, and the panels that follow share an equally eery feeling as Lee dives into the pond. I would also like to note that the color schemes here, browns and greenish grays, resembles the art in Nat Turner. The difference between the two, however, lies in that Nat Turner ends with a tragedy, while Bayou starts with one.

This leads to a bizarre coming-of-age story reminiscence of the film Pan's Labyrinth, where, through our protagonist, we enter a world similar to our own though full of magic and strange creatures. In Bayou's alternative view of history we dance a fine balance between what could be real and what is not. Furthermore, because our main character is so young, there is a level of skepticism about how to accept what we are presented with- at least, I am a skeptic (Call it a biased against children in literature/art, but a combination of children & magic is almost too predictable). I am not a big fan of magical realism, yet I think this is kind of the graphic novel is its equivalent... and strangely enough, I did not dislike it.

I'm still questioning how viewing this in book format as opposed to web format would be different. I understand the difference in mediums and tend to prefer book to online, but for some reason I found the art incredibly accessible in the format in which I viewed it.

Filed under: First Readers 2 Comments
25Apr/11Off

Bayou: On Reading Web Comics

Posted by Katy McCaddin

Reading a comic online was very different than reading one in print.  In the first few issues (mostly 1 and 2) I didn't mind the interface at all, and the ability to see all the pages all at once was very interesting.  However, as I kept reading I had more problems.  Once there was more dialog and longer passages to read I had to keep zooming in to read the words and then zoom back out to actually see the page.  It got very frustrating for me.  I like that when you are reading something in print you can see everything at once, and if you focus on one part you don't have to spend so long scrolling and zooming to see it.  The interface really interfered for me. I am willing to say that the interface may not be such a challenge on normal sized screens, but on my net book it was a huge failure.  The interface became my main focus rather than story.  The fact that this is the first thing we read in serial form may have also added to my frustration.  I got tired of having to stop reading, click the back button, click the next issue, and open it and then read.  Maybe if we had read more shorter works rather than longer compilations that would not have phased me, but since we haven't I got distracted.

Over all the constant need to zoom in to read the words then zoom out to see the pictures plus the constant need to open the next issue caused a frustration that overpowered the story.  I never connected with the characters, I was too busy trying to read the comic.  I never cared about Lee or her father or Lilly or Bayou.... I didn't care about the story.

Had I been reading this for pleasure I may have read to issue three.  After that I would have stopped. Why? Because reading should not be about keystrokes.  I like to read when reading, not have to maneuver around in a desperate attempt to catch everything: I could easily read with out being able to read the dialog or without seen the images, neither was a good option and being able to  see both proved more frustrating than my enjoyment of the novel.

I would read Bayou in print. But online, it just didn't work for me.

Filed under: First Readers 1 Comment
25Apr/11Off

The Unwritten round up

Posted by abarney

One of the discussions we had in class that I would have like to expand on was the "delusions" of the little girl, Cosi. In the book, when Cosi says that her magic is getting better after yelling some "magic" words and poking another student in the eye her mother insists that she go to a psychiatrist. After speaking with Cosi he tells her parents that she is delusional and that she firmly believes that she can do magic like in the Tommy Taylor books.  Her mother immidately accepts this explination for her daughter's behavior and refuses to belive that it is just a child's imagination running wild. But if we put this into terms we in the "real world" can understand, is she so delusional? What child who read the Harry Potter novels wasn't the tiniest bit disappointed that their letter from Hogwarts didn't come when they were 11? I know I was a little when the magical letter didn't come. At a young age I knew that the Harry Potter world was just pretend/make believe but that doesn't stop that little bit of childlike hope that some people have that witches and wizards really do exist.