The Secret Language of Comics

Week Ahead: 12

12 4/13
  • Good Talk chpts 36-42 (pp 294-349)
Halfa Kucha, day 1
  • Mister Miracle
Halfa Kucha, day 2
4/18 Sketch 9: Recreate a movie scene

You do not have any sort of sketch assignment due this weekend (4/12) so you can focus on putting together your Halfa Kucha presentations.

On Tuesday we’ll start with the Halfa Kucha presentations, then we’ll finish our class period discussing the ending of Good Talk. On Thursday, we’ll finish the Halfa Kucha presentations and then begin discussing our final book, Mister Miracle.

Mister Miracle was created as a character by Jack Kirby — one of the most important early comics creators, he also co-created with Stan Lee Captain America, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Thor, The Hulk, and Iron Man, amongst many others. Mister Miracle, a.k.a. Scott Free, was a B-list comic character in Kirby’s fairly well known Fourth World saga, a story that followed the exploits of the New Gods, who hailed from the technologically advanced planets of New Genesis and Apokolips. That series ran it’s course and, though some of its characters entered into the more maintstream comics pantheon, mostly it was forgotten about by any but pretty hardcore comics readers. Tom King and Mitch Gerads then dusted him off and made him relevant in this new series now, without changing the fundamental aspects of his character from the 70s.

You do not need to know anything about superhero comics or Jack Kirby to make sense of the comic. If you are confused at some point and think you need to know more about comics history to make sense of the story, don’t worry it’s just that the story is confusing.

Halfa Kucha Schedule


  • Hannah
  • Young
  • Ria
  • Summayah
  • Abby


  • Eric
  • Zach
  • Martin
  • Nathan
  • Thomas
  • Rizky
  • Destiny
  • Rachel
  • Priscila
  • Kai

Week Ahead: 10

3/28 Data gathering for sketch 8
10 3/30
  • Sabrina –158-204
  • Good Talk chpts 1-10 (pp 3-85)
Literacy Narrative, part 3

This weekend, you should finish tracking your data for sketch 8 and publish your charts as a sketch post to your site. Identify what conceptual issue you were tracking or what question you wanted to answer (or begin to answer). Include 2 or 3 paragraphs explaining what conclusions you have drawn from the data that you collected. I hope this has been a useful process for all of you!

This coming week, we’ll wrap up our reading of Sabrina and begin to read Good Talk by Mira Jacob. Good Talk has popped up on many best of lists last year in the aftermath of protests last summer and in the run up to the elections because of its place in the national conversation about race.

Week Ahead: 7

3/7 Sketch 6: What’s in your bag?
7 3/9
  • Kindred — The Fight & The Storm (100-209)
  • Kindred — The Rope, Epilogue, About Octavia Butler & About the Adaptor and Artist (210-240)
Tracing Pages
3/14 Sketch 7: Quadriptych

This week we’ll finish reading Kindred and you’ll submit your essays comparing Stitches and Spinning. The Literacy Narrative comics were supposed to be due this week, but I agreed to give you extra time so you do not need to have them published until 3/18.


Week Ahead: 5

2/21 Sketch 4: Combophoto
5 2/23
  • Spinning — chapters 6-8 (183-318)
Literacy narrative comic storyboard (in class)
  • Spinning — chapters 9-10 & author’s note (319-94)
2/28 Sketch 5: Triptych

Remember that last week I had mixed information about which sketch to do so if you made a combophoto last week then this week you should make visual notes.

We will spend time in class on Tuesday giving each other peer feedback on the literacy narrative comic storyboard, which means before class that day you will need to get your storyboard posted on your sites. If you’re hand-drawing the comic then take photos of the pages and upload them. If you’re creating your comic digitally then export the draft as jpg files and upload them. The key thing for our peer editing time is that you should have a rough sketch of an entire comic such that your classmates can look at it and get a sense of the story you’re telling and how you’re planning to tell it. They’ll be able to tell you what they see you are doing, ask some questions, and make some suggestions for improving your comic.

As you’re making your comics remember that these are radical revisions of the alphabetic literacy narratives you wrote, so you can (and should!) rethink the earlier narrative to make it work in a more visual format. With some part of your mind as you do so, pay attention to what you change and why you think some elements work better in text versus in comics. I’m interested in you noticing what comics does better and what straight prose does better.

This week we’ll also finish reading Spinning, though we’ll continue to talk about it for awhile.

Week Ahead: 3

3 2/9 Literacy Narrative, part 1
  • Hillary Chute, “Comics for Grown-Ups” from Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere
  • Stitches — “I was fifteen” & “A few years ago I had the following dream. In the dream I was a boy of six again” (243-329)
2/14 Sketch 3: Visual Note Taking

On Tuesday, you’ve got a very short reading from Dan Roam‘s book Draw to Win to go along with Stitches. (Note that I uploaded chapters 2 and 3 but you’re only required to read chapter 3.) Roam is a corporate trainer who publishes books and presents workshops on business communication and marketing, focusing on visual clarity for communicating complex information effectively. We’ll also be doing some drawing in class.

Your first major assignment is also due on Tuesday. I’ll begin meeting with you individually to give you feedback on those drafts starting later in the week and stretching into the next.

On Thursday, we’ll read the introductory chapter from Hillary Chute’s Why Comics?, which is a major work of comics criticism that came out a couple years ago. The first 20 pages of that article provide a history of the comics medium and a discussion of why the best term for them is comics, and why graphic novel isn’t especially useful. There is a lot of useful information in that first half of the chapter and it’s worth reading — but the really important part of the chapter, which I want you to spend most of your attention on, is the latter section under the heading “Reading Comics” (21-31). If you’re going to skip reading some of the chapter — which you shouldn’t but if you’re going to — skip the first half not the second half! Come to class with at least one or two questions you have about how to read comics effectively.

Week Ahead: 2

1/31  Sketch 1: Avatar
2 2/2
2/7 Sketch 2: Sunday Sketches

(Note: Most weeks, I’ll try to publish a post on Friday or over the weekend with a glimpse at what is coming up in the next week. Like I have done above, I’ll start with repeating the information on our official schedule for the next week, then like I do below, I’ll often write a little bit more detail about what we’ll focus on in class or what you need to be thinking about and preparing for.)

We had our first class meetings this week. You should have your WordPress sites set up by now, but if you are running into a roadblock with that, please let me know what sort of help you need. You’ll need the site up so that you can publish your first sketch assignment on Sunday.

In class on Tuesday, we’ll spend the bulk of our time discussing the opening section of Stitches. As you read those first 50ish pages I would like you to consider the following questions:

  • How does Small establish character and setting in the introduction?
  • This chapter all takes place while David is 6 years old. What are the major subdivisions of the chapter though? You’ll probably decide that there are three (maybe four) major sections in these pages — what is the primary idea being conveyed by each section?
  • Pick the single page that you find the most compelling or interesting or that you think is the most important in today’s reading. Describe the page in a few sentences. Why is it interesting or important?

On Thursday, we’ll look at two chapters from Unflattening by Nick Sousanis, who drew Unflattening as his dissertation for Teachers College at Columbia University — it was the first comics dissertation ever and has since been published by Harvard UP and has won a bunch of awards. Sousanis took a job at San Francisco State University a couple of years ago and is building a comics studies program there. His comic short story “A Life in Comics” is something of a literacy narrative about Karen Green, a librarian at Columbia University’s Butler Library, who is the first Curator for Comics and Cartoons there.

Unflattening will serve as one of the theoretical frameworks for our analyses of comics. Be aware that this comic is probably a little more dense reading than you’ll find Stitches to be, so give yourself a little extra time to work through those 20 pages carefully. I’ll start off our discussion of Sousanis by asking you to consider how effective Unflattening is as an academic, philosophical argument. (Soon we’ll read another theoretical framing text, but in the form of a more traditional essay by Hillary Chute and I’ll ask you to consider how the two pieces are similar and different.) How do the words and images in Unflattening interact together? Is it different than what happens in Stitches?

We’ll also spend some time discussing the end of David’s sixth year and his eleventh year in that class.

And you should start brainstorming for your second sketch assignment, where you’ll be drawing and incorporating a 3d object into your piece.