Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Kid-Friendly Comics, 7/28/09

Since new comics are released every Wednesday here in the States, I thought I'd organize a list of the kid-friendly comics available this week. Check out the hyperlinks to find previews of the comics if they are available.

Previews are few and far between this week, as I'm sure most websites and publishers were busy with Comic Con business all week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jeff Smith Reveals New Info. about New Bone Books

Straight from the source (i.e. Jeff Smith's blog), some more info. about the new Bone books from Jeff Smith:

"Tall Tales...is a major repackaging of a book I did with Tom Snigoski a few years ago called Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails."

"BONE: Quest for the Spark is slightly different kind of thing. It is not a comic; it’s a novel. A series of three novels written by Tom Snigoski that follow a new generation of Bone characters into the Valley."

I'm not sure what to think of this just yet. While I've seen a couple of copies of Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails floating around comic shops (in fact, for collectionists, it's still available) here, it'll be nice for these stories to see the light of day again. As far as the novelizations go, this could be a great opportunity to see how well reluctant readers transition from the comics format to traditional print.

No matter what, any new Jeff Smith work is a cause for celebration!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New "Bone" Titles on the Way!

As reported about an hour ago through an official press release, writer/artist Jeff Smith will be creating new Bone titles through Scholastic. Here's the breakdown of the tentative publishing schedule:

  • Bone: Tall Tales -- Summer 2010
  • Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book One -- Fall 2010
  • Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two -- Spring 2011
  • Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Three -- Summer 2011
The Quest for the Spark trilogy will be written by Tom Sniegoski and drawn by Smith.

This is fantastic news for my students, who devoured the Bone series after I used the first volume in my seventh grade Language Arts class to introduce sequential art.

In related news, Smith recently unveiled some cool new Bone t-shirt designs. Check 'em out below and at his website's store.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comics in the Classroom Sessions at Comic-Con

As mentioned by Graphic Novel Reporter, some sessions at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego will focus on the use of comics in the classroom.

If you're in San Diego for the convention, I'd highly recommend stopping by Josh Elder's session, entitled "Using Comics in the Classroom". Josh is the creator of Mail Order Ninja Volume 1 and 2, a fantastic series of graphic novels for kids, and is active in promoting comics and graphic novels in schools. After hearing Josh interviewed on the Around Comics podcast, I contacted him to let him know what fantastic work he is doing, and he was kind enough to write back right away. He's good people.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Kid-Friendly Comics, 7/22/09

Since new comics are released every Wednesday here in the States, I thought I'd organize a list of the kid-friendly comics available this week. Check out the hyperlinks to find previews of the comics if they are available. Thanks to Comic Book Resources and Newsarama for the majority of the previews!

Enjoy, but be warned -- it's another big week! If you were to buy all of the collected editions alone, you could spend up to $207.76! But if you were to help me out by checking out my Amazon store, you could spend as little as $109.51! Check it out!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Kid-Friendly Comics, 7/15/09

Since new comics are released every Wednesday here in the States, I thought I'd organize a list of the kid-friendly comics available this week. Check out the hyperlinks to find previews of the comics if they are available. Thanks to Comic Book Resources and Newsarama for the majority of the previews!

Also, if you'd like to purchase any of this week's collections, please help me out by checking out my Amazon store in the right column. They have great deals, and I get a piece of the action. It's a win-win!

Enjoy, but be warned -- it's a big week!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review -- "Astro City Vol. 1: Life in the Big City"

For my inaugural comic review (I haven't written one yet?! For shame!), I've chosen the first volume of Astro City entitled "Life in the Big City" by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross. It's an older title (the six issues or "chapters" comprising this collection were published almost 15 years ago), but the story and characters have a timeless quality that I believe will appeal to young and old comics readers alike.

Note -- If you're already fairly comics literate, then check out iFanboy's review that I embedded in a previous post. They do a great job of dissecting the work in terms of an accomplishment in the world of comics. I'll focus on why it would be appealing to middle and high school students, and how it might be used in the classroom. Now, on with the review...

The Characters
Simply put, "Life in the Big City" consists of six loosely-related stories of the superheroes and various inhabitants of Astro City, which could be modeled after any major metropolitan American city. As these characters are completely the creation of Busiek, Anderson, and Ross, there is no confusing character histories for the students to wade through, as is often the case with the Big Two's (DC's and Marvel's) heroes and villians. This is a major selling point for use of this collection in the classroom, as students have frequently called me to their desks while reading Spider-Man or Superman stories to have me clear up 40-80 years of confusing character continuity. Many students, however, will recognize these characters' archetypes, which could spark a great conversation/mini-lesson about the epic hero, mythology and fantasy literature in general.

The Stories
The first chapter of introduces students to The Samaritan, a Superman-like character, who narrates a tale of his struggle to find time for himself as a man defined by his duty to the people of Astro City. There's some fun baddy-punching and saving-the-day sprinkled throughout, but the core of the story is how difficult it is for people of great responsibility (read soldiers, firefighters, policemen, etc.) to take time for themselves to simply enjoy life. This chapter/issue humanizes The Samaritan, without falling into the trap of characterizing him as a tortured soul bent of avenging some great crime (e.g. Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, etc.).

Chapter Two focuses the lense on Elliot Mills, a reporter for Astro City's leading newspaper, The Rocket. While the newspaperman bent on exposing the truth behind superheroes' origins is also a common trope of supehero comics, Mills' story is anything but typical. Again, students will love the action of this chapter/issue, but the real conflict of the story here is that Mills, a witness to a giant battle and the reappearance of a long-forgotten hero, has trouble even writing his story. Being a rookie reporter, his work is edited and re-edited into a watered-down version of the events, which could undoubtedly spark a mini-lesson about journalistic integrity, the First Ammendment, and censorship.

"A Little Knowledge", Chapter Three of this volume, has at its center a dilemna faced by one of the street thugs of Astro City, the hapless Andrew "Eyes" Einstein. When Eyes stumbles upon the secret identity of superhero Jack-in-the-Box, he soon realizes that exploiting this knowledge for personal gain won't be as easy as he initially thought. Entrenched in the criminal underground, Eyes discovers that he can't trust anyone with the news of his discovery. A scene at the beginning of the chapter in which Eyes laments his former crime-riddled section of the city becoming more upscale could lead to a mini-lesson on gentrification and the changing nature of large urban areas. Eyes' eventual rejection of the city he seems to love so dearly could lead to a discussion of ethics as well as positive and negative choices.

Chapter Four, probably my least-favorite of the collection, centers around Marta, a junior clerk at an Astro City law firm. Entitled "Safeguards", this chapter has Marta weighing her responsibilities at home in a creepy neighborhood called Shadow Hill versus those of the heroes of Astro City. Initially entertaining ambitions of moving to the big city, Marta, of course, soon realizes that there is "no place like home", and decides that there is no need to exchange her problems at home for new problems in Astro City. A creative writing assignment about the value of home (The House on Mango Street, anyone?) could easily come out of this chapter.

The titular "Reconnaissance" in Chapter Five is performed by a bug-like alien in disguise, whose task it is to gather the information necessary for his home planet to launch a full-out attack on Earth. Long having gathered enough information, this 'villian' finds something in humankind that he admires through his observation of a cocky hero named Crackerjack. But when Crackerjack's identity is accidentally revealed to a group of gossiping old women, the alien quickly loses his faith. Discussion of the modern 'cult of celebrity' and the price of fame (possibly The Great Gatsby?) could easily follow this chapter.

"Dinner at Eight" takes a potentially cheesy precept -- superheroes on a date -- and again insightfully examines the choices forced upon those in positions of power. The Samaritan, last seen in the first chapter, is confused by superheroine Winged Victory's conscious focus of aiding women in distress. Feminism, as well as the governments' allocation of taxpayers' money, could be topics to spring out of this chapter.

The Art
With panel layouts that are easy to follow, clearly defined heroes and villians, and full of colorful action scenes, "Life in the Big City" should be a pleasure for students and experienced comics readers. As with nearly all comics stories, the visual nature of the comics medium helps students to instantaneously analyze the setting of the story as well as the characters' roles within the setting, and the action is detailed much more effectively through art than it would be with dopey dialogue like, "He punched the bad guy. Then the bad guy punched back."

"Life in the Big City" could be a welcome addition to a classroom or school library. Fun, smart, and inventive, it's a superhero tale for the ages.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Digital Comics Platform -- Longbox

Recently, the folks at Comic Book Resources reported on an exciting announcement at HeroesCon in North Carlonia -- Longbox Digital Comics. Basically, Longbox is marketing itself as the iTunes of comics -- a place where consumers can purchase digital versions of their favorite single-issue comics for a low price (99 cents!). The interface looks really neat, with the ability not only to easily organize your digital comics, but to enlarge individual panels for easy viewing (see below).

With a target release of late 2009, I think that there is some great potential here for getting comics into the classroom in a much more cost-effective (not to mention environmentally-friendly) manner. As Ron Richards from iFanboy mentioned in a recent article, the key to success is securing the big comic book publishers, one of which (Marvel, through their Digital Comics Unlimited program) already has a subscription-based digital comics service. (Though as Ron mentions succintly in his article, Marvel does not allow for offline reading of their digital comics--something that Longbox will.)

Some concerns I have about such a service in the classroom:
  1. Would students feel comfortable reading comics from a computer screen? I've heard adults bemoan the rising popularity of hardware like Amazon's Kindle, but is there a generation gap that might explain a greater receptiveness by students to reading digitally?
  2. The aforementioned announcement at HeroesCon included mention of developing software for use with the Kindle and iPhone & iPod Touch. While I believe the digital comics format can work on a large-ish computer monitor or television screen, will it work on small, portable devices?
Regardless, I find any instrument that gets comics into the hands of students quickly and cheaply to be fascinating. Count on me to follow future announcements from the Longbox people as they are made.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Comic Shop Locator -- Now for iPhone and iPod Touch

Yesterday I blogged about one of Diamond Comic Distributors resource for teachers and librarians, Diamond Bookshelf. Diamond also offers a great service through Comic Shop Locator, which they've recently unveiled as an iPhone & iPod Touch application. While I'm waiting for my iPod Touches to be delivered (I recently won a grant for 15 of these nifty devices for my classroom), I've found the web version of the Comic Shop Locator to be invaluable, especially considering how often I've moved over the past three years. Also, it's been my experience that many (most?) students have no idea where to pick up comics; this service is the answer. And with more and mores students owning their own iPhones and iPod Touches, this app. could be really useful. Let's just hope they don't use it while they're driving!

Here's the link to the iPhone/iPod Touch app.:
Comic Shop Locator Service

Great Resource -- Diamond Bookshelf

Diamond Comic Distributers, the people in charge of getting comics from publishers like DC and Marvel to bookstores and local comic book stores, have been providing valuable resources via their Diamond Bookshelf newsletters for some time. Targeted at teachers and librarians, the newsletter features new releases, reviews, interviews with comics educators, and information about upcoming meetings and conferences of interest to comics educators.

For instance, in this month's issue, there is an excellent interview with Dr. Katie Monnin (check out her "Teaching Graphic Novels" blog in my blogroll). In the interview, Dr. Monnin gives concrete examples of graphic novels (Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel and Laika) to use in both the Language Arts and Social Studies classrooms, citing national curriculum standards to reinforce her aims. Fantastic stuff.

Though it'd be really nice if they offered an RSS feed, I find the monthly e-mail newsletters to be quite helpful in my work. I hope that you do as well!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Kid-Friendly Comics, 7/8/09

Since new comics are released every Wednesday here in the States, I thought I'd organize a list of the kid-friendly comics available this week. Check out the hyperlinks to find previews of the comics if they are available. Thanks to Comic Book Resources for the majority of the previews!

One particularly exciting new release: DC Comics' Wednesday Comics. It's printed in traditional newspaper format (20" by 28"!) in full color, and features 15 one-page stories featuring such DC favorites as Batman, Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman (among many others). Some of comics' best writers and artists (Neil Gaiman, Paul Pope, Amanda Conner, Mike Allred) contribute to this collection, which DC plans on publishing for the next 12 weeks. What a great way to get new readers into their local comics shops! I've already read a couple of the stories, and really look forward to getting this issue in the hands of my students this fall.

Also, I highly recommend picking up (if you haven't already) the one-volume edition of Jeff Smith's Bone. For the money, there's no better way to read this entire epic in its original black-and-white glory.