Part Time Punks

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PART TIME PUNKS takes place at The Echo on 1822 Sunset in Los Angeles, every Sunday night.

PART TIME PUNKS is a club that takes over noted Echo Park live music venue, The Echo on 1822 Sunset, every Sunday night. The night focuses heavily on DIY and Indie vinyl coming out of the U.S., UK and Europe from 1977 to the present: Punk, Post-Punk, Synth-Punk, Synthpop, Minimal Synth, Dark/Cold/Minimal Wave, NDW, Industrial, New Wave, No Wave, C86, Indiepop, Twee, Shoegaze, Baggy and even Krautrock…

CALARTS CRITICAL STUDIES 357: THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOKS

CALARTS

CRITICAL STUDIES 357:

THE HISTORY OF COMIC BOOKS

SPRING 2010

Wednesdays 1-3pm

ROOM #A216

Professor: Michael James Tiberius Stock

Office: E119

Office Hours: Wednesday, 12-1pm

Email: michael@parttimepunks.com

Online scans of comic book pages: http://parttimepunks.com/books

“Comic books epitomize the accessibility, disposability, and appeal to instant gratification that lie at the core of modern consumer culture.  To classify comic books as ‘junk,’ however, is not to put them down or imply that they have nothing to say.  On the contrary, their perennial lowbrow status has allowed them to develop and thrive outside of the critical, aesthetic, and commercial criteria expected of more ‘mature’ meda.  That development accounts for their wonderful appeal to young people as well as their unique historical significance”

--Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (xiv)

DESCRIPTION

This is a critical/historical survey of the unique visual/narrative medium known as the comic book.  Charting the medium’s development from the hieroglyph to the comic strip to the comic book to the graphic novel that thrives today, this course is primarily concerned with how comics aka graphic literature has developed and matured as a distinctly American art/narrative form which is constantly mutating, reflecting and commenting on American society.  In addition to reading representative works from each of era of the comic book’s development, students will also be reading the admittedly few, but remarkable works of criticism and theory.  In this way they will learn the basics of how comics use signs both verbally and visually to communicate narrative meanings  Further, students will learn how to decode the comic’s unique visual narrative, examining its denotative and connotative codes as well as unraveling the contexts of social relations to examine the cultural representations (and often critiques) found therein.

OBJECTIVES

Via completion of this class, students will be able to discuss the development of the comic book as both a medium of artistic expression and storytelling. Further, students will understand the system of distribution that has been structured by three main ideological divisions in the form of publishing groupings: mainstream, underground and alternative.  Students will be able to read, decode and analyze critically the major narrative forms of comic art: comic strips, comic books and graphic novels.  Finally, students will become familiar with the seminal works by the major writers and illustrators in the 100+ year history of comics.

ASSIGNMENTS

You will write TWO PAPERS.

1.  The first paper will analyze and decode a short text of sequential art.  You’ve done close readings of films and of literature in your other Humanities courses, now give us a close reading of a comic or graphic novel.  Or, if you prefer, compare and contrast two comics and/or graphic novels.  (6 pages)

2.  The second paper is a research paper.  It may focus on the career of an artist or writer, a title (say, Superman), a limited series, a graphic novel, or narrative and/or graphic techniques or processes in comic art.  The paper may also provide an examination of a comic--or series of comics’ critique of American culture and society.  In any event, you MUST cite at least three different critical sources, using MLA format.   (8-10 pages) 

NOTE:  All students are REQUIRED to meet with me during office hours to discuss the final paper, as topics must be approved by me BEFORE you start working on them.

GRADING

Written assignments will be evaluated according to your ability to:

              a)  develop a sophisticated argument that is substantive, specific, and contestable;

              b)  frame your argument in relation to the class readings;

              c)  support your argument through a close, insightful analysis

              d)  write in a manner that is well organized, clear, and correct.

Late papers will be marked down half a grade for every day they are late.

Here’s the breakdown on how you will be graded for this class:

Paper #133 1/3%

Paper #233 1/3%

Attendance & Participation33 1/3%

ATTENDENCE

No surprises here:  Attendance is mandatory.  As is participation.  (Hence its heavy weighting in the grade breakdown.)  Roll will be taken within the first five minutes of class.  If you must be more than ten minutes late or cannot attend a class for reasons that are beyond your control, please e-mail me beforehand.   If you must leave a session early for any reason, you will be asked to sign a sheet giving an explanation and this will be verified with your mentor/School. 

A student will be assigned an “NX” for any Critical Studies course after three absences without reasonable excuse.  A grade of “NX” cannot be changed.

READINGS

Amazon is probably the best place to purchase the books and graphic novels that are required for this course.  They have multiple used copies of each book—and cost a fraction of their suggested retail prices.  (Each book will cost roughly in the $5 to $15 range.)  Here is the book list:

Geoffrey Wright, Comic Book Nation (2001)

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994)

Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1996)

Alan Moore, The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, Book Two, “Love And Death” (1984)

Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, The Watchmen (1995)

Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns (1997)

Daniel Clowes, Ghost World (1997)

Gilbert Hernandez, Heartbreak Soup (2007)

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol 2: The Doll’s House (DC/Vertigo Comics, 1990)

Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith, Fell, Volume One: Feral City (2007)

Warren Ellis & Ivan Rodriguez, Doktor Sleepless, Volume One: Engines Of Desire (2009)

Jeff Carey & Peter Gross, The Unwritten, Volume One (2010)

Jeff Lemire, Sweet Tooth, Volume One (forthcoming; 2010)

Because there is, as of yet, no such thing as a course reader for a class on comic books, the only way to obtain copies of early superhero comics (other than buying the astronomically priced original issues) is buying expensive hardcover archive editions (of say, Superman, Batman, The Human Torch, etc).  Because of this, I have scanned hundreds of pages of comics and archive editions from my own collection.  These will be available for reading on the Part Time Punks website (www.parttimepunks.com).   The majority of our comic book reading for the first half of class will be found there.  And no, it’s not the ideal way of reading them.  But it is the only affordable way.  Literally.  You will be given a password to access the scanned material on the first day of class.

SPECIAL NOTE: in this class, you will also be responsible for watching several films during the course of the class.  These are considered homework, same as the readings, and equally important.  As such, you will be responsible for renting/downloading them yourselves, and they will be covered and discussed in class.  Several films (and bits of films will also be screened in-class); these are listed on the course schedule as “IN-CLASS SCREENINGS.”

PLAGIARISM

Critical Studies endeavors to teach students the essential skills and basic ethics involved in any academic enquiry.  To this end, we are committed to observing the policy on plagiarism set out in the CalArts Course Catalog.  This stipulates that plagiarism is the use of ideas and/or quotations (from the internet, books, films, television, newspapers, articles, the work of other students, works of art, media, etc.) without proper credit to the author/artist.  Critical Studies holds to the view that plagiarism constitutes intellectual theft and is a serious breach of acceptable conduct.  It is also the policy of CalArts that students who misrepresent source material as their own original work and fail to credit it have committed plagiarism and are subject to disciplinary action.  In the case of Critical Studies, any student caught plagiarizing will immediately be given a ‘no credit’ for that class.  The student will not be allowed to re-write the paper, and if there is further evidence of plagiarism, Critical Studies will recommend more severe disciplinary action, including suspension or dismissal.

If you have any questions regarding plagiarism or want direction on how to credit source material, ask the member of faculty and refer to reference guides on permanent reserve in the CalArts library.  The CalArts reference librarians may be able to offer additional information as well.

CHANGE OF GRADE

In the interests of operating an equitable grading system, Critical Studies stringently enforces CalArts’ change of grade policy.  Students have one semester upon receiving an “Incomplete” grade to make up any missing coursework and/or projects.  If this work has not been completed by the end of the semester, the Incomplete converts automatically to a “No Credit”.  After that time, changes require the approval of Deans Council.  Deans Council will approve such grade changes only in the case of extreme, extenuating circumstances or in cases of administrative/faculty error.

CLASS SCHEDULE*

* The asterisk denotes the readings that are available online.

WEEK 1:

01/20/10

BEFORE THE BEGINNING: COURSE & CLASS INTRODUCTIONS

IN-CLASS SCREENINGS:

A Trip To The Moon (Georges Melies, 1905)

Little Nemo In Slumberland (Winsor McCay, 1911)

Gertie The Dinosaur (Winsor McCay, 1914)

Steamboat Willie (Walt Disney, 1927)

Flash Gordon (Frederic Stephani, 1936)

Superman (Dave Fleischer, 1942)

WEEK 2:

01/27/10

FROM SEQUENTIAL PIONEERS  TO THE COMIC STRIP,  888 B.C.–1932 A.D.

READINGS: 

Roger Sabin, Comics Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (pp. 11-26)

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (pp. 1-59)

*Gustave Verbeek, The Upside-Down Adventures Of Little Lady Lovekins (1903-05) selections

*J.P Benson, The Woozlebeasts (1903-05) selections

*Winsor McKay, Little Sammy Sneeze (1903) selections

*Winsor McKay, The Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend (1904-13) selections

*Winsor McKay, Little Nemo In Slumberland (1905-1916) selections

*Lyonel Feininger, The Kinder-kids (1906) selections

*Lyonel Feininger, Wee Willie Winkie’s World (1906) selections

*Frank King, Gasoline Alley (1922) selections

WEEK 3:

02/03/10

FROM THE BIRTH OF THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY TO

THE GOLDEN AGE, 1933-39

READINGS:

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (Introduction, Chapters 1)

*Jerome Siegel & Joel Shuster, “Superman, Champion Of The Oppressed” Action Comics #1 (1938)

*Dennis Dooley, “The Man Of Tomorrow And The Boys Of Yesterday”

*John D. McGervey, “The Art and Science of Leaping Tall Buildings”

*Bill Finger & Bob Kane, “The Batman,” Detective Comics #27 (1939)

*Bill Finger & Bob Kane, “Introducing Robin, The Boy Wonder,” Detective Comics #38 (1940)

*Bill Finger & Bob Kane, “The Joker,” Batman #1 (1940)

*Charles Moulton, “Introducing Wonder Woman,” Sensation Comics #1 (1942)

*Charles Moulton, “Wonder Woman In America,” Sensation Comics #2 (1942)

*Gloria Steinem, “Wonder Woman: An Introduction” (1972)

*Lillian S. Robinson, “The Book Of Lilith” (2004)

WEEK 4:

02/10/10

FROM THE GOLDEN AGE TO WAR, 1939-45

READINGS:

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (Chapter 2)

*Jules Feiffer, “Introduction,” The Great Comic Book Heroes, (pp. 11-53)

*Carl Burgos, “The Human Torch,” Marvel Comics #1 (1939)

*Bill Everett, “The Sub-Mariner,” Marvel Comics #1 (1939)

*Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, “Captain America,” Captain America Comics #1 (1941)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “Winners All,” All-Winners Comics #2 (1941)

*Carl Burgos, “The Terror Of The Slimy Japs,” All-Winners Comics #3 (1942)

*Jack Cole, “Plastic Man,” Police Comics #1 (1941)

*Mart Dellon & Bill Finger, “The Green Lantern,” All-American Comics #16 (1941)

*Gardner Fox & Harry Lampert, “The Flash,” Flash Comics #1 (1941)

*Fletcher Hanks, “The Flaming Claws,” Jungle #10 (1940)

*Fletcher Hanks, “De Structo & The Head Hunter,” Big Three Comics #2 (1941)

*Paul Karasik, “Whatever Happened To Fletcher Hanks?” (2007)

*Montana, “Archie,” Pep Comics #36 (1942)

WEEK 5:

02/17/10

COMIC BOOKS AND COLD WAR CULTURE, 1945-55

READINGS:

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (Chapters 3 & 4)

*Will Eisner, “The Killer,” The Spirit (1946)

*Will Eisner, “The Story of Gerhard Shnobble,” The Spirit (1948)

*Will Eisner, “Two Lives,” The Spirit (1948)

*Will Eisner, “The Story of Rat Tat, Toy Machine Gun, The Spirit (1949)

*Jack Cole, “Murder, Morphine and Me,” True Crime Comics #2 (1947)

*Alex Toth, “The Phantom Ship,” Out of the Shadows #6 (1952)

*Alex Toth, “Grip On Life,” The Unseen #12 (1953)

*C.C. Beck, “Captain Marvel & The Atomic War, Captain Marvel Adventures #66 (1946)

*Wayne Boring, “The Origin Of Superman,” Superman #53 (1948)

*Otto Binder & Curt Swan, “The Super-Dog From Krypton, Adventure Comics #210 (1955)

WEEK 6:

02/24/10

COMIC BOOKS  IN CRISIS: SEDUCTION, INNOCENCE & CENSORS, 1950-55

READINGS:

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (Chapters 5 - 6)

*Frederick J. Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent (1954) selections

*Johnny Craig, “Murder May Boomerang,” Crime Suspenstories #1 (1950)

*Harvey Kurtzman, “Lost In The Microcosm,” Weird Science #12 (1950)

*Harry Harrison & Wally Wood, “Dream Of Doom,” Weird Science #12 (1950)

*Jack Davis, “The Patriots,” Shock Suspenstories #2 (1952)

*Wally Wood, “Hate,” Shock Suspenstories #5 (1952)

*George Evans, “The Small Assassin,” Shock Suspenstories #7 (1953)

*Wally Wood, “So Shall Ye Reap,” Shock Suspsenstories #10 (1953)

*Jack Davis, “Grounds…For Horror,” Tales From The Crypt #29 (1952)

*Harvey Kurtzman, “Corpse on the Imjin,” Two-Fisted Tales #25 (1952)

*Jack Davis, “Foul Play,” The Haunt Of Fear #19 (1953)

*Bernie Krigstein, “The Flying Machine,” Weird Science-Fantasy #23 (1954)

*Bernie Krigstein, “Master Race,” Impact #1 (1955)

NOTE: With very few exceptions (like the adaptation of the Ray Bradbury story above),

most of the EC comic stories were conceived in story conferences between EC Publisher

Bill Gaines and EC Editor Al Feldstein, and were written and edited by Al Feldstein. 

All of the EC selections above are listed according to their artists.

WEEK 7:

03/03/10

BEFORE THE SILVER AGE, aka WHERE DID ALL THE SUPERHEROES GO?

READINGS:

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (pp. 60-137)

Lily Renée, “We Couldn’t Be Kept Apart,” Teen-Age Romances #2 (1949)

*Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, “The Savage In Me,” Young Romance Comics #22 (1950)

*Theodore Suess Geisel aka Dr. Suess, “Boing, Boing,” (1952)

*Matt Baker, “Masquerade Marriage,” Teenage Temptations #8 (1954)

*John Stanley & Irving Tripp, “Water, Water,” Little Lulu #88 (1955)

*John Stanley & Irving Tripp, “The Spy,” Little Lulu #90 (1955)

*John Stanley & Irving Tripp, “The Doll Party,” Little Lulu #92 (1956)

*John Stanley & Irving Tripp, “Two Foots Is Feet,” Little Lulu #94 (1956)

*John Stanley & Irving Tripp, “The Flying Carpet,” Little Lulu #100 (1956)

*Carl Barks, “Hypnogun,” Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #145 (1952)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “The Summer Must End!” Love Romances #84 (1961)

WEEK 8:

03/10/10

THE SILVER AGE OF THE 1960s aka THE 2nd COMING OF THE SUPERHEROES

IN-CLASS SCREENING: Star Trek, “The City On The Edge Of Forever” (1967)

READINGS:

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation (Chapter 7)

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics (pp. 138-215)

*Gardner Fox & Carmine Infantino, “Flash Of Two Earths!” Flash #123 (1961)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “The Fantastic Four,” Fanastic Four #1 (1961)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “The Coming Of The Sub-Mariner,” Fantastic Four #4 (1962)

*Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, “Spiderman,” Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “The Incredible Hulk,” The Hulk #1 (1962)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “The X-Men,” The X-Men #1 (1963)

*Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, “Captain America Lives Again,” The Avengers #4 (1963)

*Lawrence Alloway, “Comics And Objects,” Lichtenstein (1983)

*Lawrence Alloway, “Pop Culture And Fine Art,” Lichtenstein (1983)

*David Galloway, “Pop Goes The Hero,” Superman At Fifty (1988)

PAPER #1 DUE IN CLASS

WEEK 9:

03/17/10

THE 1970S: COMICS, CULTURAL CHANGE & THE BIRTH

OF AN UNDERGROUND

READINGS:

*Mark James Estren, A History Of Underground Comics (1983) pp. 7-57

*Robert Crumb, “High Times Interviews R. Crumb” (1977)

*John Holstrom, “Lou Reed, Rock’n’Roll Vegetable,” Punk Magazine #1 (Jan 1976)

Art Spiegelman, Maus (1987)

SCREENINGS (HOMEWORK):

Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 1994)

WEEK 10:

03/31/10

COMICS GO DIRECT, INDIE & AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (THE 80s TURN 90)

READINGS:

Daniel Clowes, Ghost World (1997)

Gilbert Hernandez, Heartbreak Soup (2007)

SCREENINGS (HOMEWORK):

Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

WEEK 11:

04/07/10

1987 aka THE YEAR COMICS WENT POST-MODERN,

aka THE OLD HEROES & THEIR NEW WAYS

READINGS:

*Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (1949) excerpts

Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight (1987)

SCREENINGS (HOMEWORK):

Batman (Tim Burton, 1989)

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

IN-CLASS SCREENINGS:

Batman & Robin (1949) excerpts

Batman: The Movie (1966) excerpts

Batman & Robin [animated series] (1976) excerpts

Batman [Bruce Timm animated series] (1992) excerpts

WEEK 12:

04/14/10

1987 aka THE YEAR COMICS WENT POST-MODERN, PART 2

aka THE NEW ALTERNATIVE,

Alan Moore, The Watchmen (1987)

WEEK 13:

04/21/10

THE NEW HORRORS & NEW MYTHS OF THE 1990s

READINGS:

*Creig Fleissel, “Sandman: The Pawn Broker,” Adventure Comics #51 (1939)

*Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, “I Hated The Sandman,” Adventure Comics #87 (1943)

*Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, “General Electric,” The Sandman #1 (1974)

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol 2: The Doll’s House (1990)

Alan Moore, The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, Book Two, “Love And Death” (1984)

NOTE: FINAL PAPER TOPICS MUST BE APPROVED.

WEEK 14:

04/28/10

POST-POST-MODERNISM &/OR WHAT COMES AFTER THE SUPERHEROES

Warren Ellis, Fell, Volume One: Feral City (2007)

Warren Ellis, Doktor Sleepless, Vol. 1: Engines Of Desire (2009)

WEEK 15:

05/05/10

THE HERE AND THE NOW AND THE NEXT

READINGS:

Mike Carey, The Unwritten, Vol. 1 (2010)

Jeff Lemire, Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1 (2010)

WEEK 16:

05/14/10

FINAL PAPER DUE:

Friday 05/14/10 by 1:00PM in my mailbox

 

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