Recommended daily reading – 10 January (first of the new year late edition)

With the start of the term, I have not had much time to make new posts. Here are some items I have cataloged:

From the world of comics:

  • On Okazu, Erica Friedman has the results of an informal poll concerning “what women want” from the comics they read. The short version: it isn’t that complicated, not matter how mysterious and alien many of the folks at DC and Marvel like to imagine women and girl readers to be.
  • On Techland, Douglas Wolk does some quick analysis of Diamond’s numbers related to the bestselling comics of 2010. It’s interesting to note the extent to which the trade paperback and long form book sales were dominated by independently published titles.
  • On Comics Alliance today, Laura Hudson looks at comments made by the owner of the Heavy Ink comics store regarding last Saturday’s shootings in Arizona and the response by creators such as Gail Simone and Nick Spencer. Anyone who takes this moment to advocate more shooting of public officials clearly has both political and personal problems beyond the scope of comics, but I also think that this episode is an illustration why it is never possible to compartmentalize these kinds of questions as if “comics” and “politics” are separate matters.
  • Via girlsreadcomics on Twitter, is some really cool Amanda Connor art.

In academia:

  • Via Dean Blumberg on Twitter, is a link to this article on the growth in certificate programs at institutions of higher education in the U.S. The article notes that much of this growth is at for-profit schools, but that public institutions are also offering more of these credentials. As someone in the liberal arts, I have my doubts about the value of these programs in the long run, and am concerned that they represent a further degrading of higher education to a kind of narrow vocational training. My institution confirms the trend identified in the piece. Thankfully, the article leads with questions about the value of these certificates to students.
  • At ProHacker, Amy Cavender relates some of her experience trying to teaching an intro level class without resort to a traditional textbook. Her efforts, and conclusions, mirror some of my own.

Finally, Dwell has started a project to map “The World’s Best Public Spaces”. Check it out and contribute if you have a favorite.

Recommended daily reading – 20 December (emptying out the archive edition)

Been neglecting this part of the blog lately:

First, the most topical item. Via the freepress Save The Internet blog, bad news about the FCC and Net Neutrality. If you care about access to the internet, do what you can to forestall this action.

In other political news, but late-ish now, on Written World, Ragnell has a well-argued reponse to former DC President Paul Leyritz’s comment to the effect that superhero stories ‘fundamentally’ appeal to boys more than girls. Ragnell smartly hones in on the essentialism of this statement as the underlying problem with Leyritz’s perspective on the genre.

IFC has been promoting their new original series, Portlandia, premiering in January. The show will satirize life in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, particularly as the city boomed with ‘creatives’ starting in the 1990s. Looking forward to checking it out, and curious as to how people who don’t really know Portland will respond to the series.

From the world of webcomics:

(Sidenote: the links I collected for this post are the first from Pinboard. I made the switch from delicious over the weekend. Here’s why – assuming you don’t already know.)

Recommended daily reading – 7 December (finals week edition)

A few notes as I await the deluge of papers:

On Reassigned Time 2.0, Dr. Crazy has a personal view on why she is not interested in moving from faculty to administration. I can only say, “yes”, to what she writes, but I also appreciate how she manages to explain her own thoughts and feelings without tearing down those who are interested in becoming department chairs, or even moving higher up in the hierarchy. I should add that I have to be department chair in geography every six years or so, but the kind of position Crazy is writing about is more akin to what are “division chairs” at Western. Department chair is not a ‘real’ administrative position at my school, and like most faculty, in geography we just rotate every two years and everyone takes a turn. There are certain pieces of paper we have to sign, we are often the first contact for potential majors and minors, etc., but we are mostly interlocuters for the actual administrators than we are administrators ourselves.

Following up on my last Recommended daily reading post, I notice that the current focus on the humanities as a place to cut back on higher education budgets is continuing to get push back, which is heartening. Inside Higher Ed notes a campaign in Ireland to see the humanities as a tool for economic growth, while at Crooked Timber is an announcement of Dutch-government funded initiatives in inter- and multi-disciplinary programs in the humanities.

On Robot 6 is a discussion of Creative Commons and comic book characters. I am encouraged to see comic book creators thinking about these issues. Given the economics of comics, and how readily the medium lends itself to digital, it probably isn’t a surprise that writers and artists in the field would be out in front on thinking about copyright in nuanced ways.

And last, two drawings from Renee French, a nervous looking rodent and a sort of Cthulu-like character.

Recommended daily reading – 17 November (been a week edition)

Here are a few items from the last few days:

On “She Has No Head!”, Kelly Thompson lists her twenty favorite female comics characters (link via Thompson’s blog). I think she makes good cases for all of the selections, but notable exclusions for me are: Kate Spencer/Manhunter, Helena Bertenelli/Huntress, Liz Sherman (B.P.R.D. and Hellboy), Tamsin from Skeleton Key, and Esther de Groot from Scary Go Round and Giant Days. If I were to really do this exercise, I would seriously consider Patsy Walker/Hellcat, Elsa Bloodstone (NEXT Wave), and Bethany Black (Strange Girl). I’m not sure if or how autobiographical characters fit into these kinds of discussions, but Marjane Satrapi would certainly make me want to think about it. As always, the tough question is who to take off of the original list.

Addendum: one of the fun and frustrating things about these lists is that once your brain starts working on them, it’s hard to let go. So, on further thought, Melaka Fray (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would likely be on my still hypothetical alternate selection, and it would be hard to leave off Hopey and Isabel from Love & Rockets, but not specifically as replacements for Maggie.

Torontoist has a feature on artist Sean Martindale’s urban art project that uses condo ads to make pup tents, a clever comment on housing and inequality and property rights and public space.

Finally, a cute, but kind of mournful looking, little treat from Renee French.

November “Worlds in Panels”

My column for this month is up at PopMatters. I look at fan and artist redesigns of female superheroes, taking Supergirl as a case in point, again, and consider the possibilities that these reworkings open up for how women are imagined in comics.

The main problem when it comes to defending tradition in relation to women and girl superheroes is that tradition has not done well by these characters. Assigned supporting roles, placed in the background, subjected to bodily threats and drawn into sexualized poses that male characters are not, ‘tradition’ when it comes to female superheroes is not an innocent appeal to honoring the past, but a political argument about the (marginal) place of women in comics.

Read the column

Recommended daily reading – 2 November (distracting you from this f@$%ing election edition)

Crazy last week, but here are a few choice items:

Better before Halloween, but here is Kate Beaton’s series of Dracula strips. I especially like, “The Horror of The New Woman”.

Sticking with comics, at NPR’s Monkey See, Glen Weldon looks at the curious tendency for mainstream media to report on certain ‘big changes’ in comics characters, the latest being ‘hipster Superman’ from Earth One, even where there is little evidence that regular viewers or readers even care. Most importantly, he notes that most of these reports are devoid of context, and any understanding of what it means that Superman is in a hoodie (which is to suggest, not much).

Finally, Bill McKibben has an interesting and wide-ranging look at public radio at The New York Review of Books.

Column time

I have a “Worlds in Panels” deadline coming up and this month I think I am going to write about fan/artist redesigns of women superheroes. What interests me about this subject is how often the re-drawing of these characters involves giving them outfits that are better suited to what they do – fly, fight – or that give them more of an edge than they often have in their official guises, where bodily display tends to dominate character concepts. I have been thinking about this subject since seeing this reworking of Supergirl by Mike Wieringo late in the summer.