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SLIS 5415 Graphic Novels

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Dr. Elizabeth Figa

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Figa, PhD

The 5415 course and its content are copyrighted and may not be reprinted, revised, reformatted, or refactored for distribution or publication in any form or venue without permission of the author or the University of North Texas.

Welcome to the Graphic Novels and Comics Class!

SLIS 5415 Seminar in Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults. 3 hours. Official SLIS Course Description

The history and development of comic books, graphic novels, their subgenres as literature. Role in western and international societies and cultures. Issues of youth/adult readership and literacy. Race, gender, politics, violent content issues. Presence in popular culture, the Internet, art forms, and translation into movies. Selection tools, policies, collection development, and censorship. Comic and graphic novels programming in libraries and schools.

Warning: Some of the material required in the course may be considered by some to be controversial.

Course Overview And Objectives

1. To become familiar with the history and development of comic books, graphic novels, their subgenres as literature to read and collect for educational and recreational purposes.

2. To gain an understanding of the internationalization and expansion of this genre.

3. To examine the reading trends of youth and adult readership and literacy issues.

4. To discuss issues of race, gender, politics, violent content issues in comics and graphic novels.

5. To explore the ways this genre permeates in popular culture, the Internet, art forms, and translations into movies.

6. To obtain solid understanding of selection tools, policies, collection development, and censorship pertaining to this genre.

7. Comic and graphic novels programming in libraries and schools.

Course Access

This course is presented entirely online via Blackboard Technology. The course begins the first official day of classes in the semesters in which it is offered. Registered students will be uploaded into the student database and can access the course using their UNT EUID and PASSWORD beginning on the first day. Course modules will be timed and are explained in the full course syllabus and course calendar. An important note about course access: At times, the overnight uploads of the student database, which is done by Student Records and the Blackboard Divisions, takes longer than anticipated or has technical problems. Please do not be alarmed if you do not have access to the Storytelling course the first or second day of class or if your access is suddenly problematic. Your faculty and teaching assistants anticipate access problems and we will work with the uploaded data to ensure every student has access as soon as possible. If you are registered for the class and experience access problems, please consult the Blackboard Student Resources page. If you need further assistance, please send an email to Elizabeth Figa or one of the teaching assistants at the email addresses listed below. Please be patient with us -- your access to the course is our highest priority! You will not get behind in the course the first few days and you can read ahead in your text.

Contact Information

Elizabeth G. Figa, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of North Texas
School of Library and Information Sciences
UNT Discovery Park, Room E295L
3940 N. Elm St.
Denton, TX 76207-7102
Work: (940) 565-2187
Fax: (940) 565-3101

Course Materials

Borrow from a library or order from an online bookstore (contact them for pricing and shipping times). Students should order the required texts in advance!! See below for ordering suggestions.

Required Texts:

1. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics. ISBN 006097625X -- The acclaimed treatise on comics and the art of comics.

2. Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections, by Steve Miller. ISBN: 1555704611 -- Text with a broad lens and highly applied to library practitioners out of the "Teens @ the Library Series" from Neal-Schuman.

Required Style Manual:

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). (2009). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Required Course Readings:

Each weekly module will have other required and additional article readings which are listed in the "Readings Due this Week" section of the modules. Use of the UNT electronic resources library is necessary and all readings can be retrieved electronically.

Required Graphic Novels:

1. Maus I: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman. ISBN 0394747232 -- Pulitzer Prize winner that explores the life and family dynamics of a Holocaust survivor. Adult content.

2. Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. ISBN 0930289234 -- Eisner award winners present their classic story, a complex murder mystery that explores absolute power, love and the medium of comic books.Teen and adult content.

3. Persepolis: Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. ISBN 037571457X -- Written by one of the few women graphic novelists, explores a young girl's life under the Islamic Revolution. Teen and adult content.

4. Pedro and Me, by Judd Winick. ISBN: 0805064036 -- Winick, a professional cartoonist pays tribute to his Real World housemate and friend Pedro Zamora, an AIDS activist and educator..

5. Choose one -- either a or b:
a. Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse ISBN: 1563892553 -- Eisner award winner, sets a story in the South in the early '60s and deals with homophobia, racism and gay culture. Adult content.
b. Cancer Vixen, by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. ISBN: 0307263576 -- Cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto's graphic memoir about her battle with breast cancer.

7. Two other graphic novels of your choice, at least one of which must be manga.

Required Film & Related Text Pairing:

Renting is recommended for the movie; you will only watch/read one movie and text combination.

Choose one of these films and related text pairings to watch and read. This material will be discussed in the film to text / text to film discussion.

Film Noir

FILM: Frank Miller’s Sin City, 2005, Rated R, directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
TEXT: Frank Miller's Sin City: The Hard Goodbye (1st or 2nd edition) ISBN: 1593072937

FILM: History of Violence, 2005, Rated R, directed by David Cronenberg
TEXT: History of violence by John Wagner ISBN: 1563893673

Genre: Anime/Manga

FILM: Akira (Geneon Signature Series) (2001), Rated R, Katsuhiro Ohtomo (Director), ASIN: B00012QLQ4
TEXT: Akira Volume 1, Katsuhiro Otomo (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1935429005

FILM: Ghost in the Shell (1996), Unrated, Mamoru Oshii (Director), ASIN: 6304493681
TEXT: The Ghost in the Shell Volume 1, Shirow Masamune (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1935429012

Genre: Comedy

FILM: Dennis the Menace (1993), Rated G, ASIN: B000XKW2WG
TEXT: Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace 1951-1952 (Vol. 1), Hank Ketcham (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1560979111

FILM: Ghost World (2001), Terry Zwigoff (Director), ASIN: B00005T30L
TEXT: Ghost World, Daniel Clowes (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1560974277

FILM: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Rated PG-13, Edgar Wright (Director), ASIN: B0041T52S6
TEXT: Scott Pilgrim, Volumes 1-6, Bryan Lee O'Malley (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1934964576

Genre: Non-Fiction/Indy

FILM: American Splendor, 2003, Rated R, directed by Shari Springer and Berman Robert Pulciniy
TEXT: Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar ISBN: 0345468309

FILM: Persepolis, 2008, Rated PG-13 directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
TEXT: The Complete Persepolis ISBN: 0375714839 OR Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ISBN: 037571457X AND Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return ISBN: 0375714669

Genre: Horror

FILM: The Walking Dead: Season One. TV-14.
TEXT: The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye.

FILM: From Hell (2001), Rated R, ASIN: B00006JDU8
TEXT: From Hell, Alan Moore (Author), ISBN-13: 978-0958578349

FILM: The Ring (Japanese or American Film), 2003, rated PG-13, directed by Gore Verbinski
TEXT: The Ring Volume 1 by Hiroshi Takahashi ISBN: 1593070543

Genre: Drama

FILM: 300 (2007), Rated R, Zack Snyder (Director), ASIN: B000QXDED6
TEXT: 300, Frank Miller (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1569714027

FILM: Casper, Rated PG, ASIN: B0000AK7AA
TEXT: Harvey Comics Classics Volume 1: Casper, ISBN-13: 978-1593077815

FILM: V for Vendetta (2006), Rated R, ASIN: B000FS9FCG
TEXT: V for Vendetta, Alan Moore (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1401208417

FILM: Whiteout (2009), Rate R, Dominic Sena (Director), ASIN: B001QOGYFO
TEXT: Whiteout Volume 1: The Definitive Edition, Greg Rucka (Author), Steve Lieber (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1932664706

Genre: Super Hero/Family

FILM: Astro Boy, 2009, Rated G, directed by David Bowers
TEXT: Astro Boy: Volumes 1&2 ISBN: 1595821538

FILM: Fantastic Four, 2005, Rated PG-13, directed by Tim Story
TEXT: Essential Fantastic Four Volumes 1 by Stan Lee ISBN: 078513302X

FILM: The Incredibles, 2004, Rated PG, directed by Brad Bird
TEXT: Incredibles graphic novel ISBN: 1593073542 by Brad Bird Dark Horse comics

Genre: Super Hero & Action

FILM: Captain America: The First Avenger. Rated PG-13.
TEXT: Captain America, Vol. 1. Marvel Masterworks.

FILM: Conan the Barbarian. Rated R.
TEXT: Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter and Other Stories.

FILM: Thor. Rated PG-13.
TEXT: The Mighty Thor, Vol. 1. Marvel Masterworks.

FILM: X-Men First Class. Rated PG-13.
TEXT: X-Men, Vol. 1. Marvel Masterworks.

FILM: Iron Man, 2008, Rated PG -13, directed by Jon Favreau
TEXT: Ultimate Iron Man volume 1 Orson Scott Card ISBN: 0785114998

FILM: Spiderman 3, 2007, Rated PG-13, directed by Sam Raimi
TEXT: Spiderman the Birth of Venom by Jim Shooter ISBN: 0785124985

FILM: The Dark Knight, 2008, rated PG-13, directed by Christopher Nolan
TEXT: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller ISBN: 1563893428

FILM: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), Rated PG-13, ASIN: B002NXSRVG
TEXT: Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 1, ISBN-13: 978-1600103452

FILM: The Green Hornet (2011), Rated PG-13, Michael Gondry (Director), ASIN: B002ZG99B8
TEXT: Green Hornet: Year One Volume 1, Matt Wagner (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1606901496

FILM: Kick-Ass (2010), Rated R, Matthew Vaughn (Director), ASIN: B002ZG983M
TEXT: Kick-Ass, Mark Millar (Author), ISBN-13: 978-0785134350

FILM: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Rated PG-13, ASIN: B00005JM5B
TEXT: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1, Alan Moore (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1563898587

FILM: The Spirit (2008), Rated PG-13, Frank Miller (Director), ASIN: B001RHGRT8
TEXT: The Best of the Spirit, Will Eisner (Author), ISBN-13: 978-1401207557

These lengthy and impressive texts are too expensive to require -- Try to borrow them for a brief review to become familiar with them:

1. Bone by Jeff Smith, ISBN: 188896314X -- 1300-page epic adventure of three modern cartoon characters lost in a pre-technological valley
2. Blankets by Craig Thompson, ISBN: 1891830430 -- memoir of a Christian upbringing
3. Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories by Gilbert Hernandez, ISBN: 1560975393 -- An epic that spans multiple generations of a family run almost exclusively by women.

Ordering Suggestions:

Other Content:

Other readings as provided in the course and through the library. 

Required Course Technology

Reliable Internet access is required. Blackboard is the course management software used at UNT; please see the Blackboard Vista Browser and Computer in order to ensure your computer system meets the minimum requirements to work with Blackboard Vista, and to check your Java.


Please see the Assignments List & Info page in the course menu for details on these assignments.
1. Full participation in all class activities, exercises, forum discussions, etc.
2. Fieldwork Assessment and Documentary Report
3. Graphic Novel or Comic Book Intellectual Freedom Challenge Response Letter
4. Graphic Novels or Comics Fantasy Program or Project

The Course Content

Content is introduced through 3 weekly modules.

Discussion posts are due weekly as noted on the course calendar.

Assignments are due over the span of the course as noted in the course calendar. See the Assignments section above.

Week One

Texts & Books:

  • McCloud: Entire Text
  • Miller: Chapters 1.1, 1.2, 1.3
  • Graphic Novel (GN): Watchmen

Movie & Text Pairing:

  • View/read the movie & text pairing of your choice off the course reading list


  • Articles/web pages as assigned (e.g., 5-6 articles; 3-5 website sources)


  • Discussion posts due as directed


  • Fieldwork Assessment and Documentary Report

Week Two

Texts & Books:

  • Miller: Chapters 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3,2
  • GN: Persepolis
  • GN: Graphic novel selection of your choice (any type)
  • GN: Manga selection of your choice (specifically must be manga)


  • Listen to an interview with Marjane Satrapi


  • Articles/web pages as assigned (e.g., 5-6 articles; 3-5 website sources)


  • Discussion posts due as directed


  • Intellectual Freedom Challenge Response Letter

Week Three

Texts & Books:

  • Miller: Chapter 3.3
  • GN: Maus
  • GN: Pedro and Me
  • GN: Stuck Rubber Baby or Cancer Vixen (or both!)


  • Articles/web pages as assigned (e.g., 5-6 articles; 3-5 website sources)


  • Discussion posts due as directed


  • Graphic Novels or Comics Fantasy Program - Project