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July 23, 2004


Andrew Reeves

You know, I actually think that you should put 300 on the list for what it shows about Frank Miller. For full disclosure, it's been over a decade since I've read his Batman and Daredevil stuff, so my memory might be fuzzy.

Shortly after reading some Herodotus in my Greek class, I decided that I wanted to read a dramatized account of Thermopylae. What most struck me was how, well, two dimensional it was with the Greeks fighting for reason, freedom and democracy against the Despotism of the East. Given Miller's treatment of the Persian Wars, it rather makes me want to go back and see exactly how realistic his "gritty urban realism" of the 80's actually was.

In other words, I really wondered how well I rememberd his stuff in the 80's, and whether the level of nuance that I thought I saw was actually a series of simplistic cutouts that came from the "urban/noir" genre. Though I never got around to checking.


I share your friend's frustration with the expense of assigning comics. He might want to consider some kind of course reserve (preferably of photocopies/scans rather than originals) for shorter selections or individual issues, both to keep the costs down and to make shorter works available.

As for the selections, I suspect this boils down to personal taste but I wonder if some of the works on the "in" list aren't far less political than they seem. Kingdom Come in particular strikes me as being more about genre than politics; the different positions espoused by the characters bear almost no relation to real-world ideologies and seem to be more preoccupied with the rise of the Image-style hero than any questions of power or justice. Transmet approaches politics from a different angle, with lots of references to real-world politics, yet arrives at much the same place, with little to say beyond allusion. Obviously, if your friend can get something out of them then that's another matter, but I wouldn't shove these books in front of students and expect a substantive discussion about politics to emerge.

On the other hand, V for Vendetta is a must for this class and Dark Knight Returns would probably work very well as its political material is actually about politics. I would question the decision to rule out Joe Sacco's work, though - I really don't understand how it "doesn't make sense" without Maus. Sacco also does a great job of connecting the macro-political machinations to the personal lives of those he's met, particularly in Safe Area Gorazde. It also couldn't hurt to have some genre diversity on the syllabus.

Finally, if you like your politics preachy and strained, the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories would make a great historical piece. DC has just put out two cheap trade paperbacks; while even one might be overkill, those stories are the perfect example of early representations of politics in the comics.

the aardvark

Aardvark here, speaking for the aardvark. And thanking Andrew and Marc for getting a ball rolling here!

300: Mixed feelings here - Andrew makes a good case. But to make it work, the students (or the prof, I suppose) would probably need to know enough about the historical context to see what Miller (and, if my memory serves, Victor Hanson) gets wrong or oversimplifies.

Kingdom Come: yeah, it's definitely a genre metaphor, no doubt about that. On the other hand, even kids who don't know much about comics in the 1990s know about Superman and Batman and all that. And it does raise interesting questions about the limits of great power - what does Superman's failure say about American efforts post 9/11, that sort of thing. And it would be interesting to ask whether KC is as conservative as it appears - certainly it's conservative in genre politics, but is it conservative also in its politics politics?

Transmet: I could see questions here going in the reverse direction. I read Spider Jerusalem and Ellis here as actually being very conservative despite liberal trappings - view of human nature, deeply cynical.

Palestine: good point. I think that the idea re Maus was political balance, but personally I think Palestine stands on its own as a brilliant (and internally conflicted) piece of work. I haven't read Safe Area Goradze so can't say about that one.

Green Lantern: preachy and strained - sign me up! Maybe throw Claremont's God Loves, Man Kills into the mix?


I'm sorry, maybe I'm confused.

When did the Arab media start publishing comics?

the aardvark

Rodger- actually, there is a long tradition of Arab comic books, believe it or not. There's actually a wonderful book about them, with a great chapter on the comic book version of Saddam Hussein's life.

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