NOBODY READS THOSE BOOKS: The Misunderstanding Comics Course (Comics Studies 001)

For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking through what a comics studies course might look like, what primary texts I would use and what secondary texts I would use to contextualize each week’s main selection, how I would use what materials to broaden each of the discussions & etc.

It’s been awesome. I don’t know what I’ll do with it or when I’ll do something with it, but still, it’s fun. I remember doing this back even before graduate school, just going to the San Francisco public library and photocopying my favorite short stories that I was going to teach (even though I wasn’t signed up to start teaching at U-M for another 18 months at that point). It’s a great feeling, being excited like this about teaching again.

The central question of the class goes something like–Are comics part of “comics” or are they part of the world?

I’ll include the text writeup of the syllabus below the images, but working on one image a day gives me a chance to revisit each of these topics and think for an extra minute about how I want to frame each of the classes. The spine for the first class is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, to make a more comprehensive evaluation of the arguments in the book, to see as a class what we love, what we aren’t as enamored of, what we agree with, what we have better ideas for.

Without ado, here are 15 weeks of comics studies radical-ness…


Comics Studies 001

Nobody Reads Those Books, or End It with a Bang

Week 1. The World Is the World

  • Ghost World, Daniel Clowes
  • “Notes on Camp,” from Partisan Review, Susan Sontag
  • “The Syncher, Not the Song,” from The Believer, Douglas Wolk
  • Numa Numa Lip Sync, Gary Brolsma
  • New Numa Lip Sync, Gary Brolsma
  • “Introduction/Chapter 1: Setting the Record Straight,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 2. Walking and Chewing Gum

  • It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Seth
  • “A Story about the Body” (poem); “The Harbor at Seattle” (poem); and “Images” (essay) by Robert Hass
  • “Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 3. You’ve Got Something in Your Teeth

  • A Contract with God, Will Eisner
  • “The Book of the Grotesque/Paper Pills,” from Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
  • “Disguised,” Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • “Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 4. Zeno’s Paradox

  • Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle
  • “Burma Chronicle,” George Orwell
  • Parts Unknown/”Bourdain in Myanmar” (episode), Anthony Bourdain
  • “Chapter 4: Time Frames,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 5. Emotional Rescue

  • Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi
  • A Separation, Ashgar Farhadi
  • No One Knows About Persian Cats, Bahman Ghobadi
  • “Chapter 5: Living in Line,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 6. What Is Hidden, What Is Revealed

  • Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, Marjane Satrapi
  • Close-Up, Abbas Kiarostami
  • “Chapter 6: Show and Tell,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 7. Come as You Are

  • Black Hole, Charles Burns
  • “Introduction/Chs. 1-5,” from Nirvana: The Biography, Everett True
  • “Chapter 7: The Six Steps,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 8. Divide by Zero

  • Rosalie Lightning, Tom Hart
  • Departures, Yojiro Takita
  • “Chapter 8: A Word about Color,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Week 9. Learn to Take a Punch

  • The Sculptor, Scott McCloud
  • Nerdist Comics Panel/”Scott McCloud” (episode)
  • Comic Books Are Burning in Hell/”The Sculptor” (episode)
  • “January,” Donald Barthelme
  • “Chapter 9: Putting It All Together,” from Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud

Weeks 10-15. Draft, Make, Share

  • Scripts.
  • Layouts.
  • Drafts.
  • Printouts and photocopies.
  • Fin.


Books I read in the last few weeks that haven’t been documented elsewhere on the blog:

  • March Books 1, 2, 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Takami
  • Maus I & II