In 1947, approximately one out of every three periodicals sold over the counter was a comic book. Nearly seven decades years later, sales figures have dropped dramatically but there has never been a better time to be a comic book fan. The world of comics is experiencing a creative renaissance, with sophisticated storylines and innovative visual design emerging in mainstream titles. Simultaneously, the advent of tablet computing has revolutionized distribution and made it possible for indie comic creators to find a much larger audience.
This is a good time to be a comic book scholar. In the same way that film theorists once developed aesthetic terminology for analyzing cinema, comic book researchers are fleshing out theoretical frameworks and interpretive tools that can be used to unlock the secrets of the comic book medium. These attempts to map, understand, and explain comics are unfolding right now, and — by virtue of the fact that you’re enrolled in this class — you have been recruited to join this movement.
You do not need to be a comic book fan in order to enjoy this class. It doesn’t matter if you’ve read hundreds of comics, or if you have never read a comic in your life. You don’t need a Ph.D. or an M.A., and you don’t need to prove that your nerd credentials are in order. Everyone is welcome. This course explores the role of comics in American popular culture. Throughout the semester, we will read comics. Lots of comics. Along the way, we will investigate a wide range of theoretical works that explain how to make sense out of this medium.
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- use appropriate theoretical terminology (“the language of comics”) when reading and interpreting comics,
- apply these same ideas to create your own expressive and/or persuasive comics,
- turn to comic books from previous decades as a tool for deepening your historical perspective, and
- explain how the work we are doing in this class intersects with core ideas in the field of communication (e.g. theories related to political economy, media interpretation, and audience studies).