Wednesday, 09 December 2009

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An end of the quarter treat: "Batman Is My Boss." The final assignment of my visual rhetoric course is called Rhetoric in Practice (or RIP). It has two components. To paraphrase the rubric: the students create their own rhetorical performance, explore questions of how to target an audience, follow the conventions of a genre, choose the medium for their message, and all the while, use the critical tools they’ve been learning all quarter to develop their ideas. They then perform a rhetorical analysis of their own work via a detailed writer's memo. The pedagogical theory behind this is sound: by forcing them to do something fun at the end of the quarter, I get better evaluations the tools I taught them over the course of it become more solidly ensconced in their brain-space. Only this time, instead of deducing the rhetorical intent behind someone else's decisions, they must decide how to communicate their message to their target audience most effectively. Over the years I've had many successful projects, including a Batman-centric version of The Game of Life that opens with pegs for two parents and one child already in the car and an Alfred peg in the wing awaiting the inevitable a pop-up book of Watchmen, in which the first page consisted of pulling a tab that sends the Comedian crashing out a window and into the reader's lap a scored and recorded soundtrack to Alan Moore's The Killing Joke a New York Review of Books style review of the novelization of Batman Begins, in which the book is slammed for its Ludlum-lite car chases and unconvincing fisticuffs an adaptation of this issue of Planetary by Cormac McCarthy a Master Legend-type recruitment video for a superhero academy This quarter it looks like I'll be adding a few more to my personal hall of fame. One of them is so conceptually brilliant in its timeliness that the idea alone sent my head spinning: a comic in which a super-heroic University of California student punches a certain unpopular university president in the face repeatedly (this idea elicited cheers from classmates when the student first shared it). The second is a web-comic by this student entitled "Batman Is My Boss." Here's a sample page in which she uses moment-to-moment transitions to great effect: She plans on updating it both for the class and, with encouragement, after it ends. Go encourage her already!
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A smiley face with a distinct streak at 11 o'clock? Nope, doesnt' ring a bell. With my wrist limiting how much I can type (before driving myself batty with infernal s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s of the one-handed h-u-n-t-a-n-d-p-e-c-k), I think I'll take the opportunity to present some of the images from my increasingly large collection of material that may make it in the book. I'll begin with this image from the surprisingly interesting Captain Britain Omnibus: That originally appeared in the eighth issue of The Daredevils (from 1981), the plot of which concerns the criminalization of costumed heroism in a dystopian England that has suffered some great off-screen disaster and guess who wrote it? I'll give you a hint: ALRIGHT..I’M PSYCHED UP, I’VE GOT BLOOD UP TO MY ELBOWS, VEINS IN MY TEETH AND MY HELMET AND KNEEPADS SECURELY FASTENED. LET’S GET OUT THERE AND MAKE TROUBLE. THE FIRST PAGE IS A SERIES OF VERTICAL JUMPS THAT TAKE US UP IN A STRAIGHT PROGRESSION FROM A MINUTE AND MICROSCOPIC DETAILED VIEW OF THE GUTTERS OF NEW YORK UP TO A PANORAMIC SHOT LOOKING DOWN UPON THE ROOFTOPS OF THIS FAMILIAR AND YET CURIOUSLY ALTERED CITYSCAPE. IN THIS FIRST PANEL WE ARE LOOKING STRAIGHT DOWN AT A DRAIN OPENING IN A PERFECTLY ORDINARY GUTTER. TO THE RIGHT OF THE PICTURE THE ACTUAL OUTER WALL OF THE CURB DROPS DOWN AWAY FROM US LIKE A MINATURE [sic] CLIFF. OVER MORE TOWARDS THE LEFT, DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PICTURE, WE CAN SEE THE OLD AND WORN METAL OF THE DRAIN COVER OVER WITH SOLID DARKNESS VISIBLE BETWEEN ITS SLATS. UP AT THE TOP OF THE PICTURE WE CAN JUST SEE THE DIRTY GUTTER RUNNING DOWN TOWARDS THE MOUTH OF THE DRAIN AT THE BOTTOM. THERE ARE ONLY TWO REMARKABLE ELEMENTS THAT SEPARATE THIS IMAGE FROM A STANDARD EVERYDAY CLOSE-UP OF A DRAIN, AND THE FIRST OF THESE IS THE UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF BLOOD WHICH IS GUSHING DOWN THE AFOREMENTIONED APERTURE IN THIS FIRST PICTURE. LIQUID FINGERS OF BLOOD, THICK AND BRILLIANT SCARLET, DRIBBLE DOWN THE WALL OF THE CURB OVER TO THE RIGHT..GARISH STREAKS OF BRILLIANT RED AGAINST THE MUTED CONCRETE-GRAY OF THE STONE THAT THEY TRICKLE DOWN ACROSS. THE GUTTER IS SIMILARLY FULL OF BLOOD, GURGLING HAPPILY TOWARDS THE DRAIN WHERE IT SPILLS OUT OVER THE METAL DRAIN COVERING AND DRIPS DOWN AS TINY GLINTING BEADS INTO THE DARKNESS BENEATH. THE SECOND ITEM OF REMARK IS A 1″ DIAMETER SMILEY BADGE, COLORED A VIVID SUNSHINE YELLOW AS IT LAYS THERE IN THE GUTTER SMILING UP AT US AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF LURID BLOOD RED. IT HAS SOMEHOW LODGED IN THE GUTTER SO THAT IT WON’T GO DOWN THE DRAIN, AND SIMPLY REMAINS STUCK THERE, STARING UP AT US WITH ITS JARRINGLY INANE EXPRESSION. A SMALL SPLASH OF CRIMSON STAINS THE FRONT OF THE BADGE. THAT’S BASICALLY THE WHOLE OPENING IMAGE, UNLESS YOU WANT TO STICK IN A CANDY WRAPPER THAT’S ABOUT TO FLOAT DOWN THE DRAIN, IN WHICH CASE WE HAVE A PACKET OF MELTDOWNS, WHICH ARE LIKE TREETS (ENGLISH) OR M&M’S (AMERICAN) ONLY WITH BRIGHTLY COLOURED ATOMIC...

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