Sunday, 03 April 2011

Archaeology of the Impossible Given that I have all of four days to wrap up the Winter quarter and vault into the Spring, lesson-planning's taken the bulk of my time of late. I'm thinking, as per the tentative title of this post, of delving into meta-fictional accounts of the origin of comic "heroism" this quarter, and have come up with the following (largely other-side-of-the-pond) syllabus: "The Origin of Batman" (excerpt from Batman 47) - Bob Kane You begin with the almost-begin: this is the first time Joe Chill's mentioned, by which I mean implicated, in the death of Wayne's parents. There's an earlier reference to their murder in Detective Comics 39 (November 1939), but it's abridged in a way that makes the story itself unrecognizable. (Which is, yes, the very opposite of the point I make below about Morrison's All-Star Superman, but that's because you can't already assume an audience is familiar with a story before it's ever been told.) Batman: Year One (comic) - Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli See what I did there? In terms of comparative styles, now I can introduce Asterios Polyp. To wit, Mazzucchelli in Year One: Compared to Mazzucchelli in Asterios Polyp: Those aren't as different as I thought they'd be. ("I have a hole in my cape," you can almost imagine Mazzucchelli's distraught Wayne saying.) But outside the cleanliness of the lines, there's little to make you believe that the person responsible for the first image would later be responsible for the second ... and that's a belief I'm going to try to disabuse my students of. Batman Begins (film) - Christopher Nolan Because you think I'm capable of teaching this course without bringing up Nolan's film? I didn't think so. Planetary/Batman (comic) - Warren Ellis This'll be the fourth re-telling of the Batman origin myth, only this time endlessly looped. The point, rhetorically speaking, in having them encounter four versions of the same story is 1) to emphasize that there's some inherent appeal there, but 2) to demonstrate that even if a story has inherent appeal, the manner in which a given rhetor presents it actually matters. The raw stuff is all well and good, but the power's in the telling. Planetary #1 -10 (comic) - Warren Ellis They're billed as "the archeologists of the impossible," after all, and Ellis's engagement with both the history of the genre and its conventions could hardly find a more suitable course to be taught in. All-Star Superman (comic) - Grant Morrison I'm thinking of teaching only the first page of the first issue, as it's the most brilliantly compact origin story ever, and after that Morrison's metafictional games might be a bit too much for students to handle. There's a genius to its concision, i.e. the manner in which it boils down a story everyone already knows to its barest bones, and then presents them to a knowing audience in a way that is, quite frankly, moving. (Sorry, sorry, I couldn't help myself.) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume...
"But what I DOOOO want to know is, what will I DOOOO in this writing class?" SEK is substituting for his co-author/course director, so he when he walks into class, he doesn't know which students are supposed to be there and which aren't ... and there's one that certainly isn't. SEK doesn't know that yet. It is imperative for the reader to read said student's voice like this: SEK walks to the Smart Podium and begins to open the images and videos he will be projecting on the wall during class. MR. HELLO! approaches him. MR. HELLO! HELLOOOO! Will YOOOOU be doing the teaching of THIS writing class today? SEK: I'm the sub. I was told you were expecting me. OTHER STUDENTS: We are. MR. HELLO! I am not INNNN this writing class, I am considering adding a writing class to my portfolio this quarter. May I add THIS writing class? SEK: I'm just the sub. You'd need to ask the teacher. SEK explains course policy about adding this deep into the quarter. MR. HELLO! But I am thinking of adding THIS writing course THIS quarter. SEK: Even if I wanted to, I couldn't add you to this class this quarter, because I'm not the teacher. I'm just the sub. MR. HELLO! But what I DOOOO want to know is, what will I DOOOO in this writing class? SEK politely informs MR. HELLO! of what generally goes on in the composition department. The other students—the ones actually enrolled in the class—begin to fidget. MR HELLO! So what YOOOOU are telling me is that when I add THIS writing class, I will be DOOOOING writing. How much writing will I be DOOOOING in THIS writing class, counting by WORDS. OTHER STUDENTS: At least two thousands words a week. MR HELLO! So what YOOOOU are telling me is that when I add THIS writing class, I will be DOOOOING more writing than it is normal to DOOOO. SEK: I can't add you to this writing class, because I'm just the sub, and it's already a little too late in the quarter to add. MR HELLO! So what YOOOOU are telling is that when I add THIS writing class, I will be— SEK: I can't add you to this class— MR HELLO! But when you DOOOO— SEK checks the clock and sees that it's about a minute after class should've started. SEK: I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you leave. MR HELLO! So what YOOOOU are telling is me is that when I DOOOO return on Monday to add this class, YOOOOU will be adding me to it. SEK: I'm just the sub, and I'm subbing for the course director, but I can assure you, she's not going to let you add this late in the quarter. MR HELLO! But when I DOOOO see you on Monday, YOOOOU will— OTHER STUDENTS: Enough already! Just leave! MR HELLO! (addressing SEK) I will be seeing YOOOOU on Monday. SEK: Alright then, you do that. MR HELLO! leaves. SEK stands in front of the class that isn't his with...

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