The newly renamed Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con (aka Comikaze) at the LA Convention Center was a blast! All comics and graphic novels, people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, all having fun! It made me think of a comment about Star Trek that appeared in the movie “Trekkies 2”. One of the major fans said that the reason that she liked Star Trek because it was about a time and place where people accepted and respected each other. This is my experience at Comic Con, which makes it a perfect venue for moderating a panel about Comics in the Classroom.
Although I had scheduled two high school teachers who used comics, Peter Carlson and Johnny Parker II, Peter invited two really cool and knowledgeable colleagues- Rosie O. Knight, a delightful poet and writer from London, who taught comics to underserved kids over there, and Mom, from Ladybugs, the Los Angeles Women’s Comic Creator League, making a really interesting and dynamic panel.
The discussion was lively and interesting, driven by experience, passion (for comics) and the deep desire to make a difference to society. We talked about content titles, types of assignments, and learning objectives. But, there are comics and are more then just super heroes and talking animals, and many of the stories are about more than just super adventures. Following the tradition of great workd literature, we discussed how many titles and comics represent archetypes of literature, and metaphors for action and meaning. For example we talked about how the conflict between Magneto and Professor X represent the philosophical conflict between Malcolm X and Marten Luther King.
Another idea that we spoke about was how comics can introduce non-, or weak readers to all sorts of great literature in some very unusual ways, such as R. Crumb’s brilliant version of Genesis. Crumb used some excellent translations of the story to inspire and guide his book. Peter spoke about how this kind of book can shift the cognitive lead to feed the students’ imaginations instead of simply reading. One of the panelists added this books like these allow students to test the boundaries found in static interpretations of this story, as well as others in classic literature from a black and white understanding, to more of a gray, that allows students to interpret using their own imagination, experience and knowledge.
Towards the end of the session, one of the most important take-aways was brought up. That is that comics in the classroom are not only consumed and used, but are also made by students. Assignments are similar to those that are associated to full-text compositions that are given in literature, history or other purely text-based subjects. But comics are much more dynamic, and personal. They empower students of all levels to personalize their narratives, promote critical thinking associated with the cognitive development of text-image interpretation and understanding, and make the stories real. Students are often overwhelmed with the state of the world, feeling helpless about the possibility of change. They know that they do not have the superpowers of the characters that they read about. But, in making their own comics, sharing their own narratives that define who and what they are, they can shift that sense of being helpless to change the world, to being empowered by being able to serve and save their communities, helping to create a snowball effect.
To my colleagues on the panel- Thank you for participating and I hope that I did your astute comments justice, and look forward to future conversations.