Teaching “Understanding Comics”

I’m teaching HIST 1500: History of American Comics, an American Studies class, at Webster University in St. Louis this fall.   The class filled quickly and is actually oversubscribed (26 students). What surprised me is that on the first day we were covering the definition of comics by looking at various examples (single panel cartoons, motion comics, comic books, comic strips, single-panel Yellow Kids, individual panels from comic books and strips, comic book covers), and I was expecting to hear McCloud’s definition bandied about.

But they haven’t read Understanding Comics! Only two of the students (and one was in my superhero class last semester) had read Understanding Comics.  The discussion was very interesting and essentially reproduced much of McCloud’s first chapter in UC.

But in thinking about how to teach Understanding Comics, I googled “teaching Understanding Comics” and came across this great page from the National Association of Comic Art Educators.  It’s a study guide for UC written by M. David Lopez.  There’s a lot of good material on this site, from both scholars and professionals.  I haven’t really taught comics as comics before; primarily I’ve been teaching the superhero genre and have primarily used my own book, Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, as the secondary reading.  Now that I’m moving more into teaching comics, I’m very pleased to see that the field is developing resources like other fields.

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One Comment on “Teaching “Understanding Comics””

  1. DerikB Says:

    I’m working on a post about it now, but you may want to check out Ann Miller’s Reading Bande Dessinée. While the first part of the book is BD focused (history), the rest of the books features a variety of different readings of comics, including a great section on formal elements.


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