Hello all, it’s been a while since I’ve posted but I’ve been lurking forever. However, a conversation with Jim O’Hara (great to see you again, Jim!) this evening inspired me to get more involved in the boards again.
So anyway, something that’s been on my mind as I approach the big 4-0 is wondering how people get into the comic reading habit today. This is especially relevant to me since I am a high school English teacher. I recently did a graphic novel unit in my honors Freshmen class and really enjoyed watching and reading their reactions. Only half the class had ever read a graphic novel before, and only 3 of them identified themselves as regular comic readers. It was very interesting, partly because of the limitations I had: 1. All books had to be school-age appropriate, meaning “PG-13” at worst. I’m sure many teenagers would enjoy reading Preacher, but I wasn’t going to deal with angry parents! 2. All the graphic novels had to come from my own collection, since school-funding is a joke, and 3. I wanted ones that could be understood on their own and could be compared to other classic epics like the Odyssey, since we have been studying “The Hero’s Journey”, etc. all semester.
Here’s some of my choices: 2 Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1s (The Peter version and the Miles version); Millar’s Ultimate X-men vol. 1, Starlight, and Red Son; Claremont/Miller’s Wolverine; Batman Year One, Batman Earth One vol. 1; Takio, Locke & Key vol. 1; Johns’ Justice League vol. 1, Morrison’s JLA vol. 1; New Frontier, 1602, The Marvels Project; Superman for All Seasons, Superman: Secret Origin; Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest; Green Lantern: Secret Origin; I Kill Giants, and a bunch more. I really went for diversity but it was super-hero heavy because that stuff is is general a lot more tame than non-super-hero comics.
Mark, you’ll be happy to know that your stuff was a big hit. Later I will have to post a picture from Starlight that one of my young ladies drew as part of a project. Red Son really blew the minds of a few boys who read it; a couple went out and bought their own copies.
The boys liked it the most, unsurprisingly. I made sure to include a few female-friendly choices, but more of the ladies enjoyed simple origin stories like Ultimate Spider-Man for instance, than some female-led series like Takio and Mind the Gap. They hated any story that required a lot of geek knowledge to fully understand and appreciate, like 1602 and The Marvels Project.
Geoff Johns was a big hit as well. His stories are pretty straight forward and told in a blockbuster style that appeals to that age group. Any Morrison super-hero story does well too. I don’t think they’re ready for his weirder stuff yet. Same goes for anything Gaiman. They really don’t “get” Hickman, Ellis, or Vaughan yet either. Maybe sophomore year!
On a related note, my sophomores read Maus at the beginning of this year as well. It’s still their favorite thing we’ve read all year, and half of them had never read a comic before either.
So I’d love to discuss two things: 1. If you have any suggestions for my experiment, as I repeat this every year, I’m all ears. 2. I’d love to hear stories from you, especially those under 30, of how you got into comics. I bet it’s a lot different than most of us Gen X’ers in here. I love this art form and I want to know how we can keep it going for a long time. Thoughts?