Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Why Comics, Part 2: The Study of American Culture

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Back at the end of May, I attempted to explain when and why I got into comics, and for the most part, that entry (click here) gave a good, solid, down and dirty explanation of the when. It even touches on the why, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What it fails to do, however, and what I hope to do here, is explain more about what keeps me spending $30-$50 a week on comics (a budget that is extreme, to say the least).


Comics Code: Alive and Well Until 2011

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Comics CodeI’ve been reading a LOT of books about comics lately: four in fact, at one time.  I read one chapter a day and then switch to a different book the next day. This is working really well because the four books I’m reading all have to do with the history of comics, and more specifically, the era of the “comics code”.  In fact, I’m even reading Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent. Hard to have an opinion on something if you’ve never read the source, so I’ve been slogging my way through that one as well (my original opinion has not changed much).

This weekend I found myself on the final three chapters of Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code by Amy Kiste Nyberg, and I decided I wanted to finally FINISH one of the four books, and I did.  My impressions of the book? Honestly I was thrilled and relieved to find that it was not just another rehashing of Fredric Wertham and his crusade against the comic book industry.  Of course he’s included and in fact has his own chapter, but the entire book is NOT focused on him.   (more…)

Where Do I Stand on Fredric Wertham?

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

First, let me say that I was raised in the south, so there are several ‘rules’ that have been drilled into my very being: 1) respect your elders (which Wertham would have been), and 2) NEVER speak ill of the dead (which Wertham certainly is, since 1981).  With that being said, I will attempt to convey what I think about the role he has played, and yes, continues to play, in the comics industry.

For those who may not be sure of who Fredric Wertham is, he is most famous for his book entitled Seduction of the Innocent: The InfluencePicture of the cover of Fredick Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent book of Comic Books on Today’s Youth, published in 1954.  But you do not have to pick this book up to learn about Wertham’s role in attempting to ban comic books in the late 1940s and 50s. Read any book dealing with the history of the golden and silver age comics and you will get your share of Wertham.

To be fair and not judge just on what others have said about Wertham, I bought Seduction and have been reading it, along with three other books dealing with comics history, over the past week or so. I’m about a third of the way through the book, and to be honest, I’m wondering how I will survive the final two-thirds. The reading is repetitive and lacks any type of documentation or bibliography. Wertham bashes comics relentlessly and provides his “case studies” as evidence of the damage that comics were doing to the youth of his day, responsible for creating, almost single-handedly it would seem, juvenile delinquency.

While reading all of these texts, I ran across a piece from 2012 by Carol L. Tilley entitled “Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications That Helped Condemn Comics”. Tilley gained access to Wertham’s case files that were donated to the Library of Congress at the time of his death, and after sifting through boxes of notes, she has managed to prove that Wertham did indeed take ‘liberties’ with his research.


SDT (not to be confused with with STD) and Me

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

What is SDT?  Basically, the way I understand it right now, it is the theory that all humans have three psychological needs: coherence—how confident we are in our ability to perform; relatedness—our relationships not only with others, but with our society in general; and autonomy—whether or not we feel we are in control of our lives.  These three basic needs determine our quality of life, or they are the things that are “essential for ongoing psychological growth, integrity, and well-being” (Deci 229).  With that understanding (limited as it may be), how can I relate this to my own experiences and work.

I was about half-way through the Deci and Ryan article when I began thinking about my work in comics, specifically Batwoman.  That lead me to thinking about the other female superheroes like Black Canary, Wonder Woman, Phantom Lady, Black Angel, and many others that were prominent prior to and during WWII.  But, as Mike Madrid points out, “the end of World War II also brought an end to much of the freedom and lives of derring-do that these women enjoyed” (21).  Like these superheroes, many women who had enjoyed unknown freedom during WWII had it suddenly pulled out from underneath them when the men returned home.  Rosie the Riveter was to return to homemaking . . . and be happy about it.

While reading Deci and Ryan, I began to make connections between these ideas of autonomy  coherence, and relatedness and the beginning of the second wave of feminism.  During WWII and the absence of many husbands, women became aware of their ability to function outside of the kitchen, the contribution they could make to society, and the control they could have over their lives, making decisions for themselves rather than having them made for them.  Once the husbands returned, they were forced back into their previous lives.  Many could no longer be happy with these lives because, based on SDT, their base psychological needs were no longer being met.

While reading the Deci and Ryan article often made my head spin, it enabled me to make some connections to things that interest me.  Perhaps it can shed new light on some of my superhero research.

Theory & Research: it’s all about the research

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

This week, the focus falls to two things that kept running through my mind while finishing up the NIH’s Theory at a Glance and Wei Peng’s “Design and Evaluation of a Computer Game to Promote a Healthy Diet for Young Adults”, published in Health Communication.  First, I want to discuss theory.

Granted, the name of this serious games course is “Theories of Games and Interaction for Design” and as such, I expected to be exposed to a great deal of theory, however, not this much theory.  I expected to learn about theories associated with game design in general and serious game design specifically, and I wouldn’t say I was surprised when we focused for a couple of weeks on theories of learning: the two really do go hand-in-hand.  The amount of focus, though, on theories surrounding health behavior and change surprises me.  NIH’s Theory at a Glance alone discusses eight different theories focusing on health.  At this point-in-time, I feel as if I’m in theory overload.  What I have to keep reminding myself is that ALL of these theories can apply to different areas, not just health.  The realization is that I need to create a chart listing all of the theories discussed thus far to try to keep them straight in my mind and to have a quick reference when it comes to creating my final project.

Now to shift the focus to Peng’s “Design and Evaluation of a Computer Game to Promote a Healthy Diet for Young Adults”, which discusses the game Rightway Café.  The article itself provides excellent information on the theories associated with behavioral change and games being tailored to meet individual needs.  The discussion that followed, however, about Rightway Café left me questioning the validity of the research itself.  Three points, in particular, were troublesome:

  • 32 of the 40 participants were women
  • the game play lasted for only 42 minutes on average and the game was only played one time
  • the long term follow-up came after only one month

By the end of the article, Peng addresses these limitations, but that is not enough to alleviate the doubts surrounding the validity of the findings.  While the variable of the number of men versus women might be difficult to control, the others were completely within the control of the researcher.  That leaves me questioning why the participants only played the game one time, why game play only averaged 42 minutes, and why the follow-up came after only one month.  For me, these are all red flags and unless further, more thorough research substantiates these results, I would not use this research as evidence in any of my own work.

With all of that being said, I do realize that all research has to start somewhere.  In a case like this, I believe it would be prudent of the researcher to discuss limitations upfront to prepare the reader.  I believe that having that knowledge upfront would have tempered my skepticism and kept me more engaged in the actual results.

Serious games for serious living

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

This fall I decided to apply to the Masters Serious Games Certificate online program offered at Michigan State University, one of the first schools to offer such a program.  I was accepted and started the first course (in a three course program) entitled Theory for Games & Interactive Design this fall.  Needless to say, it has kept be busy along with my own admin responsibilities and teaching.

This weeks readings, game play, and lecture, all focus on theories of health in one way or another.  There were three readings for this week: 1) a chapter by Debra A. Lieberman entitled “Designing Digital Games, Social Media, and Mobile Technologies to Motivate and Support Health Behavior Change” 2) the second chapter of the National Cancer Institute’s Theory at a Glance: A Guide for Health Promotion Practice , and 3) an article by Henry Kelly et al entitled “How to Build Serious Games”, which discusses the game Immune Attack.  For this post, I want to focus primarily on the Debra A. Lieberman article for a couple of reasons: 1) it is the one I found the most interesting and 2) it is the one I kept connecting my own experiences to as I read. (more…)

it’s all about your perspective

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

And indeed, it is.  Who would have ever thought that drawing in perspective would be so difficult.  I mean, I’ve watched some pretty cool YouTube videos, and this one in particular seemed to cover the 1, 2, and 3 point perspective fairly well.  When I finished watching this video, I thought to myself, “well that was easy”, and in reality, I could do what he does here if I watched and worked along with him.  But when I tried something on my own later, this is what I came up with:

As one can easily see, I’m just not getting it yet.


a life of comics

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

I have a tendency to want to know as much as I can about one subject, then become bored with it, and move on.  Luckily for me there are a few things in my life of late that have “stuck” more than others.  Two of those things include technology of about any kind, including teaching in virtual environments, and comics.  To be honest, the comics bit surprises me a lot. (more…)

What do Charles Dickens and Zombies have in common?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

At first glance, one might scoff and say emphatically “NOTHING”!  Before yesterday, I’m confident my response would have been the same.  Today, however, I know that they do indeed have a connection, and not just a tangential one.  While in the comic shop yesterday perusing some of DC Comics new 52 editions, I espied a title that is and has been for years, very familiar and especially dear to me, but there was something different about it.

Picture of the title "Christmas Carol


Creating Comics is a Learning Process: A comic from a Chinese Student

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Many think that using a piece of software like Comic Life makes the process easy and seamless.  However, that is not always the case.  There are still many things to consider and think about when designing comics using software.  Among these are page layout.  As this comic shows from one of my students in China, creating the comic so that it displays properly is not always an easy task. (more…)