Making Curriculum Pop

John C. Weaver
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  • Williamsport, PA
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Teaching Watchmen at the High School Level

Recently, I wrote an Op Ed piece on Graphic Novel Reporter about my experiences teaching the Watchmen. Some exciting things have happened as a result of my teaching the novel here at Williamsport Area High School. One of the other English teachers will be borrowing my class set and teaching Watchmen for herself. And last weekend, my cousin took her daughter to Hot Topic, and some Watchmen fanatic started talking to her. He said that he heard some guy was teaching the book at the high school. My… Continue

Posted on March 17, 2009 at 1:30pm — 1 Comment

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At 10:08pm on July 21, 2009, Ryan Goble said…
Hey John, I just highlighted your work on THIS PAGE - maybe you can add some ideas?
At 10:18am on January 22, 2009, John Shableski said…
I would have to agree with Katie and Peter: McCloud really does an amazing job of laying it all out. Maybe I am even more biased because I have seen him speak several times and had some great discussions with him about the evolution of the format. Jessica and Matt really do have a great book-hey, did'nt I include that in the care package I left at your house? I belive it was a book from Scott, the Jessica and Matt book and Shake Girl from the guys at Stanford. The Eisner book is brilliant too. I think I am probably missing another. There are a couple of Tezuka's books which are brilliant as well. I need to dig up the titles for you.
BTW: looks like you found some great folks to talk with!
At 6:45pm on January 21, 2009, katie monnin said…
hey there,

i would recommend will eisner's comics and sequential art and graphic storytelling and visual narrative. also, GREAT new book out by graphic novelists matt madden and jessica abel called "drawing words and writing pictures." i agree with peter too, though, mccloud is sort of the seminal, foundational work. he should help the most. i would look specifically for his discussions on reading the gutters. katie
At 5:12pm on January 21, 2009, Peter Gutierrez said…
Yes, I saw your query on Katie's wall. I can understand your situation but I'm wondering why the McCloud is only helping a little bit. So much can be said that I'm not sure where to start except to say your instincts are good in that you know a main part of the text is being left out if you're not dealing with the visuals.

So here's a quick idea that could be way off-base:
How comfortable are you with visual media in general, specifically moving image media (fine art and painting would be all right, too)?
In other words, I would choose a lens through which to approach the graphics that you're already familiar with.
For example, do you enjoy the films of Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford? Do you like how they're edited? Do you like how the shots are composed? Or the way the camera moves? I'd be more intuitive and approach the formal elements of comics in terms of what you already respond to in your gut instinctively. After all, isn't that how you'll have to teach some of the students who may also be quick to pick up on the narrative elements but not the visual grammar?

So I'd look at basic things in Watchmen to start: what characters get close-ups, and when... and therefore why? What's going on in the foreground vs. the background? What stuff is left to be inferred (i.e., is in the gutters, a la McCloud)? What colors are used symbolically? Within a panel, who is positioned higher or lower? How is the reader made to feel uneasy through asymmetry, juxtaposition, etc.? All of these things could also be asked of a film or TV program, and most could be asked of a representational painting. The trick is, by aligning graphica with these art forms/media, you suddenly have many more resources to draw upon.

Hope this helps.
At 3:38pm on January 20, 2009, katie monnin said…
ha! yes, i find that as an adult, even though i also did not sit at the cool table as a kid, i often sit at it as an adult. perhaps this is b/c as adults we have made our own "cool kids" table??? do let me know how your students react to watchmen, etc., please. currently, i am writing a book on teaching the graphic novel in secondary education english language arts. :) katie


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