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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: July ::
Classical Comics
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0432  Tuesday, 3 July 2007

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Monday, 02 Jul 2007 15:29:12 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

[2] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Monday, 02 Jul 2007 16:02:00 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

[3] 	From: 	Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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	Date: 	Monday, 2 Jul 2007 16:46:26 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

[4] 	From: 	Jeremy Forbing <
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	Date: 	Monday, 02 Jul 2007 14:21:08 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

[5] 	From: 	Dan Venning <
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	Date: 	Monday, 2 Jul 2007 17:55:58 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

[6] 	From: 	Nancy Charlton <
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	Date: 	Monday, 02 Jul 2007 22:05:37 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Monday, 02 Jul 2007 15:29:12 -0400
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

As a card-carrying elitist, I nonetheless dissent from the nearly 
universal disrespect shown to "comic book" versions of the classics. 
When I was a child, in time immemorial, there was a series of "comic 
books" called Classic Comics.  Good copies of these -- which sold for 10 
cents in the 1950's -- will fetch extraordinary prices today.  These 
magazines provided absurdly digested pictorial versions of literary 
classics, including, I believe, some of Shakespeare's plays.  (Mad 
magazine, when it was a comic book in that era, published a lampoon of a 
Classics Comic version of Hamlet, including the immortal passage: 
"Hamlet loves his mother; Hamlet loves his mother very much.  Does 
Hamlet love his mother too much?  Perhaps.")

In any case, Classic Comics never purported to be a substitute for the 
originals, but it did excellent service in introducing children to the 
joys of literature.  Children who had no access to the classics at home 
were introduced to the great works in the familiar non-threatening 
format of a comic book.  I think that many of them felt less at sea when 
they were taught the real stuff in school.  In many respects, the thirty 
minute cartoon versions of some of the plays, produced by a Russian 
company in collaboration with Stanley Wells, performs the same function. 
  Why, then, have we showered kudos on the little animated films but not 
on the comic books?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Monday, 02 Jul 2007 16:02:00 -0400
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

John V. Knapp <
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 >As is well known, the devil himself can cite Shakespeare for his
 >own purposes.  No matter the so-called literary content of comic
 >books, they are still entertainments, cool-aid instead of vin du
 >pays for those whose interest in prose or poetry doesn't go much
 >further than dialog bubbles of four to 8 words per bubble.  All of
 >this attention to dialog bubbles would be merely a guilty pleasure
 >for some IF it were not for the fact that the MLA is now
 >(apparently) paying serious attention to this material and- what
 >really is disturbing-that some university literature departments
 >are increasingly substituting one or two graphic novels for real
 >novels or dramas.
 >
 >There are only so many hours in the day and every hour spent
 >viewing a graphic novel is one less spendable reading Hamlet,
 >or Lear, or Dostoyevski, or even Jasper Fforde.  Since it is the
 >rare dog that praises its own fleas, we can scratch to acknowledge
 >the presence of this tribute to declining literacy skills without
 >making it into a welcomed companion.

I can only assume that you have never made a serious effort to read, 
e.g., "Watchmen" (Moore and Gibbons), "The Sandman" (Gaiman et al.), or 
"Kozure Okami" ["Lone Wolf and Cub"] (Koike and Kojima), all works of 
immense depth, complexity, and, yes, literacy.

To condemn a medium, per se, is to run no small risk of being numbered 
in times to come alongside the Universitie Wittes.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Marilyn A. Bonomi <
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Date: 		Monday, 2 Jul 2007 16:46:26 -0400
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

Having read both Jasper Fforde and The Sandman by Neil Gaimon, I will 
assert that while the former is at first humorous but finally tedious 
fluff, the latter is serious and indeed literary fiction, albeit in 
graphic form.

I'm not much of a movie person, but there are some films that I believe 
merit study the way we can approach written text and that will gift the 
studier with new insights and understandings of self and world.

In the same way some graphic novels can accomplish the same thing.

At one time "Classic Comics" had a Macbeth (and no doubt others) that 
was the entire text of the play in graphic form.  I've seen a hardcover 
version of some sort (not sure publisher, etc) that was pretty much the 
same thing.

Where is the harm in a visual representation along with the text?  After 
all, if you go to the playhouse you *see* the play, not just read the 
words  :)

Mari Bonomi

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeremy Forbing <
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Date: 		Monday, 02 Jul 2007 14:21:08 -0700
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

Mr. Knapp,

I do not wish to have a lengthy debate, but I respectfully disagree. The 
literary merits of the graphic novel are well-established in the minds 
of serious people. To judge the entire medium by children's superhero 
stories is like judging all "real" novels by Harry Potter and Star Trek.

Alan Moore's "Watchmen" was on Time Magazine's 2005 list of "the 100 
best English-language novels from 1923 to the present, Art Spiegelman's 
"Maus" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and West Point cadets from the 
class of 2006 must study Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," a coming-of-age 
tale set during the Iranian revolution.

To dismiss an entire medium when one has no actual knowledge of it does 
not seem logically defensible.

While I certainly prefer seeing Shakespeare performed, or reading his 
works without sequential art, these comic book versions at least serve 
as a reminder that the plays were meant to be visual as well as literary 
experiences, presented by living human beings. If the adaptations on 
this website help a single student get the message that Shakespeare was 
creating art infused with vitality and universal human truth rather than 
heavily foot-noted closet drama, I think they more than justify the time 
and effort involved in their creation and discussion.

--Jeremy Forbing

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Dan Venning <
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Date: 		Monday, 2 Jul 2007 17:55:58 -0400
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

John:

While some of the points you make are clearly worthwhile, I have to 
disagree with most of your arguments and your conclusions. First of all, 
I don't think that calling a work an "entertainment" is a proper way of 
dismissing the work. As is well known, Shakespeare wrote his own plays 
as "entertainments," certainly works of great artistic genius, thought, 
and poetry, but written as public entertainment nonetheless, not 
originally for publication. Similarly, the best comics and graphic 
novels (certainly not all, or even many) are themselves works of great 
artistic merit--although this merit is not entirely literary: it's 
visual as well. Like Shakespeare's works, they're public 
"entertainments," but ones conscious of artistic and literary history.

Your argument that makes more sense is that the works don't stand up to 
Shakespeare himself, or Dostoyevsky, or Tolstoy, or... I can go on. I 
would never argue that (I've never read Fforde, so I can't argue that). 
In my original message, I was attempting to point out uses of the comic 
form relevant to the Shakespeare list, not to argue its superiority, or 
even equity, to the list. I don't want to set myself up as a blanket 
arbiter of taste, judging which works are good or rubbish based entirely 
on their genre.

I'm inclined to think that elitism is just as dangerous as overly 
succumbing to fashionable trends in popular entertainment. Suggesting 
that comics are only for those who have little interest in prose or 
poetry is obviously not the case, considering the fact that I know many 
scholars (including myself) who love the form. I don't think comics are 
necessarily a sign of declining literary skills--one can enjoy and learn 
from the works of both Arthur and Frank Miller, if in different ways. 
I'm also disturbed because the way you dismiss the entire genre from 
literature without really engaging it seems strikingly similar to the 
ways valuable neglected works have been dismissed or marginalized in the 
past.

This isn't to say that we should be teaching such works in our 
courses--I almost certainly never would--but I don't think we should 
dismiss entire genres offhand because they're not to our taste, or 
because they don't conform to our established standards of what 
constitutes literature or high art. In fact, if the MLA is paying 
serious attention, our fellow scholars are as well, and they are popular 
entertainments, doesn't that in fact suggest the opposite--that some may 
be important cultural signifiers currently, although perhaps not "for 
all time?"

Dan Venning

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Nancy Charlton <
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Date: 		Monday, 02 Jul 2007 22:05:37 -0700
Subject: 18.0427 Classical Comics
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0427 Classical Comics

I looked at the Henry V on the Classical Comics web site, all three 
versions. I was surprised, pleasantly. The art I found to be rather 
beautiful--except I picture Henry as looking a bit more like Kenneth 
Branagh.

There could be some definite uses made of this in education. Perhaps 
have all three versions available. Start kids reading the one with the 
real text--out loud, and picturing the action, but with the visual 
assist that most kids seem to need. They could refer to the modernized 
paraphrase when they were stuck on language, or as a last resort refer 
to the dumbed-down version, which gives up all pretense of being the 
writing of WS.

Perhaps a few SHAKSPER readers remember the old Classic (not "al") 
Comics. For many it was their introduction to various "great" books, and 
no one felt demeaned by reading the comic version and going on to read 
the "real" one. The comic was easy: you could do one or two while riding 
home on the bus, or you could take a stack to the beach, whereas you'd 
barely get started on the "real" one on the bus and it would be too 
heavy to compete with sun and sand and all your friends to yak with. Now 
that I think of it I faintly recall a discussion with a peer (not a 
parent or teacher) about how awful it was for the comic to leave out a 
scene. It may have been a Dickens novel or a Bront

 

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