Posts Tagged 'Chester Brown'

The beauty that is Inkstuds

It didn’t take me this long to read Inkstuds (Conundrum Press, 2010) because I found it tedious; on the contrary, I wanted to savour these interviews and read them in small doses, interspersed with the ongoing consumption of comics—many created by artists featured on the radio show. Kudos to McConnell: with all of the interviews he’s conducted, I don’t know how he decided which ones to put in this volume. I suspect that’s why there’s a “1” on the spine of the book!

In the introduction to Inkstuds, comics scholar Jeet Heer remarks, “McConnell takes a deceptively casual tack, winging his way like a student at an oral exam who is willing to make up for in gusto what he lacks in preparation (6).” This may be especially true when listening to McConnell’s show, but one feature of reading the interviews that I found interesting was how once transcribed on the page, these conversations take on a new life. Now edited, gone are the traces of improvisational filler, instead leaving only a fluid path of ideas. Continue reading ‘The beauty that is Inkstuds’

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“Teaching” Graphic Novels

Last year, I was invited to attend a one-day workshop in Vancouver on the subject of graphic novels. The workshop was sponsored by the Educational Resources Acquisition Consortium (ERAC), an organization which, up until recently, was fully funded by the provincial government. ERAC serves as a one-stop shop where teachers from across British Columbia can search for educational software, video and print resources that have been vetted for classroom use, and which may be purchased by teachers at a discount through the organization.

I was fortunate enough to have been referred by my supervisor to attend this session. She knew that I am passionate about comics, since I had been granted permission by Chris Olivieros (the publisher of Drawn & Quarterly) to include excerpts from Chester Brown’s Louis Riel) in a BC First Nations Studies 12 course being developed in both print and online formats for high school distance education students.

The reason that the ERAC executive had chosen to invite me and two other participants to their offices concerned a general lack of familiarity with graphic novels amongst the staff. This was a chance for us to educate them about the range of forms that graphic novels can assume, toward the end of the group’s establishing criteria that could apply towards determining which graphic novels might be suitable for classroom use.

On the one hand, the day served as a great excuse to share knowledge and bring samples of a variety of works to show to a genuinely attentive audience. But what does it mean to “teach” a graphic novel? Obviously some teachers are doing it. And in spite of the constraints of the classroom, I am certain that some teachers are doing it well. I have also seen how a teacher can bastardize even Catcher in the Rye–I’ve done it myself, not knowing how else to go about the task of “teaching” the novel. And the last thing that I would wish on any student is for a teacher to suck the life out of everything good and true about graphic novels, through treating the subject poorly in the classroom. Continue reading ‘“Teaching” Graphic Novels’

Because I’m not: Skim

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Skim (Groundwood Books, 2008), written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by her cousin Jillian Tamaki, is a gentle and unparalleled exploration of one fictional teenager’s inner life.

The splash page for Part I of Skim introduces us to the story’s protagonist, Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka “Skim”), a half-Japanese student attending an all-girls’ private high school in Ontario. Why the nickname Skim? In her own words, ”Because I’m not.” Though the story does not concentrate on Kimberly’s weight issues, in a world of highly self-conscious teenage girls, we can only guess that this is one of many reasons that Skim is perceived as an outcast.

As readers, we are provided access to Skim’s diary, which indicates her favourite colour as “black red.” The uncertainty communicated through this initial journal entry is a poignant and provocative indication that all may not be as it seems with Skim. To introduce corrections throughout Skim’s diary is also to realistically portray how a teenage diary, or for that matter any diary, might look—unless its author were to erase or white out any errors. The jazz pianist Thelonius Monk insisted on never re-recording tracks when he was in recording sessions, believing that if musicians made errors during these events, they ought to be duly noted as such for all to hear. In Skim, we can assume that Kimberley’s errors are an intentional vehicle used to portray the diarist’s doubleness, her doubts and insecurities. But their inclusion at all is testament to the author’s depth and perceptiveness into teen neurosis. Continue reading ‘Because I’m not: Skim’


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