Comics Culture: Scholarship & Teaching

The American comic book was born in 1933, first as a collection of popular newspaper comic strips published in a tabloid-sized magazine. By the end of the twentieth century, comic books and related art and media grew into a global, multi-billion-dollar industry. The medium is often viewed as a uniquely American product, but the comic book sits at the intersection of global networks of migration, cultural exchange, shifting patterns of labor, and inclusion within national communities. Comics, in short have always been a global product.

Barely two years after the creation of the first comic book, educators took their first serious look at the medium; articles appeared regularly in both educational and nonprofessional journals. Much of this early work focused on literacy, language arts, and literature education; historians, alas, were latecomers to the potential of comics for scholarship and teaching.

Comics gained wide popularity in classrooms in the 1970s. Today comics flourish in K-16 education. Literacy and language arts remain the dominant lens of pedagogical analysis, with budding interests in math and science comics as well. Given the global distribution of comics, graphic novels, manga, and related media, a world historical lens seems uniquely suited to understand the economic, cultural, and educational impacts of the comics medium. Given the growth and global scope of the medium, now is an opportune time for historians to find their place in this educational community.

The sixth Under the Baobab session will introduce participants to many exciting developments in comics history education, covering comics as early as the so-called “Platinum Age” (1897-1938) to the present, from mainstream and independent publishers, and covering a wide geographic range. The 90-minute session, which is geared at the K-16 history classroom, will feature a roundtable discussion of model lessons and assignments, print and digital resources to find, evaluate, and share comics and comics-based curricula, and first-hand accounts of the opportunities and pitfalls of using comics in class. The session will also include a hands-on workshop on deconstructing comics and analyzing them as historical sources. We will address topics such as: the tension between historicity and formalism, the state of comics archives, and how comics both in and outside of the Anglophone world offer opportunities for world history classrooms. We will explore the pedagogical utility of thinking about comics as history, comics of history, and comics in history.

The panel leading this session includes: Dr. Maryanne Rhett (Monmouth University), Dr. Elizabeth Pollard (San Diego State University), Lawrence Abrams (PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis), Kaleb Knoblauch (PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis), Alonso Nunez (Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio) and Pamela Jackson (Popular Culture Librarian and Comic Arts Curator at SDSU).

Under the Baobab VI
Comics, World History, and the Classroom
Wednesday 16 December 2020
4:00pm – 5:30pm, PST / 7:00pm – 8:30pm, EST.

Registration is free for WHA members, $10 for guests.
To receive a Zoom link for the session, please register here.

All teachers K-16 are welcome!

Kaleb Knoblauch

WHA member