Comics at my college.

§ February 2nd, 2004 § Filed under watchmen Comments Off on Comics at my college.

During the years I was attending the University of California Santa Barbara, I had two English classes with Professor Frank McConnell…one was “Art of Modern Narrative,” and the other was “Science Fiction.” In the first class, one of the assigned books was Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and in the second, we got Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen. Now, as a comic fan, I thought it was great that we’d get to study graphic novels for college credit; as a college student, though, I was far more excited about the fact that I’d have one less book to buy that quarter.

Given that it’s been (ahem) several years since I’ve had those classes, the details of the lectures are a little sketchy now. The students seemed pretty open about reading comics…there wasn’t any noticeable “ew, comics are studid” attitude that you’d expect. There was the one student who pointed out how the words “Fallout Shelter” were partially obscured in that one Watchmen cover image/chapter heading so that they read “ALL HEL,” and “oooooooh” went the class. I also remember simultaneously cringing at (having yet to purge the anal-retentive comic collector mentality from my system*) and being amused by my fellow students highlighting captions and word balloons in their copies of the trade paperbacks. And, since I know you’re wondering, no, I didn’t bring my individual issues of the comics to class, all in their protective polypropylene sleeves — I already owned copies of the trades.

Another book Professor McConnell taught in his courses was Sandman: A Doll’s House…and for at least one class, he had Neil Gaiman as a guest-lecturer. Sorry I missed that. McConnell also wrote an introduction to one of the Sandman collections (The Kindly Ones).

McConnell, unfortunately, has since passed away…I had to learn this one of the text pieces in Gaiman’s Midnight Days. That’s too bad…he was a nice guy, an entertaining lecturer, loved comics, wrote detective novels, and always gave a blanket invite to the class to meet him for a drink in the pub after each lecture.

One of my favorite memories of Professor McConnell was when he made a passing reference to Norse legends that seemed to over the heads of the students…when he noticed the lack of response, he said “what, don’t any of you read Thor comics? No? What do you do for fun?”

* No, it’s not been purged yet.

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