Reading Comics

BRAD HAWLEY, who wrote this series, received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon in 2000, specializing in ethics and contemporary fiction as well as rhetoric and composition. After teaching for two years at Jacksonville State University and a short break from teaching to be a stay-at-home dad, he now teaches at Oxford College of Emory University. During the past fifteen years, he has taught courses and independent studies in composition, Crime Fiction, Comic Books, Beat Literature, twentieth-century poetry, and Shakespeare. His wife, who also teaches English at Oxford College, thinks he has too many comic books.

Understanding Categories of Manga: From Shojo to Gekiga

Understanding Categories of Manga: From Shojo to Gekiga

If you are new to Manga, you might want to know a few key terms used to describe it. These terms are well-known to fans of manga, and as I've come to understand the way manga is categorized in Japan, I've learned much about the publication side of the business as it shapes what an author is expected to do: If an author writes for a shojo magazine, s/he will have to follow certain expectations that fit that demographic. The same is true of the other types of publications aimed at specific audiences, but in a way very different from the way a typical American magazine works. Writing for males or females of a specific age can also pigeon-hole a writer or artist as fans begin to expect only that type of artistic creation after a successful series in a particular category.

So, what are these main categories? In Japan, shojo manga is aimed at female... Read More

Ikigami, Volume 1 OR How to Read Manga, Part 1

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Volume 1 by Motoro Mase (Story & Art) or "How to Read Manga, Pt 1"

Though I haven't read too much manga — pronounced "mahn-gha," in case you were wondering — I am starting to acquire a taste for it. I think part of my problem was trying to read it slowly like I do American comics (and like I recommend in my essay here on FanLit, "How To Read Comics"). Watching my daughter devour quickly the entire 20-volume set of Bakuman, an excellent manga about the creation and culture of manga in Japan, I started wondering how she did it (and she wasn't merely skimming; her recall of det... Read More

Why You Should Be Reading Monthly Comics: New Titles for Those New to Comics! (And What is a “Pull List”?) OR New Comics, Part One (Or How to Read Comics, Part Ten)

Why You Should Be Reading Monthly Comics: New Titles for Those New to Comics! (And What is a "Pull List"?) OR New Comics, Part One (Or How to Read Comics, Part Ten)

When I started reading comics, I was in my 30s and was simply overwhelmed with all that was out there. Where should I start? I would have loved knowing that there were some new titles out there that required no background knowledge because they were about new characters — not all comics are about superheroes you've heard about all your life. I would have been even happier to find out some of these series only lasted six issues (similar to a stand-alone novel with only six chapters).

The exciting news I'd like to share today is that there are currently a large number of new comic book titles with brand new characters that have just started in the past few months. Since comic books come out as monthly issues, that means there are only a few issues out so far for many of these new comics, and fo... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 9

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 9: The Avengers
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

The latest superhero movie, The Avengers, is perhaps the best big-budget comic-book based film Hollywood has produced so far (however, there are certainly quieter, lower-budget films that offer solid competition for best adaptation of comic to screen: Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, for example). As always, there are more people who know about certain comic book superheroes shown on television and in movies than the number of peo... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 8

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 8: Where to buy comics
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

Now that we’ve discussed the reason why there can be multiple #1 issues for the same comic book title (different volumes, or series) and have seen how valuable Wikipedia is in finding current publication and reissue information on comic books, we need to consider reviews of trade collections and purchasing options.

I use Amazon t... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 7

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 7: Trades, arcs, volumes
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

In this week’s column, I need to clarify some terms and explain purchasing options so that you can understand the multiple ways comics are issued and reissued.

The first terms to be understood are trade, arc, and the two definitions of volume. Trades are collections of individual issues of comics that often form one or more story lines, or arcs. Most major comic series require multiple trade collections and a... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 6

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 6: Great Introductions
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

I would hate to continue writing my essays without recommending a few actual comic books! I would like to recommend two books that are fairly recent; they look back at the beginning of certain superheroes but with a contemporary sensibility, particularly Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, a look at the origins of some key characters in the Marvel Universe.

The other major comic book publisher — DC (which stands for Detective C... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 5

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics? (Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 5: Good Reference Material
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

In my first four-part essay (see links above), I offered reasons for reading comics and suggested how one go about appreciating the art of comics by paying attention to what often goes unnoticed at first, much as one might not notice how important film angles or film editing is to the art of cinematography. In this next series of essays, I will begin giving recommendations. This first essay will focus on books dealing with aesthetics, reference books, fiction, and a variety ... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 4

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
Reading Comics, Part 4: Mind the Gutter

by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

We could proceed to talk about the way comics use words to tell stories, but in many ways, they share much in common with all fictional narrative. A book on interpreting literature, then, is helpful for reading comics, and it should come as no surprise that I’ve found English majors well-prepared to analyze the way comic books communicate meaning.

Watchmen Page 5

But I’ve demonstrated that the ability to interpret a novel is not enough when reading comics. The use of images turns comics into so... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 3

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 3: Look at the pictures

by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

Now you know some of the factors involved in the production of this type of art. But how should you go about reading a comic book? How hard can it be if you read novels on a regular basis? Well, if you’re like me, you’ll need this important bit of advice: Look at the pictures. Seriously. I assume many of you are passionate readers and will get hooked on the story in a comic if it’s well-written. Oddly enough, the better the story, the more likely you are as... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 2

Brad Hawley continues his series on How to Read Comics. If you missed the previous columns, be sure to start with Part 1: Why Read Comics?
(Or find the entire series here.)
Reading Comics, Part 2: Terminology and Production
by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

Assuming that you have found a more adult-themed comic book (I’ll give some recommendations in a later installment of this essay), what do you need to know to begin to appreciate what happens in it? First, understanding key terminology and the production of the comic book as a commodity seems necessary. A current American comic book is roughly 22 to 24 pages long, is usually based on a single key character or group of characters, and is issued monthly. A writer-a... Read More

Reading Comics, Part 1

FanLit welcomes Brad Hawley to our team of reviewers. Dr. Hawley received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon in 2000, specializing in ethics and contemporary fiction as well as rhetoric and composition. After teaching for two years at Jacksonville State University and a short break from teaching to be a stay-at-home dad, he now teaches at Oxford College of Emory University. During the past fifteen years, he has taught courses and independent studies in composition, Crime Fiction, Comic Books, Beat Literature, twentieth-century poetry, and Shakespeare. His wife, who also teaches English at Oxford College, thinks he has too many comic books. (Find his entire series on reading comics here.)
Reading Comics: An Introduction for the Skeptical, Part 1:
Why Read Comics?

by Dr. Brad K. Hawley

I once looked down on c... Read More

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