Show & Tell : A Collection of Comics About Teaching & Learning
Submitted by Xaviar Xerexes on April 18, 2011 - 05:00
Show & Tell : A Collection of Comics About Teaching & Learning is a collection of comics by teachers and students. It was produced in conjunction with the first New England Comics Arts in the Classroom conference just this past March. It's published by Ninth Arts Press. It features some familiar names from webcomics including Alexander Danner, David Malki!, Box Brown, Jason Viola, and Kevin Moore. It also features work from a lot of teachers and even some students.
There are twenty short stories set in and around the classroom, most a small slice-of-life, although some are simply poking fun at educational topics. It's a great theme and really neat to see a book explore these topics. The comics themselves are a mixed bag -- some very solid work intermixed with some that felt out of sorts to me. Overall though it's a good package of comics clocking in at 96 pages long.
The first half of the book is titled "Tales By Teachers" and the strongest entries for me were "The Five Faces of Student Conferences" by Rebecca and Jason Viola; Comics from Wondermark by David Malki!; "Yo Miss" by Lisa Wilde; "These F...ing Kids" by Box Brown; and "George Enjoys Billiards, Apparently" by Alexander Danner and Dan Mazur. "Five Faces" presents several students with the same bored expression paired with wildly different descriptions of the conference. Rebecca Viola taught English to college freshman for five years, the comic suggests students' indifference towards whatever message the teacher is delivering. The comic is hard to interpret but interesting all the same. Wondermark and "These F...ing Kids" are both kind of high-concept comedy about school cliches although Wondermark delivers with its typical off-kilter punch lines. I know Alexander Danner and I've read a lot of his work and "George Enjoys Billiards" is the kind of nonsequitar scene he often does very well. "Yo Miss" also worked very well with several nice bits, especially a student's recounting his telling the story of Oedipus to a room full of unexpectedly rapt cell mates. I wish the art was stronger but it doesn't detract too much.
I also thought "Iruma" by Ben DiMaggio and Len White, a story about teaching English in Japan was pretty good although that scenario is so well-trod at this point that there's very little fresh ground to cover. I also liked Jesse Lonergan's "Substitute" which had very nice clean art and I liked the way each page of it was set up as a different period. I would have like it more if it also hadn't been plowing another well-trod subject.
There are two comics in the middle filed under "Pedagogical Playtime" -- neither of which I thought much of. They're not bad, just basically lectures in comic form. The latter half of the book is titled "Stories by Students" and it includes seven comics that are not so much written by students but about being a student. One of these comics gets the only color pages in the book. It's an adaptation by Doug De Rocher (who is a student) of a section of Alice In Wonderland titled " School In the Sea" (Dan Mazur also gets credit for "adopted and lettered by"). It's pretty well-done and the thick-lined, slightly cubist style art isn't a bad pairing for an excerpt from Lewis Carroll's classically twisted novel. I also liked Dan Mazur's "Open Structure" quite a bit. It's a comic reflecting back on a very unusual fourth grade year with a teacher in over his head. It has a bit of a Rashomon type of structure with multiple explanations of how the open structure experiment ended and their teacher got fired.
The publisher provided a free copy of the book to ComixTalk for review purposes.