Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Children’s and Young Adult Comics

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Forever Young

On this special episode of The Comics Alternative, Gwen and Derek moderate a roundtable discussion on comics for children and young adults. Joining them in the conversation are Karly Marie Grice and Joe Sutliff Sanders, both contributors to the brand new book coedited by Gwen, Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults: A Collection of Essays (University Press of Mississippi). Over the course of the roundtable, both Joe and Karly present the research they conducted for the collection — the aesthetics of children’s digital comics and contesting narratives in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints, respectively — but the core of the discussion centers on the current state of children’s and adolescent comics, the scholarship surrounding it, questions of demographics, and the pedagogical challenges facing educators when framing the medium.

Gwen’s coeditor, Michelle Ann Abate, had planned on joining the roundtable discussion, but due to technical difficulties she was unable to do so.

Comics Alternative, Episode 229: Will Eisner Week 2017 – Uses of The Spirit since 2005

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Capturing the Spirit of The Spirit

Every year for Will Eisner Week, always the first seven days in March, the Two Guys with PhDs like to do something special and Eisner-related for the podcast. This year is no different, and for the current episode Andy and Derek have decided to discuss the many uses of The Spirit since Will Eisner’s passing on January 3, 2005. And there are a lot more manifestations of The Spirit than you might think. The guys compare and contrast the various uses of this seminal crimefighter, highlighting those examples that attempt to capture the original tone of The Spirit, that deviate from the original in curious ways, and that cross over into other narrative worlds. The many titles and creators they discuss include:

  • the one-shot Batman/The Spirit, by Joef Loeb and Darwyn Cooke in 2007 (DC Comics)
  • the 32-issue run of The Spirit between 2007 and 2009, by Darwyn Cooke, Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and many others (DC Comics)
  • Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales’s 6-issue miniseries First Wave, published between 2010 and 2011 (DC Comics)
  • the concurrent-running The Spirit: First Wave series by Mark Schultz, David Hine, and others, going for 17 issues from 2010-2011 (DC Comics)
  • Mark Waid’s 4-issue miniseries Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction, illustrated by various artists and released in 2013 (IDW Publishing)
  • Will Eisner’s The Spirit by Matt Wagner and Dan Schkade, running for 12 issues between 2015 and 2016 (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • the recent first issue of Francesco Francavilla’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpse-Makers (Dynamite Entertainment)
  • and Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s current Dick Tracy strip and its team-up with The Spirit (Tribune Company).

There is a lot packed into this episode — you’ll hear plenty about Ebony White, Commissioner and Ellen Dolan, Silk Satin, Mister Carrion, Sand Serif, The Octopus, and, of course, P’Gell — but, thankfully, almost no mention of the disastrous 2008 film. It’s all about the comics.

Check out the various The Spirit titles discussed in this special episode:

 

Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Political Comics

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Vote!

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Just in time for the U.S. elections, Gene and Derek hold a roundtable discussion on political and propaganda comics. Joining them in the conversation are Richard Graham, author of Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s (Abrams ComicArts); Rafael Medoff, co-author (along with Craig Yoe) of Cartoonists against the Holocaust (Clizia Inc.); Kent Worcester, editor of Silent Agitators: Cartoon Art from the Pages of New Politics (New Politics Associates); and Fredrik Strömberg, the writer of Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History (St. Martin’s Griffin). The guys talk with their guests about the significance of political cartooning and what drew each of them into this particular avenue of scholarship. Most of their conversation concerns the history of the genre (at least in the United States) as well as the process behind the research. At the same time, they also focus on the current political moment and how, as several of the participants feel, most contemporary political cartoonists haven’t really met the challenge. The participants also share their thoughts on the impact of digital technology on the art form. In a heated political season signified by polemics and propaganda, it’s reassuring that you can turn to a Comics Alternative special episode providing you with the soothing comfort of…well, polemics and propaganda.

Learn more about this episode’s guests and their scholarship:

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Richard Graham, Kent Worcester, Fredrik Strömberg, and Rafael Medoff (with Craig Yoe)

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Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion for International Podcast Day 2016

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Sound Discussion

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In celebration of International Podcast Day 2016, Derek participates in a roundtable discussion with fellow comics podcasters, including John Siuntres of Word Balloon, Chris Marshall of Collected Comics Library, and John Mayo of Comic Books Page. The four of them talk extensively about their experiences in podcasting, the challenges of working with publishers and creators within the industry, their particular niche interests in comics podcasting, how their shows have evolved over the years, and their “wish lists” for growing as a podcast. Not only do the guys discuss the many facets of podcasting specifically about comics, they also share insights about podcasting as a social media platform.

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Find out more about International Podcast Day and how you can help promote podcasting worldwide. And be sure to share your thoughts on social media using #PodcastDay.

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Comics Alternative – A Special Announcement from The Two Guys with PhDs!

Andy and Derek take a few moments to make a special announcement. August 1st will be their four-year anniversary, and the Two Guys with PhDs would like for listeners help celebrate by responding with their well wishes! That’s right, get in touch with them via voice message, phone, email, and various forms of social media to tell them happy birthday!

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Comics Alternative for Young Readers: A Special Look at the 2016 Eisner Awards

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And the Winners Are…

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On this special episode of the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative, Gwen and Andy take a look at the 2016 Eisner Awards, both the nominees and the winners, in each of the three young readers categories. The Two People with PhDs discuss not only the books and their creators, but also the categories themselves, the changes they’ve seen in those categories over the years, and changes they’d like to see in the future. Gwen and Andy know you’ll find some great books here and hope you’ll share your thoughts with them once you’ve read them. (You can find a complete list of all the Eisner Award winners here as well as the complete list of nominees here.)

In the lists below, the winner of the category is in bold face type.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion, by Dominque Roques and Alexis Dormal (First Second)

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke (First Second)

The Only Child, by Guojing (Schwartz & Wade)

SheHeWe, by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch (Lerner Graphic Universe)

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers (Ricardo Siri Linders, an Argentine creator) (TOON Books)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

Baba Yaga’s Assistant, by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll (Candlewick)

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Jessica Dee Humphreys, Michel Chikwanine, and Claudia Devila (Kids Can Press)

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor, by Nathan Hale (Abrams Amulet)

Over the Garden Wall, by Pat McHale, Amalia Levari, and Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios/KaBOOM!)

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books)

Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm (Scholastic Graphix)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

Moose, by Max de Radiguès (Conundrum)

Oyster War, by Ben Towle (Oni)

SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

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Comics Alternative, Episode 189: A Discussion of the 2016 Eisner Award Nominations

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Discerning Tastes?

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The nominees for the 2016 Eisner Awards were announced last month, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do every year, they use an episode of The Comics Alternative to discuss and speculate. Joining them in this year’s conversation is Carol Tilley, a professor of information science at the University of Illinois and, tilley_carol160210-72-bmore to the point of this episode, one of the nominating judges for this year’s Eisner Awards. Carol is not a stranger to the podcast, having participated in last year’s roundtable discussion on libraries and comics, but this time around she’s back to share her experiences and answer questions that Andy and Derek have about the Eisners. She doesn’t give away any private deliberations nor does she disclose secrets, but she does help demystify the nomination process and provides insight into many of the award categories. After their conversation with Carol, Derek and Andy go on to share their own thoughts on this year’s nominations, separating their personal tastes from the kind of broader, critical analysis you come to expect from the podcast. They try to discern trends, highlight special achievements, and understand the nominating choices that were made. They especially note the sheer number of nominees who have appeared on The Comics Alternative or whose works were prominently reviewed on the podcast, giving credence, once again, to what Andy and Derek self-importantly call “the Comics Alternative bump.” When all is said and done, the guys are quite impressed with this year’s roster of creators and their comics up for recognition.

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Comics Alternative Special: Talking with Bob Andelman for Will Eisner Week

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A Spirited Discussion

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For Will Eisner Week 2016, Derek talks with Eisner’s authorized biographer, Bob Andelman. The second edition of his book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, was released last summer by TwoMorrows Publishing, expanding significantly on the 2005 edition in a deluxe, full-color volume. In the conversation, Bob discusses the genesis of the project and how he came to meet Eisner. He also shares several of his most memorable moments working with the legend, as well as some of the challenges in writing the biography. This recent deluxe edition, in particular, allowed him to expand his initial work and offer a more complete picture of the man. Derek talks with Bob about how the addition of brand new interviews, as well as archival material and legal documentation not available at the time of his first edition, rounds out the biography and makes Will Eisner more fully human and less of an abstracted icon. They also discuss the various stages of Eisner’s life and the different tones he struck in his comics, such as the autobiographical reflections found in To the Heart of the Storm, the sentimentality of Invisible People, the stark naturalism underlying Dropsie Avenue, the polemical turn of The Plot, and the innovative adventure that defined The Spirit newspaper inserts. All in all, you will find in this episode a spirited conversation — sorry for the predictable pun — with a writer and pop cultural critic that was a long time in coming.

Be sure to check out Bob’s Mr. Media Interviews.

Bob Andelman at Wizard World Columbus, Ohio, September 2015

Bob Andelman at Wizard World Columbus, Ohio, September 2015

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Comics Alternative, Episode 168: Our Favorite Comics of 2015

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Best!

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It’s the last regular review episode of the year, so that means that the Two Guys with PhDs are here to share what they consider to be the best comics of 2015! In this extra-long episode, Andy and Derek discuss their 10 favorite titles of the year. Neither knows what the other has chosen before the recording, giving the episode a sense of freshness, spontaneousness, and surprise. And there are indeed several surprises in this year’s picks, including the fact that there is only one title that appears on both guys’ lists. Also, noticeably absent from their selections are the titles that have been populating many of the mainstream press’ “Best of” lists (e.g., Killing and DyingThe SculptorLumberjanes, and The Sandman: Overture: Deluxe Edition). And each of the guys notes some trends that appear in his list this year. For Andy, it’s the prominence of autobiographical comics, and for Derek, it’s a an emphasis on realistic novel-like narratives. Before they get to their favorites, though, they go over some year-end statistics regarding the podcast. For example, over the past year the guys have published 139 episodes (as of last week), which is roughly 42% of all of the episodes they’ve put out since the podcast began in 2012. They have also conducted 39 interviews in 2015, published 8 publisher spotlight episodes, and began two new monthly series (one for manga and another for young adult/children’s comics). Needless to say, it’s been a productive year for the guys.

But the heart of this week’s episode is the Two Guys’ discussion of their ten favorite titles of 2015:

Andy’s Top 10 of 2015

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Derek’s Top 10 of 2015

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The Honorable Mentions…These Titles Almost, but Just Didn’t Quite, Make It onto Each Guy’s List

For Andy

For Derek

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Comics Alternative, Episode 163: Our Third Annual Thanksgiving Show

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Stewed and Stuffed?

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The guys are back with their third annual Thanksgiving show. This a special episode of The Comics Alternative where Andy, Derek, and other cohosts get together to discuss what they’re thankful for in the world of comics and comics culture. This year both Andy W. and Gene are able to join in, so for this special holiday week you get a special episode with extra stuff: Four Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics! Among the various things Gene, Derek, Andy, and Andy are thankful for are

  • small-press publishers (like Kilgore, Uncivilized, Youth in Decline, AdHouse, Conundrum, Koyama, etc) who provide them with material for their podcasts,
  • Chris Marshall of Collected Comics Library, who provided us with 17 years of insightful comics analysis (and whose podcast the guys will miss),
  • Fantagraphics and their Complete Peanuts series,
  • the many great projects they’re backing on Kickstarter,
  • the relatively new Librarians Assemble! podcast,
  • this year’s comics-related museum exhibits,
  • special collections, such as the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and the Comic Art Collection at Michigan State, as well as the librarians who manage them,
  • Dean Mullaney, Craig Yoe, Chris Staros, and the incredibly helpful folks at IDW Publishing — Dirk, Rosalind, and Mike — who go out of their way to keep the guys informed and supplied,
  • Chicago and the comics-related opportunities it provides,
  • creators like Joe Ollmann, Tim Lane, and Seth, who have been very generous with their time this past year and participated in email interviews for the blog,
  • fun Marvel properties, such as Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the new Jessica Jones series on Netflix,
  • Gwen, Shea, and Sean for helping on the various monthly podcast series,
  • and our Patreon supporters who have helped make 2015 a successful year!

Much like the yams with melted marshmallows served during Thanksgiving, this is an episode that you can pass around to friends and loved ones and taking a generous portion and then savoring the smooth, creamy goodness of every bite (byte?). There’s plenty to go around. And if you’re listening to this podcast in a non-US location, you can appreciate this episode knowing that Thanksgiving is more than just gratuitous Pilgrim references and obscene gluttony; it’s also middle-aged guys with advanced degrees sitting around and talking about comic books.

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Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Religion and Comics

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Like a Prayer

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On this special episode of the podcast, Derek moderates a roundtable discussion on religion and comics. Joining him on the panel are Elizabeth Coody (teaching at the Iliff School of Theology), Jeff Brackett (Ball State University), and A. David Lewis (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), all of whom are comics scholars focusing on representations of religious belief and faith. They begin their discussion by sharing their backgrounds in comics and how they have found the medium a useful means to approaching religious studies. In addition to describing the specifics of their scholarship, the panelists also discuss the various strategies they’ve employed when using comics in the classroom, along with the challenges that come when using comics to teach issues of faith. The subjects that come up during the discussion range from superheroes and myths, manifestations of the afterlife, adaptations of religious texts, biographies of religious leaders, expressions of heaven and hell, the crossroads of faith and ethnicity, and parodic (even heretical) representations of religious figures, doctrines, and practices.

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At times on the panel the discussants clash or come at books from different angles — for example, Jeff and David disagree on the usefulness of Craig Thompson’s Habibi and Derek pushes back on the “religiousness” of such comics as MausA Contract with God, and Persepolis — but the talk is always lively and insightful. Among the many texts they reference are Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Mike Carey’s Lucifer, Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated, Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus, Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, Mark Millar’s American Jesus, and Craig Thompson’s Blankets. They even discuss comics as religious propaganda, such as what you’ll find in the Spire comics published by Archie during the 1970s and the ever-present Chick tracts. The panelists covered a lot of ground, but there was so much more that was left unspoken…enough to warrant a future follow-up roundtable on the same topic.

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A. David Lewis, Elizabeth Coody, and Jeff Brackett

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Comics Alternative, Episode 157: Steve Ditko’s Self-Published Comics

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An Avenging Mind

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On this special episode of the podcast, Andy and Derek take a look at a variety of Steve Ditko’s self-published comics. Since 2008, Ditko, along with Robin Snyder, has been putting out original work on a fairly regular basis. These comics are created and distributed independently — and for the past few years have been crowdfunded by Kickstarter campaigns — and as such, they have fallen below the radar of most comics readers. Beginning with The Avenging Mind, Ditko has sporadically produced superhero stories, crime/noir narratives, psychological allegories, and comics that reflect his socio-political ideas and philosophies. Among the ongoing serials in these self-published comics, Derek and Andy discuss “Miss Eerie,” “The Cape,” “The ?!,” “The Grey Negotiator,” “The Madman,” “Outline,” and “E (e) and I (i).” There are several themes that rise to the surface of these stories, such as traditional heroics, the use of masks, and the tenants of Objectivism. And of course, there are the Mr. A. strips that have come to define much of Ditko’s later work. Of particular interest to the Two Guys are those comics that reflect Ditko’s complicated attitudes toward, and perhaps relationship with, his fans. At first glance, the stories that revolve around Eye Inquire and The Anti-s (AKA, Fan Man and Fan Boy) may seem dismissive and even condescending, but Andy and Derek point out that there is a deep history underlying the tone of these comics and part of their allure are the industry-based questions they open up.

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Of special note: this is the 300th episode of The Comics Alternative that the guys have produced. Although, and as the title suggests, this may be the 157th weekly show — those regular review episodes that come out every Wednesday — it is part of the larger body of podcasting work that has included over three-year’s-worth of interviews, on-location shows, specials, and monthly series devoted to webcomics, manga, and young adult/children’s comics. Celebrate the occasion by telling others about the podcast!

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Be sure to visit Steve Ditko’s blog!
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Comics Alternative, Episode 155: International Podcast Day 2015

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Get Listening!

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Today, September 30, is International Podcast Day! To celebrate the occasion the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics get together with some of the other cohosts of the show, Gwen Tarbox, Andy Wolverton, and Gene Kannenberg, Jr., to talk about podcasts and podcasting. As such, they don’t necessarily focus on comics podcasts — although podcasts about comics comes up often during the discussion — but instead, they share their insights and experiences concerning a wide variety of podcasts. For example, everybody begins by recounting the first podcasts they ever listened to, or what brought them to the medium. They also discuss how they discern podcasts in terms of topic, content, hosting, and sound quality. And of course, each shares the various podcasts she or he currently listens to on a regular or semi-regular basis…and how and when they listen to them. They even discuss their work on The Comics Alternative and how their experiences as podcasters have affected the way they listen to (and critique) other podcasts. But overall, everyone has a great time getting together — the first time more than three cohosts appear on the same show! — and talking about a medium that has increasingly become a part of their lives. So sit back, fire up that listening device of choice, and enjoy the fun that is The Comics Alternative celebrating International Podcast Day.

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Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Teaching Comics

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School Days

The Two Guys are back with another special episode of The Comics Alternative, and, just in time for the new school year, this time they hold a roundtable discussion on teaching comics. Joining them are Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith. They, along with Paul Levitz, are PowerComicsthe coauthors of The Power of Comics: History, Form, and Culture (Bloomsbury Academic), the first real textbook devoted to comics that was just recently released in its second edition. In fact, Derek begins the conversation by asking Matt and Randy about their experiences pulling together the project, some of the challenges they faced creating a comics-centered textbook, and what kind of feedback they have received from instructors using it. But the conversation soon transitions into a larger discussion of comics in the classrooms, e.g., strategies for teaching, the hard choices when creating syllabi, negotiating student expectations, reading lists and text availability, assignments that reflect the medium, and course focus on specific comics topics. All four of the discussants have taught comics many times over the year, and each brings to the conversation their unique experiences and recommendations. Whether you are an educator with years of teaching graphic novels under your belt, an instructor contemplating teaching comics for the first time, a student who’s always wanted to read this kind of material in the classroom, a pedagogical theorist curious about the potential of the medium, or just a reader who’s interested in serious comics talk, this is an episode has something for you.

Randy Duncan and Matt Smith, in both their teacherly and heroic guises.

Randy Duncan and Matt Smith, in both their teacherly and heroic guises.

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Comics Alternative Special: A Roundtable Discussion on Libraries and Comics

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Browsing the Comics Stacks

Occasionally The Comics Alternative will feature a special episode devoted to a specific comics-related topic, and on this show, the Two Guys focus on issues surrounding libraries and comics. This subject matter is particularly appropriate, given the fact that Andy Wolverton is a public librarian working extensively with comics and graphic novels in Anne Arundel County, MD. So the guys decided to invite other librarian-educators on the podcast for a ComicsLibraryShelflively roundtable discussion on the topic. Joining them are Carol Tilley, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Robert G. Weiner, a humanities librarian at Texas Tech University. On this special episode they discuss a variety of issues surrounding comics and libraries, including labeling and categorization — e.g., Is the term “graphic novel” more advantageous for cataloging? — the challenge of hybridized texts, community outreach and comics, the interaction between the classrooms and libraries, explicit content and censorship, the issue of canon formation, librarians as comics curators, mainstream versus “alternative” comics acquisitions, and the role of librarians as comics educators. And this is just the tip of the discussion iceberg. As the discussants demonstrate, this is indeed a rich topic, and there are so many other facets that they didn’t have the time to touch upon. But what they do cover is truly thought-provoking, presenting ideas and posing questions that could easily lead to another such roundtable.

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Carol Tilley and Robert G. Weiner

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