Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New Hope

No, it's not a Star Wars post. In my world, they never slapped that stupid label on Star Wars. The scrawl starts with. "It is a time of civil war."

The new DC has left me behind. I read Justice League #1 and it looked and sounded like a continuation of Miller and Lee's All Star Batman and Robin, which is not a good thing. Their best hope for retaining me as a reader came with Gail Simone's Batgirl. I was not persuaded. Marvel's editorial policy has perpetuated the view on public schools put forth, ironically, by "Waiting for Superman." I'm not amused and I'm not buying.

So, what is a lifelong comic book reader to buy?

There are still two DC titles I will buy. The first is "Young Justice." Based on the cartoon series of the same name, the story takes place between episodes and provides more background that is consistent with the story being told on television. It's been just great so far, and Sera loves it.
The other DC title, though it is that by publishing rights only, is "Astro City." I understand that it is being released with a new #1 like everything else, and that's just fine with me. I don't
care what number you put on the cover as long as Busiek and Anderson get to keep telling their wonderful stories.

"Invincible," by
Robert Kirkman and drawn by Ryan Ottley, published by Image, remains at the top of my comic book reading list. It's not appropriate for kids, certainly, but this is my personal reading list, not what I could hand to my students. Month in and month out, this is the best superhero book out there. It's got a fair amount of gore, and I've objected to it before, but it's just different somehow when it's in a book that I didn't grow up with. Because of this book, I also buy "Guarding the Globe" and "Super Dinosaur," also written by Kirkman. Super Dinosaur is very cool. It features a supergenius kid and a talking six-foot T-Rex who controls his human-sized robot arms with video game controllers. The best part of this is that Kirkman actually had a suit made that someone can wear, and their human arms fit inside the robotic ones that SD is supposed to have. Brilliant!

"The Bionic Man," from Dynamite, is Kevin Smith's treatment of the "Six Million Dollar Man," my favorite show from when I was a kid. It's unfortunately starting off at graphic novel pace. We're in the second issue and we' just gotten Steve Austin out of the wreckage of his aircraft. We'll see how this one goes.

"Game of Thrones," also from Dynamite, just had a first issue this week, and I picked that up, too. I love the HBO show and the novel, so I have high hopes for this one, too. They're not using actor likenesses, and they're using the character ages from the novel, so this one is going to be different. One advantage they have over the HBO show is an unlimited effects budget. We've already gotten to see White Walkers that are far more impressive than the ones on TV.

I'm really excited for IDW's "Star Trek." I read Gold Key Star Trek comics when I was a kid, and loved them. The later ones by DC and Marvel were just okay. IDW's version of Star Trek comics takes the new continuity created by the JJ Abrams movie and re-tells Original Series stories in the that context, under the supervision of the script writers. The first issue just came out this week, and starts "Where No Man Has Gone Before," with Gary Mitchell getting ESP enhancement. It looks like the pacing is for a three or four part story, which is fine with me.

What might have been the best read of the year for me, though, was the long-awaited release of the New Teen Titans graphic novel, "Games." What a pleasure to read! At times seeming a little bit dated, it was just like stepping back into 1989 to pick up where the "Who is Wonder Girl?" story left off. Marv Wolfman's scripting was never a favorite of mine, but combined with the storytelling power of George Perez and the moral debate over whether or not to kill an enemy, this book shines as a beacon pointing back to "a more civilized age."

Wow, maybe this was about Star Wars, after all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

School Year Update

We are now four weeks into the new school year, and my feelings about my school year have not changed since my last post about it. I have introduced flair into the lives of my little sevvies (7th graders, for those of you who are not middle school teachers) and have grown to love my job again.

I love teaching seventh grade. I wish I had known how much I would love it 14 years ago when I started working here. Eighth graders are like little high school wannabes. Something happens over the course of the summer between 7th and 8th grade that turns kids into younger versions of the high school drama queens that I escaped so many years ago. With 7th graders, though, I can still reach them. Some of them have already gone that very ugly transformation, but I can still overcome their negative influence just by standing next to them. It's nice being 6' 4" sometimes.

One of the main differences between 7th and 8th graders for me is their acceptance of my nerdhood. I took down my Detroit Tigers corner back where my desk sits this year, and brought in some of my Batman collection, what remains of it after selling it off to help pay for Sera's adoption. I've made my theme this year, "What Would Batman Do?" That means when a kid sits in his desk for 40 minutes not doing anything and I finally get around to asking why he's not participating, and he responds, "I didn't have a pencil," I simply ask, "What would Batman do?" and he gets up to go get one. I like to add, "Batman wouldn't have waited 40 minutes, either."

One of the tougher things to get used to about teaching 7th grade, though, is dealing with the staggering amount of stuff that they simply don't know. I have to dial back my vocabulary a lot. I can't reference R-rated movies (the innocent parts, mind you) because for the most part, they haven't seen them. It might surprise you, I suppose, how many 8th graders have. But one of the most amazing things to me is that some of these kids don't know anything about 9/11. In social studies this week, they were watching a documentary about it, and kids were coming to me, explaining how amazing this movie was about a plane hitting a tower, and then another one doing the same, and they had no idea of the significance of the event. Then, I realize, they were two or three years old when it happened. Wow.

This is also the first time that many of them have been in school where they move from teacher to teacher every hour of the day. Some of them are a little overwhelmed. I've been trying to get them accustomed to the idea and getting them organized. I don't have to worry about the same content as the other teachers, so I can take the time to get them to the point where they can keep straight everything that they're doing each day. It's rewarding being an important part of kids' lives again, instead of some kind of halfassed academic standard transfer machine.

For the past four weeks, I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do in my classroom, and it's been a refreshing change. Monday, however, I have to begin using the cookie-cutter curriculum. I'm not looking forward to it, but my consolation is that on Fridays, I'm doing the fun math that I've been doing all along. It will give me something to look forward to each week, and I hope that's enough.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Well, here we go again with a comic book archer drawn by someone who has obviously never shot a bow. Get ready to say "Ouch," Green Arrow. Your bowstring is about to hit the back of your hand.