English 3364

History of U.S. Comics, 1965-2015 

(hybrid class)

Prof. Jared Gardner

Spring 2015

Tu 2:20-3:40 (Sullivant 205)



J Gardner’s office hours (DE 530): F 9:00-11:00

C= Carmen | M= Marvel Unlimited | BAC= Best American Comics 2014

Week 1


Tues 1/13

Introductions & Logisticts

Origins to 1964


Online lecture: 1965

Introductory Blog Post: Visit King Features exhibit at Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and introduce yourself to the class by way of one comic on exhibit that particularly speaks to you or resonates with something about you you want to share with the class. (Due online by Sunday 1/18)

Week 2


Tues 1/20

Marvel Comics in the late 1960s

readings: Fantastic Four #45-55 (1965-66); Marvel Super-heroes #12-14 (1968); Captain America #114-20 (1969)


Online lecture and Carmen discussion: Unlikely Superheroes: the Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Underground Comix

Week 3


Tues 1/27

Underground Comix in the late 60s and early 70s

readings: Underground Sampler (including Zap #2; Wimmen’s Comix #1; and Binky Brown);  R. Crumb sampler (C); Aline Kominsky, "Goldie" (1972) (C)


Online lecture: The Autobiographical comics tradition, 1972-present

Carmen discussion: Binky Brown

Blog Post 2: Comic Books in the late 60s and 70s (Due online by Wednesday 2/4)

Week 4


Tues 2/3

Marvel Comics in the 1970s

readings: Amazing Adventures #11 (1972); Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972); Marvel Spotlight #5 (1972); Adventure into Fear #16 (1973); Marvel Premiere #28 (1976); Howard the Duck #1 (1976); Uncanny X-Men #100-105 (1976-77)


Online lecture: New Comics Economies and the Self-publishing Movement of the late 1970s (and the Birth of the Idea of the “Graphic Novel”)

Blogpost discussion: read through the posts of your classmates and comment productively on at least two of the Blog 2 posts, including reading the issue they identify and adding additional insights and questions. Respond to questions or comments raised about your  posts.

Week 5


Tues 2/10

The Birth of the Self-Publishing Movement and the Idea of the Graphic Novel in the late 70s

readings: American Splendor #2-4 (1977-79); First Kingdom #1-3 (1974-75); Cerebus #2-4 (1978) [all available via database playlist]; Elfquest #1-3 (1978) (Carmen; also available in colorized editions online); Will Eisner Contract with God (1978) (Carmen)


Online lecture: Art, Indie,  Alternative, and Mini-Comics in the 1980s

Carmen discussion: Contract with God

Week 6


Tues 2/17

RAW, Maus, and Love & Rockets: Independent Alternatives in the 1980s 

readings: RAW sampler Parts 1 & 2 (Carmen) Love & Rockets #2-5 [via playlist]


Online lecture: 1986; How to Bake a Miracle Year

Carmen discussion: Maus Vol. 1 (1986)

Week 7


Tues 2/24

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum tour with Caitlin McGurk & Susan Liberator


Online lecture:  The Many Lives of Batman

Week 8


Tues 3/3

Batman Reborn Part I

readings: Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns


Online lecture:  The British Invasion

Blog Post 3: Due online by Monday 3/9

Week 9


Tues 3/10

Batman Reborn Part II & the British Invasion

readings: Grant Morrison & Dave McKean, Arkham Asylum


Online lecture: Newspaper comics before 1970


Week 10


Tues 3/24

Newspaper Comics After 1970s

readings: Doonesbury 1970-71; Calvin & Hobbes 1985-86; Boondocks 1999-2000


Online screening: Stripped (2014)


Week 11


Tues 3/31

The Rise of the Graphic Novel

reading: Daniel Clowes, Ghost World (1993-97/1998)


Online lecture:  the graphic novel in the 2000s & the rise of graphic memoir

reading & Carmen discussion: Nate Powell, Swallow Me Whole (2008)

QUIZ 3 (Carmen)

Week 12


Tues 4/7

Graphic Memoir & Diary Comics in the 21st Century

reading: AutoBio Anthology (Carmen); BAC 113-69; 269-87; 345-61


Online lecture: Comics Now!

Blog Post 4: Due online by Monday 4/13 (Graphic Detail exhibit report)

Week 13


Tues 4/14

Comics Today

reading: BAC 171-267; 289-337


Online lecture: The Rise of Image Comics & the Future of Comics-wood

Quiz 4 (Carmen)

Sun 4/19

Graphic Details Symposium

extra credit for supplementing blog post 4 with addendum from your experience at the symposium

Week 14


Tues 4/21

Comics Tomorrow?

reading: webcomics sampler (Carmen)


Blog Post 5: Final Paper Mini-Comic/Abstract (due Monday 4/27)

Tuesday 4/28

Quiz 5 (Carmen)

Thursday 5/7

Final Paper due



Some of the texts we will be studying will contain graphic images (nudity, sex, violence). Somes will include frank discussion of “adult” issues. We will discuss these images and issues openly and seriously.

Required texts

In addition to the above required texts, those who are new to comics will benefit from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

Additional readings will be available on the class’s Carmen site. Other optional materials will also be made available on the Carmen site during the course of the term.


In lieu of exams, we will have 6 in-class and on-Carmen quizzes spread out throughout the semester (roughly every two weeks).  They will cover material from our reading, discussions and lectures. The lowest grade will be dropped. No make-ups allowed..


One 5-8 page final research paper incorporating your insights into the central issues of comics history. Primary and secondary research is required for this project. Suggestions and starting places will be distributed along with the paper prompt several weeks before the paper is due.


This is a large class focusing on more than a century of history, so there will necessarily be a fair amount of lecture. But I also want to keep the class open to free-ranging discussion. In addition to discussion in class, we can take advantage of threaded discussion forums on Carmen. Active participation in discussions, blogging and forums will have a positive impact on your final grade.

        Because we are moving through more than a half-century of comics history in one semester with only one class meeting per week, our class time is precious. More than two absences will negatively affect your final grade, with a lowering of your participation/attendance grade by a half-letter grade for each absence over 2.  (Except in extreme, blood-curdling cases I make no distinction between “excused” and “un-excused” absences, so no need to bring me excuse notes).


As a hybrid course this class has a Carmen component.  This will be the space where announcements, links, resources, and discussion forums will be found. Participation in the informal discussion forum on Carmen will count toward your participation grade.

Discussion on Carmen will be governed by the same rules of respect that would apply to our in-class discussions. I reserve the right to censor any posts that I deem insulting, demeaning, or abusive.

Comics History Blog

Instead of mid-semester papers, we will each be contributing to a blog for the class with our insights and discoveries into comics research. For your first preliminary blog entry, everyone is required to pick one item from the materials currently on exhibit at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and use it as an occasion to introduce yourself, explaining why the piece spoke to you--your personality, interests, ideals, etc.


The rough grading formula for this class is 20%=quizzes; 30%=blog posts; 30% final paper; 20%=participation/attendance

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

One invaluable resource we have for the study of comics history here at Ohio State is the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The Cartoon Library can also provide you access to a broad range of materials for primary and secondary research, including Bio Files on hundreds of cartoonists, original art, and long runs of comic books and newspaper comicstrips.

The first time you go to the Cartoon Library you will need to register. It is a special collections library, so all pens and bags are left in the lockers outside. After you register you can call material to be brought to you using call slips, or email ahead and let them know you will be looking to use material on a particular date and time. Make sure you let them know you are a member of this class. Information about the library, including finding aids for searching the collection, are at http://cartoons.osu.edu


This class fulfills GEC credit under the Arts & Humanities/Cultures & Ideas category. As with all GEC courses in  Arts & Humanities, this class will “develop capacities for aesthetic and historical response and judgment; interpretation and evaluation; critical listening, reading, seeing, thinking, and writing; and experiencing the arts and reflecting on that experience.” Further, as a Cultures & Ideas GEC course, English 364 will all students to develop abilities to analyze, appreciate, and interpret a major form of human thought and expression, and to develop abilities to understand how ideas influence the character of human beliefs, the perception of reality, and the norms which guide human behavior.

Academic honesty.

Plagiarism is the representation of another's works or ideas as one's own:  it includes the unacknowledged word for word use and/or paraphrasing of another person's work, and/or the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person's ideas.  All cases of suspected plagiarism, in accordance with university rules, will be reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct. If you have questions about plagiarism in

Students with disabilities.

Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss specific needs. You should also contact the Office for Disability Services at 292-3307 in room 150 Pomerene Hall, who will work with us to coordinate reasonable accommodations for documented disabilities.