English 3364

History of the Comic Book in the U.S.

Prof. Jared Gardner

Spring 2018



office hours (DE 565): https://jaredgardner.youcanbook.me

C= Carmen | M= Marvel Unlimited | U= Underground & Independent Comics

Week 1

W 1/10

Introductions & Logistics

Origins to 1933

F 1/12

The Birth of the Comic Book: Before the Cape

reading: Famous Funnies #1 (1934); New Fun #5 (1935); Detective Comics #1 (1937) [C]; Paul Lopes, from “The Early Industrial Age I: Pulp Logic and the Rise of the American Comic Book,” in Demanding Respect [C]

Week 2

W 1/17

Origin Stories: The Birth of the Superhero

readings: DC origin story gallery [C]; Wonder Woman: The Golden Age, 7-71;  Bradford Wright, “Superheroes for the Common Man,” from Comic Book Nation [C]

F 1/19

readings: Wonder Woman, 86-127, 196-237, 351-363 ; Jill Lepore, “The Last Amazon” [C]

Week 3

M 1/22

Blog Post #1 due

W 1/24

Superhero Boom

readings: Superhero boom gallery: from Blog posts #1

F 1/26

Genre Explosion, 1947-1954 —Romance

readings: “Boy Crazy” and “Her Tragic Love” from Young Romance (1947); Teen-Age Romances #1 (1948);  Teen-Age Romances #16 (1951); Diary Secrets #10 (1952) Michelle Nolan, from Love on the Racks [C]

QUIZ 1 (Camen, available through Sunday)

Week 4

W 1/31

Genre Explosion, 1947-1954 —Crime

readings: crime comics sampler; Nickie D. Phillips and Staci Strobl, from Comic Book Crime [C]

F 2/2

Genre Explosion, 1947-1954 —Horror, EC and the Great Comics Scare

readings: Horror comics sampler (selections from Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950's); E.C. Comics sampler

Week 5

W 2/7

Post-Code Comics: the Return of the Superhero & the Birth of the Multiverse

readings: post-Code superhero sampler [C]; Flash Silver Age, 7-20, 36-49, 61-154  

F 2/9

readings: Flash, 165-242; 269-84, 321-46

QUIZ 2 (Camen, available through Sunday)

F 2/9

Blog Post #2 due

Week 6

W 2/14

The Dawn of the Marvel Age

Fantastic Four #1 (1961), Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), Incredible Hulk #1 (1962), Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963), Daredevil #1 (1964) [M]

F 2/16

Marvel Late 60s

Fantastic Four #45-55 (1965-66); Marvel Super-heroes #12-14 (1968)

Week 7

W 2/21


F 2/23

Comix from Underground

readings: from Underground Sampler (Zap #2; Yellow Dog #15; Gothic Blimp Works #2 & #4);  R. Crumb sampler [C]; Leonard Rifas, “Racial imagery, racism, individualism, and underground comix

Week 8

W 2/28

readings: from Underground Feminist Sampler; Justin Green, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972); Aline Kominsky, "Goldie" (1972) [C]; Art Spiegelman, “Maus” (1972) [C] 

F 3/2


The Changing Comics Industry in the 1970s Part 1: 

DC in the early 1970s

readings: Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 (1970); New Gods #1 (1971); Kamandi #1 (1972); Batman #232 (1971), #242-44 (1972),  #251 (1973) [C]

QUIZ 3 (Camen, available through Sunday)

Week 9

W 3/7

The Changing Comics Industry in the 1970s Part 2: 

Marvel in the 1970s

readings: Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (1971), #121-22 (1973) [M]; Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972) [M]; Adventure into Fear #16 (1973) [M]; Dr. Strange #1 (1974) [M]; Howard the Duck #1 (1976) [M]; Uncanny X-Men #101-105 (1976-77) [M]

F 3/9


The Changing Comics Industry in the 1970s Part 3: 

Creator-Owned & Self-Published Comics in the 70s

readings: First Kingdom #1-2 (1974-75); American Splendor #2-3 (1977-78); Cerebus #2-3 (1978) [all via playlist]; Elfquest #1-3 (1978) [C] 


Week 10

M 3/19

Blog Post #3 due

W 3/21

Love & Rockets & Fantagraphics in the 80s

Love & Rockets #2-5 (1983-84) [via playlist]

F 3/23

The British Invasion of the 1980s & the Postmodern Superhero

readings: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Watchmen chapters 1-4

QUIZ 4 (Camen, available through Sunday)

Week 11

W 3/28

Watchmen (continued)

readings: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (cont.), chapter 5-9

F 4/2

readings: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (cont.), chapter 10-12


readings: 1986 sampler (Frank Miller, Dark Knight Returns part 1; Art Spiegleman, Maus ch 4-5) [C]

Week 12

W 4/4

Minicomics workshop w/ Caitlin McGurk, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

readings: sampler from Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s [C]

F 4/6

Milestone Media and African American Comics in the 90s

readings: Milestone sampler

QUIZ 5 (Camen, available through Sunday)

Week 13

W 4/11

NO CLASS: Work on Blog Post 4 & 5

Blog Post #4

F 4/13

Alt Comics sampler: Blog Post 4 & Mary Fleener, Slutburger Comics #1 (1990); Daniel Clowes, Eightball #12 (1993) [via playlist]; Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #4 (1995) [C]

Week 14

W 4/18

Blog Post #5 due

Image Comics in the 21st Century & the Remaking of Commercial Comics

Bitch Planet

F 4/20


QUIZ 6 (Camen, available through Sunday)

M 4/30

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. Some historical materials will feature representations that we today (and no doubt many even then) will find offensive. A few more contemporary comics will be deliberately offensive by almost everyone’s definition of the word. We will discuss these images and issues openly and seriously. Expectations are that we all will be respectful of our classmates while consuming this media and that we will create a safe space for each other. Failure to show respect to each other may result in dismissal from the class.

Required texts

In addition, all members of the class are required to subscribe to the Marvel Unlimited service (which provides access to Marvel Comics in digital format) for at least February and March when we will be using this archive centrally to our class. Subscription is $9.99/month and is accessible on most devices and computers; it can be canceled after March if you don’t plan on working with the archive for your final project

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


In lieu of exams, we will have 6 iquizzes spread out throughout the semester. They will cover material from our reading, discussions and lectures. The lowest grade will be dropped. No make-ups for missed quizzes.


One 4-7 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 class focusing on almost a century of history, much of it new to many of us, so there will necessarily be some lecture. But the heart of the class will be your ideas, questions, opinions, and discoveries, so come prepared every day with things you want to talk about and be prepared to be called on to share them or to discuss your latest blog post. In addition to discussion in class, we can take advantage of threaded discussion forums on Carmen. Active participation in discussions, commenting on your classmates’ blog posts and on Carmen forums will have a positive impact on your final grade.

        More than four absences will negatively affect your final grade, with a lowering of your participation/attendance grade by a half-letter grade for each absence over 3. After 6 absences your final grade will be lowered by a half point for each additional absence. (Except in extreme, blood-curdling cases I make no distinction between “excused” and “un-excused” absences, so no need for “excuse notes).


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.

Class 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 25%=quizzes; 30%=blog posts; 30% final paper; 15%=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.

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 GE credit under the Arts & Humanities/Cultures & Ideas category. As with all GE 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 3364 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 (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct at http://studentconduct.osu.edu.

Students with disabilities.

Students with documented disabilities who have registered with the Office of Student Life Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs. SLDS is located in 098 Baker Hall, 113 W. 12th Ave; Tel.: 614-292-3307; VRS: 614-429-1334; Email: slds@osu.edu; Web: slds.osu.edu

Diversity and respect.

The Ohio State University affirms the importance and value of diversity in the student body. Our programs and curricula reflect our multicultural society and global economy and seek to provide opportunities for students to learn more about persons who are different from them. We are committed to maintaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect among each member of our community; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his or her own potential. Discrimination against any individual based upon protected status, which is defined as age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status, is prohibited.

Any student who engages other students without respect will be warned once and then asked to leave the class on a second instance. Any student who discriminates against any member of the class community based on age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status will be disenrolled from the class.