Extra Credit work, though not as important as fulfilling the core requirements of our course, is available if you are interested. Or, rather, it may be available, provided you meet the following three conditions:


1. That you maintain at least a “B” average in Class Participation.

This means participating faithfully in class, that is, being consistently present and actively engaged. You do not have to be especially talkative or attention-getting to maintain a “B,” but you do have to make it clear that you are aware of and interested in what is going on in class.


2. That you fulfill the core requirements of the course.

This means staying current with our work and making a good-faith effort to complete and hand in every major assignment.


3. That you confer with me about the Extra Credit work beforehand.

This means meeting with me during office hours (or, if necessary, at another appointed time outside of class) and discussing your plans and hopes for the Extra Credit work. This way we can touch base regarding your ideas, I can give feedback and recommendations as needed, and we can settle on the scope and potential point value of the work. Also, this will allow me to anticipate your paper and set aside some extra time for grading it.


Due to time constraints, each student may do only one Extra Credit project. (Again, fulfilling the core requirements is more important.)


An Extra Credit project is good for a maximum of 40 points (remember that your semester grade will be based on a 400-point scale). The amount of points offered for the project – i.e., the maximum number of points the project can earn – will be based on the scope of what you propose to do, but will typically be between 20 and 40 points. The amount of points finally awarded will be determined by the quality of the finished work (for example, 34 out of 40 points). Extra Credit work that does not meet the passing standard for ENGL 396CO will be returned without credit or penalty.




(1) One of the key genres in alternative comics is autobiography. This trend can be traced back to the pioneering underground comix work of Justin Green, R. Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and others, out of which works like Spiegelman’s Maus ultimately developed. In our course we will be reading Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (Vol. 1), as well as other, shorter autobiographical works (not to mention Debbie Drechsler’s semi-autobiographical novel, Summer of Love). However, there is a great range of excellent autobiographical material in comics that we will not get to read as a group: such books as Green’s classic Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You, Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons, Eddie Campbell’s Alec series, Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and David B.’s newly translated masterpiece, Epileptic (and many more: ask me if you’re interested). Many different kinds of Extra Credit work could be done with autobiographical comics; here’s one idea: In a 3 to 5-page essay, compare or contrast the strategies of self-representation (visual and verbal) in two different autobiographical comics.


(2) Nonfiction genres such as history, biography, and journalism have recently become a major part of the comics landscape. Consider for example history-based projects such as Larry Gonick’s epic Cartoon History of the Universe or Ilan Stavans & Lalo Alcaraz’s Latino USA: A Cartoon History; biographical comics such as Jack Jackson’s Comanche Moon (about Comanche leader Quanah Parker), Chester Brown’s Louis Riel (about a still-controversial Canadian revolutionary), or Ho Che Anderson’s King (a newly released biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.); and Joe Sacco’s journalistic comics Palestine, Safe Area Goražde, and The Fixer. Ideas: (A) Read and review a work of comics nonfiction in light of another source or sources on the same subject, with special attention to how the comics presents or omits information (a 3 to 5-page paper); (B) Examine the critical reception of a work of comics nonfiction, looking at how reviewers comment on the work’s representation of facts and historical/cultural context (3-5 page paper).


(3) Analyze a comic based on (or responding to) a literary work, in comparison with the literary “original” (3 to 5-page paper). Consider for example: Posy SimmondsGemma Bovery as a response to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli’s adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass; Peter Kuper’s take on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle; P. Craig Russell’s various adaptations of Wilde, Kipling, de Bergerac, etc.; R. Crumb’s riffs on Boswell, Sartre, or Kafka; or R. Sikoryak’s ironic rendition of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment as an old Batman comic (!). Note how the comic responds to or sidesteps challenges implicit in the original work – in other words, how the comic rises, or attempts to rise, to the difficulties of adapting the original.


(4) Read another major comics anthology, such as Drawn & Quarterly Vol. 3, 4, or 5 (D&Q Publications), Kramer’s Ergot 5 (Gingko Press), or Rosetta (Alternative Comics), and compare / contrast its design sensibility and editorial principles to those of the anthology we are studying in class, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13 (3 to 5-page paper).

(5) Some of the most intriguing comics are without words: so-called "mute" or "pantomime" comics, which constitute a long-lived, diverse, and international tradition. Past masters of wordless comics include Caran d'Ache, Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Milt Gross, and Otto Soglow; on the contemporary scene, notable wordless cartoonists include Eric Drooker, Anna Sommer, Hendrik Dorgathen, Lewis Trondheim, Peter Kuper, Jason, and many others. Using as a point of reference David A. Berona's essay, "Pictures Speak in Comics without Words" (in The Language of Comics: Word and Image, ed. Varnum and Gibbons, 2001), discuss in depth the visual narrative strategies of one or more wordless comic books or graphic novels (3 to 5-page paper). (For a good online bibliography of wordless comics, click here; for a sampling of Berona's important work on wordless comics, click here.)


(6) Give an in-class presentation (circa 10 minutes) on a comics author of your choosing (one whose work is not part of our required textbook list). Provide a career overview, a bibliography of major works, a discussion of one or two representative works, and thoughtful commentary about her/his recurrent themes, graphic style, and formal strategies. Be sure to focus our attention with relevant visual aids (Powerpoint can be made available if needed). A one or two-page handout for everyone in class would probably be a good idea.


(7) Write a review essay (minimum 4 to 5 pages) in which you review three or four graphic novels not covered in class. Be sure to give ample attention to each book, but also strive to make your essay coherent and well-focused, that is, united by some larger topic or question. Provide copies of the essay to everyone in class for their future reference.


(8) Give an in-class presentation (circa 10 minutes) demonstrating and discussing a substantial online comics project, i.e., a Webcomic.  Be sure to provide context, URL and complete information about access (e.g., do readers have to pay?). Above all, show us how this Webcomic differs from what a comic on paper can do. Suggestion: read Scott McCloud’s book Reinventing Comics, visit scottmccloud.com, and do some Web-searching to gain an informed sense of the larger Webcomics scene. (Note: Powerpoint can be made available for this presentation, and hopefully in-class Net access as well, though download time may be slow.)


Feel free to propose refinements / changes to the above topics, or to pitch other ideas for Extra Credit work!


This page maintained by Charles Hatfield                                                                    Last updated 1 Feb 2005