Who would have thought that reading Batman comics and watching “Watchmen” could be scholarly?
Ohio State’s English 378 (Film and Comics) course will examine the relationship between film and comics throughout history.
Jared Gardner is the instructor for the course and has a personal interest in the subject because he is working on a book about film and comics.
“My interest in comics I kind of put away for a while because I was supposed to be a more serious academic,” Gardner said.
When he came to OSU in 1999, he discovered the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which Gardner called the best place to research comics and cartoons in the world.
“My repressed love of comics came back up on me,” he said.
Film and Comics was first offered last spring, but now that OSU holds classes in the Gateway Film Center, it will be a better experience, Gardner said.
Each student brings his own interests to the course and is usually either a fan of a comic book series or a particular film being examined, Gardner said.
“Many students love the superhero stuff, but that’s only part of the class,” Gardner said.
Last year, Gardner was unsure about how well the less popular material would be received, he said.
“I worried that they might get bored during the art films, but they were great and made the transition,” Gardner said.
“Watchmen,” “American Splendor,” “The Dark Knight” and “Ghost World” are on the list of materials to study this time. Gardner will poll students to find out which are most popular and is considering assigning individual projects to allow more personalized study, he said.
Cory Spicer is an English student who scheduled the class because he thought it would be fun and less stressful than his Winter Quarter workload, he said.
He said he is most excited to study “American Splendor” and “Ghost World.”
“Those are some lesser-known, yet still canonical books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while,” Spicer said. “I’m pretty pumped to chill out on The Oval in the spring with those books.”
Gardner’s favorite film, and something he would like to teach, comes from Korea. “Oldboy” is an adaptation of the comic of the same name.
“The comic is not that good, but the movie is amazing,” Gardner said. “It’s one of the more impressive movies ever adapted from the comic.”
An American version of “Oldboy” is in production. The film is representative of the national appeal of comics and their film adaptations.
Film and comics students will examine still frames from films and compare them to panels from comics. Discussion will be a key component in the class, Gardner said.
Upcoming and recent releases will also be the topic of conversation, like “Kick-Ass” and AMC’s “Walking Dead.”
“That’s part of the fun too,” Gardner said. “This is an ongoing affair, so things will come out and we’ll work that into the class as we go along.”
The course previews the “Festival of Cartoon Art” that will be held at OSU in October. Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons” will be a guest.
Gardner is helping to organize the event and intends to use English 378 to educate students and get them excited about the festival, he said.
It is obvious that Gardner is excited about the course and film and comics in general.
“We don’t often get a chance to talk about these books which are often very meaningful to us,” he said.
In addition to teaching and writing his upcoming book, Gardner writes for Guttergeek.com, a blog about comics.
The Film and Comics course will allow 100 students to register.