Krasniewicz: Anthropology Comic Book Showcase

Spring 2015 anthropology of the world's fairs

Students in this small seminar explored the 19th and 20th century World's Fairs which were the most important communication and cultural events for more than a hundred years. While exploring original publications from the fairs, we noticed that they relied on visuals (both photographs and drawings) to communicate inventions, cultural trends, and the people and resources of other cultures. Students put their own research projects into a similar form, using Comic LIfe 3 as the tool that effectively combined images and texts. Two of the projects--Samantha Markowitz's project on sewing machines and Emily Kurtz's project on food at the fairs--can be seen here: 

Sewing Machines by Samantha Markowitz

World's Fair Foods by Emily Kurtz

Fall 2011 Mythology and the Movies

This course investigated the topic of the "Living Dead" in cultures around the world and across time. After studying the theories about the mythologies of zombies, ghosts, vampires, and mummies, the students were assigned a 15-20 page graphic novel that they had to write and illustrate. The story was set during a zombie apocalypse and was required to have a mythological theme and the narrative elements of conflict, change, and choice.
As in previous years, the techniques used were varied, with many students choosing to draw their comics and others using 3D renders, LEGOs, Barbie dolls, and clip art. The purpose of the project was to have student experience the power of translating their ideas into visuals that they could share with others. Since graphic novels and comic books are one of the primary means of disseminating contemporary myths, the students were able to connect the past mythology they were reading about with a contemporary visual format. Notable student creations included:

The Girls on Chestnut Street by Elizabeth Schopfer

Play Dead by KC Boas

Death of a Friendship by Bonnie Coulter

Georgie's Little Buddy by Shawn Folet

The Gift: Who's Hungry? by Erin Healy

The Zombie Club by Hannah Min

Night of the (different kinds of) Living Dead by Juan Felipe Rendon

Fall 2010 Mythology and the Movies course

In this course, students were assigned the creation of a 20-30 page graphic novel. Graphic novels are an excellent form for presenting mythological stories and many of the graphic novels available today address the same theoretical issues the class was studying. The graphic novel created for this assignment had to contain an original story that the student wrote and illustrated and it had to demonstrate one of the class mythological themes: metamorphosis, creation and origin, chaos and order, time, the quest, fate and chance, difference, or "the Other". Students used photographs, their own drawings, clip art, LEGO minifigures, action figures, and 3D computer generated images to illustrate their works. They were graded on the quality of their mythological tale, the consistency of their imagery, and their completion of all the project parameters. The nine examples here demonstrate the range of projects and subjects used, and the imaginative ways that these students completed the assignment. 

Anna, Unseen by Talia Lev

The Dance of Tomorrow by Stephanie Helle

Good Memory by Joe Pinsker

Mixing Business with Pleasure by Jordana Kono

The Other Side by Monica Schechter

The Rebound by Jeremy Ruthberg

The Rulebook by Will Van Eaton

The Rush of New Reality by Carrie Slaton

The Second Stratum by Lauren Ambler

Fall 2009 Mythology and the Movies course

In this course, students were assigned the creation of a four page comic book. Many of the students were unfamiliar with comic books but learned in the class how the visual sequence of images in a comic is very much like that in a movie. The project had to use either the Harry Potter movies or the Twilight movies as the basis for an original myth that investigated a mythological theme: chaos, creation, time, the quest, metamorphosis, difference, or "the Other". Each comic was an exercise in rethinking these universes and using the characters and setting in a new, mythological context. The projects were published in four volumes. The first volume with 11 comic books is showcased here.

Spring 2008 Anthropology and the Cinema Course

In this course, students were required to analyze and compare two films using one of many theoretical concepts discussed in class (including theories of symbolism, metaphor, ritual, narrative, and culture). Instead of a traditional academic paper, students were required to present the material in a visual format. The concept behind the assignment was to help students understand the organization of ideas and images required to present information visually. This would not only encourage them to consider the films they were analyzing more carefully, but would help them experience the issues involved in translating ideas into images. Since more and more daily communication takes this form, this effort to advance the students' visual literacy has both academic and practical implications.

Options for the projects included creating film posters, video mashups that combined two films into one, board games, paintings, and websites. Most of the students had little production experience. Nineteen students created comic books, an unusual option because comics have historically had the reputation for simply being violent and adolescent, or containing vacuous and silly material. But many artists and writers have recently turned to comics and longer graphic novels to address issues like terrorism, racism, politics, violence and religion. The comic book format is ideal for analyzing films because movies and comics share a similar linear structure and a combination of dialogue, visual effects and discrete "shots" that are designed to tell a story for a popular audience. Six of the student-created comic books are showcased here:















Projects were graded on the basis of completing the steps of production (proposals, workshops, asset organization), effective application of the selected anthropological theory (in an accompanying 2-3 page essay), and communication of ideas through image-text combinations. The goal of the assignment was an expansion of the students' visual literacy; a delightful side effect was that many students took great pride and delight in producing something they had never attempted to do before.

Faculty Member: Louise Krasniewicz, PhD
Department of Anthropology