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Appreciating Comics

An Early Academic Essay on Comic Books


“Appreciating Comics” was the thesis essay for my 1977 Bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, College V (now Porter College).  UCSC encouraged individual majors, which allowed me to design one to study comic books. 


There were no classes on comics, so I took courses in the novel, art, film, and theater, hoping to triangulate from other media.  Janey Place’s course, “Film and Novel,” which compared two media telling – technically -- the same story (for example, The Maltese Falcon, The Grapes of Wrath, and All the King’s Men) was especially useful.


My thesis advisors were David Swanger (poetry and Aesthetic Studies), Eli Hollander (film), and J.A. Place (also film).


I’m happy to say that the essay earned High Honors, although the major did provoke a boisterous reaction at the graduation ceremony.


I have scanned the typewritten pages into a rich text document, which explains why some of the sentences end in odd places, but the look is close to the original, otherwise.  Not all of the thirty-or-so illustrations are scanned or included.  All rights reserved to the original publishers of the pages photocopied.


It will be helpful for you to have four comic books at hand while reading:  Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues 76 and 83 (1970, 1972) and Doctor Strange (second series) issues 8 and 9 (1975).  The Doctor Strange stories have only been reprinted in one place that I know of:  Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 3 (Marvel Essentials).




The current information on the earliest issues of Doctor Solar is that they were written by Paul S. Newman and drawn by Bob Fujitani.


The essay sometimes “promises” to discuss the comic book as an art form, but draws most of its examples from only two decades of the major publishers in the U.S.  In retrospect, I could have better acknowledged the other genres, nationalities, and time periods.


                                                  - Charlie Boatner, 2011

                                                      cboatner (a) igc,org




click to download PDF of essay