UC Merced Connect: Comic books used as writing class tools

August 20, 2013 

In John Bultena's writing classes, students often explore new literary classics. Like "Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology."

Bultena, a lecturer in UC Merced's Merritt Writing Program and recent panelist at San Diego Comic Con, uses comic books and graphic novels to reach students and teach new skills. He sees those books as another medium to communicate ideas about literacy, multiculturalism, the human experience and more.

Because this form of literature weaves together images and text, Bultena said students must develop different skills to navigate, understand and interpret the content.

"The pictures and words reflect each other and create meaning together," he said. "This is a way for students to engage in literacy that coordinates the two."

The idea of multiple literacies and interdisciplinary understanding is critical to the Merritt Writing Program, he said. The program trains students to convey information, express themselves and interact with multiple audiences by using advanced skills in written and other forms of communication.

Bultena, who grew up in Merced, developed a love of comic books as a boy. Today, his office is decorated with graphics, posters, images and figures that reflect an ongoing passion.

Last month, Bultena traveled to San Diego to moderate a panel featuring J.H. Williams III, a prominent illustrator and writer who lives in Central California. The two are friends, and last year Williams was a guest in Bultena's class, allowing students to pose questions for research essays.

At Comic Con, Bultena set a blistering pace in the 50-minute "spotlight" session. He covered topics such as Williams' artistic influences, writing challenges, clothing and album designs, and illustrations in upcoming projects such as "Sandman: Overture."

Williams also is the illustrator and co-author of "Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology." In part, the story deals with the Mexican-American community of Gotham City and themes involving military and LGBT cultures.

The story's primary villain is La Llorona, or the weeping woman — a character prevalent in Mexican folklore. Legend has it that she drowned her children in an effort to win back the husband who only paid attention to them. In death, the ghostly apparition searches for her offspring and snatches up other children.

The "Batwoman" storyline echoes a legend that already was familiar to many students in Bultena's class last year.

"The students were taken aback by this," he said. "This was something they grew up with and it actually made it scarier for them."

Professor on solar board

Professor Roland Winston, director of UC Solar, has been invited to join the board of directors for an international solar energy group called SERIIUS — the Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States.

Winston joins a Nobel Prize winner, the director of Notre Dame's Energy Center and several other notable scientists and scholars leading the institute.

"I am very pleased to join the board of advisors to this important program in solar energy between the U.S. and India," Winston said. "My contact with solar energy research in India dates back to 2000 when I was named solar person of the year there.

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email communications@ucmerced.edu.

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service