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The idea of wealth and work ethic will be one that I will be focusing on throughout this paper.

As a medium that has for a time been considered juvenile I would like to explore how the contemporary graphic novel deals with issues pertaining to work and wealth creation. For this assignment I will be exploring three particular viewpoints that have arisen with respect to the graphic novels we have read thus far:

Adolescent fantasy: Scrooge McDuck, Watchmen

Oppressive Modernity: Jimmy Corrigan Boy Hero

Labor-Theory of Value: Concrete

Hopefully the upcoming novels will present new epistemologies of work, wealth creation, and income distribution within capitalistic societies but thus far this is the extent of my exposure.

I would appreciate learning of other graphic novels in which work is prominently featured, and ones that somehow seem to go beyond Marxist renderings.

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  1. Unknown User (aen7)

    It is interesting that you talk about work ethic and mention how "juvenile" graphic novels are considered to be. Arguably, they take a lot more work and devotion than a regular novel, because there is one format for a novel (prose organized into sections somehow) but each page of a graphic novel could look completely different if the artist wanted it that way. As for wealth and work ethic and Watchmen, you might look closely at how someone like Night Owl II(or Batman, his ancestor) puts together his superhero persona. On the one hand, as Hollis Mason points out, Dan brings a lot of fancy toys to crime fighting, because he has a lot of money. It doesn't talk about how much working out he does (like all of Batman's training), and yet, he and the other "regular people" have superhuman strength years after the fact (although Night Owl II does go from flabby right back to superhero; is he all technology?). Or take Adrian. The book makes more of his olympian strength than the movie does, so you could look at how he maintains his physique. Is that the kind of work ethic that it takes to be a superhero? Discipline and training? Or do the Watchmen want a reward for their service? 

    One last thing: McDuck and Concrete are interesting to contrast, because whereas Concrete never wants to stop working, McDuck probably made most of his fortune on the phone or on a plane or boat, buying and selling big things, and probably rarely worked a day in his life.

  2. Unknown User (eap6)


    This is an interesting topic to explore in any kind of literature. When it comes to superhero comics, in particular, as I've grown older I've found myself more skeptical of how a person can have the strength to both have a day job and then go crime-fighting at night. It certainly is a bit naive to imagine that lifestyle as a reality, but at the same time it certainly does mold itself to a capitalistic lifestyle... and as Aaron made an allusion to, superheroes perhaps were not as altruistic as they seemed (thanks, Watchmen.)

    I think you've listed already three really great examples in the books we've already read. Here's another; in Maus, we see hardwork and discipline rewarded in a very real way in certain people's cases, and then cruelly (brutally, horribly) disregarded in others'. I'm not talking about working in the concentration camps, I mean the discipline and cunning as a means of survival-- perhaps a different topic than wealth creation, but I thought I would throw it out there.

    Anyway, as you can tell, I'm pretty strapped for suggestions to offer to you except maybe to try to get as specific as possible in creating your thesis, perhaps even focusing on one book, or the depiction of one type of wealth-creation. You don't want to gloss over anything in the name of including as much as possible

    Good luck!

  3. Fascinating topic and, as presently formulated, borderline suicidal.... It would be easy for me to imagine a separate essay emerging for EACH of your three viewpoints; even an attempted synthesis of 15 pp. only yields about 4 pp. per section -- you have more to say than that, right?  Also, symptomatically, there's a little randomness in the selection of the texts growing out of our course syllabus.  You'd want to come up with a tighter & more thematically parallel grouping of works.  A few possible solutions:

    1. I think Emily's point about superheroes having a day job might be useful were you to emphasize the superhero and post-superhero genre (like Watchmen).  A sort of consumer fantasy of transformation.  Not, in its way, dissimilar from figures like James Bond.  Speaking of which, should you choose to acknowledge the primarily male production/consumption of comics, Barbara Ehrenreich's book The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment could facilitate your thinking.

    2. Regarding Jimmy Corrigan, there's enough similarity between your framework and Eric Lamont's abstractthat you'd want to check that out (and I wouldn't have to repeat some of the things said there).  Plenty of room there for both of you to toil....

    3. Personally, I find Concrete to be the most interesting.  Lets you talk from the time present, yet approach Chadwick's work as historically aware and not without its consciousness of an economics of sustainability/scarcity.  The database would need to expand beyond what you've read so far....

    Before I go any further with more theoretical suggestions, you need to first decide which text(s) are most fascinating/important to you, and narrow the topic accordingly.  Either that, or you'd need to formulate a sort of tour-de-force that lets you periodize the "ages" of labor in comics -- perhaps playing off of the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Steel paradigm used in fanboy criticism?  I feel like I need to say more but should hear from you first...