In Theodore Roszak’s book “The Making of a Counter Culture,” he describes a course offered at the short-lived, non-hierarchical Antiuniversity of London in 1968 entitled, “From Comic Books to the Dance of Shiva: Spiritual Amnesia and the Physiology of Self-Estrangement.” The class never finished, as the Antinuniversity fell apart due to disputes about whether a class should be taught collectively or by a sole professor, but Roszak leaves us with a course description as provided by the syllabus:
Description of course: A free-wheeling succession of open-ended situations. Ongoing vibrations highly relevant. Exploration of Inner Space, deconditioning of human robot, significance of psycho-chemicals, and the transformation of Western European Man. Source material: Artaud, Zimmer, Gurdjieff, W. Reich, K. Marx, Gnostic, Sufi, and Tantric texts, autobiographical accounts of madness and ecstatic states of consciousness–Pop art and twentieth century prose.
As vague and abstract a course description it may be, I believe this example of a class is a perfect example of how comics have evolved. In true comic book ethos, I might even go so far as to say that this class has self-actualized itself through time, like a cosmic bullet traveling backwards and beyond the Omega Point, forever altering history (cough, Final Crisis, cough). The above course description encapsulates my love for the possibilities of the comics medium: one can distill novel, mind-fuckingly dense ideas into neo-hieroglyphs held together by two staples.
So, for this forgotten course I have constructed a syllabus using the above course description together with the world of modern comics:
Week 1: Significance of Psycho-chemicals and the Transformation of the Western Superhero: Grant Morrison’s ‘Animal Man,’ Alan Moore’s ‘Promethea’ and ‘Swamp Thing,’ Warren Ellis’ ‘Iron Man: Extremis’ and ‘Planetary’ Issue #21.
Week 2: Wilhelm Reich and the Deconditioning of the Human Robot: Orgone in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol; Elijah Brubaker and the tale of Reich
Week 3: The Gnostic Mythos: Milligan and Mccarthy’s “Rogan Gosh” and the Transmigration of the Self; R. Crumb’s ‘The Mystical Experience of Philip K. Dick’; Jodorowsky and Moebius’ ‘The Incal’.
Week 4: Madness in Two-Dimensions: Exploring Grant Morrison’s ‘Arkham Asylum,’ ‘Doom Patrol’, and ‘The Filth.’
Week 5: Pop Art, Metalepsis, and 21st Century Comics Prose: Allred’s ‘Madman Atomic Comics’ (2007), Hine and Kane’s ‘Bulletproof Coffin,’ and the culture within the comic book.
Week 6: Marx and Superman: A Materialist Reading of Mark Millar’s ‘Superman: Red Son.’
Hope to see you at the Antiuniversity this spring. Everyone gets their own Ratemyprofessor.com profile and we can all shit on each other anonymously.
That is all.