you will apply concepts from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics as well as my online lectures (especially “How to Describe Drawn Art”) to form an argument about The Killing Joke. Remember: An argument is an opinion (a “conclusion”) supported by reasons (“premises”). The main opinion of your paper will be your thesis; the main premises of your paper will be the material you describe and analyze in your essay body. First, pick one of the following topics to help narrow down what your specific argument will be about:The dichotomy between the Joker and Batman, as characters, as the “villain” versus the “hero,” as “good” versus “evil” (Are they really “good versus evil”? Is there a specific reason why Batman is “good” and Joker is “bad” that the average reader does not realize?)Psychology, specifically sanity and insanity and what motivates people to do what they do. (Is the Joker simply “crazy”? Or is something more complex and more human going on? How does that change how we perceive the character?)Trauma, specifically the pain people experience and how it motivates them, how they respond and cope (do not simply say, “The Joker goes through trauma so that’s why he becomes the Joker.” That is too literal and too obvious. Explore the specific nature of Joker’s trauma. Why does Joker respond to his trauma one way, while Batman responds to his own trauma–the killing of his parents–a different way? Or are they responding differently, after all? Why does Commissioner Gordon handle his own trauma differently than Joker or Batman?)(There may naturally be some overlapping of topics, but it still helps to focus on one topic for now for the purpose of textual analysis, brainstorming, and drafting.) Second, look for how Alan Moore and Brian Bolland explore that specific topic within The Killing Joke by choosing four specific scenes to focus your attention on. Analyze how those four scenes depict, explore, or comment on the specific topic you have selected. These scenes can receive body paragraphs devoted to each of them or you can spend one paragraph on describing and analyzing one element of art, depending on how you want to organize your work. (By default, I would spend one body paragraph analyzing each scene for a total of four body paragraphs.)A “scene” in this context is a sequence of panels that follows the action of specific characters in one specific setting. Most scenes in this story last one or two pages and cover ten to twenty panels or so. If in doubt, ask me by email.One of your four scenes MUST be the “joke” scene at the end of the novel where Joker tells Batman a joke and the two laugh, ending the story. These are the final two pages of the story.Based on these four scenes, your goal is to form a specific, main claim or opinion interpreting what The Killing Joke seems to communicate about that topic you selected above. That claim will form your thesis. Your thesis claim should be balanced between description and interpretation. Too much summary will form an obvious, simple thesis with nothing interesting or deep to argue (examples of too descriptive: “Batman is the hero and Joker is the villain” or “Joker wants to make Gordon insane because it will prove one bad day can change anyone’s life”), and too much interpretation will form too speculative and imaginative a paper with not enough support to persuade the reader that you are right (“Joker is really Jesus sent by God to save Gotham City” or “Batman is hallucinating the entire story; Joker doesn’t really exist.”). You are seeking a balance where your argument is both grounded in the text but sufficiently interesting, insightful, and original.Analyze both the words and actions in the text of The Killing Joke and what the art and visuals of The Killing Joke communicate (such as through line, shape, color, panel-to-panel transition, whatever elements you feel are most relevant to help you make your case). Visuals should form a large percentage of your evidence for this paper to be convincing, and you must use concepts from McCloud’s Understanding Comics to make your argument even more convincing. Quote McCloud’s text and use McCloud’s terminology to help you describe and dissect the scenes you have chosen.Your goals are to be:Specific–describe in detail, make specific claims, offer specific ideas and reasonsClear–explain what you mean, use direct and understandable language, show what you meanWell-supported–whatever claims you make, you back them up with reasons and evidence that substantiate your opinions. You use evidence from the visuals of the book as well as the words. You use McCloud to assist you.Insightful–go beyond the superficial to find deeper ideas and meaning, things that are not obvious to a casual reader. Your paper is a honest effort to explore the ideas and the novel, and your essay is engaged and thoughtful.
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