Today, my boss's wife received Nodame Cantabile 1 with much glee. "I love this one!" she shouted. In my second class of the day, I gave still more BPRD and Hellboy books to the one student who's become a big fan of Mignola's little corner of the comic book universe; she also received the classic Watchmen to give to a student who I convinced to buy the Japanese-language version earlier this year. Later, I placed several DC Showcase books and a Marvel Essentials on the table in my classroom, then brought in my class, a high school trio. The choices: Teen Titans 1 and 2, Batman and the Outsiders 1, House of Mystery 1 and 2, House of Secrets 1 and Essential Tomb of Dracula 2 .
The kids thumbed through the books for a while, not sure of what I was doing; their English is improving all the time, but they're still fairly new to the language. Finally, I forced the issue by addressing each by name and asking for a selection. One girl chose Batman and the Outsiders, another chose Teen Titans 2 and the guy picked Teen Titans 1. Later, we had time for some free discussion.
"Why did you choose this book?" the high school boy asked the Teen Titans girl.
She did a quick mental translation, then shyly answered while looking at me for reassurance: "I don't like... horror." Her voice was practically a whisper.
"How about you?" I asked the other girl.
"I don't like horror, too," she said and smiled.
"And why did you pick this book?" I asked the guy.
"I don't like horror also," he said.
Well, they picked some fun books, and you can't go wrong with the likes of Neal Adams, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo and George Perez. But they're still missing out on Alex Toth and Nestor Redondo. And I've learned giving comics away is incredibly fun. And if I help build a bridge across the cultural gap between American and Japanese comics, so much the better. So far the students seem fascinated by the differences between our storytelling approaches.
I also believe reading comics is an excellent way for students to improve their English skills. I've often recommended manga because of it familiarity, but I like exposing people here to characters I enjoy from my own country as well.