WRTG 3020 Topics in Writing: Comics and the Graphic Novel

Instructor Contact:

Name: Allison Carr Waechter (she/her)

Email: Allison.Carr@colorado.edu

About the Course:

Comics are just superheroes or the funny pages, right? Wrong! Comics are more than just superheroes, though the business of modern comics was built on powerhouses like Marvel and DC. However, in this course, it doesn’t matter if you prefer science fiction, romance, or even non-fiction— comics and graphic novels tell all of these kinds of stories in ways that we’ll learn are rooted in very old methods of communicating ideas.

Over the course of our semester together, we’ll begin by learning about what a comic actually is, how the genre expanded into the graphic novel, and then move on to writing about innovations and outsiders in the genre that we don’t always think of as typical “comics fare.” We explore different sub-genres of comics and graphic novels, as well as looking at the industry at large and what kinds of content drives these sub-genres today.

While we’ll start off the course analyzing both comics and critical readings I’ve selected, very shortly, you’ll begin working on a semester-long research project that takes a deeper dive into the comics sub-genre of your choice. You’ll come away from this semester with a portfolio of polished academic writing and a deeper mastery of writing and research skills than when you began.

Quick FYIs:

REAL-TIME REQUIREMENTS: We will not be meeting in real-time as a group, but I do require that you meet with me via Zoom to conference about your work at least once during the semester.

CONTENT WARNINGS: Comics and graphic novels may portray “cartoon characters,” but the themes they depict are often very adult. If graphic depictions of violence or sexual content disturb or offend you, then this may not be the course for you. We will take a critical eye to this type of content and its rhetorical purposes, but we may examine themes around topics some folks may find unsettling. While this is not the focus of this course, we won’t necessarily shy away from discussing these themes.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about the course, or just to say hi and introduce yourself.


Each of our course units will have specific objectives to fulfill, but these are our more general course objectives. By the end of the course you will be able to:

  1. Develop specialized disciplinary rhetorical knowledge and effective communication strategies, drawing on texts from relevant disciplines to comic studies. We will do this by critically analyzing both primary and secondary sources, completing a variety of composition projects aimed at specific audiences, with different purposes, and adapting content and form to the needs of a broad range of stakeholders in comics studies.
  2. Compose in genres used in comics studies, selecting and adapting genre conventions as appropriate, and meeting audience expectations in features such as style, format, documentation, and specialized vocabulary.
  3. Hone your writing process, using multiple strategies to generate ideas, to draft and revise your writing, to control features of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, to critique your own and others’ work, and to reflect constructively on your practice.
  4. Develop specialized disciplinary information literacy, critically identifying the issues and stakeholders involved in a given conversation; how authority, influence, and expertise are constructed among participants in the conversation; and the range of genres driving the conversation in comics studies.
  5. Foster critical thinking skills, evaluating the sources of and support for claims; applying a reasoned skepticism to all claims and beliefs, including your own; posing questions that lead to sustained inquiry and innovative thinking; and framing an issue and developing a stance based on evidence and sound reasoning.
  6. Develop digital literacy, analyzing how visual and aural persuasion contribute to effective communications in comics studies, and using a variety of technologies to compose and circulate communications in these modalities for a range of audiences.


There are no required textbooks for this course, but you may want to choose to purchase the texts you’re working with for your research project.


Class Discussions: 25% total of course grade

We will use Canvas Discussions to discussing a variety of material and topics in preparation for writing the essays this course involves. Other technologies such as Google Docs and Perusall may be used to aid in fostering collaboration in our discussions.

Research Project: 75% total of course grade

The Research Project will be a semester-long project that we will embark on after our first few weeks in the course. You will choose a thesis-driven topic to research within the field of comics and graphic novels.

The project will include the following elements:

  1. Topic Proposal and Project Plan (5%)
  2. Primary Source Analysis Project (25% total)

This will include:

– Close Reading Assignment (10%)

– Visual Rhetoric Assignment (10%)

– Discussion Leader Assignment (5%)

  1. Research Proposal (10%)
  2. Paper Draft Workshop (5%)
  3. Final Paper (25%)
  4. (Optional) Paper Revision (0%)

– Paper Revisions are completed to earn a better grade on your Final Paper assignment.

  1. Final Presentation (5%)




Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado