Newly digitized comics teach Trojan War

With the help of one Yale alum, a ’90s historical comic book series is gaining a new, educational edge.

Thomas Beasley GRD ’09 said in a Tuesday talk at Sterling Memorial Library that he hopes to put a modern twist on the study of ancient Greek history with the publication of a reader’s guide to a comic book series about the Trojan War, “Age of Bronze.”

The digital media publisher Throwaway Horse is currently adapting creator Eric Shanower’s 31-issue comic series into a digital format. In reconfiguring the comic, Throwaway Horse brought in Beasley, a classics scholar, to write an embedded page-by-page reader’s guide for each issue, which acts as a didactic extension of the comics describing the Greek mythological figures referenced in the material and providing historical context for each story. Since the project’s inception in October 2011, three issues of the newly digitized comic have been made available for the iPad.

Beasley said that the comic series could be useful in academic settings, as the series seeks to represent the full length of the 10-year-long Trojan War and not just the last few years covered in the epics of Homer.

“While the books are not well-known in the academic community yet,” said Beasley. “They would be ideal for a class on the Trojan war because they are less anachronistic than [the works of] Homer.”

The guide is intended as an academic jumping-off point for those whose curiosity about Greek history and mythology is piqued by the comics, Beasley said the guide is intended as an academic jumping-off point for a reader whose curiosity about Greek history and mythology may be aroused by the comics. The guide is also equipped with a discussion forum, Beasley said, to enable readers to engage in conversations about the material.

The guide includes biographies of key characters, as well as maps of the region and descriptions of Bronze Age paintings and pottery that inspired the comic’s style.

But the series and the guide are not meant to substitute for Homer’s works, Beasley noted.

“It doesn’t seek to replace any of the texts from which it draws,” Beasley said. “I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading it instead of reading the works of Homer.”

Audience members interviewed said they appreciated Beasley’s attempt to make the classics more easily accessible to a broader audience.

“It has a wide range,” said Lindsay King, a librarian at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. “You could use it just for fun or you could use it for some really serious investigations.”

Caroline Caizzi, King’s colleague at the Haas Arts Library, said that while many would typically associate the Classics Department with a traditional teaching style, she appreciated the unconventionality and visual nature of comics as a medium for education.

Beasley’s talk is a part of the Teaching with Technology lecture series held in the International Room of Sterling Memorial Library every Tuesday.

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