Comic Studies Club Fawaz Qashat

The Comics Studies Club!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2023

Image that says, "Join us!"

Calling All SDSU Students! I’m Fawaz Qashat. Some of you may recognize me as one of the student researchers for Comics@SDSU, now the Center for Comics Studies! My work with Professor Pollard in History and Comics Arts Curator, Pam Jackson, in the Library began my first year at SDSU in 2020, and inspired me to launch the Comics Studies Club in 2021. Although we are currently an informal student club, we are on the path to becoming a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) through SDSU Associated Students as soon as the remaining officer positions are filled. The club is a branch of the Center for Comics Studies tree and explores the deeper messages of comics as well as facilitating fun events that build community surrounding the comic arts. Drawing on the kinds of skills that HIST/ENG 157 and other comics classes here at SDSU build, the club gathers to explore formalistic aspects of comics such as the cover, paneling, bleed, graphic weight, and splash pages as well as how they speak to various social issues. Most recently, the club has moved to book club style meetings, where we read a comic individually and then gather as a group to discuss. We have an upcoming meeting Wednesday March 22, 2023 from 11:00am to 12:00pm on zoom, at which we’ll be discussing James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch Vol.2 #1 (2015).

The Comics Studies Club is working towards becoming a “Recognized Student Organization,” but we still need two more officers to sign up for the roles of Secretary and Treasurer. Once we have those two officers, we can formalize our status with Associated Students, which will give us the ability to advertise our club, reserve a meeting space, apply for funding, host on-campus events, and so much more! Our plan for the future includes creating fun events to build a sense of community such as trips to comic book movies that can be paid for through fundraising. Another is visiting and supporting a local comic book shop by purchasing comics for the club. If you would like to become a member, we would love to have you join! If the officer positions interest you, please reach out to me and let me know. The details for our next meeting can be found on the flier below as well as my contact information if you would like to join the club.

Flyer for the 4th Comics Studies Club Meeting to be held on March 22, 2023 from 11-12pm on Zoom (meeting ID 89388520580). Flyer shows an image of Scarlet Witch and the Center for Comics Studies logo.
Flyer design by Fawaz Qashat
Flyer for the 4th Comics Studies Club Meeting to be held on March 22, 2023 from 11-12pm on Zoom (meeting ID 89388520580). Flyer shows an image of Scarlet Witch.
Flyer design by Renee Roldan
Fawaz Qashat

Tragedy in the Marvel Universe

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

Comic book titles from the same publisher often overlap and interweave character histories and storylines… so much so that novice comic book readers sometimes complain that they do not know where to begin (see my earlier blog post on how to start collecting comics). This blog post explores a tragedy in the Marvel universe that spans multiple titles and years and highlights how fans can create a deeper and more fulfilling reading experience by exploring multiple, interconnected titles. There are spoilers ahead for Trial of Magneto #1-2 and Death of Doctor Strange #1. You have been warned.

Spoilers aren't all rotten, they can enhance thrills for some moviegoers -  UMaine News - University of Maine

Tragedy has struck in the Marvel universe. Two of the most beloved characters have suffered a terrible fate. The Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange have recently been slain by an unknown murderer . Although their deaths have taken place separately, they seem to be connected.

Back in June and July 2021, the X-Men (those not-quite-human “mutants” whose special abilities singled them out for othering and this a topic for social justice commentary) invited humans to visit their new home, Krakoa, in a bid to build good relations with the nations of the world. They held a large gala that spanned several comics in the X-Men’s several teams. One key issue, SWORD #6 (2020), showed Wanda visiting her once-believed-to-be father, Magneto, after the gala had ended because she felt that having once wiped out 90% of the mutant population’s powers, she should not be the “pretender” at the event. X-Factor #10 (2020) shocked us with the discovery of the death of the Scarlet Witch after the X-Men found her lying on the ground in Krakoa. In Trial of Magneto #1 (2021), Wanda is chased by a mysterious figure who ended up taking her life with a magical dagger. Although she was pronounced dead, Wanda remains conscious and talks with the reader about her current condition. It is still unknown where she is exactly, but a surprise awaited readers as she eventually appears at the end of Trial of Magneto #2 (2021). The peculiar part about the Scarlet Witch’s reappearance is that she seems to be an older version of herself since she believes that her relationship with Vision is still ongoing when it had actually ended several years back.

Scarlet Witch recalling her murder. (Trial of Magneto #1, by Leah Williams)

Scarlet Witch reuniting with Vision. (Trial of Magneto #2, by Leah Williams)

Stephen Strange faced a similar fate in the recent Death of Doctor Strange #1 (2021). After completing his daily tasks, Strange senses that something is off in the balance of dimensions. He is then visited by a mysterious figure who carries a similar dagger to the one that killed the Scarlet Witch. We later discover that Strange is pronounced dead, with the dagger in his heart. Not only was his death similar to Wanda’s, he also had an older version of himself appear at the very end to help fix the imbalance in the universe because the Sorcerer Supreme position was left vacant.

The same murder weapon, the same mysterious figure, and a time traveling reappearance? “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a pattern.” -Patrick McKenzie. You can read more about what happens next in Trial of Magneto #3 and Death of Doctor Strange #2 on October 20, 2021.

From left to right, Doctor Strange being tied up by the killer, his friends finding him murdered, and his past self appearing out of a portal (Death of Doctor Strange #1 by Jed MacKay).

There is more to come for these two characters and this crime investigation storyline; however, they present us with a spectacular aspect of  comics that differs from other mediums of storytelling. Comics add layered storytelling by allowing characters and events to span different issues. As in the murder of Wanda and Strange, it took several comic runs to establish such a big event and was able to engage readers by entering into the different comic worlds and following a trial to the ultimate point. Other mediums of storytelling frequently include all of the events within the work itself and are not as open to the idea of spanning their story across different works (and sometimes different authors and artists)  to be able to immerse the reader into a scavenger hunt of finding out what happens next. This makes comics a great medium to work with and study because it involves the reader and includes them by asking them to do the work in the gutters not just between panels of a page but in the space between issues. Readers can discover what happens in real time and as they wait for the next issue, they are able to connect with a community of other readers who share their experiences and collectively wait to open the next door and follow the plot.

Fawaz Qashat

Spotlighting Comics in Special Collections

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

San Diego State University has an amazing selection of comics that anyone is welcome to use! From the Comics Corner on the 1st floor of the Love Library to the Juvenile collection on the 4th floor, the treasure trove of comics at SDSU is vast and librarians are on hand to help you find titles we may not own. One important place where you can find comics of all types from across the ages is Special Collections. Located on the 1st floor of the Love library (directly next to the Comics Corner), Special Collections has rare, unique and specialized collections, including texts from across the world and as early as the 1200s. A big part of the collection is comics that range from floppy comics to graphic novels and ephemera. Pamela Jackson is the popular culture librarian and she curates the comics in SCUA (Special Collections and University Archives).

SCUA’s comics collection is made up of several donations from comics enthusiasts. All of the bound comics can be found on SDSU library’s One Search site. Floppy comics can be located in the Comics Hub catalog. One Search allows you to find bound comics (and other printed texts) by searching for title or author as well as the library location. Any search can be narrowed to Special Collections which shows exactly what is present in the collection.

The first step to being able to read a comic from Special Collections is using One Search or the Comics Hub to find the desired comic. Once that comic is found, the next step is to make an appointment. At the door of Special Collections, a QR code is present that sends you to a page where you can make an appointment. From there, further details are given on when you can come in to read your comic. After coming into Special Collections, a series of steps must be followed in order to handle the material with care since everything in SCUA is also being preserved for future generations. Some of the rules and guidelines include: No pens are allowed to be used for note taking (but we provide pencils), water and all belongings must be placed in cubbies, and masks must be worn at all times. Additionally, no comics or other material can be taken outside of the Special Collections Reading Room. But do not worry! Each person is given 2 hours to look at their material and if they have to leave and come back at another time, SCUA can put the comics on hold for a later time. You can enjoy the comic you have chosen, take pictures of certain pages without using your camera flash, and even scan the comic so you could have a digital copy! Not all comics can be scanned, however, because some are in delicate condition, but don’t worry, friendly library professionals will be available to guide you. Learn more about the Comic Arts Collection at the SDSU Library here:

If you would like to make an appointment and take a look at a comic from the vast selection in SCUA, the barcode is here below:

Fawaz Qashat

A Wanda-ful Masterpiece

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

When reading comics, some stick to reading the word balloons of the writer and ironically ignore the hard work of the artist who created the images. In fact, if we ignore those images and only focus on the text, we lose understanding of the story and miss out on vital plot points! The art and illustrations are key to fully understanding the comic you are reading as well as the characters that show up. Art allows you to see the expressions made by the characters, the emotions they feel, and the movement they make. The art works with the words to create the overall feeling of the comic. Not only is the art for depicting the characters crucial, but the art style used for the setting enhances the experience of the story. 

Scarlet Witch #1-15 (2015-2016) by writer, James Robinson and artist, David Aja are great examples of the art of the setting adding to the storytelling. In Scarlet Witch #2, Wanda makes a trip to the Greek island of Santorini. The art style in this issue is very much the Greek style of art because of its portrayal of realistic faces, the natural setting, even the way the sunset is portrayed on Wanda’s face. The reason this is important is that it evokes a feeling of relaxation in the reader, as if we were on vacation too and we could feel the breeze. The smell of the ocean and local restaurants. The chattering of people all around. The warmth of the setting sun on their faces. It also augments the plot point that Wanda is traveling across the world to fix magic and we are also taken on that journey and explore the different places in the form of different styles of art. As she moves to different locations, the different styles of art evoke the sense of the environment and situation to the reader. I’ll provide a brief description of each setting below along with its picture. (All images are from Scarlet Witch #1-15 by James Robinson).

Soft sunset, the glow of the evening sky, the renaissance figure of Wanda, the beautiful architecture are all representative of Santorini, Greece giving it its exotic aesthetic (Scarlet Witch #2).

The thick, messy lines all around Wanda, the glowing magic lines appearing brightly, the soft appearance of colors all give off the sense of a murky, humid swamp that is The Witch’s Road (Scarlet Witch #4).

The plain blue sky, the simplistic greenery of the surroundings, the rounded look of the characters, and the rosy cheeks on Wanda are all reminiscent of Logroño, Spain and its feeling of warmth (Scarlet Witch #5).

The sharp lines of the face and body, the use of the bright red with light pink, the shades of gray for the suit and rest of the soldiers, the boldness of Wanda’s expression are all representative of Paris, France giving it a sophisticated look (Scarlet Witch #6).

The detailed lines to represent the fur, the boldness of the black lines around Wanda’s lips and eyes, the small red nose and soft pink cheeks, and the clean lines of the architecture which all represent Kyoto, Japan and its edge (Scarlet Witch #10)

Each location has a distinctive art style that is different from the rest which is reminiscent of the culture and geography of the location Wanda is in. I picked out a couple of locations for you to see, but you can explore all 15 issues at SDSU library in special collections.

Fawaz Qashat

How To Start Collecting Comics For Beginners

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

When I first started collecting comics, I wasn’t sure where to start and I wanted someone to tell me all the secrets. Here’s my advice, gained through trial-and-error, to anyone who might want to start collecting comics.

Pick a character, find a shop: To start off, think of your favorite character. Choose any character you really love. Once you’ve found that character, go to your nearest comic book shop. Just ask Siri or Google where the nearest comic shop is and that’ll lead you there. Once at the shop, ask about any comics that relate to the character you want. Comic shops sometimes have bins in the middle of the store that have comics organized by comic event and superhero names. I always find myself drifting to the Scarlet Witch section. Once you’ve found your desired comics, it’s only a matter of purchasing them and then taking them home to be read. Another way of finding the comics that relate to your favorite character is to look them up on Amazon. This is not a sponsored message, but I always find myself going to Amazon for collected versions of stories that have my favorite character. Another great place to get your single-issue floppy comics is Things From Another World. It’s a site that sells comics so you can shop without having to leave the comfort of your home!

Explore comics online: There are also ways to collect comics digitally. Comixology, a company owned by Amazon, has many digital comics that can be purchased and read. Marvel Unlimited is a monthly subscription that allows you access to tons of comics arranged by superhero name, event title, published date, and release date. Furthermore, both Comixology and Marvel Unlimited upload comics every week so you always have something new to read. I still have not finished the Scarlet Witch section so that should tell you how vast the selection is.

Create a Pull list: Once you’ve started your collection by getting stories related to your favorite heroes, you can explore ongoing storylines. You can still collect the older comics, but some new ones that are constantly being released may interest you or even include your favorite character. The best way to keep up and ensure you get the new comics as they release is to start a pull list at your local comics shop. A pull list is a file that is opened under your name. The comic shop will ask you what stories you want to follow and all you have to do is tell them the name of the story. Then, everytime a new issue releases, they will automatically hold the comic in your file until you pick it up from the shop.If you do this, remember to pick up your comics as frequently as possible, preferably every week, as comic shop owners often assume a financial risk by ordering additional copies to accommodate your pull list. What’s cool is that if you start a pull list, which is free of charge, you will pay the cover price of the comic rather than shelf price which is usually more than cover price. For instance, I’ve paid $3.99 for a Black Widow comic rather than $9.99 because I had started a pull list for her story.

Preserve your collection: After you have collected several comics and find yourself wanting more, you’ll want to think about investing in storage and preservation supplies. Pam Jackson (SDSU Popular Culture Librarian | Comic Arts Curator) offered me some guidance on how to preserve my comics. First off, you need the comic boxes that will hold your comics so you can flip through them while making sure they are contained and don’t spill all over the place. You can find these at your local comic shop and they usually go for about $5 unless you get the larger ones or ones that have art on them (which might run to $20). Second, you want to consider buying polyethylene comic bags. These will preserve your comic and prevent the ink from coming off the pages. For collected editions that are thicker books, you’ll only need a bag to preserve them. However, for single issue, floppy comics, you will also need boards which are the third essential item for a collector of comics. Boards should be acid free so they preserve your comic but they also prevent it from bending and creasing so that it maintains its perfect shape and condition. Comic shops will usually have older comics already bagged & boarded, but the bags are always dusty and have a price sticker on them, so I end up buying my own set of bags and boards to keep all my comics the same. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this beginners guide to collecting comics. I would love to see your comics collection so post a photo on twitter of your collection and tag me in it! My twitter handle is @fawaz_qashat. Keep calm and read comics!

Fawaz Qashat’s growing comic collection!
Fawaz building his comics collection and having a great time at Comics-N-Stuff on El Cajon Blvd in San Diego, CA. Follow the store on twitter @ComicsNStuff 

Fawaz Qashat

Comics and History Annotation Process

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

HIST-157 will always hold its place as my favorite class that I have ever taken. Taught by Professor Elizabeth Pollard, the class focuses on comics and their roles and significance in history. In Fall 2020, we specifically focused on social justice in comics and read a variety of graphic novels and comics: from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, to even Steve Englehart’s Avengers #128 (a comic that focused specifically on Scarlet Witch, so you know I have to include it!). One of my favorite assignments that we did for HIST-157 was annotation. At the end of each week, we selected a specific page from our favorite comic that week and annotated it using the comic vocabulary established by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics

A walk through the steps of how to annotate a comics page shows just how much you can learn from a close analysis of how text and image work together. I liked to start my annotation process with a page that has a really captivating graphic weight, or something (an image, a color, an action) that draws your eye to it first. From there, I looked at the list of comic terms that Prof. Pollard helped us understand and I thought about how they apply to the page I’m looking at. The comic terms include: panel; frame; bleed; gutter; closure; icon; text; splash pages; time; motion; synaesthetics; word/image combinations; fore/mid/background; figures; color; and graphic weight. If you want to learn more about what these are, you can take HIST-157 or get started with skimming one of many discussions online about how-to-read-comics, like Alex Abad-Santos’s, “How to Read a Comic Book” in Vox (2015) or CBLDF’s Raising a Reader! (2015).

After thinking about how the comics terms apply to the page I’ve chosen, I would begin to mark the comic page using an annotation tool. Prof. Pollard invited Dr. Pam Lach (Digital Humanist librarian at SDSU Library) to our class to explain the variety of tools we could use to annotate directly on the page (from making a .png of a googleslide to using a more advanced tool like Adobe Illustrator). I chose to use Apple’s draw feature on a screenshot to apply text boxes and type in the annotations. I color-coded each term to ensure that each annotation stood out. After each annotation, I asked myself, “Why did the creator of this comic use this comic device and how does it apply to the message they wanted to convey?” Then I typed into the text box my explanation of the author’s process and thinking in using that specific comic term for that moment. Once I did this for all of my terms, it was only a matter of uploading the annotated page in the correct format to my assignments folder and pressing “submit”. 

Here are a few examples of comics pages I annotated for HIST-157 in Fall 2020. These span history and go as far back as Mesopotamian civilization and as recent as comics from the 1980s.  Across almost three thousand years, the same steps for annotating can help viewers “read” the story.

My annotation, from early in the semester, of a Neo-Assyrian relief from the first millennium BCE. Even though I can’t read the words on the relief, I could annotate the relief with comics terminology to analyze what might be going on in this sequential art.

From mid-way through the semester, my annotation of Maus, by Art Spiegleman. My understanding of how to apply the terms had come a long way; plus the graphic novel is in English so the combination of word and image is easier to analyze.

My annotation of Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4 (1983), by Steve Englehart, from the end of the semester. After fifteen weeks of practice, my annotations not only point out features but connect the story to a social justice theme (in this case, treatment of inter-racial relationships).

Fawaz Qashat

So Long, Darling

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

The finale was a spectacular ending to an amazing show. Not only did it establish its own story and style, but it also drew heavily from the comics and gave us fans so many Easter eggs to enjoy. Starting with the scene where Wanda is in the town square and the citizens are all awakened and remember their past life. This is a reference to House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis where the people who were trapped in Wanda’s new reality started remembering their past life.

House of M #2 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Later on, when Vision and the twins were starting to fade because the Hex was being taken down, the use of building blocks as the particles that they are made of is a direct reference to the style of Wanda’s reality in House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis.

House of M #7 (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

When Wanda casts runes on the walls of the Hex, she tells Agatha, “Thanks for the lesson,” which is a reference to the comics since Agatha was Wanda’s mentor and helped her learn about her powers.

Image of Wanda and Agatha

When the Hex was disappearing around Wanda and Vision, Vision can be seen tearing up which is a nod to a famous line he says in the comics and something that he uses to validate his humanity. “Even an android can cry.”

Image of Vision

Fawaz Qashat

The Scarlet Witch

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

This episode was what you would call an amplified throwback Thursday. Wanda goes on a journey looking at her past in order for Agatha to determine how the Hex came to be. The comic references still persisted and did not disappoint this episode. When Agatha learns about Wanda’s childhood and the shell that landed in their apartment, she asks Wanda if she used a probability hex. This is a reference to what Wanda’s ability was in the comics as she first started off. She did not know she had any other powers at the time.

Later on, when Hayward is dismantling Vision and Wanda sees it all, this is a direct reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne when Wanda sees Vision dismantled on a table by a corporation that wanted to render him defective. Furthermore, when Vision is seen in the after credits as being completely white, this is also a reference to West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne in which Hank Pym rebuilds Vision but he is now completely white and has lost all emotions.

West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #43 (1985) by John Byrne

West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest #45 (1985) by John Byrne

Towards the end of the episode we see Agatha in her witchy suit floating in the middle of the street. This is a comic reference to her color scheme and outfit in the comics. She wears a dress and a shawl with her infamous brooch.

Marvel Studios WandaVision Image.

Avengers #128 (1963) by Stan Lee

Last but certainly not least, Wanda Maximoff is finally given her superhero name from the comics, the Scarlet Witch!

Image of Scarlet Witch

Fawaz Qashat

It Was Agatha All Along!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

Everything is falling apart and Wanda can’t fix it. Episode 7 was one of the most chaotic yet entertaining episodes of the show. Despite this, comic references still managed to make their way onto the screen. Starting off with Monica’s transformation through the Hex into Photon. Her powers were officially revealed and they are a reference to the comic version in that both are blue. Not only that, but the outfit Monica can be seen wearing in Westview, the black and white S.W.O.R.D. outfit, is a nod to her superhero outfit in the comics as well!

Image of Monica Rambeau

Marvel Studios WandaVision Image

Later on, we see Vision trying to make sense of Westview and who he is. This is a reference to Vision in the comics who spends a majority of his life trying to figure out who or what he is. Especially in Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas in which Vision joins the Avengers, but not before questioning what his true nature is.

Avengers #57 (1963) by Roy Thomas

When Monica tries to warn Wanda of the true intentions of Hayward, Wanda attacks her. Monica tries to convince Wanda to stop the Hex so as to not become a villain. Wanda’s reply of, “Maybe I already am,” is a reference to the comics because after House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis, Wanda is seen as a hero by some but also as a villain by others. 

House of M (2005) by Brian Michael Bendis

Finally, towards the very end, Agnes is revealed to be Agatha all along. See what I did there? Agatha’s pose when she is cradling the bunny is a reference to her most famous pose in her first appearance, Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee, where she can be seen cradling her cat, Ebony.

Fantastic Four #94 (1970) by Stan Lee

Fawaz Qashat

Happy Halloweenie!

Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021

This episode of WandaVision was as close to the comics as it gets. This is due to the incredible costumes that were made which are taken directly from the pages of the comics. Wanda is wearing her classic Scarlet Witch outfit even with the iconic wimple! Yes, the official name for her headpiece is wimple and you can quote me on that. Vision is dressed up in all the classic colors of the comic version of himself with the accurate collared cape. Billy is wearing his comic accurate costume with the red cape and headband as well as “Pietro” who is rocking the accurate hair-do of the comic book Pietro. The only character not dressed in comic accurate clothing that is true to his character is Tommy. He is dressed up as his uncle because it is a way to foreshadow their connected powers of super speed.

Image of Wanda and Vision

Image of Pietro and Tommy Maximoff

Image of Billy Maximoff

The commercial in this episode is of a boy being told by a shark that Yo-Magic is what the shark has been feeding off of which is a reference to the plot later down the line. We see that Agatha is the shark who is feeding off of Wanda’s magic as Wanda disintegrates slowly in the last episode.

The twins’ abilities in the show are a reference to their comic counterparts. Billy has abilities that are similar to his mother’s yet they are blue which is true to his comic version. Tommy has super speed as he does in the comics. This is also a larger reference to Young Avengers coming in the future which is the line-up of the Avengers’ kids who take on their parents’ mantles and defend the world.

Young Avengers Presents #3(2008) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Last but not least, Agatha can be seen wearing a witch’s outfit which is a reference to her being a witch later on in the show but also in the comics. The gray hair is a nice touch as well because that is what her hair color is in the comics.

Image of Agatha Harkness

Not only did this episode offer a great plot and some hilarious jokes, it was also a love letter to comic fans because of how true to the comics and accurate the outfits were. Not only that, but they allowed this to take place through Halloween which in and of itself is another reference to the comics because the first ever comic of Wanda and Vision going off and living together in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #1 (1982) by Bill Mantlo. In this comic, it took place during Halloween and Wanda and Vision went out trick or treating in their costumes.