Comics and Graphic Novels: 3 Things We Need to be Talking About

Please check out my previous Storytelling posts here.  And my 365 Reviews here.

Hey, everyone!  Sunday’s for teachers.

I’ve been doing this comics/graphic novel thing in the classroom for some time now, and I’m sort of over the whole why comics are good argument…however, over the past week, through quality conversation with colleagues and friends, I’ve been focusing on three things that we don’t seem to be covering in our discussion of why the medium is not only still growing in popularity, but also why we need to consider using them more in our classrooms as instructional tools and enrichment pieces.

In no particular order:

1.) Graphic novels and comics are not pandering like YA literature can be, a lot of the time.

I was in our school’s library last week; I picked a couple of popular YA titles from the shelf; I sat down and started reading.  I was not impressed.  Look, I’ve tried to read YA lit before.  Some of it is good.  I enjoyed The Hunger Games…that’s about it.  The issue to me is that YA authors are pandering to teens.  The text is drab.  The dialogue, obvious.  The story pattern, familiar and mostly elementary.

Comics do not do that.  Sure, much of what is created for kids…is created for kids (or teens), but there is not this layer of pandering or overly accommodating presentation.  Most obviously though is that these YA graphic novels that are hitting shelves are not the same.  The prose books, at least the ones I have read, are one-note.  Cut from the same cloth.

2.) The ocean of comics/graphic novel titles is fairly endless right now.

You know what it’s like to discover a new band and that excitement when you know there are five amazing albums waiting for you to explore?!  That’s what it’s like when you discover good comics, except there are thousands, not five.

When we get a kid into comics, we are getting them into a medium that has exploded in the past two decades.  The amount of good story out there is greater than the amount of good television right now.  THIS is important.  The comics cannon is not restrictive and blocked by old gate-keepers that know the books you should be reading.  It’s changing.  It’s growing.  It’s different for every person.

And like the music industry, many of the fan favs come from the content creators themselves from websites and apps, that can eventually be formed into bounded editions.  The ability to follow artists on social media has made the medium that much more accessible.

3.) We have only begun to see what we can do with the medium.

Film, television, and traditional books have been doing their thing for some time now.  Comics, in their current state, not so much.  Books like Meanwhile, Here, or anything from Chris Ware have shown us what the medium can do, but the iceberg has just emerged, and we get to watch it change almost weekly.

The combination of words and images has been around for lifetimes, but the production into story like we know it, is in its infant stage, and what we can do with this combination never ceases to amaze me.

 

I hope this makes sense.  Like I said, these ideas have been bouncing around in my head for the past week, and I had to get them down.  It’s time we changed our “why comics are valuable” wardrobe.

There is a lot to disagree with here; I know.  But that’s what makes what we do as educators awesome: we get to discuss our opinions (usually in civility) and change our pedagogy accordingly.

 

Happy teaching!

Eric

Twitter: comics_teacher

IG: @comics_teacher

 

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