I never thought I could go to check out a graphic novel tell the (smirking) librarian, “no I really am reading this for a project,” but it has happened. After perusing the comic book collections of friends and eBay, standing for hours in front of the piles of graphic novels at the book store, and shuffling through the teen area of the library; I feel I have exposed myself to a wide swath of the comic book / graphic novel genre. Am I a graphic novel expert? By no means, but I have a deeper appreciation for the literary and artistic merit this medium offers.
After looking closely at the way in which artists depict each scene, usually in relatively high detail, I appreciate the interplay of art and how it supports the narrative structure. This is much more than a picture book and often borders on film. The characters each have well-developed personalities and even postures and gestures that come across only vaguely in a non-graphic novel.
The stories are just as well-developed as a standard book, many dealing with issues that are faced by their intended audience. For example, Black Hole deals with sexual promiscuity, STDs, love and relationship issues and Brody’s Ghost works with teen cancer and death as well as relationships and self-discovery. These are viable tools for young adults to connect with and see their own problems fleshed out in very concrete characters.
I have found, however beautiful some of the modern artwork can be, that I am partial to the Classics Illustrated‘s recreations of classic literature. Maybe it’s the English major in me, or maybe it’s simply that they have the most readily available use in the classroom. Either way, I enjoyed revisiting old favorites in the form of shortened, illustrated books. These books could serve as bridges to the longer, more difficult to understand novels. Teachers could easily bring them into the classroom to introduce students to them for free reading time or to help work through dense dialogue to reach the plot. The CI books are far from perfect depictions, but could be an adaptable tool that is unique and interesting to students.
Within the classroom context, whether using an old Classics Illustrated or a more modern graphic novel, there are numerous ways in which it can be incorporated into the learning environment. A teacher could use them to discuss: characterization, plot development, dialogue, setting, historical period, issues faced by characters, and the list goes on. I think this is a vastly untapped resource that could pull “non-readers” into the discussion as well as open a new medium for already established readers.