There are lots of misconceptions about comics and graphic novels: that they are somehow less demanding than unillustrated texts; that they are ideal for supporting struggling readers; that they are all about superheroes; that they don’t have many words. All of these assumptions are inaccurate.
The comic or graphic novel format accommodates a wide range of genres and style. Some of them are relatively easy reads, others may present a challenge both verbally and visually. Some are executed in the ‘cartoon’ style that many people visualize when they hear the word ‘comic’, but some comic book makers, such as Dave McKean (The Savage) use a painterly style. The content ranges from the superhero story to reinterpretations of Shakespeare and everything in between. There are European influenced comic styles such as Herge’s 'ligne claire' and there are styles influenced by Japanese Manga artists.
Far from being word poor a graphic novel can contain as many words as a story written in unbroken text. And while the graphic format may well be an engaging hook to draw in readers who are more attracted to the dynamic content of television, it shouldn’t be assumed that they will necessarily find a comparatively easy read in a comic. Reading a comic has its own demands in terms of understanding the sequence of a narrative, the ordering of the text and it requires the same thinking skills as needed to understand other forms of fiction or non-fiction, the ability to predict, to make inferences, to evaluate. Comics employ the full range of tone: humour, irony, satire, which require readers to make judgements about the gap between what the words say and what they mean.
Dr Chris Murray runs the MLitt in Comic Studies at the University of Dundee. He says, ‘Comics involve the reader in a complex negotiation of words and images, making logical sense of the narrative and weaving the action together based on the elementary cues in the illustrations.’
many authors and illustrators of books for children were inspired by comics, including Steve Cole, author of Magic Ink one of our recommended reads for group and guided reading and Sarah McIntyre, who is interviewed by Graham Marks for just Imagine this week. You can read Sarah’s interview here.
We have a collection of graphic novels to boost your class or school library collection and our Marcia Williams collection make a good choice for an author study.Older readers may enjoy our Essential Classics graphic novel collection.
If you would like to learn more about graphic novels and explore their use in the classroom, our Graphic Novels Book Cafe is bookable for schools within a 30 mile radius of our base in Chelmsford. Sessions can be run with schools further afield if run in conjunction with CPD or a library audit. Contact us for further details firstname.lastname@example.org