Day 135 (of 184) comics to classics
Tonight a side twitter conversation about using comics as a ‘hook’ to lure in readers brought me back to a lot of my own inspiration. I caught the tail end of a discussion about the value of graphic novels and comics (debate: what is the difference) in acquiring a love for literature. I was lucky enough to have been brought up in an environment rich in ‘coloured’ text. So much so that in university one of my final projects (which has inspired my teaching ever since) called “comics to classics”.
A summary of my idea was to link learners with comics and graphic novels that would connect them to a genre and then expand from there. Especially with the variety of comics available. From ‘classics illustrated’ with their adapted (sometimes glaringly adapted’ to fit into 36 pages to standalone that have stood up as testaments to the recently coined term ‘graphic novel’ such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Preferences range – much as the literati will turn their noses up at books on the best sellers list and extole the virtues of little boutique publishing houses, but when the focus is reading, it doesn’t matter if the words are found in an Archie comic or the Watchmen. If anything, it is more important to be aware of the theme and tone of the comic – just because it’s bright and colourful, The Watchmen is not for ‘kids of all ages’.
My own personality is influenced from the comics I read (and kept). Ranging from the history and geography lessons I got from Carl Barks as his Disney ducks went around the world to the subtle (and not so subtle) satire and sarcasm of Sergio Aragones ‘Groo the Wanderer’. Not to mention my fascination with the series “The ‘Nam” which showed an all too real look at a war that many would like to forget. Then there were the ‘pulp fiction’ like Transformers and GI Joe – it was the 80s and the comics had very little to do with their animated series. Later it was the Batman (Year One and The Killing Joke in which Frank Miller & Alan Moore helped re-establish what stand alone graphics could do) along with issues like V for Vendetta helped establish these books as having range and depth. And I can’t even start on the philosophical wormholes that Gary Larson and Bill Watterson among a few others that were must read ‘short stories’ that compared with the works of Dahl & Bradbury.
I fully connect my love for literature with my exposure to comics as an elementary and secondary student. Having pictures created for me enabled my own imagination to build on the worlds that Stan Lee (loved Marvel) and others (also collected DC!) first created. They opened doors that helped me make connections and creations as I explored Stephen King, Michael Crichton, RA Salvatore, David Eddings and more. Much more. It led me into majoring in English Literature and reading almost all the books that have popped up on “top 100 lists” – especially those marking the turn of the millennium.
So it can sometimes be awkward when a parent (or colleague) asks me about the comics that their kids are reading at home (or are reading in my classroom/office) because I will defend the flashlight app under the blanket enabling the turning of pages – or even exploring the new apps – one that a 99 cent one-month preview ruined my ‘spring-break-of-professional-reading’ but led to a lot of fun!
Now you’ve got to excuse me. I’ve got to go find one of the moving boxes that stores my old collection (and make sure my kids know where to go to sneak a couple of issues ‘without me knowing’)!