Day 85 (of 186) comics to classics – reinspired by a chat with @theweirdteacher and @ExcaliburPDX
An abridged version of a report I did for a literature course back in my university days when I was promoting Comics as a key entry point for reluctant readers (I’ll dig around to see if I can find the unabridged version). It came back into my mind while discussing comics with a teacher and comic store both from Portland and the admission that my son’s favourite superhero comic is Aquaman (not that there’s anything wrong with that….)
I admit to having been a comic fan for most of my life….I’d say “all”, but I don’t recall rolling in newsprint in my infancy – but as I did end up collecting years worth of Sunday Colour Funny Pages, it wouldn’t really surprise me. And I do like the anthologies of collected newsprint comics – from all the different decades – comics can give great insights into the culture of the day!
I freely admit that I learned a lot about geography from Carl Barks. He took the disney ducks around the world and back again. It also started me on a collection that spans into the thousands. Introducing me to new worlds (even some that make me cringe on how they are shared) and new words. I can read and reread comics and glean new information on a regular basis. Even now I like to share my comics with my kids (threw a Jack Kirby Donatello one-shot issue on his desk the other day) – the evolution of comics to graphic novels started with authors such as Jack Kirby, Frank Millers take on batman, the works touched by Alan Moore to say nothing of the work of Sergio Aragones from MAD comics to Groo…..
The newspaper serials by Gary Larson (Far Side) and Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) along with the political satire of Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County & Outland) and Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury). SO many of which faced censorship and banning at various times – even Lynn Johnston (For Better or for Worse) struggled with international markets (hard to make puns translate)
But news comics just led me into larger comic serials – Disney was my the majority of reading – I LOVE the adventures of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and even peripherals like the Beagle Boys. My dad and I would hunt down issues from the past that he remembered reading when he was a kid. So I am partial to the “golden years” of comics – and would often go searching for older titles rather than the newest listings on the comic rack (though I did love Transformers and GI Joe and would occasionally catch into a serial involving Batman Superman Spiderman or Firestorm – and always enjoyed the battle of DC vs Marvel….and of course looking for underground comics that others may not know about – like Groo the Wanderer as he shifted from Pacific to Eclipse to Marvel – and TNMT before they broke out as movie/cartoon icons!
What I like most about comics (more often now referred to as graphic novels to keep certain adults happy) is that they help readers create pictures in their heads connected to text so that when they shift over to more traditional in-school texts (preferably not whole class novel studies – unless read alouds) they can start creating the pictures in their minds. And readers can explore different genres very easily –
Like historical fiction? the ‘Nam comic series is a very dramatic and realistic of life in war
Like romance-ish books? To me, that’s where the Archie world fits in. Underground comics should probably be for G12+
SuperHeros? Almost too many! And for every Marvel character there is a similar DC title that can be followed too! There is even a Marvel – DC crossover you can look into (and the death of superman was even made into a pretty good novel!
Classics Illustrated even act as an entry point to Cliffs Notes – an abridged version that helps readers “get” what the story is about and then read for added details!
Horror? Also some intense stories captured in print & drawing.
Spoilers? I read the Return of the Jedi series before I saw the movie – still loved the movie!
Connections? If you like Dr Who – there’s a comic series based on it – good extensions!
Those that think comics are “fluffy” haven seen how comics have taken on adult topics like alcoholism and abuse. Sure there are some that are “light reading” but there are always issues or events that can make one think – and reading synthesis (thinking about our thinking) is a key goal for me!
Essentially – comics can “trick” readers into enjoying reading! And there is nothing more that I enjoy more than seeing learners start to love reading…..
I have seen many “good readers” make effective use of comics – because any reading is better than no-reading.
In my class I have a collection of issues that are always available. Though I admit they aren’t my ‘best’ issues but the ones that if they get ripped, I won’t get upset!
So….encourage readers to explore some “comic books”. They can be a great instigator to want to read more. And different. And reading for fun. We really need to do more reading for pleasure – and I strongly believe there is a comic for everyone…just need to explore the small bookstores scattered here and there (and methinks a road trip to Portland may be due!). Or find me – I’ll probably have a couple comics on me – unless I’ve already passed them on…..