Monday, 28 January 2013

A Few Thoughts About.... Comic 'Textbooks'

So a recent study in America has found that graphic novels are more effective at communicating information than traditional textbooks (see here). Sounds like common sense really: put information within a narrative filled with pictures and the brain does a better job of retaining it. Certainly in the past the graphic novel back list has a sprinkling of titles such as Understanding Comics (HarperCollins) and the Action Philosophers (Evil Twin Comics) series which are a testament to this. The problem has been the wider issue of acceptability of the medium. To some people, opening a book to a page of sequential illustrations will have childish connotations but thanks to a solid foundation of books such as Maus (Penguin), Persepolis (Jonathan Cape) and the works of Joe Sacco all that has been changing. Sacco's work in particular has been seen in newspapers and journals around the world beautifully distilling politically complex conflicts and their impact of the people in the street (the introduction he wrote for his book Journalism about the benefits and pitfalls of comic journalism is worth reading). Guy Delisle has been doing something similar with books such as Pyongyang and Jerusalem (both Jonathan Cape); works that sit alongside Zahra's Paradise (First Second) and How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (Vertigo).


Logicomix (Bloomsbury) did an extraordinary job at capturing the life and work of philosopher and logician Betrand Russell in a way that cannot fail to enlighten any reader. More recently there has been Science Tales (Blank Slate), Philosophy: A Discovery In Comics (NBM), Economix (Abrams Comicart) and Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations (SelfMadeHero); all making potentially dry topics moist and digestible. A good image is always more memorable than descriptive text but comics can comfortably move into the abstract, step outside of themselves to break the forth wall and do away with 'wasted' text (e.g. descriptive) so there is less to read and more to absorb.


Philosophy: A Discovery In Comics

Can we therefore look forward to a future where academic texts books are filled with sequential art? It may be a decade or so too late for that (thank you mister computer tablet) but it will no doubt filter out to a lesser degree and that's good news for the comics medium and good news for illustrators.

Understanding Comics

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