I knew comics were being used for subjects other than superheros and fat cats after I read the Maus series, but after reading the comics in I Live Here this idea was further cemented into my my mind.
In Kamel Khalif’s book, Burma, he uses comics to tell a girl’s story of how she came into the life of prostitution. The images are in black and white with heavy, smudged lines. He obviously chose to draw the comics in a way that reflected the desolation of his character’s childhood.
In Joe Sacco’s book, Ingushetia, he tackles the ongoing war in Chenya. He uses comics to tell five stories of women who have been forced to leave their homeland of Chenya and flee to Ingushetia. Their conditions are atrocious, and they never have enough of what they need. The comics are drawn in black and white. I notice that Sacco uses a lot of shadowing to convey the dreary quality of what has happened. Their faces are expressive and more realistic than other cartoons as well.
I think that by using comics to tell these individuals’ stories it makes it seem more realistic than just reading text. I also think that it conveys much more of the story that if it simply relied on text with an occasional horrific picture. Sometimes in other parts of the book I have trouble reconciling the text with the picture because they are both so disturbing that it takes awhile to digest the horror of what has actually happened. With the comics the story is told more fluently. The pictures work with the words to relay the horror of what is happening, and there isn’t so much of a stark contrast between the words which describe it and the pictures that show it. I think that all the techniques in the books were very effective but for me at least, comics helped to make the story more fluent. However, at the same time, I had to work harder to remember/consider that this did actually happen to real people and these are not just pictures, whereas with pictures the reality smacks me in the face.
Other people are using comics to tackle heavy subject matter too.
Check out this video of a cartoonist who created comic book characters infected with HIV to raise awareness.
Comic books are also being used to explain disease to children.
This website has cataloged a slew of comics ranging from a variety of subjects. I mean one of the categories was Zucchini! You can find a comic on just about any subject.
Look at these two teachers who actually wrote their own comic for their classroom.
Comic/graphic novels are being widely used in education lately. Douglas Fisher, speaker at the Rowan Literacy Consortium yesterday informed us that in his school, for one of the students’ competencies, they had to make a graphic novel of the French Revolution for history class by either drawing it themselves or using a program online. I guess schools are beginning to figure out that reading the classics is not just the only option out there for them and self-expression can move past making a poster or writing an essay,
It’s just baffling to me how many comics are out there and what they can be used for. The graphic novel genre has grown tremendously in recent years. I think that many people’s impression of comics have changed since McCloud’s book was published, and I can only hope that this genre continues to flourish.