When I tell people that my research is about how comics can be used for education education, someone invariably invokes the serious “graphic novel.” We often think of “comics” in terms of hijix! and laffs!, zap!s and kapow!s, but “graphic novels” are supposedly much more serious, literary and even educational. They are the “respectable” comics.
However, the use of comics for educational purposes significantly predates the establishment of “graphic novels” as a literary genre, and today, educational comics are being produced as web comics, scholarly journal articles and other forms that don’t easily fit in the “graphic novel” framework.
How has “graphic novel” come to mean “serious comics?” Can other kinds of comics be educational? Or does a “comic” become a “graphic novel” as long as it means something serious? Has the literary acceptance of graphic novels had an effect on the way comics can be used in education?
I address these developments in an article in the new issue of Media International Australia, “Beyond graphic novels: illustrated scholarly discourse and the history of educational comics.”
I’ve made an open access version of the article available here via the University of Adelaide that you can download for free.
You can also find the published version here via Sage, although it may be behind a paywall if you don’t have institutional access.
Here’s the abstract for the article:
Comics are increasingly being used in higher education for teaching and research, as demonstrated by the recent publication of comics in The Annals of Internal Medicine and other academic journals. This article examines how the ascendance of graphic novels to the realm of ‘proper’ literature has simultaneously paved the way for this acceptance of comics as scholarly discourse while obscuring the much longer tradition of pedagogical comics dating to before World War II. In the process, it will highlight some of the ways comics can be used in education, and suggest the benefits of using comics as multimodal scholarship.