Comic Book Literature

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Comic Book Literature

It's funny how time flies and how the memory seems to go with it. I remember when I was fourteen and decided to write the great American novel. I thought then that I was going to have to like the dreaded of all subjects, English. I gave it a good try. I gave 110% to the writing assignments, read most of what they told us was good, and really tried diligently to care about gerunds. But like it or not, a lot of English was drier than my grandmother's skin. I tried remembering some of the things my classmates and I read in our junior high school English classes and I managed to come up with a few: The Canterbury Tales, Romeo and Juliet, and A Rose for Emily, other than that, I draw a blank. Seems I spent less time reading the textbook than I did the comics I hid inside it.

I look back at that time now with affection. The eighties and early nineties were a revolutionary period for comic books. With comic book writers like Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore, children didn't graduate from reading comic books into reading other things; the comics seemed to mature with us. Of course, our teachers didn't see the literary revolution occurring in coming books – I'd wager most of our teachers hadn't read a comic book since their own youth. But now the comic book readers of the eighties are coming of age, we're entering the workforce, we're slowly taking over the world, and it's time we made a few changes.

If I were to ask teachers if they taught or considered incorporating comic books into their lessons, the answer I expect from most would be “no.” Comic books, while another form of creative writing is not represented in nearly all of today's literature textbooks, even though comics have been around for centuries. According to Will Eisner, comic creator and advocate for comics in the classroom, “Long before the invention of the alphabet, which depends on readers' ability to memorize its code, sequential pictures were used to record knowledge and communicate man's experiences, either read or imaginary” (75).

I think this issue may have started because comic books are not simply a medium based on words as a short story is. Instead, comics are words juxtaposed with art work – art work that often times seems very iconic, almost –dare I say— cartoonish .
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