Teaching Comics

This week a monumental event took place that should have been heralded among, at least, the comic reading community but discussion about it it seems to have fizzled with the same impact as the inconsequential solar storm.

The good folks at Scholastic streamed a must-see forty minute webcast about the virtues of comics and graphic novels to classrooms around the globe. Cleverly titled Words Are Only Half The Story the presentation hosted by award-winning teacher librarian, Deborah B. Ford featured a casual discussion with popular graphic novel creators, Jeff Smith (Bone), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet) and Raina Telgemeier (Smile).

Each creator talked about their experiences discovering comics as children, what inspired them to create comics, and talked about their process of creating. Each creator also participated in a type of challenge where they created images for the audience.

The presentation was EXCELLENT! It was entertaining, inspiring, informative, and promoted comics to students and educators in the most positive way imaginable, right in their classrooms! To support the program Scholastic also offered many comic educating resources on their website including a comic builder that allows students to compose their own comics using the Bone, Amulet and Smile characters.

I cannot express how important I believe supporting the education of comics to young readers is for the perpetuation and creative growth of the medium and the global development of visual literacy.

Education is a process of sharing. To me comics were always very share worthy. They are a simple medium that allows a comic creator to share the images in their head directly to the reader.

Long before comics became collectible treasures that are immediately sealed away in archival mylar vaults, they were shared. Back in the day, an average comic book was read by five to six readers as comics were traded and shared with friends before ending up on a pile that would be swept away by Mom.

When I was in high school back in the late 1970’s, I remember traveling from class to class during Vocation Week with a presentation that espoused the virtues of comics. I would use an overhead projector,  my comic collection, and Maurice Horn’s huge book, The World Encyclopedia of Comics, to explain the history of comics and why the medium was so exciting. I always made a point to explain how my vocabulary had been broadened by Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck scripts and I would always end the presentation with a Frank Thorne image of Red Sonja in her chainmail bikini to win the approval of the guys in macho row who deemed comics to be too geeky for their ilk.

Over the years I’ve done presentations in libraries, schools and camps promoting comics education. At one point, as a Comico publisher I presented scholarships at Joe Kubert’s School of Comic Art. I am always proud to promote the medium and to witness the burning desire to create comics catch a spark in a young creator’s eye.

This is why I would hope that this Scholastic webcast would be embraced and shared throughout the comics community. Sure it is a brilliant marketing strategy, (one that we can all learn from) but it is also a vital tool and mode of inspiration not just to promote Scholastic and their Graphix line of graphic novels but the future of the comics medium.

As I am completing this blog I have just recieved news that Jean Giraud, maybe better known in America as  Moebius has passed away at 73 after a long illness. His international influence as a comic creator was enormous and his loss amplifies the necessity for our vigilant preservation of the history and education of this unique sequential medium.

May he rest in peace.

Gerry Giovinco

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