Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Continuing Education -- Graphic Novels

A brief timeline of my graphic novels education to date:
  • In November of 2005, I read the first volume of the Scholastic color re-issue of BONE. In my reading log, I noted this historic event: "My first graphic novel." In January of 2006, BABYMOUSE hit the bookstores.
  • Last October (2006), I volunteered to be on the Graphic Novels panel for the Cybils . (Press Release here for more information on the Cybils.) I did this to jump-start my graphic novel education, and it did the job.
  • Last November (2006) at NCTE, I heard Scott McCloud speak. Scott McCloud is "an American cartoonist and a leading popular scholar of comics as a distinct literary and artistic medium," according to his Wikipedia entry. I read his book MAKING COMICS as the "textbook" for my education in graphic novels, and then over the course of the next couple of months, I read about 40 graphic novels, most of which were Cybils nominations.
Maybe I shouldn't have just revealed how much of a newbie I am to the world of graphic novels, but you know, in some circles (over 30, never read graphic novels), I'm a virtual expert.

This morning I finished the three volumes of the SCOTT PILGRIM series by Brian Lee O'Malley. Scott McCloud said (I have this in my notes) that O'Malley's work, and others like his, will "bridge the gap between Japanese manga and American comics. This generation of artists will speak directly to our kids." That's why I read these three books. And while they might speak directly to kids, they don't speak so directly to me.

The series is summarized in Wikipedia thus:
The series is about 23-year-old Canadian Scott Pilgrim, a slacker, hero, wannabe-rockstar, who is living in Toronto and playing bass in the band "Sex Bob-Omb." He falls in love with American delivery girl Ramona V. Flowers, but must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to date her.
That much I got, although I almost didn't finish the first book because the set-up of the plot was just too weird for me. Once O'Malley got to Ramona V. Flowers and defeating the seven evil ex-boyfriends, I understood what to expect from the rest of the books. Some version of one evil boyfriend per book.

Did I know that all the names of the bands mentioned in the books are references to video games? No, because I have a reading history, not a gaming history. But did it matter that I didn't get all the video game references? (Or, for that matter, most of the rock music references?) Nope. Because I got the story. Most of it. And thanks to Scott McCloud, I could probably even point out some of the American comic influences and some of the Japanese manga influences.

What does all this mean and why am I writing about it here? If we ask kids to read outside their comfort zones and try new genres, we should, too. If we want to be able to tell kids first hand what it's like to stick with a book and be glad we did, we should have been there/done that.

What kinds of books/genres have you read that are outside your comfort zone, and what did you learn from that experience that you can share with your students?

1 comment:

  1. I took a bag filled with all the things I was currently reading to a middle school presentation and you should have heard the gasps when I, a 44-year-old, pulled out a graphic novel. :)

    I admire you for reading outside your comfort zone. As you say, it's what you ask from your students.


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