A couple weeks ago I was given a copy of the book Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud so that I might be able to participate in a professional development group that is being offered by the Communication Arts Coordinator in my district. The purpose behind the group is to explore a variety of media and explore how it is changing the reading and communication patterns of those in society. With the popularity of graphic novels in the English classroom and with my interest in media literacy as a whole, the topic intriques me.
One of the comics that McCloud brings up is Maus by Art Spiegelman as a turning point comics in our society. I read Maus many years ago and was completely enthralled by the retelling of a Holocaust survivors story in the form of a graphic novel. However, until reading McClouds book, I didn’t realize how much symbolism and purposeful placement went into the creation of the work. Through the use of pictures and text, the medium itself can engage in ways that have, in my opinion, not been explored by most teachers of literature and reading. In many ways, the techniques that I used to teach in my media classes regarding video production, also lend themselves to comics and graphic novels.
The book itself is a little meta in that, in order to analyze comics and the industry, McCloud explains his thoughts through the use of a traditional comic book. It’s interesting to see the book evolve as he changes topics and gives insight into the world of the comic artist.
While I don’t feel as though I came away with anything revolutionary from the book, I do have a better appreciation and am starting to look at comics and graphic novels as a real possibility for teaching media literacy. McCloud’s premise that computers and the Internet have the ability to change the way people read comics has great possibilities for both the creation and consumption of comics in and out of the classroom.