by Glen Downey, Comics in Education, www.comicsineducation.com
In the End, There Are Five Books You Need...
It is incumbent upon teachers wanting to incorporate comics into their classroom practice to familiarize themselves with the resources below. These are among the finest books about the genre of visual narrative and will help to provide a foundation for educators wishing to explore comics and graphic novels with their students.
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
There are lots of great books written about comics, their history, and the world of visual narrative. Perhaps nowhere else, however, does an author make these things more accessible and engaging than Scott McCloud does in Understanding Comics. McCloud makes the case for looking at comics as part of a historical tradition, examines why the genre speaks to us, and provides readers with the kind of insight into visual storytelling that is difficult to findelsewhere. Understanding Comics has been consistently regarded since its publication as the preeminent work of its kind, and is often the only or among the few works on comics to be found on the bookshelves of K-12 educators.
Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
It's always great when you can get a look into the mind of a genius, regardless of what genre you happen to be exploring. This is what happens in Comics and Sequential Art by the late Will Eisner. Taking us through the principles of graphic storytelling by drawing upon his own work, Eisner not only reveals essential principles of the genre, but at the same time shows us the peerless talent that would give us works like The Spirit and A Contract with God. There's a reason why the most esteemed awards in the field of visual narrative are called the Eisner's, and this insightful look at comics helps in no small measure to show why this is.
The Comic Book History of Comics, by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey
Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey tell the remarkable history of graphic novels in comic book form. With an introduction by Tom Spurgeon, The Comic Book History of Comics looks at the work of some of the quintessential figures in the history of visual narrative, including Jack Kirby, R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Fredric Wertham, Roy Lichtenstein, Art Spiegelman, Herge, and Osamu Tezuka. The authors cover a wide range of topics, but the strength of the book is its ability to provide a comprehensive overview with engaging details in an economy of space. Reviewers have noted that both the concept and execution of what Van Lente and Dunlavey undertake are nothing short of remarkable.
Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know, by Paul Gravett
This reader-friendly, highly visual history of graphic novels by Paul Gravett does a great job of looking at the language of the comics medium, the history of the form, and the work of some of its greatest practitioners. The book also looks at the impact of Japanese manga on North American comics, as well as the influence of European comics in translation. Of special interest to educators will be Gravett's examination of the wealth of themes explored in contemporary graphic novels and the trials the genre has had to undergo in achieving recognition.
Making Comics, by Scott McCloud
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud opens up the reader's eyes to the world of visual narrative, but in Making Comics he focuses on writing and illustrating--everything from the broadest conceptual considerations needed in planning a visual narrative to the finest details. Indeed, McCloud's explorations include not just the necessary tools of the trade, but an examination of the various ways in which people become involved in the comics industry. Once again, McCloud returns as his cartoon self and uses his wonderful sense of humour and genuine insight into the medium to show readers how they might undertake to become a maker of comics. All in all, it is a more than worthy successor to both Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics.
Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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