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Comics, Composition, and Collaboration

posted: 4.24.12 by Andrea Lunsford

I’ve been writing about the power of images and especially about the power of combining words and images in comics for some time now.  Starting about ten years ago, I began to include at least one graphic narrative in every class I teach, and I eventually got my courage up to offer an entire course on comics (for undergraduates) and another one (for teachers) on using comics in the English classroom.  The more I work with these texts, the more convinced I am that they constitute an important and vibrant form of literature, one worth studying extensively.

So I am used to being an advocate for comics in English classes.  And of course I am aware of the impact comics are having in the larger world:  When groups like Google engage comics artists to write/draw manuals for them, when Charles Schwab ads on TV feature speech balloons, when a graphic narrative version of the 9/11 report sells out overnight (while its print equivalent languishes unbought and unread), well, it seems pretty clear that comics have come of age. 

Over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with artist GB Tran, author of the Eisner-nominated graphic memoir Vietnamerica. GB is creating illustrations for the forthcoming Fifth Edition of The Everyday Writer, and he and I worked together on several panels that illustrate and ask questions about various aspects of the writing process, from analyzing rhetorical situations and developing a thesis to synthesizing sources. (I’m delighted with the results–more on that later!)

Recently Bedford/St. Martin’s invited GB to present a Webinar on how comics work as writing and how students can use a graphic approach to help them work through their own writing processes. You can watch the archived version here.  I’d love to hear more stories from teachers of writing who are using comics with their students—what’s worked well for you?

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