How to Read Comics
You'll never read the funnies the same way again.
Like all good folks, you liked The Avengers and loved The Dark Knight. But these characters didn't just emerge from some Hollywood bigwig's noggin. No, they've been around for decades in the pages and panels of comic books.
You may think that comics are for kids and weird old men who wear sweatpants a lot. Well, we hate to break it to you, but comics haven't been for kids in about 30 years (though the creepy old dudes still lurk about), so you have no excuse for missing out. Fortunately, Shmoop is here to help you—just in time for what many are calling "the graphic literature Renaissance."
In this course, we'll walk you through the basics of the medium: what are comics? how do they work? how do you read them effectively? and why oh why do people keep calling them graphic novels?
By the end of this course, you'll never call it child's play ever again.
Unit 1. Sequential Art a.k.a. Comix a.k.a. Graphic Novels a.k.a. Comics
In these 15 lessons, you'll learn some fancypants sequential art lingo, read a few long-form comics, and get to thinking about comics as literature.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 1: Defining Your Terms
Imagine a man. He wears glasses, has a ponytail even though he's balding, smells a little bit like flat Mountain Dew, and is shaped like an egg.
Now, what do you think that guy is into? Comic books, maybe? We figured. For decades, comics were the realm of the most despicable geeks, nerds, and other people of the dweeb variety.
And then came The Dark Knight.
Recent developments have eroded that old image of the sun-shy, salivating comic collector. Comics are blowing up in a big way and publications like Time Magazine and the New York Times have included comic reviews in their periodicals. Comics have finally arrived as serious literature... or art... or both. They even changed their name to graphic novels to appeal to the intellectual crowd. Yep, graphic novels are just comics that wear tweed.
It's safe to say comics aren't for social misfits anymore, and you should probably get to jumping on this bandwagon. Allow Shmoop to peer pressure you.
In this lesson, we'll start with your preconceived notions about the art form. We'll generate a list of words or phrases you think of when you hear the word "comics," and by the end of it all, we'll have a working definition of the term.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1: How to Read Comics: A Beginner's Guide
Slow your roll, champ—there's no reading yet. Don't take it for granted, though, because when it starts raining, it'll be pouring.
Although…if it's been awhile and you don't remember how to properly read a funny book, check out this refresher.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1: Brainstorming
What do you think of when someone says "comic books?" What about "graphic novel"? Depending on where (and when) you are, you'll probably have a lot of associations floating around.
Step 1: Generate a list of at least 15 words and phrases that come to mind when you hear the word "comics." Maybe you're disgusted by them and have an unfavorable view, or maybe you live and die by the sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman. Let us know, but be specific. Post your list on the discussion board.
Step 2: Browse around the other posts on the discussion board. Pay careful attention to the words and phrases that differ from your own.
Step 3: Write down a working definition of comics. We know you haven't done any reading yet, but we're just trying to establish some common ground. What are comics? Again, post your answer in the discussion board.
Step 4: Now evaluate two other students' definitions. Is their definition too broad or too narrow? Is it unnecessarily complicated? Does it fail to address the art form adequately? Or is it just right? Respond (civilly) in 25-50 words each.
- Course Length: 0 weeks
- Grade Levels: 9, 10
- Course Type: Short Course
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1