An Introduction to graphic novels:


Definition: A graphic novel is a literary piece of fiction or non-fiction organized as a comic-strip and published as a book.

Audience: The graphic novel caters to readers who enjoy and/or benefit from a graphic depiction of plot in addition to text. They are primarily geared towards teen-aged adolescents but are also enjoyed by older readers who appreciate the visual aspects and artistry of this genre for longer literary works. Graphic novels are also especially beneficial for visual learners and those that exhibit difficulty reading.

Purpose: To present a plot, or storyline, primarily through the use of graphics (paintings, drawings, etchings, pictures, etc.) with dialogue and narration used as an auxiliary to the images instead of their usual primary role.

Conventions: These works are characterized, in large part, by artwork used to present a plot where use of text is relatively minimal and differs from the classic comic book in that graphic novels are typically longer and present a complete work rather than the episodic tendency of comics. The trademark conventions of graphic novels are vibrant artwork with stark picture detail and color, descriptive language, and relatively simple syntax or limited use of text to tell or retell stories.


Graphic Novel Suggestions Annotated Bibliography
Carter, J.B. (2007). Building literacy connections with graphic novels: Page by page, panel by
panel. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
For any educator interested in adding graphic novels to their teaching repertoire; this is the book for you. It begins with the changing tide of research hailing graphic novels as the next great bridging tool between students’ interests and curriculum. This manual suggests ways to incorporate the graphic novel in both the L.A. and History/Social Studies classroom. The introduction outlines benefits and common problems with graphic novels and how to tackle them; citing case studies and data. The book goes on to practically write your lesson plans for you by highlighting several prominent graphic novels in use in the classroom and how to get the best use out of them in your own class. Most impressively, it instructs you how to draw parallels between specific graphic novel titles and curriculum classics like Oliver Twist and Dante’s Inferno. It ends with suggestions on using the graphic novel with the internet, in the urban classroom and student-generated graphic novels. This selection truly helps makes using this genre clearer and much easier.
Powell, M. & Cabrera E. (2012). Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet a graphic novel. Minnesota:
Stone Arch Books.
This graphic novel adaptation of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet uses Standard English and colorful comic drawings to retell the tale of forbidden love. The first page of this book begins with depictions identifying each of the main characters which the reader can refer back to throughout the story as needed. The everyday language makes Shakespear’s deep concepts of love, loss, and betrayal palatable even for young readers. This is a great tool to help students understand the plot Romeo and Juliet using a much more exciting medium than spark notes.
Ruiz, M., & Novick, J.A. (2002). Samson: Judge of Israel. New York: American Bible Society.
The graphic novel depiction of Samson makes the Bible story of this herculean hero (and sometimes fool for love) spring from the pages. The author and artist fill in and out what we know of Samson from the few chapters in the Bible he occupies from a stimulating snack into a mouthwatering feast. The story is written with historical settings and backgrounds, geographical information and cultural detail that persuade the reader to become more deeply invested in the character of Samson and his plight. The graphic artistry of the novel: sweat popping, blood dripping, not to mention muscles rippling; makes the action come alive drawing the reader in to become a part of the scenes. Bible lovers will be proud but if you’ve never picked up The Good Book, you will not be disappointed. Teachers and parents, all the breathtaking artistry with life-like detail will help distract your young readers from the fact that the text is also very involved. Samson the graphic novel is a quintessential crowd pleaser!
Sexton, A. & Pantoja, T. (2008). Shakespeare’s Hamlet: The Manga edition. New Jersey: Wiley
This graphic novel adaptation of the Shakespeare classic comes alive with the help of comic-like black and white etchings. While maintaining the Shakespearean language, the graphic element contributes recognizable characters, expressions, and scenes that help illuminate Hamlet’s lucidity and lunacy and makes tangible Ophelia’s despair. This 185 page page-turner is sure to help any student, parent, or even teacher appreciate the brilliance of Shakespear’s Hamlet without cheating and renting the movie. Manga adaptations of MacBeth, Julius Caesar, and Romeo and Juliet are also available.
Tan, S. (2006). The arrival. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books an imprint of Scholastic.
This 124 page book offers some of the best reading you’ll ever enjoy; without the use of even one word. The Arrival is a picture-only graphic novel that takes a bold departure from the norm leaving the reader to interpret using only what they see, which puts you in a mind frame to imagine the struggles an immigrant faces in a land where they don’t know the language. In this book, a man makes the hard decision to leave his family to journey to a new land to make a better life. Along the way, he encounters people of various ages and ethnicities: some of whom help him; some who do not. When he is able to send for his wife and daughter, they reunite and his daughter perpetuates the kindness her father received by helping another foreigner. The novel is made even more colorful and rich by the stories of the people he meets and especially by the make-believe places and animals he sees. This is a great book for anyone who has been a stranger in a strange land or those who have not. It shows us all how kindness is able to break down all barriers.

scan0022.jpgRomeo and Juliet


Samson: Judge of Israel

scan0020.jpgShakespeare’s Hamlet: The Manga Edition


The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Online Graphic Novels Teaching Resources
http://www.plasq.com/downloads/win: A free download for any type of PC for a fun, easy, interactive software for comic creation. Novice proof!

http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Comic+Tools: A teacher-created site complete with lesson suggestions, resources, and references for using and creating graphic novels.

http://donnayoung.org/art/comics.htm: free site to create basic comics with templates and graphics you can manipulate and alter.

www.pixton.com/create/comic/yjk9wzn6: inexpensive site for comic creation; kid friendly suggestion for students to creatively fill free time.


Sample Graphic Novel Instructional Activities
Click here for sample activities:
Click here for accompanying rubric and grading suggestions:


Additional Resources:

History of Graphic Novels
Stories told using artwork have existed since the beginnings of recorded history in cave drawings and continue to this day. William Blake is credited as the first western novelist to enjoy success with the graphic novel in the 1800’s with picture-laden works such as Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Also in the 1800’s, the U.S. began its foray into this genre by collecting various comic-books and binding them to make longer books. In the 1940’s, carving pictured novels into wood became popular. In the next decade, popular novels, and later popular movies, were adapted into comic-book form to be better understood and enjoyed by children in series such as Comics Illustrated. Comics continued to thrive throughout the 60’s through such powerhouses as DC Comics and Marvel Comics who created the cult classic Spiderman among countless other fictional superheroes and heroines.
Graphic novels emerged from this scene in the mid-to-late seventies. Independent artists and writers as well as comic book kings Marvel and DC joined in to create novel-length pictured books. These novels differed from traditional comics in binding, marketing, and placement of the novels in libraries and book stands, rather than newsstands and comic book stores like traditional comics. Today graphic novels range from the fantasy-laden series works like Watchmen to historical fiction and classic adaptations of great works including those of William Shakespeare and Mark Twain. Graphic novels are sometimes criticized for not being serious literary works, but their popularity amongst fans and use in educational settings and classrooms to help bolster literacy and an interest in reading in the youth has secured its place among accepted literature.

How -To-Book

For a concise instructional manual about creating your own graphic novel click here: