Film and Comics

Why Film Studies but Not Comic Studies?

In my previous two articles I discussed the merit and study of film as a medium and the same for comics. The major difference between the two mediums is that film is taken more seriously by scholars and more commonly utilized in a educational setting.

First I want to discuss the similarities between the two mediums. In both cases film and comics can be categorized as visual storytelling. Images are present almost all the time in both film and comics in addition to sound or text. Studies have shown that students often interact with graphic novels in similar ways to film. Students recognized in both mediums the use of colors and shading and how they attribute to the plot or mood. This study showed the teachers involved that “close reading of a graphic novel requires skill and attention to detail, and asserts that, “visual media aren’t only legitimate but essential in preparing young adults to interact with their world outside of the classroom””(Kern). Other studies show that film and graphic novels both help students with greater comprehension of literary works. In fact following use of graphic novels and film in the classroom improved students reading and analyzing skills (Dallacqua)”.

Since it’s clear that film and graphic novels share a similar level educational effectiveness why is it so common to find someone studying in film studies but not in comic studies. Film being a medium originating in the late 1800s would seem like it had many years to gain traction in schools but graphic novels had even more time originating in the early to mid 1800s. It seems as though the stigmas related to comics attribute to the lack of its study. Studies have taken place in the high school level to pinpoint these stigmas. Many students cite comics as being for nerds, being childish (Connors), and even being boy books (Kern). There isn’t a concrete answer as to why these stigmas exist but my only theory is that it’s attributed to the fact that comics originated as comedic works and weren’t necessarily made to be studied critically. The idea that comics are boy books and for nerds could also be attributed to the fact that one of the most popular comic genres is superheroes and they prominently feature men more so than women. I feel like this is actually proven with the increase of criticism by notable directors of the current state of the film industry. In recent years as Marvel movies have risen in popularity directors like Scorsese and Tarantino have criticized the merit of the current state of film consumption and production. In both instances the genre of superheroes is seen as less serious and more childish.

I believe a call to action is required of students and scholars alike to put graphic novels on the same pedestal that film has been put on. Film is often regarded and studied in similar scrutiny to literature, graphic novels should be as well. Just like film, graphic novels should be seen “a beautiful painting mixed with an entertaining and thought-provoking novel” (Connors) because they very much are just that.

Connors, Sean P. “‘The Best of Both Worlds’: Rethinking the Literary Merit of Graphic Novels.” The ALAN Review, vol. 37, no. 3, 2010.

Dallacqua, Ashley Kaye. “Exploring the Connection between Graphic Novel and Film.” The English Journal, vol. 102, no. 2, 2012, pp. 64–70.

Kern, Diane. Teaching “Real Books” versus Graphic Novels in the Classroom. p. 4.

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