Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Comics in College

Here's an interesting interview with a librarian at Columbia University who is championing the addition of "comics" to higher education libraries.

Is the study of comics scholarship? That depends on the kind of study and the kind of comic. Maus by Art Spiegelman, for instance, is an award winning "comic" about the holocaust. But the term "comic" really doesn't suit it (neither does "graphic novel," as it is more history than novel). Alan Moore, also mentioned in the interview, is known for his work on a number of respected graphic novels including Watchmen, which I've written about before (it's headed for the big screen early next year).

Is this just kid stuff? Hardly. Watchmen, for example, grapples with nihilism, deism, and other deep philosophical questions. Maus is a profound work offering a unique look at the holocaust in an engaging way (when my oldest child gets to World War II studies, I plan to let him read Maus).

The graphic novel, for lack of a better term, is an art form, as well as an ideological form. Like other sorts of art -- music, literature, etc. -- the graphic novel also can communicate and interact with the great philosophical ideas.

Like their largely belated interaction with film and television, I think Christian apologists and philosophers are to a great extent ignoring the medium of the graphic novel. Christian artists also need to become more involved in the medium, communicating truth in meaningful yet creative ways.

What do you think? Should comics/graphic novels be taken seriously in higher education? Do these books present worldviews that actually influence people?

Lastly, does anyone want to make a graphic novel out of my book Conversations with C.S. Lewis? I can only draw stick figures!


david said...

Comics can definitely influence worldview perspectives. As a youngster, I remember when The Death of Superman came out; it was very clear to me then that the underlying assumptions had shifted regarding Superman's character. I would probably find some nihilism in there if I read it again.

R. Luedke said...


thanks for some very insightful comment. Yes, graphic novels can have a place in furthering philosophical and well as spiritual themes and doctrine. Check out my works in this field:

Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth

Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit

Eye Witness: Rise of the Apostle

The series combines a Biblical Adaptation (the Passion week through the Book of Acts) with a modern day action-thriller. It was created to share the birth-pains of the Christian faith in a way that is approachable and entertaining for those who are not church attenders nor readers of the Bible.

I've been sort of a poster boy for development of this genre, (having spoken about this pairing on many national and regional media outlets around the country). It's slowly gaining momentum, but the biggest stumbling block is lack of a major publisher willing to really go out and market to the retail community.

All my GN's can be viewed at: www.headpress.info

RJ Luedke

Micheal said...

A great graphic novel that deals with worldview issues in a tangential way is Gene Yang's American Born Chinese, which was nominated for a National Book Award. Gene is an InterVarsity alum, and IV posted a profile him a couple of years ago.

I also recommend Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics to just about everyone, for a critical view of comics as a medium (and written as a graphic novel, no less). Here's my quick review of it.