Have you ever raced for the comics portion of the newspaper (if you ever saw newspaper in your lifetime)? Were there particular scripts that you look forward to every day or week after week? And do you still wonder if comics and/or comic books have purpose in the society?
This points to something that most comics scholars can agree on: there is an enormous and little understood power to the way comics communicate meaning, and particularly how they engage the reader in ways that can teach them about themselves. Comics pose questions for the reader not just about what they understand and what they take from a comic, but also what they bring to a comic. The medium is highly effective at holding a mirror up to the reader.
In such a diverse field, everything is up for grabs. There are few orthodoxies to restrict, and certainly none to respect. The debate is lively, exciting, and exhilarating.
The interactive nature of the medium draws in the reader. Little wonder then that comics that deal with real-life issues—whether in the form of autobiography, documentary, or public information narratives—have remarkable power and appeal. It’s difficult to describe how frustrating it is to answer to that response.
Emerging research shows that comics and graphic novels are motivating, support struggling readers, enrich the skills of accomplished readers, and are highly effective at teaching sometimes dull or dry material in subject areas such as science and social studies. Long before interactive media was a buzz phrase, comics have been offering playful narratives, treating stories as a mode of gameplay and investigation, all the while posing questions about how we see the world and how we project ourselves into it.
More than just for laughs and for fun and adventure, comics actually tell a lot about the nature of the society and how the characters the authors make emerge in troublesome situations with grace and humor. They mirror the chaos and the order in real life (even the bureaucratic BS). They can get away with the sarcasm, the satire, the attack on politics and even the incompetency going on because until the message gets through, comics are first thought to be “just for fun.”