A picture is worth a thousand words… But does that also ring true in the EFL classroom? Whether it be a funny comic strip in the daily paper or a thought-provoking graphic novel, they all represent authentic parts of modern media that can help fuel that spark of interest in students.
Comic strips gained massive popularity in the early 20th century, adding a bit of humor to everyone’s daily newspaper. A century later, comic strips continue to occupy a permanent spot in most newspapers, with themes ranging from light humor and puns to political commentary. A prime example of this success can be found in Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson, a comic strip series featured in over 2400 newspapers from 1985 to 1995. The story of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes enchanted readers left and right. But of course, fans of comic strips couldn’t be expected to hoard newspaper cutouts to reread their favorite parts, right? And so, the 1930s marked the start of ‘the Golden Age of the Comic Book’. Marvel Comics flooded the market with superheroes we still know and love today, shaping the comics industry as we know it. Comic books can also be collections of periodical comic strips, as is the case with Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Making its debut in 1997, Zits comics narrate the everyday life of 15-year-old Jeremy; a teenager living in Ohio. But suburban life and high school come with their own set of problems, along with a healthy dose of Mom, Dad, you’re embarrassing me!
Following the raging success of comic books, the 1970s made way for a new sub-genre of comics: the graphic novel. Also described as a “visual novel”, the graphic novel doesn’t have a clear definition per se. In general, this genre includes a standalone story accompanied by or consisting completely of illustrations. Young readers can find a lot of joy and beauty in graphic novels. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy offers beautiful illustrations along with a heartwarming story about an unusual friendship. Though not quite as wholesome, Diary of a Wimpy Kid tells the story of a preteen’s desperate yet humorous attempts to become “popular” at his school. A wonderful example of a graphic novel with no need for words at all is The Arrival, a multifaceted story about migration, multicultural societies, and hope.
What are your favorite comics? Take the day to bask in the nostalgia, have a laugh and share them with us!