Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Cheap and Racy Entertainment or Resourceful and Poignant Tools?

Written by Emma Reed

From the inception of the graphic novel in the late 1800s to the modern graphic novels that we see being printed today, publications of this nature have been viewed as low-class, cheap entertainment. Dave Gibbons, a graphic novelist, artist, and recently appointed comic laureate of the UK, notes how he has “vivid memories of of the prefects at [his] school going through [his] desk and confiscating comics and burning them.”  Although this particular medium of writing and illustration is very popular within certain communities throughout the world, it is not being used to its full extent or given credit as a meaningful, interesting, and skillful art form. But why do comic books and graphic novels have such a bad reputation when they can be used for many educational and informative purposes?


Comics and graphic novels are an art form that takes skill and talent to perfect. Although some don’t view these as art, many would argue that the entire Pop Art movement was centered around comics. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein created works of art in the comic style that have sold for upwards of $50 million. Other popular comic artists such as Jack Kirby and John Romita Sr. spent their lives refining their talents to create several of the most popular comic books including Marvel’s The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man as well as several titles under D.C. Comics.


Along with being considered an art form, comic books and graphic novels offer an experience that other types of media can’t. The combination of both words and pictures poses the possibility to strike the reader with more emotion than words alone. This is why comics have been used by journalists for centuries to make political cartoons and by activists to move the public to action. This medium is also a cheap and effective way of reaching and speaking to a multitude of people.


Because of the bright and colorful nature of graphic novels and comic books, many believe that they can be used for educational purposes. Gibbons is on a mission in the UK to make comic books more accessible. He is also striving to use them to help make children more literate. Gibbons aims to show the full potential of the comic book and demonstrate the full range of versatility that is possible with such a medium. This use of comics and graphic novels is an expanding movement, and is also taking place in India. Many schools in this country use graphic novels as text for children because they are able to connect better with the pictures. Graphic novels are also not as intimidating to children because of the 50/50 ratio of words to pictures.


Different forms of graphic novels and comic books have been published for the last few centuries, but were never purchased for their meaningful content and high-class art. Based on the movements that are taking place today, the future for comic books and graphic novels looks promising and the market will hopefully only continue to grow for years to come.