Flying Colors Comics and Education

Graphic Novels That Made A Difference
(An ever-growing list!)

• Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. An entertaining and informative primer on the history, language and mechanics of comics. The importance of this book cannot be overlooked as it approaches the history and study of the comics while doing so in comics-form. This should be required reading for anyone wanting to learn the secret powers of comics as a complex medium of art and expression.

A Contract With God by Will Eisner. The first major original graphic novel, this book weaves short stories into a longer and cohesive narrative. Eisner is a true pioneer in the comics field: He was among the first successful artists and studio operators in the 1930s. He pioneered educational and instructional comics for institutional uses in the 1940s and 1950s. In the '70s, he reinvented his career as the first comics' professional to concentrate on original graphic novels.

Maus by Art Spiegelman. Perhaps no other single work is more responsible for legitimizing comics as a serious art-form. Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize for Maus clearly has inspired a new generation of comic artists to break away from the story-telling conventions of the medium and to move to works of deeper personal expression.

Bone by Jeff Smith. While many other comics have been collected into series of trade paperbacks, Smith built the periodical adventures around natural breaks for the purposes of ease in creating trade paperback collections. With the unique feel of "Lord of the Rings meets Looney Tunes", Bone continues to prove its place among the best all-ages material in comics.

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. Hardly a super-hero story, this graphic novel evokes some of the political polarization of the last days of the Cold War with layers upon layers of story, characterization and conflict. Watchmen is at the root of Moore's later work and provided a sort of blue-print for other creators to get deeper with comics' content.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. While it's a bit dated now, since it's so steeped in '80s Max Headroom-like paranoia, Dark Knight Returns is still a must read for anyone who thinks that super-hero comics are all about juvenile power fantasies.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neil. Among the newest works on this list, this tale featuring late Victorian age literary characters is included for several reasons. Foremost, it's a tale well told, gripping and extremely well executed. Also, though some may quibble about its library placement, it's a YA title that could provide a perfect bridge to classic literature.

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai. Featuring some of the elements that have made manga so popular, including allusions to Japan's feudal history and culture, as well as themes of honor, courage and personal responsibility. Sakai's anthropomorphic series helped to open the door to traditional manga in the United States.

RanMa 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi. The recent onslaught of Japanese manga translations may seem to have come from nowhere, but Takahashi's long-running RanMa 1/2 is the first perennial hit to make it big in the US. Other series, such as Akira, may have broken through a few years earlier, but RanMa 1/2>gets the nod here for  its phenomenal staying power, as the series continues to find new readers, and  more important is the fact that RanMa 1/2 proved to the American comics market that there's a vast untapped female readership waiting to be entertained.

Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman and various artists. As Neil Gaiman has won awards for his prose as well as his comics, readers have migrated with him. Sandman is one of the most lyrical and erudite reads in comics, proving the power and potential maturity of the comics' medium.

  Food For Thought for Parents, Teachers, Librarians (and Comic Book Skeptics)

Comics have the power to move, to inspire and to teach. Additionally, comics are the only form of entertainment that are both "right-brained" and "left-brained," evoking cognitive and interpretive skills in readers simultaneously.

FLYING COLORS is happy to provide assistance to those who are attempting to use comic books as a learning tool in the classroom. We have worked for years with progressive teachers and librarians who recognize the power of comics in the classroom. Many students first find the love of reading by reading comics.

"One of the things I am very grateful to my father for is that, contrary to conventional educational principles, he allowed me to read comics. I think that is how I developed a love for English and for reading." ---- Nobel Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu

"A commonly overlooked area for read-aloud is the comic book, and my first choice would be the incomparable TINTIN… A comic can be viewed as an interesting sequential diagram of conversation --- a language blueprint. Once the blueprint is understood, the child will be ready and willing to follow it on his own without your reading it aloud." ---- author and educator Jim Trelease from "The Read-Along Handbook" (for more than 20 years this book has been recommended reading for elementary school teachers and parents)

FACT: The average comic book introduces children to nearly twice as many new words as the average children’s book and more than five times as many as the average child-adult conversation. (From a 1993 study published in The Journal of Child Language)

FACT: A 1992 study of more than 200,000 students from 32 countries revealed that Finland, the nation with the highest proportion of comic book reading students (nearly 60%), also has the highest literacy rate (99%), as well as the highest library usage.

Please let us know how we can help you energize and excite the students at your school with comics. Flying Colors offers extra help to teachers and librarians. We are also able to help with loaner resources and have a limited number of pamphlets available called "Comics in the Classroom". This handy resource gives a few ideas in different subject areas for potentially fun lesson plans.

We highly recommend the downloadable resource handbook for educators called "The Secret Origin of Good Readers" available on-line at

Recommended reading for educators and librarians:
• "GOING GRAPHIC: Comics at Work in the Multilingual Classroom" by Dr. Stephen Cary, published by Heinemann, 2005.

• "GRAPHIC NOVELS in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide" by Allyson & Barry Lyga, published by Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

We hope you find this information helpful, but if you ever have any questions, let us know.

Comments and suggestions can be sent to:

2980 Treat Boulevard
Concord, CA 94518

We can also be reached by e-mail at .

Last updated: 20-Jan-2011 3:57 PM  
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