UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

Graphic novels advance in mainstream media

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Avid graphic novel readers are now becoming faithful viewers of TV shows and movies that bring their favorite characters to life on the big and small screen. Because of cross-media consumerism and distribution, the market for graphic novels is becoming well known across different platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and cable networks.

Graphic novel fans appreciate sequential narratives because they have higher aspirations to tell a complete story; one that invites its readers to personally connect with the characters and their situation over a course of multiple issues. Today, producers and directors are capitalizing on this form of storytelling, capturing the attention of graphic novel connoisseurs and increasing the popularity of these existing stories.

UHCL’s Alfred R. Neumann Library Research and Instruction Librarian Casey Roberson said graphic novels are continually morphing stories, which connect to viewers in a meaningful way. For this, a story can build inevitably, make a strong statement and relate characters to real-life scenarios.

“It’s something that we are rediscovering after a long time,” Roberson said. “Now, people are in serialized formats. We want stories with characters that we can revisit and see what they’re doing.”

Alfred R. Neumann Library has a proliferating collection of over 350 graphic novels beginning in the PN6700s’ section. Roberson affirms students regularly check out graphic novels on a weekly basis including Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Graphic novels typically emulate good versus evil resolutions that maintain their audience’s attention. In mainstream media, television has become the means of telling these timeless stories while keeping graphic novels like “The Walking Dead” or “Watchmen” relevant. Today, growing populations of people are becoming graphic novel fans once they realize their favorite TV series or movie is the scripted version of a book.

Bedrock City Comic Company employee James Collins said graphic novels are successful on the screen when the two build off of one another.

“Today, there is a heartfelt connection with certain characters and things,” Collins said. “For instance, ‘Luke Cage’ really lent itself to a time of now with everything that’s going on. I enjoy that show immensely because they took something that really works and reflects in society. TV makes it more real.” 

However, devoted readers may be disappointed when graphic novels are not reflected 100 percent accurately in TV series or movies.

“I’d say it’s 50/50; they feed on each other in a way,” Collins said. “Some will argue that if it becomes popular on TV, then it takes too much over on the graphic novel side.”

Although this may be the case, Collins believes the graphic novel form of storytelling is preferred because of the freedom to tell a story with words like a normal novel, yet show people the intended message visually. Because of this, readers appreciate the collaboration of an artist and a writer’s exact vision for a story.

On a collegiate level, students are able to incorporate graphic novels into courses. For example, at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business, Author Jeremy Short teaches undergrad and graduate business courses using his graphic novel, Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed. Short says his novel help students understand business from an educational and entertaining perspective. Professor Shaun Treat at the University of North Texas teaches a communication class called Mythic Rhetoric of Superheroes, which allows students to read graphic novels and discuss superheroes at the graduate level. The University of California Irvine even offers a non-credit course on “The Walking Dead.” Other universities teach graphic novel courses for students seeking to create their own stories and/or connect to literature differently.

In the College of Human Science and Humanities at UHCL, Lecturer in Communication Andrea Baldwin and Assistant Professor of Writing and Digital Rhetoric Christal Seahorn both teach storytelling classes, which permit students to use graphic novels for their assignments. Baldwin’s curriculum focuses on the oral perspective, while Seahorn teaches the digital side of storytelling from a literature aspect.

“My Storytelling class is a performance based/theory based class,” Baldwin said. “You are able to focus your projects on graphic novels and gear them as such. It’s a fun class, and we work hard and do a lot.”

For more information on registering for either of these classes, contactAndrea Baldwin at [email protected] or Christal Seahorn at [email protected].