IRJE # 6; Why Comics are a Valid Form of Reading

In Comics and Sequential Art, Will Eisner confronts supercilious attitudes directed at audiences and auteurs of sequential art. Eisner examines comics as a distinct art and literary form, as well as an ancient means of creative expression. Challenging those who dismiss it as immature, Eisner promotes the scholarly discussion of comics as a valid form of reading.

The format of comics presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g., perspective, symmetry, line) and the regimens of literature (e.g., grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of a graphic novel is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit. (p. 2)

Eisner’s assertion feels both revelatory and affirming. I find the entire concept of cultural hierarchy absurd. How ironic is it to view the reading of comic books as ‘lowbrow’, yet flock to museums and galleries, fawning over early tapestries, friezes, hieroglyphics and other illustrated narrations? They are all comics! Sequential art is one of the the earliest methods of expression. Let us put away unwarranted contempt, and explore the enduring power of graphic storytelling for sharing ideas and telling our stories.


FYI – For those who find prizes validating, the Pulitzer Prizer for literature has twice been awarded to graphic novels (in 1992, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and in 2018, Welcome to the New World by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan).

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