Teaching Inside The Panels

Educator David Cutler advocates using comics in the classroom:

As a journalism and history teacher at an independent school near Boston, I’m not too proud to admit that I use comic books Captainamerica1in my classroom. When we cover World War II, my students analyze the inaugural March 1941 cover of Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, which shows super-soldier Steve Rogers deflecting an attack while knocking out Adolf Hitler. When I teach writing, my students analyze Kingdom Come, in which an aging Superman is distraught over a conflict that wipes out much of the Midwest. The pages come alive with lifelike artwork by Alex Ross, while writer Mark Waid exemplifies clarity and concision by making optimal use of each speech bubble. …

“It always strikes me as supremely odd that high culture venerates the written word on the one hand, and the fine visual arts on the other,” says Jonathan Hennessey, the author of The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. “Yet somehow putting the two together is dismissed as juvenilia. Why is that? Why can’t these forms of art go together like music and dance?” At one Comic-Con panel, where he was a co-presenter, Hennessey projected a page about a Neolithic civilization. “If you look at the image, imagine how much text would be required to establish what you see here,” he pointed out. “The human eye processes images something like 60,000 times faster than it processes text. This isn’t to say that text has no place, but it’s saying that images are very powerful, and if we use them, they could be powerful teaching tools.”

(Image of Captain America Comics #1 via Wikimedia Commons)