Comics in schools

I've loved comic books since I first learned to read, and part of what motivates me to keep working on HeroMachine is the hope that in some way I am helping to keep that same love alive in others. I believe comics as an artistic medium is the equal to any of the arts, from traditional paint on canvas to sculpture to written fiction. The combination of images and words juxtaposed in sequential order on the page is a powerful one, uniquely capable of bringing ideas to life. Of course the majority of what we in America enjoy in our version of comics is the boot-to-the-face, giant mutated apes fighting Nazis in zeppelins over the skies of New York variety, and I'm fine with that.

But the medium is capable of much more, capable of not only entertaining us but of serving as a vehicle for powerful events and emotions. I can't count the number of people I've known who hated reading before they picked up their first comic book. I'm not ashamed to admit that comic books have shaped a lot of who I am and how I think; I still cherish an old "Captain America" issue where Cap talks about how the United States isn't a piece of cloth or a symbol to wave around, it's an ideal, a set of principles, and the people who are willing to hold to them no matter what.

So I was delighted to read this New York Times article about how a comic book about the Holocaust is helping a new generation of Germans open a dialog about that awful chapter in their (and our) history, enabling people to talk about it in a new, open way that was not possible before. Comics have the power to change hearts and minds, and it frustrates me sometimes that in America, they are still largely regarded as just "kid stuff". Our regard for the medium has evolved tremendously since I was young -- a lot of college courses now incorporate graphic novels -- but I'd love to see them used seriously in all age groups, as in this example from Germany.

Not that I'm giving up my face-kicking giant mutant gorilla Nazi-fighting pulp any time soon, mind you, but there's definitely room for both kinds of comics in our culture!