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It is common knowledge that the human mind registers visuals with more ease than words. Novels have been a favourite pastime for centuries now, and the addition of images to express stories has only added to their beauty. Although the history of graphic novels is controversial, the term broadly refers to narratives as long as novels with a certain beginning, middle and end are represented in the form of comic strips. A Graphic Novel is a format that can cover a wide range of literary genres such as fiction, horror, science fiction, supernatural, non-fiction, or Mangas, widely popular in Japan.
Graphic Novels have been gaining considerable recognition in the last three decades but they were not initially seen as an acceptable form of art, reducing them to pieces meant for children only. However, the rich history graphic novels originate from, shows otherwise. The fantastic format that combines the artistic faculties of images with stories contains character development arcs through self journeys. It grew out of the Comic Book Movement in the 1960s and has been partially influenced by the German Expressionist cinema of the twentieth century. It came into the hands of writers who were aiming to address grave issues such as Jewish history or the Great Depression with a lighter comic book medium. Will Eisner is usually credited as the writer who first linked the two terms ‘graphic’ and ‘novel’ with his Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories being published as one of the very first graphic novels in 1978.
There have been various debates and conflicts about the differences and similarities between the two resembling but distinct formats namely, graphic novels and comics. The questions like whether the emergence of graphic novels has further belittled comics by establishing a literary hierarchy or it acted as a supporting hand in bringing the comic book format to the forefront are highly dubious, but the two terms have often been mistaken for each other. Even though both mediums make use of visual representations, they widely differ in their form and structure in the following ways:
Despite the regressive views and the subtle hierarchy that has prevailed in academia, the twenty-first century has been surprisingly considerate of neurodivergent readers such as individuals struggling with dyslexia or ADHD. Graphic novels have proven to be an excellent medium of communication and have played a vital role in such individuals’ lives by helping them understand the world around them in a clear and positive light. The entire purpose of theoretical education lies in its ability to aid an individual in translating knowledge into their practical lives and solve their problems more effectively. Graphic Novels exert some advantageous effects on design thinking as well:
With every age, new challenges are posed to human civilization and their ability to impart knowledge to the younger generation. The modern practices of classroom learning also come with their challenges when theoretical knowledge is valued above practical one. The educational practices that have been reduced to mechanical impositions can be redeemed through graphic novels that make education both informative and entertaining.
Graphic novels and comic books have been transitioning into newer modes of education where the reader is not just a passive listener but is actively engaged in the process of learning. The human attention span has significantly decreased in this digital age and graphic novels come as a relief where the mind is not just bombarded with words without any substantial image in the mind. The methods of recreational reading employed by graphic novels easily translate into the design thinking abilities of a reader by equipping them with a mindset that can think creatively and empathise with the problem at hand simultaneously. They can also be viewed as counter-narratives as opposed to high art or classics that are still being taught in the name of canon despite their dated ideas and languages.
The history of graphic novels is rooted in voicing the silenced narratives of the marginalised and oppressed communities in the world. For example, the first graphic novel by Will Eisner comprises a few interlinked stories about working-class Jewish families faring during the Great Depression in the 1930s. In 1986, DC Comics published two novel series namely, Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Both series were meant for adult readers and dealt with subject matters such as the post-Hiroshima world and a dystopian future, respectively that could not have been dismissed as children's stories.
Then after, Maus by Art Spiegelman again brought out narratives of the tragedy of Halaucast with its anthropomorphic representation of Germans and Jews. It eventually went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. African American community has also turned to graphic novels to express their plight through the text called Consider Still I Rise written by Roland Owen Laird and Elihu Bey. What makes these novels so worthy of their name is their ability to transform themselves as a medium that can empathise with the concerns of readers belonging to various communities and socio-temporal locations. A few other graphic books are as follows:
Design Thinking is a practice that enables an individual to seek creative solutions to the chaos of life and become a motivator for their fellow colleagues as well to strive for creative approaches to obstacles. They have emerged as a format highly significant in accelerating design thinking by experimenting with the conventional forms of education and learning. An individual is a product of their environment who is born in a state of tabula-rasa, i.e, a clean state devoid of any preconceived notion and is conditioned by the practices of the society around them.
An individual who has been forced to follow the traditional modes of thinking without tapping into their ability to judge for themselves and adapt to the changing scenarios around them loses their vision in life. On the other hand, someone who has been taught the art of living as an experiment can easily adapt and envision inventive solutions. Humans have essentially evolved as social animals; therefore, it is pertinent that they keep their imaginative faculties at work through design thinking. Graphic novels instil the values of imagination and empathy in a reader and thus, can play an advantageous role in one’s venture of developing their design thinking skills.
A few tips to create graphic novels that can leave a mark on the reader’s mind are as follows:
In conclusion, graphic novels are not a radical medium as is usually believed, they have a rich literary history behind them. They are an extremely advantageous format to enhance imaginative faculties of mind and other soft skills.
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