Graphic novels are a popular type of book reading in modern society. They have been accepted as a form of book in many libraries, book stores, schools, and more. What is it about them that draws readers in? According to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, comics allow the author and the reader to interact. By making the reader think between each panel, the author keeps us engaged. So is the response any different when comics take on a news report? In other words, comic journalism?
Dan Archer’s comic suggests that comic journalism is beginning to earn respect from news organizations. Archer, a comic journalist himself, explains that this is due to how photos used as evidence for news reports have declined in credibility with the birth of Photoshop. Viral images/videos shared on social media are often highlighted on the news, but there is always a bit of doubt about how true the story is. Comic journalism, on the other hand, allows for the reader to visualize a news story from the journalist’s perspective without this concern, because it’s a comic! So instead, we must rely on the journalist’s penmanship to understand the report. I frequently read graphic novels while growing up, but I never thought that I would one day read the news in a comic. All of the ones I read as a child were fictional stories, so the idea of comic journalism is still new to me.
Jared Gardner, a professor of English and Film at Ohio State University, provided his take on comic journalism with a review of Hedges’ and Sacco’s book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. He strongly emphasized the point of letting the people tell their stories, criticizing Hedges for doing quite the opposite. I think he was being a little harsh on Hedges, but I also see his point. Every story has a message, and it becomes much more powerful when more voices are heard. If a graphic novel truly aims to be classified as the comic journalism genre, it should not only focus on the journalist’s opinion of the issue but also the voices of the people affected by it. Patrick Cockburn, an author and journalist himself, agreed that Sacco, the comic artist for the book, has an “ability to tell a story through his art . . . combined with investigative reporting of the highest quality.” The concept of comics journalism amazes me, because it can turn a bland news report into a vivid story that captures the issues in the world today. It also enhances our connection with the people we hear about in the news. They are no longer just names on a screen; they become people with emotions too.
In Rui Kaneya’s “How comics journalism brings stories to life,” the unexpected rise of comics journalism is described in greater detail. This article was surprising to me, because I had no idea how popular these comics were. It gave me a better understanding of why these types of graphic novels are gaining popularity. Kaneya theorizes that it is the format of comics that interests readers, including the personal connection that is made with the characters in the story, who we realize subconsciously, are real people. Even I was curious; after finishing Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, I read into the details of her next book to discover who she was. As Julie Gerstein says in “The Power and Range of the Graphic Novel-Memoir,” graphic novel-memoirs combine words and images in a way that tells stories like nothing else. Also in the article, she quotes Satrapi on how “there are so many things that you can say through images that you cannot say with the writing.” This is extremely true, especially in popular culture today. Through films, graphics novels, and even social media apps, our social world has devoured visual trends.
But is comic journalism the next visual form for news reporting? Although it is certainly a creative and interesting method, I don’t see it taking over the current news reporting practice in the near future. At the end of the day, I still prefer watching the news on my television screen, because I (among many others in this lazy nation) enjoy hearing the news rather than reading it. However, if I am following a highly-publicized case, I would be more willing to read about it in-depth via a graphic novel than hear about it in a 30 second TV news report. Comics journalism is an approach to news reporting that will continue to gain new fans like me, because it offers so much more to a story than a headline on the screen.