When medieval scribes created books by hand, text and images existed together on the page, intimately woven together. For hundreds of years when Europeans opened a book this was how they experienced a story — through both text and image. Then the Gutenberg printing press appeared in the fifteenth century, capable of rendering text but not images, and so for five hundred years printing technology shaped the western conception of the book as a text-only medium.
In the twentieth century, printing technology changed, allowing for the mass-production of books that once again combined images and text. Medieval works are known as “illuminated manuscripts” but today’s the art form has many names: sequential art, narrative art, visual narratives, comic strips, graphic novels, or simply, comics.
This advanced writing course is intended for students who have taken introductory and intermediate fiction or CNF writing courses and thus have a bank of completed short works on which to draw.
By the end of the course students will have:
- daily writing
- creation of an artist notebook
- proposals for adapting an existing prose work into graphic form
- character pages
- written critiques of pieces submitted to workshop
- participation in every in-class workshop
Survey of the Graphic Novel Landscape
Students investigate and consciously examine what graphic novels and comics they have read, why they have read these works, how they find new works to read, and which works they want to read. Students begin by reviewing a comprehensive list of graphic novels and comics and highlighting the works they have read and want to read. Next they write a reflection essay on what the exercise revealed about them as a reader and what the list revealed to them about the comics landscape.
Graphic Novel Presentation
Students select a graphic novel, write a review and analysis of the novel, and then teach it to the class.
Students take an existing work of fiction or memoir completed in a previous course, translate it into the comics medium, and submit 5 drafts over the semester. The finished piece should be 22 pages long, the typical length of a comic issue or graphic novel chapter. The comic does not need to be inked or colored. The goal of this course is not to master drawing techniques and produce polished art, but instead to learn the grammar of graphic storytelling and how to apply those concepts.
At the end of the semester, students submit a final portfolio which consists of 1) a final draft of their original comic, revised based upon classmate & instructor critiques 2) character pages and 3) a reflection essay of 3-4 pages.
The reflection essay should explore their composition process over the semester, from the initial invention stages through the final revision, and answer questions such as: What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the final draft? How and why did you make the revisions that you did? How does the current draft compare to the first draft? How did the story evolve over the semester? What techniques did you employ or try to employ? What affect did you hope to achieve with these techniques? Did you succeed? Why did you make the choices you made with respect to form, character, and plot?