Comics 101: reading graphic narratives

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Previously: Comics 101: a brief history

Diagram: Key: A (pink) – panel, B (lilac) – borderless panel, purple – gutters, green -tier

Comics are a series of panels that work together on the page. Sometimes they have frames or borders separating them but that’s not always true, it pays to look carefully at the pictures to get a sense of the style – artists may have unique ways of grouping and separating their images. Borders can be suggestive of what’s happening in the text – dream sequences might have wavy borders, while powerful scenes might break through the borders to demonstrate the force of the action.

The space between panels is known as a gutter. Comic experts know the significance of the gutters – those spaces are where the story’s time passes by. That little white space between pictures could be standing for seconds, years, even decades. As a reader you will need to look for clues in the image to be sure. Read the rest of this entry »

Comics 101: a brief history

yellowkidPreviously: The rise of comics and graphic novels

The first comics as we’d know them were published in newspapers in the late nineteenth century. They were normally single panel cartoons about politics and A-Listers of the day. ‘The Yellow Kid’, published in New York World in 1895, has been credited as establishing the forms and conventions of the comic strip as we’d recognise it today. It showed the adventures of a gang of kids growing up in the slums of New York City.

The popularity of comics boomed in the 1920s and 30s, with the market targeting the youth audience and anthologising collections such as The Dandy (UK), Beano (UK), The Adventures of Tintin (Belgium) and of course Superman (US) and other superhero narratives.

Comics were also hugely popular in Japan, where Osamu Tezuka rose to fame as ‘the God of Manga’. Tezuka is, among other things, responsible for the creation of popular characters Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. These popular characters are examples of the intrinsic relationship between manga comics and anime films, with many Japanese artists working simultaneously in both forms. Manga itself demonstrates Japan’s long tradition of illustrative texts, with links to earlier forms such as Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga (a four panel style from the mid-Twelfth Century) and Kamishibai (translated to ‘paper drama’). Kamishibai was popular during the 1920s and looks very similar to comic strips, but stories were put onto cards and shown in sequence on a small wooden stage. The audience came to see and ‘read along’. Read the rest of this entry »

The rise of comics and graphic novels

kapowPreviously: Celebrating graphic novels (1/5)

Using pictures to tell stories is nothing new, but comics and graphic novels are only recently starting to receive the literary recognition they deserve. More than ever readers, teachers and librarians are recognising that comics and graphic novels offer a complex storytelling platform for a range of narratives and topics.

Comics and graphic novels have come a long way since the Thwack! Bam! Kapow! storylines of the early mass marketed superhero stories. In addition to the superhero canon, readers are now able to find a large number of classics and contemporary texts reimagined in graphic form and there are also a number of significant standalone contemporary comics that speak to themes such as diversity, sexuality, displacement and adolescence.

Will Eisner (the ‘father of the Graphic Novel’) described comics as sequential art. He was referring to the way that comics use a series of images to tell a story – words or not, it is the artwork that carries the story forward. Comics and graphic novels are not a genre of literature because they can be about anything, rather they are a form or medium for telling a story.

Whether simple action stories or more complex literary ideas, comics and graphic novels deserve a place in the classroom because of their ability to engage readers (particularly those who struggle with traditional texts) on multiple levels. Comics and graphic novels develop language, attention and understanding, as well as building the critical thinking and sequencing skills necessary for readers to ingest this type of work.

GoodComics_List

Next: Comics 101 – A Brief History

Celebrating Graphic Novels

It’s been a little while since free comic book day but that’s certainly no reason to stop celebrating comics and graphic novels!

So the Centre for Youth Literature team has put together a series of posts exploring the rise of comics and graphic novels, and outlining some strategies for incorporating these narratives into your classroom or library program. These posts will run twice a week, and you’ll be able to download the collection (along with additional reading, resources and activities) at the end. Also, if you’re one of the first to contact us in response to this post, we’ll send you a copy of ‘Raising a Reader: how comics and graphic novels can help your kids love to read’, a printed resource by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

To get us started, we asked the fantastic staff from Melbourne’s All Star Comics to put together a list of their top 10 comics for teens – Cazz was more than happy to oblige.

 

GN2


This One Summer
 – written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting the 2016 Inky Awards shortlist

The Inky Awards are for the best new young adult books, chosen by teens for teens.

The Centre for Youth Literature celebrates ten years of the Inky Awards with this extraordinary shortlist. Our fantastic team of teen panelists spent hours reading, discussing, and sometimes arguing for their favourite longlisted titles. The judges took their responsibilities very seriously, and it was great to see such a considered and diverse discussion about books. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

And now to the good stuff.

The 2016 Inky Awards Shortlist is…

2016_IA_Shortlists

VOTING IS NOW OPEN FOR AGES 12-20.

The Inky Awards winning titles will be announced at the State Library Victoria on 4 October.

Follow @insideadog on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr or with the hashtag #InkyAwards.

The Centre welcomes Bec Anthony

bec and lha

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Rebecca Anthony who will be joining the team as the Centre for Youth Literature’s Learning Programs Officer. Bec will be responsible for the development and support of the State Library Victoria’s programming for engaging young people with books, stories and writing.

Bec brings to the team her extensive arts administration experience having worked on programming for Future Foundations, Melbourne Day, Melbourne Regatta and Roarhouse. Bec first joined the Library to work with the Centre’s team as the Events Officer for the 2015 Reading Matters overseeing conference logistics and the national touring program.  Earlier this year she programmed the successful Kids Big Book Spectacular which resulted in thousands of young people engaging with the Library and its collections.

Most recently she has worked in the Library’s Community Programs team providing administrative support across their considerable events and programs.

We look forward to welcoming her to the Centre for Youth Literature team full time when she starts on Monday, 15 August.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: classroom applications

ozJpIBL-bdo.showposter_hqPreviously: Adaptation (5/6)

Too often students find the classics unrelatable to their present lives.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries provides a unique opportunity to explore adaption across mediums and time, as well as the opportunity to further understand the richness of effective transmedia storytelling.

Last year it was posited that Jane Austen and the events of Pride and Prejudice depict the author as an unacknowledged founder of game theory so manipulative is she in her characters’ interactions, pairing and development.  This can account for the many ways in which this one book has been successfully adapted in so many forms.

However, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries brings Pride and Prejudice into the here and now in a way where marriage proposals take a back seat to career opportunity, and sisterhood is prioritised over romance.

But how might this be integrated into the classroom?

  • Contrast the depiction of Lydia Bennet in the original text, Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Lydia Bennet video channel. In the expansion of this character, how has the audience relationship to her altered?
  • Explore the role transmedia has played in the growth of many secondary characters and the world of Pride and Prejudice.
  • The video series depicts Lizzie’s perspective throughout with characters being featured as those aware of the camera, and those that are not. Contrast the ways in which Lizzie’s prejudice and Darcy’s pride are evidenced.
  • Explore the use of costume theatre and how unseen characters are depicted in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. As a meta-activity, have students adapt a scene from the series into a costume theatre interpretation.
  • Both the original text and the video series begin with “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” how does each medium establish tone with this beginning?
  • Students can adapt a classic text into a similar blog structure (or transmedia alternatives), translating other literary figures into contemporary ones.
  • Contrast an important event of Pride and Prejudice across multiple adaptions e.g. Lizzie and Darcy’s introduction, Collins’ proposal, or Darcy’s letter.

An exciting by-product of the video series was the creative exploration enjoyed by its viewers, with an outpouring of user generated content.  The breadth of the audience driven art, discussions and interests that have derived from watching this series could not have been expected from the creators.

Some examples;

  • The actress who plays Jane often styles her hair using ideas from the World War 2 era, which prompted questions of how to replicate this.  Video tutorials were posted from Jane on Pinterest and now many fans are recreating elaborate hair styles like Victory rolls and milk maid braids.
  • Some viewers edited the video series into the Dizzie Diaries, an exploration of the relationship twists and turns between Lizzie and Darcy.
  • Gifs were created depicting story parallels, repetitions and trajectories. For example, Darcy’s use of ‘illuminating’ or Lydia and Lizzie’s discussion of worth.

Fan responses such as these create the perfect opportunity for students to imagine their own creative response to the series.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has enabled many individuals to experience the Bennet family through new, or fresh eyes – use this opportunity to generate discussion, prompt predictions and draw upon the reimaged aspects.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a standout addition to the long list of adaptions of Jane Austen’s work. While it started out small, the creators use of their existing audiences, strong vision, crafty use of multi-platforms, a tried and tested story structure and a talented cast to engage and inspire a brand new audience.

The best news?  They’ve done it all over again.  Emma Approved, an adaptation of Austen’s Emma ran from October 2013 to August 2014 and can be found in full on YouTube.
Thank you for reading our The Lizzie Bennet Diaries series – you can find the previous posts here:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: adaptation

prideandprejudice-adaptationsPreviously: Audience Connection (4/6)

There are many notable changes within the Austen-verse that provide opportunities for discussion.  Where the focus of the original story is that of the Bennet sisters marrying to advantage in spite of their disadvantageous social hierarchy, the modern retelling chooses to focus on the female relationships both friendly and familial.  Darcy isn’t introduced directly until past the half-way point of the series, the attention is firmly on Lizzie, her sisters and her co-collaborator Charlotte.  Class and wealth remain important themes throughout but the agency of the female characters is heightened through the benefit of the feminist movement.  Charlotte becomes the CEO of a company due to her impressive skills and endeavour, Lizzie’s ability to connect with the audience results in a range of choices Austen’s women could not imagine, and Lydia finds herself saved and yet irrevocably changed by her experiences.  Unlike Austen’s women who could only manoeuvre within very specific spheres, Su’s women proactively expectation and find value in themselves outside of their relationships with men.  You can’t help but think that Austen would approve.

Differentiating this adaptation is its refusal to walk down the well-trodden path of the marriage storyline.  If Austen were alive today she wouldn’t be invoking stories simply about the marriage options of her characters, she would exploring class, wealth and opportunity in a modern age.  Lizzie Bennet, graduate student in communications, allows Elizabeth to be represented in the irrepressible way that makes us love her, retaining all her good and bad qualities while being germane to today’s time.

Regardless of the means in which Lizzie’s perspective is told, her tendency towards inaccurate storytelling is depicted equally.  Throughout the videos, her depictions of characters are tempered, or supported, by the perspective of others.   The immediacy of the first person narrative via webcam brings a fresh dynamism to the two hundred year old tale.  While the need for all characters to speak into camera strains the bounds of logic and credulity by the end of the series, it does create an intimacy with the audience – a short cut into the thoughts of the plucky protagonist – where a voiceover may have been instituted in the past.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: audience connection

audiencePreviously: Transmedia (3/6)

From the outset, the minds behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries sought to create and support rich engagement and activity within the audience. The videos hosted on Youtube were the focal point, however the transmedia elements were integrated seamlessly alongside the release of the story.

From the beginning the writing and transmedia teams were integrated to ensure the highest engagement of audience across multiple platforms. Social networks like Tumblr, Facebook, This Is My Jam, Twitter etc. were craftily enfolded into the story, depending on the interests of different characters. Jane, reconceived as a fashion intern, posts pictures of her daily outfits alongside hair styling tutorials on Lookbook and Pinterest. The uncommunicative Darcy is very rarely a presence on any of the networks, whereas the flighty Lydia prefers the immediacy of video. Every platform was used in a way that is authentic to the characters, resonating greatly with the audience. Through the Lizzie Bennet Diaries well known characters can be explored in a different context to bring new life to the narrative.

Many of the teens (and adults) who have gravitated to this series had no pre-existing knowledge of Austen’s story and as such each new episode was a revelation. The dialogue, acting and variations in story allow more knowledgeable viewers to enjoy the series in equal measure.  In many cases it encouraged those familiar to re-examine characters in a different way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: transmedia

transmediaPreviously – Context (2/6)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a perfect example of highly successful transmedia. A series of web tools that integrate all aspects of the narrative, and creates unique content based on existing (and out of copyright) properties.

Transmedia Victoria defines transmedia as “…the combining of multiple creative practices on a diverse range of platforms or artforms to deliver a cohesive, multi-sited, experience.”  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does this and more by utilising multiple websites to tell the characters’ stories. The Q&A videos with Lizzie allow for greater participation and community development in the world of the Bennet sisters.

Austen is a perfect conduit for the transmedia model as her work has so often been translated and adapted into a myriad of forms. The rich characters, universal emotional beats and social commentary allow room for variations in place and time. For example, although ‘Lost in Austen’ and ‘Bride and Prejudice’ took liberties with Pride and Prejudice, they still hit the same narrative markers, translating the story for a different era and culture. While there have been modern takes on Elizabeth and Darcy’s journey towards understanding and togetherness, it has never been told in this way before – using multiple online platforms.

Hank Green (creator) stated his preference for “… simple, powerful ideas” and it was his idea that kicked off this project.  Co-opting Bernie Su as a creator, they have used the strength of Austen’s storytelling to explore the benefits of transmedia, with character and story always at the fore.

Next: Audience Connection (4/6)