“In the days before Internet it was harder to waste time,” renowned author and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman states as he embarks on a session called, What the %!&* Happened to Comics?
And it’s true – our world has shifted, our minds have broadened and our attentions have replaced the simple jokes and preoccupations of yesteryear with new (but equally as mundane) distractions.
However this shift has not necessarily been a bad thing for comics, and as Spiegelman explains this world of pictures and text has evolved into a powerful and often controversial avenue for art, politics and social discourse.
In 1986 Art Spiegelman released Maus, an exploration of the Holocaust, his father’s survival of Auschwitz, and the familial affects of his mother’s death, and paved the way for comic authors to sink their teeth into real and extraordinarily emotional stories.
Art Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his ground breaking graphic novel, Maus.
The real success of Maus, however, is its demonstration of how powerful the medium of comics can be, and its ability to sensitively tackle ideas in ways that no other form can.
“Comics echo the way the brain works,” says Spiegelman. “People think in iconographic images, not in holograms, and people think in bursts of language, not in paragraphs.”
At the Melbourne Town Hall last month, over 1200 attendees sat riveted for 90 minutes as Spiegelman dissected popular comics (and culture), complex panel sequences and the intentions of various creators, including himself.
Over the course of the presentation he reiterates that comics and graphic narrative are becoming a widely recognised, complex and meaningful literary form and, looking at the broader market, we can see that they’ve been employed by many including Google and the United States marines to effectively engage audiences.
From our own experiences rolling out The S.A.F.E. Files, a series of graphic narratives dealing with the complexities of Australian workplace law and issues such as bullying, we’ve seen an increase in engagement and positive shift in attitude from our audience.
With over 200,000 enrolments in The S.A.F.E. Files program to date, the feedback from clients is overwhelmingly positive and aligns with Spiegelman’s premise that humans are built to consume story presented in a graphical format, not only for their enjoyment but for their development as well.
Maus now features on many literary curriculums both globally and in Australia, and has become the focus of a number of research studies relating to literacy, English as a second language (ESL) and education.