Art + Words = Graphic Novels

By Mary Ann Weber

At one point in my life I would never have imagined that I’d ever read a graphic novel. But then I met Jerry, who eventually became my husband. We’re both avid readers and I had visions of us reading the same book and engaging in invigorating discussions. However, he had no interest in my suspense mysteries and I had no interest in his science fiction reads. And to make matters worse, he spoke with delight about his growing comic book and graphic novel collection.

Eventually Jerry convinced me to read a graphic novel as a way to expand my world and I couldn’t argue with that.

MausThat is how I came to read Maus, by Art Spiegelman. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, the first graphic novel ever to win that coveted award, and it deserved it. Maus is a story about Spiegleman’s father, a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. It was a sobering read and I learned a lot.

One of the first things I discovered when reading a graphic novel is that I need to read slowly in order to take in the pictures, because they tell as much of the story as the words. A second thing I realized is that there are graphic novels that deal with very difficult and serious issues.

AmericanBornChineseOne day I came across a graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang, who incorporates faith issues with fiction. I picked up American Born Chinese. About halfway through I had to put it down to savor the richness of the words and to express gratitude to a God who holds us even when we don’t recognize it. It was powerful.

With this background of graphic novels, I am excited that MennoMedia recently published Radical Jesus. I’ve read it numerous times and appreciate the way the life of Jesus is portrayed, as well as the lives of those who followed Jesus from the early church to the present day.

RadicalJesus_CoverI hope to use it soon as a study with the youth at our church. Several of them enjoy art and sketch elaborate pictures during the worship service. A number of them also like to read, and some even go through Jerry’s comic book collection when at our house. And so Radical Jesus, with its combination of art and words, is something they will connect with. I want them to think deeply about what it means to take Jesus’ words seriously, and to follow Jesus. This is a great book to help youth (an adults, too) think about these concepts.

You can find Radical Jesus at our store, Amazon and elsewhere. Purchase 5 or more copies and receive our study shelf discount.

Have you used an graphic novels in teaching youth or children? Adults? We’d love to hear any experiences you have had.





Mary Ann Weber, Editor for curriculum