Effects of Reading Comic Books

From the black and white caricatures of the olden days to the full colored version of today, the comic book has been one of the world’s greatest past times. There has been thousands of storylines and character has been created in the past years but only a few has captivated a vast number of readership. In any case, the comic book has been infused in the international popular culture. All over 21st century Asia, many cultures still praised the long-lasting effect of the comic book: “For many people, reading comics is an indispensable part of life in Hong Kong. (From an article entitled “Comics craze has long and colourful history” in the South China Morning Post, April 2001) “The reading of comic books..
. has always been one of Koreans’ favorite pastimes… ” (From the Korea Herald, March 2000). The younger generation in Taiwan is “more accustomed to Hollywood movies, American and British rock stars and Japanese comic books than things Taiwanese” according to a news story about teahouses and Starbucks coffee shops. (From an AP story, April 2002).
“Comics in eastern Asia are more than just a form of popular entertainment.MANGA (in Japan), MAN-HUO (in China), and MANHWA (in Korea) is a part of the cultural life itself. ” (From the sampler book “Manhwa: The World of Korea Comics” distributed by the Korea Culture & Content Agency at the Frankfurt Book Fair, October 2005). “The Philippine Sports Commission is… launching [the] Batang Pinoy-Philippine National Youth Games 2000 [using] the IEC [information, education ;amp; communication] strategy.

The IEC strategy includes the launching of Batang Pinoy Komiks [comics], an innovative… nd illustrative reading material espousing the very ideals of Batang Pinoy. ” (From an article in the Manila Bulletin, April 2000) “From Tin-Tin to Archie and Phantom to Flash Gordon, comics are a genre among themselves…Comics have provided the masses with entertainment in the days when television and computers were a figment of some genius’s imagination. But they have stuck out for the long haul and a kid [in India] today is as well-versed with the comic-book universe as he was twenty years ago. ” (From an article entitled “Comics still rule the world” in The Times of India, June 2000)Comics Quotes & Facts, Christian Comics International (2010) Retrieved from: http://www.
christiancomicsinternational. org/quote_asia04. html Since its rise in the mainstream several decades ago, these comic books has elevated itself from something that is shunned at to something that is revered immensely as a body of creative work. Nowadays, the name of Marvel and DC has become commonplace and consistently taken a synonymous identity with top of the line comic books. It has created several characters and icons that has become a part of the consciousness of the common man. From invincible en from planets unknown to genetically mutated individuals, comic books have time and again provided individuals both young and old a world of fantasy and an outlet for escape from reality. However, comics are a controversial art form.
Over a lengthy period of time comics have provoked debate. In the United States, comics have traditionally been considered a “lowbrow medium” (Varnum & Gibbons, 2001). “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry,” wrote psychiatrist Frederic Wertham in his 1954 book, “Seduction of the Innocent,” which linked comics to the rise in juvenile delinquency (Wymann, 2010).Accordingly, even in the early 1900s, there were teachers who raised concerns about children reading comics – that their content wasn’t appropriate content for a children, and that it wasn’t real literature (Tilley, 2009). As comic books are surrounded by controversies, it is the purpose of this paper to rationalize on the effects of comic books to its readers, especially the young ones. This paper also discusses a brief overview of comic book history and its characteristics that had evolved overtime.Based on these information, the researcher will attempt to establish a strong sense of right and wrong and ethical values concentrated in the comic book universe.
I. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Comic books have a rich history. Using images and sequences of pictures to communicate were common in early civilizations and ancient cultures, for example cave drawings, the Egyptian hieroglyphics and stained glass windows showing Biblical scenes. The Bayeux tapestry in Normandy (c1100) has sometimes been claimed to be an early example of a strip cartoon (Sabin, 2005). A.Rise of the Comic Strip Rodolphe Topffer, a Swiss artist, formalised his thoughts on the picture story in his Essay on Physiognomics in 1845 (Comics, 2007). Satirical drawings like Punch in newspapers were popular through the 19th century.
In Germany in 1865 the strip Max and Moritz, by Wilhelm Bush was published in a newspaper. Comics as we know now were first created in the last half of the nineteenth century in England when the first regular comic strip appeared in 1884 with the first comics hero, Ally Sloper. This was followed by Comic Cuts in 1890.In the United States the first comic character – The Yellow Kid – appeared in 1896 (Saraceni, 2003). Comic strips became very popular and in the early 1930s some publishers began to publish them in the form of a book. In Europe (especially in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain) children’s magazines began to publish comics during the 1930s. These comics became very popular, the most famous of whom Herge’s Tintin, which is still a favourite in the 21st century.
Superman made his first appearance in 1938 and Batman the following year (Sarceni, 2003).Comic books began in the 1930s as reprint collections of newspaper strips (Pustz, 1999). In the late 1940s the so-called “crime” and “horror” comics became popular. Crime and violence were portrayed and many people worried about the effect that these comics might have on children. These concerns gave rise to campaigns against comics. Peanuts, with Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy, one of the all-time favourites, was created during the 1950s (Saraceni, 2003). Asterix made his appearance in 1959 and is still a best seller.
B. The Comic Book SuperheroesSuperheros like Spiderman and The Fantastic Four appeared in the early 1960s. It was also during this time that underground comics, called “comix” were published (Pustz, 1999). These were intended for adult readers. Comics became more intellectual and started to attract scholarly attention, especially in Europe. At the end of the 1970s the first “graphic novel” – A contract with God – was published. This novel was aimed at adults.
The comic by Art Spiegelman (1986), Maus, which portrayed life in the concentration camp of Auswitz, established comics as an adult art form (Saraceni 2003: 3).Throughout Europe and Latin America, and in Canada and Japan, comics are now regarded as artistic and cultural productions. “The comic book has evolved from humble beginnings into a graphically sophisticated and culturally revealing medium” (Sabin, 2005). Improvements in printing technology have brought a radical transformation in the way comics are produced. Previously the common image of a comic was of a cheaply produced throwaway, but today photographic-quality paper and fully painted artwork are commonplace. In the 21st century comics explore new possibilities offered by digital graphics and the Internet.Many popular Hollywood films are based on, or adapted from comic books, for example Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four, among many others.
C. The Philippine Comic Book Industry In the Philippines, while the first indigenous cartoons may be traced to Jose Rizal’s fable “The Monkey and the Tortoise”, the origins of the mainstream komiks industry would not arise until after the Spanish-American War. In the 1920s, Liwayway magazine began running comic strips under the direction of Romualdo Ramos and Tony Velasquez such as the still-running Mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy (The Misadventures of Kenkoy) (Ong Pang Kean, 2006).Originally inspired by American comic strips and comic books left behind by American GIs , the medium steadily diverged, and by the 1950s, drew more inspiration from other forms of Filipino literature such as komedya, as well as Philippine mythology. Many komiks were evidently inspired by specific American comics, such as Kulafu and Og (Tarzan), Darna (Shazam! ), and D. I. Trece (Dick Tracy).
The predominance of superheroes has continued into the modern day. However, other characters such as Dyesebel draw more from traditional folklore.At one point, between 33 to 40 percent of Filipinos read komiks, but this number has since dwindled somewhat due to competition from other media forms and the phenomenal “brain-drain” as some Filipino komik artists have gone on to work in the American comic industry, including Alfredo Alcala, Mar Amongo, Alex Nino, and Nestor Redondo. More recently, comic artists have begun producing what is often called “Pinoy Manga”, inspired largely by Japanese anime and manga which have been widely available in the Philippines since the 1970s (Ong Pang Kean, 2006). II. COMIC BOOK CHARACTERISTICSA comic book or comicbook (often shortened to simply comic and sometimes called a funny book, comic paper, or comic magazine) is a magazine made up of narrative artwork in the form of separate “panels” that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog (usually in word balloons, emblematic of the comic book art form) as well as including brief descriptive prose (Wikipedia, 2010). The term “comic book” arose because the first comic books reprinted humor comic strips.
Despite their name, however, comic books do not necessarily operate in humorous mode; most modern comic books tell stories in a variety of genres.The term “comic” was accepted through popular usage and refer to the form rather than the content. The term “graphic novel” (short novels done in the medium of comics), is an extension of the “comic book” as visual narrative. A. Unique Characteristics Comics are seen as “a narrative form consisting of pictures arranged in sequence” (Varnum ;amp; Gibbons, 2001). “Comics (or, less commonly, sequential art) is a form of visual art consisting of images which are commonly combined with text, often in the form of speech balloons or image captions” (Comics, 2007).Its being ‘sequential’ is the unique characteristic of comics.
Kannenberg (2001) describes the pictures in a comic as the visual narrative and the word as the textual narrative. Comics are thus characterised by: 1) the combination of both words and pictures, with a relatively small number of words; and 2) the sequential order of these images organised into units, graphically separated from each other. B. Parts of the Comic Book Comics have the following components: Panels, gutters, balloons and captions (Saraceni, 2003). The panels: Each page is normally composed of a number of rectangular frames named panels. * The gutter: Each panel is separated from the others by a blank space called the gutter. * The balloon: The use of balloons, in which text is inserted and imposed into the panel which contains the pictures, is one of the principal characteristics of comics.
Other types of print such as children’s books and advertising also combine images and words, but the use of balloons is unique to comics (Khordoc, 2001). The balloons contain direct speech, but significant proportions of it are essentially narrative.It shows that a character is speaking (in the first person) and this makes the reader’s involvement in the story much deeper. Balloons may report speech or thought. The tail of the balloon indicates the character who is speaking or thinking. * The caption: The caption is not inside the panel, but is always a separate entity, at the top or bottom of the panel. The text in the caption represents the narrator’s voice and add information to the dialogues in the balloons.
C. Comic Book Genres Artists who produce comics bring their own individual style to this medium.Two basic art styles – realistic and cartoony – have been identified (Comics, 2007). The cartoony style uses comic effects and a variation of line widths. Characters tend to have rounded, simplified anatomy, while the realistic style focuses more on realistic anatomy and shapes. Superheroes are very popular characters in comics. Superheroes are the modern myth, and we create myths to solve impossible, inhumanly large problems.
Many comic books involve some form of masculine power fantasy and are very popular among male readers. Boys love the action adventure of comics.The use of both pictures and words together is not a unique characteristic of comics, but the way in which these elements interact with each other is. The arrangement into sequences of panels makes comics different from cartoons, which are composed of one panel only. Illustrated children’s books and picture books have a structural difference from comics. Both of them involve a series of images that tell a story coupled with a text. The structural difference is that children’s books make use of narration boxes instead of word balloons, and comics use panels.
Most readers are familiar with the two fundamental forms of comics, namely comic strips (simply a sequence of cartoons, most commonly four panels long) in newspapers or magazines, and comic books and graphic novels, which are longer comic stories. Web comics are online comics available on the Internet (Comics, 2007). Presently, instructional comics are utilized to convey information, for example, strips designed for educative or informative purposes like the instructions on an aeroplane’s safety card. III.EFFECTS OF COMIC BOOKS Comics and the late,’40s and ’50s were more popular than any form of popular entertainment. The way to fully absorb the power that comics had was to: “understand not just the reach, which was extraordinary, which was huge, but also that the content of those comics and the point of view of those comics and the sensibility of those comics was so radically different from that of anything else that young people can see. If kids are going to the movies, they’re not seeing anything like this in the movies.
Movies were geared toward families. There was nothing like this. ” David Hajdu, author of “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America,” From Kalning, Kristin’s article “Comic-book controversy is a cautionary tale” In the 21st century children’s lives are dominated by television, video games, play stations and the Internet – all visual media. Children of all ages are able to respond to visual texts. The direct approach of comics makes the reader a participant in one way or another.Young readers feel involved in the story as they experience it visually and directly. Comics usually require less effort to read.
The messages of the pictures are being assisted by the short, readable texts. The format of picture and text can hold a child’s attention longer than print only (Tiemensma, 2009). Underlying the neutral side, now let us delve deeper into the sidestepped controversies that entail reading of comic books. A. Negative Effects of Reading Comic BooksIn the 1950s, concern that violence in comic books might increase aggression in children led to the development of a Comics Code Authority, a self-censoring agency for comic book content developed and enforced by the producers of comic books (Kirsch, 2006). However, the overwhelming majority of comic books available today still contain violent themes, and many comic books are laden with graphic gore and sexual themes. According to Psychotherapist Lipika Varma from Value Lanes, as cited by Lama (2010), children often imitate what they’ve seen, read, or heard.
Many of these graphic novels and comic books give away stories on violence, and sometimes they are written in such a way that children get the wrong idea. It’s the same with computer games, which many children’s are terribly hooked with. I think it has got to do a lot with some sense of power, which these children’s would get reading these stories. The changing lifestyle has a lot to do with this,” said Varma. According to Hilde (1996) and Elkisch’s (1996) survey of 88 white and negro children, comic books inspire violent behavior and aggression in children by exposing them to violence, torture, killings and act of revenge.The deleterious effects of comic books on child psychology outweigh their benefits as a means of release for children who are trying to gain acceptance in their society. Furthermore, children who read comic books identify themselves with the aggressor in a given plot to introject their fear and problems.
It’s thought that widespread exposure to violent entertainment media contributes to high levels of violence and aggression in modern societies and that violent themes may have negative impact on individuals functioning (Munro, 2010).In a recent investigation led by Kirsh SJ, & Olczak PV (2002), results indicated that participants reading extremely violent comic books ascribed more hostile intent to the provocateur, suggested more retaliation toward the provocateur, and attributed a more negative emotional state to the provocateur than participants reading the mildly violent comic book. These data suggest that social information processing of relationally aggressive situations is influenced by violent comic books, even if the comic books do not contain themes of relational aggression.Recently, a study by Lamb (2010) into the comic book consumed by boys showed that superhero comics may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors: “there is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday. Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Iron Man, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns. In Sharon Lamb, EdD (2010) Superheroes and Slackers: Limited Media Representations of Masculinity for Boys Past studies, however, attributed the negative effect of reading comics to the difficulty to understand the language of comic books: * Leoni (1970) studied the reaction when some male adolescents in front of violent images of comics; the researcher found out that when aggressive behaviour is acted by human characters, it causes more disease than when the aggressor is an animal or an humanised animal.
Imbasciati and Castelli (1974) studied the effects of black (noir) genre , especially when subject is stressing, erotic and aggressive (Diabolic, criminal, satanic etc. ). Researchers found out that black comic books influence the mood, causing anxiety and depression. It happens especially with female readers and almost when reader and chief character are of the same sex. It confirms the result found by Quadrio (1966): fantastic hostility is higher in females who have to inhibit it in their behaviour. Detti (1982) said that comic books heroes behaviour influences readers behaviour only when they’re psychologically weak, and their I. Q.
is less than 80. This Author tells also about negative effects of  stories full of reprimand, morality, censure and reproof. This kind of stories could let children feeling fault, for the difference between their behaviour and the always perfect behaviour of characters. * Gelati(1985) showed 12 strips of Peanuts (by Schultz) to 50 universitary students of medicine; she found out that the misunderstanding of those strips was more than 50%.So she told that scientific way of reading, typical of students of medicine, doesn’t allow to understand Schultz’s spirit and all the stories of classical intellectual gender . * Minelli (1992), studying a sample of teen-agers, habitual readers of Dylan Dog, found out that many of them suffered the death of a parent or a relative (and it wasn’t true for the group of non-readers). So he theorized that Dylan Dog comic books, in which death themes are often discussed, are therapeutic instruments to elaborate mourning.
The previous studies (Hilde, 1996; Elkisch, 1996; Munro, 2010; Kirsh SJ & Olczak PV, 2002; Lamb, 2010; Leoni, 1970; Imbasciati and Castelli, 1974; Detti, 1982; Gelati, 1985; Minelli, 1992) indicate that comic books are just another medium, another genre for the young that needs supervision and guidance. B. Positive Effects of Reading Comic Books Comic books receive a lot of the criticism coming from “people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words…some kids, yes.But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words (Tilley, 2009). ” Any book can be good and any book can be bad, to some extent,” she said. “It’s up to the reader’s personality and intellect” because wholly, comic books are just another medium, another genre. One of the first goals in reading development is the nurturing of positive attitudes toward reading.
A positive attitude toward reading is an important factor in the development of a reading habit.Reading comics is a way to develop a positive attitude towards reading and to get children engaged in reading. Comics entertain. Children usually enjoy comics and read them for pleasure. Enjoyment of reading comics could lead to lead to enjoying other reading materials. Children are more likely to continue reading once they think of reading as enjoyable. Two large surveys, both of 8,000 learners, conducted in the United Kingdom in 1977 and repeated in 1996 found that comics are the most potent form of periodical reading (Fenwick 1998).
Even before a child is ready to read text, sequential art can give them practice in making meaning from material printed on a page, tracking left to right and top to bottom, interpreting symbols, and following the sequence of events in a story. Sequential art provides plenty of opportunity for connecting the story to children’s own experiences, predicting what will happen and inferring what happens between panels, just as they would do with a text story. The advantage of sequential art is that children do not need to be able to decode text to learn and practice comprehension skills (Edmunds, 2006).An academic study of children’s comic book reading habits – “The children talk about comics” – was already done in 1949 by Katherine Wolf and Marjorie Fiske (Pustz, 1999). They found that many children prefer comic reading to all other activities. Learners who can read well as well as learners with reading problems are attracted to comics. Some evidence of the positive role of the incorporation of comics into school reading practices in the early years is provided by the results of Marsh’s study in two Sheffield schools in the United Kingdom (Marsh & Millard 2000,).
Comics can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways. Comics can enhance second language learning. Comics present language in action. They help improve reading development for learners struggling with language acquisition, as the illustrations provide contextual clues to the meaning of the written narrative (Edmunds 2006). Adaptations of literary works in comic format can be useful in English classes. Children can learn story elements through reading comics.Almost always fiction, comics are useful for introducing concepts such as narrative structure and character development (Grant 2006).
Like novels, comics and graphic novels have a beginning, middle, and end as well as a main character or characters that develop through conflicts and the story’s climax. Research by Krashen and Ujiie in the United States showed that middle school (ages 10-14) boys who were heavy comic book readers liked reading more, read more in general, and read more books than lighter comic book readers, who in turn read more than non-comic book readers (Krashen, 2005).Research done in Scotland has confirmed that comic book reading could be the key to encouraging more young boys to read and to read comics could improve literacy rates (Schofield, 2005). These studies show that reading comic books while young is of positive experience. According to Tiemensma’s (2009) summary, comics reduce the amount of text in a story to a manageable level and give learners whole stories that they can complete reading in a reasonable time. The use of comics in school can provide a link to the reading experience of children for whom books and reading may be associated predominantly with schoolwork.Comics can thus play a role to motivate reluctant readers, engage children in reading, develop the comprehension and language skills of second-language learners and teach visual literacy.
Comics can provide a stepping stone to other kinds of reading and their acceptance as part of reading materials especially at school can support children who are reluctant to read for pleasure. CONCLUSION Comics are books, too. Despite its many forms, comic books offer recreation to varying individuals with different tastes, ranging from the cartoony (Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters on strip) to the gory, oftentimes sexually explicit graphic novels.They exist to fill some of our fantasies, a longing to escape from reality, and a chance to remodel our lives after fictitious, superheroic and benevolent protagonists of our favorite comic books. Each one of them explores on the different aspects of our lives as human beings, rife in sufferings, violence, toil and countless other miseries but in the end, the light champions over the dark. The glimpse of a brighter future for our comic book superheroes is brighter than the negative effects that comic books, asserted by various critics, revealed.In this sense, violence does not measure our right to read comic books.
Even the young ones can penetrate through its shambles, because it is another art form. Comic books are part of popular entertainment, and are no more than easily affected by the ever-changing world of ours. This is just the pattern that repeats itself over and over in the culture. The new is always shocking, and then the new becomes acceptable. “It applies not just to violence and horror but to tonality in music and sexuality in film and literature — it plays in different ways socially and aesthetically (Hajdu, as quoted by Kalning, 2008). To this end, I cannot clearly say that young readers reading comic books are negatively affected or positively improved. I can only say that comic books do have an effect on our lives, and as a student, who likes to read comic books, I can say that it changed my outlook and increased my experiences.
The artists and scriptwriters who made these works of art are sure to be gratuitously thanked for their contribution in our ever expanding treasure of knowledge.

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