Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Comic books have arrived! "Comic Books and Graphic Novels" presents a survey of the Anglo-American comic book canon and of the major graphic novels in circulation in the United States today. Its governing question is simple: by what terms can we discuss comic books as literary art? In pursuit of that question it develops a theory of literary reading and time itself. Visit us at or to see some student-created comics from 2013!

About The Course

The comic book pamphlet developed as an independent literary form in the 1930s and early 1940s and has been a favorite of adolescent enthusiasts and cult devotees ever since. Recently, it has entered into a process of transformation, moving from a species of pulp fiction on the margins of children’s literature to an autonomous genre, one Will Eisner labeled the graphic novel. This transformation has been noted in such literary venues as the New York Times and the New Yorker, as well as in an increasing number of university classrooms and bookstore shelves.

“Comic Books and Graphic Novels” presents a survey of the history of American comics and a review of major graphic novels circulating in the U. S. today. It is focused on three main points. First, it argues that as comics develop in concert with, and participate in literary culture, they should be considered literature. Second, it reasons that such a designation forces us to redefine our concept of literature itself. Finally, it explores this transformative literary world by arguing that comics have much to teach us about ourselves.

Get started by enrolling in an upcoming session, then print out the official course playset and get started!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this class offered as Signature Track?

Yes, it is!

What resources will I need for this class?

For this course, all you need is an internet connection and the time to view the videos, write the essays, and enjoy some marvelous works of art. You do not need to purchase the comics, as the lectures and assignments are self-contained; of course, you might enjoy reading and owning the comics.

Is this course suitable for children?

Comics are written by adults and are about themes that adults think about.  This course deals with these mature, often passionate and painful, themes.  It is not for children.

But aren’t comics really for illiterates?

Comics are a vibrant art form that spans every aspect of the humanities: literature and creative writing, art and design, world history, and studies of society, gender, race, and class.  If you haven’t read comics, or just haven’t read them in a long time, you are in for a profound experience.

Who would win in a fight, Superman or Dr. Manhattan?

This course isn’t really about questions like this, so much as big questions of art, history, and the human urge to create.  If you would like to know the answer to this question, draw your own comic!

Why should I bother with the essays?

Every writer can improve.  Writing essays will develop your writing skills and help you articulate your imagination.

What are three cool things I'll learn from this class?

You will learn a mode of reading that will allow you to appreciate comics in a new depth.  You will learn an effective mode of writing that will allow you to express your thinking clearly.  Most importantly, you will also learn the power of the imagination as a force for change: Art is Generative, so there is always hope.

Recommended Background

No background reading in comics is required.  Comics are for everyone!