It’s National Comic Book Day!

[Not to be confused with Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May each year.]

Comics are a narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog (usually in word balloons) as well as including brief descriptive prose. The first comic book – Famous Funnies – was published in the United States in 1933, reprinting earlier newspaper comic strips, which established many of the story-telling devices used in comics.

Despite their name, comic books are not necessarily humorous in tone; modern comic books come in a variety of genres. They may tell an ongoing story, provide educational information, or offer intrigue and suspense. But all comic books are fun to read!

The introduction of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman in 1938 turned comic books into a major industry, and thus began the Golden Age of comics. Many of the older comic books have great value as a collectors item.

A close equivalent to the American comic book, Japanese manga has historically held a more esteemed place in Japanese culture than comics have in American culture. Japanese society has a wide respect for manga, both as an art form and as a form of popular literature. In Japan, reading manga is not just a childhood fad; it’s a lifetime pastime.

Graphic novels are fictional stories presented in comic-strip format, bound in longer and more durable formats than comic books. Such books have gained increasing acceptance in libraries, and many literary classics have been done as graphic novels. These can be enjoyed by even the most reluctant readers.

Most schools are ambivalent about the use of comic books as an educational tool. However, comics can foster pupils’ interest in science and other subjects, helping students remember what they have learned. Many creative examples of educational comics can be found at Comics in the Classroom.

Larry Gonick, self-described as “The Overeducated Cartoonist,” has been creating comic books that explain history, science, and other big subjects since 1977. He says, “I have this crazy idea that some stories come across better in comics than in any other medium.” Gonick’s works include: The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, The Cartoon Guide to Physics, The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, and more.

There is also an educational manga series featuring such titles as: The Manga Guide to Calculus, The Manga Guide to Physics, The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology, The Manga Guide to Biochemistry, The Manga Guide to Databases and The Manga Guide to Statistics.

Kids will love to learn about history with the Graphic History series by Capstone Press which spotlights famous people from Lewis and Clark to Rosa Parks, and important events from the Mayflower Voyage to the Challenger Explosion. A colorful military history series, Osprey Graphic History, focuses on famous battles.

My boys love comics, especially Calvin & Hobbes and Baby Blues. Here are some other comic books we like:

The Comic Book Bible – The colorful artwork in this comic-style presentation provides an ideal introduction to the great stories and themes of the Bible – from Genesis through Revelation – for ages 7-12.

Manga Messiah – A faithful rendition of the life of Christ based on a combination of the accounts told by the four Gospels, this book appeals to adults as well as kids and teens. (Read my review.)

Biblical Economics in Comics – A good book for Christians seeking a biblical view of economics. The comic format makes reading fun and the topic easy to understand.

The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition – J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece The Hobbit has been adapted into a fully painted graphic novel, a classic in its own right.

SEE ALSO: Geeky Party Ideas for National Comic Book Day

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