TESS reports on a recent continuing professional development session on using comics in the classroom by Dr Mel Gibson.
Ever considered using Viz’s Fat Slags to spark a class debate about gender representation? What about using Jackie to teach history? Or juxtaposing Japanese manga and Shakespeare? No?
In all likelihood, neither had teachers gathered at the National Library of Scotland, in Edinburgh, until they attended a recent continuing professional development session on using comics in the classroom by Dr Mel Gibson – or Dr Mel Comics, “because there’s no point in doing a Google search for Mel Gibson”.
Nat Edwards, head of education at the library, introduces Dr Gibson as a leading scholar on comics and graphic novels. Her job, she says, is to “enthuse” the assembled teachers, but she also wants to dispel any idea that such literature is “mostly violent and full of awfulness”.
Comics are, she argues, a means of developing literacy. There is, for example, the Classical Comics range which includes Shakespeare’s Henry V and Macbeth; there’s Persepolis, an autobiographical novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood in Iran after the revolution; and The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot about a girl who has suffered sexual abuse. “It’s a book about the power of literature and art to make life worth living again,” Dr Gibson says.