One Panel at a Time, Changing the World with Comics Journalism

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Through boldly inked outlines, soft watercolors, pull-out posters and digital canvases, a new crop of mixed media artists are breaking complex social issues into bite-sized, accessible morsels. From Damascus to Honduras, and even to New York City, these creators are mixing journalism with the comic book format to immerse and engage readers.

Works of comics, or illustrated, journalism are lush, multilayered, and offer new gleanings to readers upon repeat views. They are simultaneously journalism and art in a comic book format, and they are transforming the way the public consumes information.

The creators and organizations associated with this new trend are all committed to comics as a means of furthering the journalistic process. To them, works of “reportage illustration” represent a strong future for journalism, and result in a public that is engaged in vital conversations about issues as complex as the criminal justice system or international affairs.

Comics have the unique ability to pull the reader into a complicated story with savvy, clever visuals. They increase user identification with characters in the story, and, because we can absorb information across multiple channels, they make it easy to dive into something as complicated as student debt and private education—or as culturally important as libraries. Comics make the world easier to understand. They make it easier for readers to learn — and as a result, make it easier to take action.

Comics are also a powerful draw for young readers, and as such, create easy educational entry points. They are one of the few forms of printed work that are increasing in demand and educators are taking notice. Educators have been documenting the benefits and challenges of using comics as classroom tools since the 1940s. But in the last several years, a number of libraries and educational associations have launched events dedicated to fostering learning through comics, including conferences such as Comics, Libraries, and Education: Literacy Without Limits, which is organized by New York state’s Monroe County Library System, or the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Wildcat Comic Con, which promotes the uses of comics in the classroom.

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