Brian Kane: The Graphic textbook

brian kaneOk. So I should be completing my GFA bid so that I can actually officially start this project. But as I’ve been researching for 8 odd months I figure a few more days isn’t going to hurt. The reason for my distraction today is because I’ve just discovered Brian Kane’s blog. Brian is the author of the award-winning biography, Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators. He has a Master’s Degree in History of Art, and a Ph.D. in Arts Administration, Education and Policy from The Ohio State University. His 12-part blog represents part of his dissertation regarding adapting the Sequential Art medium for undergraduate-level graphic eTextbooks.

Kane says: “it is my opinion that one day introductory-level educational graphic textbooks for college students will be the norm rather than the exception.” He is optimistic about the potential of graphic novels to engage students and takes Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art (1985) as his starting point. After he had been illustrating comic stories for fifty years, Eisner realized that he “was involved in an ‘art of communication’ more than simply an application of art.” Kane gives numerous examples of graphic textbooks that have been published recently that support his belief in the “pedagogical potential of this medium”, such as: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation (2009) by Michael Keller, and Nicolle Rager Fuller; Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth (2011) by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon; DNA: A Graphic Guide to the Molecule that Shook the World (2011) by Israel Rosenfield, Edward Ziff, and Borin Van Loon

Kane raises various questions such as: What standards (checks and balances) need to exist in order to guarantee the academic credibility of graphic textbooks? And once academic standards are established how do we convince publishers to adopt them? What would be the protocols for peer review of graphic textbooks?

My own personal motivation in editing together a graphic novel is to offer lots of narrative paths into the text, to stimulate and maintain an interest in reading and to create a sense of civic pride by taking obscure literary figures from Nottingham’s past to engage readers. But validation is a recurring theme that keeps popping up either in my GFA or how I go about selecting the right artists and illustrators. Although Kane has a slightly different agenda with his textbooks it would seem acceptance of this medium/genre is something that splits people. With two graphic novels shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Book Awards, it would seem sequential literary art no longer requires discussion.

Brian Kane’s website

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