Patrick O’Connor, Psy.D. developed Comicspedia, an online tool that assists therapists and educators in finding comic books to bring into therapy and the classroom. Free Comic Book Day lands on the first Saturday of May every year (this year, May 5th). On this day, comic book shops all across the United States offer a special selection of free comic books featuring very popular characters – it’s the perfect time to get into comics! This five-part blog series will cover how comics like these can improve our lives, from fostering creative thinking, to enhancing literacy, and more.
Comic books are an excellent expression of the capacity of human creativity. From the creation of fictional characters and their backgrounds, to the stories that are told, to the display of those stories through various artistic styles, a comic book is concentrated art. Each month, two to four people lend their expertise (writer, penciller, inker, colorist, sometimes with roles overlapping) to tell a story about our favorite characters in just 20 – 30 pages. Through this creative endeavor, further development of creative thinking within the reader is possible. Here are 5 ways this can happen:
- We see characters solve problems in every issue. By watching others solve problems creatively, we, too, can learn of ways to solve problems. Many issues conclude with a cliffhanger, where we see our hero in distress, but with no clear answer about how they will pull through. While the reader waits for the next issue, he or she can use this time to think about how they might get out of that jam!
- Villains have problems too. If we just turn the table, Batman looks like a pretty big thorn in The Joker’s side. Defeating a villain might seem easy from time to time – after all, it happens quite frequently. But defeating The World’s Greatest Detective? Talk about a tall order! By taking a different perspective, the reader can see how much time and planning The Joker used to develop such intricate traps for our hero, which can lead to increased appreciation of the commitment of time to problem solving.
- In comics, we see some very different personalities tackle problems. In The Avengers, the heroes often discuss various ideas about how to solve whatever problem they are currently facing. Wolverine, Hawkeye, Captain America, Thor, and more weigh in on the situation and must work together as a team to be successful. This is a fantastic way for readers to observe how people can see the same problem from several points of view, which can lead to increased awareness of how many answers can be the “right” answer.
- For people interested in art, one can study a comic book and dissect the layout in each panel to determine the importance placed on each element. From backgrounds to figures, how an artist tells a story before the speech bubbles are placed can be quite fascinating to study. How might the story have been told with less emphasis on the main figure? With more emphasis? What if the background had more or less detail?
- Readers interested in art can also draw extensions of the story. Perhaps they have an exciting idea about how to resolve the cliffhanger mentioned above. By adding a couple pages of their own art to a comic book, the reader is actively flexing their creative thinking through artistic expression.