Can Reading Comics Make You a Better Filmmaker?

4c9e9paniIn COMM 343 Graphic Novel students not only read selected works, but also create their own comics. This semester we’ve read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Craig Thompson’s Blankets and David Small’s Stitches. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is next on the agenda. For those unfamiliar with comics, the common thread between these books is that they are all award-winning autobiographies.

Fun Home

A page from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.

In the past students were allowed to write any story of their choosing, but oddly enough this seemed to stifle, rather than foster, creativity. Instead of crafting rich and diverse content, many students fell into the trap of simply emulating the “funnies” they had read as kids. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with children’s comics, this approach didn’t encourage students to tackle more mature subject matter and develop their own voices.

By requiring participants to create an autobiographical novel, the course adopts the classic “write what you know” philosophy. And while this tactic certainly has its limitations (read Bret Anthony Johnson’s “Don’t Write What You Know” article in The Atlantic), for first-time authors it provides a safe point of entry into the nuances of narrative.

It doesn’t matter what your ultimate career path is: radio personalities, sports anchormen, journalists and independent filmmakers all are storytellers. Creating a graphic novel not only enhances storytelling ability, but also helps build visual skills that easily transfer into story-boarding films and framing news footage.


COMM 343 Graphic Novel helps students improve their visual storytelling ability. Part of the New Media concentration, the course is taught most spring semesters.

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