R. L. Stine was drawn to comic illustration at an early age. He says his first ambition was to be a comic book illustrator, and he recalls how he would wait for the afternoon arrival of the Columbus Citizen, the then newspaper in his Ohio hometown. Each day he would spread the paper out on his living room floor and read the comics.
Stine had many early favorite artists like Al Capp and Walt Kelly (Li’l Abnerand Pogo) and Alley Oop by V.T. Hamlin, and there were many others. When he discovered MAD comics and horror comics, other artists became important to him like the legendary Will Elder, Wallace Wood, and Jack Davis. Then there were the horror illustrators like Gray Morrow, Reed Crandall, and Frank Frazetta. And he admired other artists like Gary Larson, Mort Drucker, and Art Spielgelman—cartoonist, editor, and comics advocate best known for his graphic novel Maus.
This month Stine, the worldwide bestselling author of Goosebumps and the master of scary stories for young readers, launches his own middle grade graphic novel series with Just Beyond: The Scare School Original Graphic Novel, a supernatural horror tale bound to scare a whole new generation of kids.
But what exactly are graphic novels and how do they differ from comic strips? Graphic novels, the term first coming into vogue in the late 1970s, are actually long-form narratives done in the style of comic books. Works like Maus, Persepolis, and Fun Home have garnered Pulitzers, given birth to film and theater adaptations, topped best-seller lists, and elevated comic art from an inconsequential medium into an acclaimed one.
Graphic novels are more complex than comics. A graphic novel uses the interplay of text and illustrations in a comic-strip format to tell a story. Instead of relying on just text to construct a narrative, it uses graphical elements such as panels, frames, and speech/thought balloons in a sequential way to create and evoke a story in a reader's mind. So, graphic novels are not collections of comic strips, but rather full-length stories told in paneled, sequential, graphic format. Many genres are written in graphic novel format, including fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography, and nonfiction.
And, a graphic novel, much like any book, is an important tool for learning. Often times, graphic novels contain higher level vocabulary words than print-only books for readers in the same age range and are great for introducing children to new words. Graphic novels are great for visual learners. Readers actively participate in this medium, inferring what they see from the image and linking it to the corresponding text to understand the narrative developing from panel to panel, or picture to picture. Inference is an important reading skill.
Says Stine: “I am so happy to have a whole new medium in which to scare kids. Just Beyond will take kids just beyond reality-- to the same creepy worlds I create in my books. I'm learning that graphic novels give authors a chance to tell deep and rich stories and to reach kids who are growing up in this very visual age."
R. L. Stine will be in conversation with Jenny Robb, Curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at 5pm on Saturday, September 14th followed by a reception on campus. Registration through OSU HERE.
Following a screening of Goosebumps 2 at 11:30am on Sunday, September 15th, Stine will give a talk and sign books. Registration through Eventbrite HERE.
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, serving all of central Ohio!
Learn more about me on my personal website.