Part of the digital literacies discussions that I've been following of late have centered on the long-discussed (but not always applied) potential associated with using comics for intertextual, heavily visual, narrative formats through which kids can explore cultural themes, literature and learning. It's a fascinating idea that draws on the long history of comics, picture books, and transmedia intertexts within children's culture...while tapping into children's actual leisure practices in a way that transcends the usual boundaries between cultural categories (high/low culture, literature/entertainment, etc.) and gives some serious consideration to the value and possibilities contained within the re-emergence of comics as a literary form.
Not that comics have ever really gone anywhere, but they've certainly resurfaced within the mainstream in a big way these past few years -- a way that hasn't really been seen since, well, i'm not really sure when! (golden age? silver age?). I remember that Scholastic initiated a big push toward graphic novels and comics a number of years ago (e.g., click here to find out more about the launch of their Comix line back in 2005). And certainly, the emerging research on kids' reading habits within digital games and online environments is relevant to this discussion as well (e.g., Jackie Marsh's work on kids reading and writing in virtual worlds). Obviously, there are many more connections between this body of work and the research I'm doing on kids' games, and some cool possibilities of merging the two areas...not just thematically (which has been done before), but "ludic"ally as well. I still have a lot of catching up to do, and until my PhD is "in hand," this is definitely on the back-burner. But as a former comicbook collector and current reader of graphic novels (well, TPBs in my case), this whole realm definitely draws my attention.
Some neat places to start for finding out more about the kids' "comics space," and exploring its increased presence within both educational curriculum and kids' digital culture:
James Bucky Carter's En/Sane World - a repository of info and resources on "Sequential Art Narratives in Education (SANE)". His site includes lots of links and ideas for educators, as well as a variety of sources on "multigenre, multimodal, or otherwise "New" literacies."
The Online Visual Literacy Project - not just about comics, but appears to have some interesting background literature.
A short but sweet archive of comics-related posts on Media Macaroni, which includes a list of comics that the "cool kids" read and a great post about (as well as my first introduction to) Babymouse.
This excellent reading list of kids' comics posted by Jonathan Liu on GeekDad, in which he provides some great "off the beaten path" alternatives to the usual big name titles put out by Marvel and Disney (and yes - it was written in response to their partnership announcement this past summer).
Some of my own favourite kid-friendly titles (which I also posted in the comments section on GeekDad), that I would love to see more of within kids' digital culture:
Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin (think Harry Potter meets Hellboy meets Angry Little Girls)
Mike Kunkel’s Herobear and the Kid (actually anything by Astonish Factory is unique and all ages)
Jacob Chabot’s The Mighty Skullboy Army
And, although not always for kids, I really like the artwork and concept behind Roy Husada's Opera Manga, which he creates for the Vancouver Opera as a way of communicating/summarizing the storylines of upcoming performances to audiences. Very cool.
Of course, the renewed academic/press interest in comics, visual literacies and interactive storytelling is also in part being driven by kids themselves. For example, according to an article published last August in Publishers Weekly by Ada Price, web comics are being produced/created by younger and younger artists and writers, who are in turn benefiting from online distribution systems and exposure to land publishing deals with traditional book publishers. Again, nothing exceedingly new here...but the increased access (to younger age groups) and viability (in terms of potential for creators to actually generate an income from their artistic labour) are certainly keeping the topic relevant. I wonder how many actual "kids" are getting in on this, and I want to find out where they distribute their UGComics, and what the audience or community is like. I'm glad to see that this topic hasn't faded away and in fact appears to be gaining momentum. More links to come as I find them.