Graphic Novels

greece06.gifAccording to Eisner (1985), who initiated the term graphic novels, they are “sequential art, the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a storyor dramatise an idea” (p. 5). Graphic novels share with comics the conventions for text and pictures, but are not serial in nature. A graphic novel is a complete story and stands alone. It is published in book format. Layouts can be designed in a ‘text heavy’ or ‘text light’ form (from many words to none at all). Like text-only novels, graphic novels come in various genres, from superhero to romance, manga to anime, and more (Booth and Lundy, 2007).

Essential Questions

The study of graphic novel is designed to align with the Timeless Narratives of the First Nations and Greek Peoples, an Imaginative and Literary unit outlined in the Ministry of Education’s English Language Arts 8 curriculum.
  • What makes a "great" story?
  • How can stories from other places and times teach us about ourselves? Our environment?
  • What lessons can we learn about ourselves and others through these stories?
  • What lessons can we learn about human nature?
  • What lessons can we learn about the meaning of life?

Prior Knowledge

Explore the genre of graphic novels
- Internet Scavenger Hunt - .
- Comics In The Classroom As An Introduction To Genre Study (ReadWriteThink)
- Create a semantic map to record your thoughts about what may be in the text, based upon your research and prior knowledge. Write the name of your graphic novel in the centre of a piece of paper or graphic software, such as Inspiration, and then write related words (categories) and attach to the title. Brainstorm details related to the categories.

In order to comprehend the selected graphic novel, build your background knowledge of Greek mythology, and in particular, the featured myth in your novel. The Encyclopedia Britannica from the Ministry of Education's Database page (The link will open in this window unless you right click on the link and select open in new window or open in new tab) offers three levels of encyclopedias. Choose the appropriate encyclopedia appropriate. Type the name of the Greek myth in the Search box. Print resources from the school library can also provide background knowledge. D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths is a great source.

Research the influence of Ancient Greece upon Western Civilization and mythological references that exist in logos, name of companies, and merchandise.

Display pictures of Greek heroes such as Achilles, Hercules, and Odysseus. Determine qualities that were admired by the Ancient Greeks (physical strength, bravery, and intelligence).

Greek mythology also includes the adventures of gods and goddesses. There are twelve major Greek gods and goddesses, called Olympians that were believed to live on Mount Olympus. The deities, although immortal, had human falabilities and often caused mortals to suffer. Discuss why the ancient Greeks believed in mythological heroes. What was their purpose? The deities resemble human beings in their looks and their actions. Which deity most closely resembles you? Explain.

Create a semantic map to record your thoughts about what may be in the text, based upon your research and prior knowledge. Write the name of your graphic novel in the centre of a piece of paper or graphic software, such as Inspiration, and then write related words (categories) and attach to the title. Brainstorm details related to the categories.


trojanhorse.gifExplore the key features of a graphic novel - visual and textual elements, time, and sound (Booth and Lundy, 2007).

Visual Features

Textual Features


  • How Time Passes
    Locate the different techniques the graphic artist uses to show the passage of time in the novel. Some commonly used techniques are:
    - Adding narration (The next day...)
    - Sketching an hourglass in the gutter
    - Drawing a panel with the moon, the sun, or passing seasons
    - Stretching a panel horizontally
    - Showing the character at different ages
    - Elapsing time in the gutter
    - Using sound or motion to show the passage of time
    Share the examples wth another student.

Monitoring Comprehension

In the journey to understanding the graphic novel, derive meaning from the following entry points:
  • Facial Expression
  • Landscapes
  • Sound Effects
  • Body Language and Relationships
  • Captions
  • Dialogue
  • Points of View
  • Sequence

Connecting (Building Schema)

  • Splash Page Predictions
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 66)
    A splash page is a full page drawing on the first page of a graphic novel, and includes the title and credits. View the cover and the splash page. With a partner, predict what the graphic novel is about. .
  • Boil It Down
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 105)
    List alternate titles for your graphic novel that capture the main idea of the story.
  • Text-To-Text Comparison
    Compare The Bone Books (Smith) with your graphic novel. Discuss the parallels to mythology (elements of classical mythology, the heroic quest, and cultural references) between The Bone Books, your graphic novel, and other epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey.
  • Classics Connections
    Some have observed that graphic novels bring the classic works of literature to a new audience. Others say that these works are fakes and a poor alternative to the original versions. What do you think? Compare an excerpt from the graphic novel with the traditional format book. Compare the versions. Which do you prefer? Why? What do you gain and lose betwen the two formats?
  • Allusions
    Discuss the meaning of the following allusions that refer to the Trojan War:
    - Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
    - He fought like a Trojan.
    - The face that launched a thousand ships.
    - That will be his Achilles’ heel.
    Discuss how the allusions from Ancient Greek myths are still used today.Illustrate the allusions and provide a caption beneath to demonstrate its relevance to today. For example:The Roughriders were victorious as they fought the Argonauts like Trojans.
  • Mythological Monsters
    Evaluate the role of mythical creatures and their role today.
  • The Power Of The Gods
    Discuss the possession of power in Ancient Greece. How did the gods and goddesses exercise their power? How do influential people receive and exercise power in western society? How did this compare to the possession of power in ancient Greece?


Inferring is the process of combining what is read with relevant prior knowledge (schema)to understand what is not stated explicitly in the text.
  • Vocal and Visual: Analyzing the Effect
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 74)
  • Point the Camera
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 81)
    The choice of angle or shot conveys meaning in graphic novels. Sometimes the artist provides a closeup of a character and then zooms in even closer, focusing on the mouth or the eyes. Alternately, the graphic artist may provide a long shot in which the characters appear overwhelmed by their surroundings.Locate examples of different camera shots and angles in the graphic novel. Record what you think the characters are thinking or feeling based on the way they are portrayed. Discuss if the graphic artist has made an effective choice for conveying the intented meaning.
    Examples of Camera Shots and Angles:
    - Extreme Close-Up
    - Low Angle Shot
    - Wide or Panoramic Shot
    - Over The Shoulder Shot
    - Bird's Eye View
  • Reading Between The Pictures
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 94)
    The visual components helps readers "see" ideas rather than read about them. View the cover page of your graphic novel. Discuss:
    - What are some of the first things that you see when you look at the cover of this graphic novel?
    - What kinds of interactions do you see?
    - What kind of information is in the foreground?
    - Why do you think that the artist chose this particular colour?
    - What overall impression do you have about the cover?
    - Does the cover make you want to read this book?
  • Not A Word
    Some writers describe every detail of an incident including everthing the characters are thinking and feeling. Others provide a bare outline of what happened and let the reader make inferences and "fill in the blanks." Discuss the pros and cons of these approaches. What impact does each approach have? Take an incident that the author conveys without a single word. Narrate this incident in words, in a variety of styles, to convey the same feelings that the author depicts visually.
  • Visual Language
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 71)
    Graphic artist have to use visual language, such as symbols, to represent concepts or ideas in order to minimize space. Look for ways in which the graphic artist has used symbols instead of words to convey a thought or idea. Record the symbol and its meaning.

Visualizing (Mental Imagery)

  • Looking At Landscapes
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 90)
    In graphic novels, landscapes and settings are drawn rather than described in words as in narrative novels. The way that the setting is created sets the mood for the rest of the novel. The mix of colour that is used depends on the genre of the story. Examine the landscapes and settings in your graphic novel. What colour did the artist use? How does the choice of colour affect the mood of the novel? Does the sky dominate or minimilize the landscape? How does the size of the sky set the mood?
  • Balloon Gallery and Language
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 78-79)
    Balloons can express thoughts, dreams, speeches, loud voices, whisperings, wishes, and sound effects. Examine the different punctuation, style, typeface, and balloon shapes. Record how the different techniques help convey emotion, voice, and affect the reader's interpretation.

Determining Importance In Text

  • Seeing The Big Picture
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 72)
    The size and sequence of the panels affect how the story is told. Locate a full-page panel in the graphic novel you are reading. Analyze the details, recording all of the elements that they see in the picture. Why do you think that the graphic artists used a full-page panel here to tell the story? How does it add to your understanding of the story?
  • Graphic Editing
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 86)
    Locate examples of panels in which the characters are expressing extreme emotions. Discuss whether the picture could tell the story alone or if the text conveys the same information. Determine if the text should be reduced or eliminated.


  • Bursting The Bubble
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 77)
    Examine the way that the graphic artist has portrayed the characters.
    - What does the body language tell you about the character?
    - What additional information can you gain from the characters' gestures?
    - How does the characters' postures provide further information?
  • Speaking Between The Pictures
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 96)
    Locate a powerful picture in a graphic novel - preferably one that has only one word or no words. Represent, in writing, what the artist has depicted visually.
  • Round Robin Retelling
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 99)
    Form groups in which each member has read or is reading the same graphic novel. On a prearranged signal, the first student begins retelling the story until the signal sounds. The next group member then resumes the retelling, then #3, and so on.
  • I Saw It This Way
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 99)
    Form groups in which each member has read or is reading the same graphic novel. Each group chooses a character from the novel. Members work togetherto develop this character's retelling of the story. In turn, one member from each group retells the story from his or her point of view to the other groups.
  • The Story Behind The Story
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 103)
    In your graphic novel, identify a particular problem that needs to be solved, a decision that needs to be made, or a question evoked by the story. Build a drama from details in the story to show what might happen next or after the story ends.
  • Compare and Contrast
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 100)
    Form a group with another student who is reading a different graphic novel. Compare and contrast the graphic novels using a Venn Diagram. Think about the the settings, the plot, the characters, the conflict, etc.
  • Graphic Novel Readability Checklist
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 108)
    Discuss whether or not you like your graphic novel and the reasons for your opinion. Analyze the following (add document)
  • What Is A Hero?
    In your opinion, what traits must a hero possess? List at least five qualities. Which of the heroes in the myths you’ve read represent most or all of these qualities? Has our idea of what is a hero changed? Why or why not? Has our value or belief system changed or do we still adhere to the Ancient Greek's definition of a hero?
  • Heroic Behaviour
    Much of our value and belief system originates from ancient Greece. Why do sometimes forget to obey our own “moral code”? Why have we not learned from the morals in myths and fables and become an ideal person? What institutions or things lead us into temptation?
  • Myths
    What is a myth? Myths important to study – they lead to an understanding of ancient beliefs, fears, and desirable physical and character traits. Most myths can be grouped accordingly:
    - Explanation of natural phenomena and the creation of the world.
    - Explanation of the cycle of life.
    - Explanation of human behavior – good and evil.
    Determine which group your graphic novel belongs to and what it explains or teaches.
  • Morals
    Analyze your graphic novel to determine the moral and its relevance to today's society. If you are reading The Trojan Horse, discuss the following:
    - Were the Trojans manipulated by the flattery of receiving a gift?
    - Why are people easily manipulated by flattery?
    - What does this indicate about our values in society?
    - What are the indicators of “flattery” and “sincere praise”?

Literature Analysis

  • Shock Tactics
    (Booth and Lundy, 2007; page 93)
    Shock tactics are used by many writers to keep the interest of readers. Find examples of shock techniques that are used in your graphic novel. Do they work artistically?


Option #1: Greek Mythology In Graphic Form
  1. Choose one of the twelve Olympians to research. D'Aulaire's Book Of Greek Myths is an invaluable resource.
  2. Retell the myth without words.
  3. Share your storyboard with a partner. Discuss the retelling - What needs to be clarified? What parts of the story require text to assist with the retelling? What would sharpen the visual impact?
  4. Incorporate the peer feedback into creating a draft that combines the visual and the text.
    - Comic Book Planning Sheet
    - Comic Creator Tool Tip Sheet
  5. Use the following form to help a peer provide you feedback
    This activity is adapted from Tales from Mount Olympus (Booth)

Option #2 - My Hero**
  1. Identify someone you think is a hero.
  2. Write their biography in graphic novel format.
  3. Discuss why this person is a hero, what makes them a hero, and how their accomplishments are similar to an Ancient Greek hero
  4. Incorporate a mixture of visuals including photographs, scanned documents, and other graphic elements. View Laura Wilson for an example.
  5. Use the following form to help a peer provide you feedback


    • ReadWriteThink Comic Creator
    • Animation-ish - Draw pictures and make animations.
    • Comic Book Creator
    • Build Your Own Comic (Children's Museum in Indianapolis) - Create your own comic using their backgrounds and characters.
    • Disney's Comic Creator - Choose among four characters and a single panel cartoon.
    • Garfield's Comic Creator - Use the Garfield characters to create a cartoon.
    • Make Your Own Graphix (Scholastic) - Make comics using a set of characters, objects, and settings.
    • MakeBeliefsComix - Choose characters with different emotions and 2, 3, or 4 panels.
    • Pixton - Make simple comics.
    • Comic Life - Work out a story and sketch using a rough frame by frame storyboard. Digital photographs make the basis for the images, along with speech bubbles and descriptive captions from Comic Life’s library. Finally, add the text and then print the strips.
    • Microsoft Photo Story 3 (PC) - Choose favourite photos from saved on your computer or from an online photo-service collection, and then drop them onto a storyboard. The photos can then be quickly organized into a personal storybook.
    • Microsoft Word (PC) - Create speech bubbles with Microsoft Word’s Autoshapes. Add text and stick photographs on top. Use pictures you have taken or use Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr.