Graphic novels exhibit puts comics in spotlight

The Irving Arts Center became a little more animated with the new exhibit: “BAM! It’s a Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels.”

Featuring the works and publications of five popular children’s graphic novel authors/illustrators, including author of “Miki Falls” and how-to-draw instructor Mark Crilley, “Babymouse” author Matthew Holm, author of the “Lunch Lady” series Jarrett Krosoczka, New York Times bestseller and author of the “Big Nate” series Lincoln Peirce, and Eisner Award-winning author of “SMILE” Raina Telgemeier, the exhibit formally opened on Sept. 9.

The exhibit comes to the Irving Arts Center courtesy of The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas. The Irving Arts Center has been partners with NCCIL for many years and each year hosts several exhibits from the organization.

“I was particularly interested in getting this [exhibit] to Irving, because it focuses on graphic novels,” said Marcie Inman, director of exhibitions and educational programs for the Irving Arts Center. “A lot of their other exhibitions tend to be picture books for younger kids. Graphic novels really span into the pre-teen and teen years. With this particular exhibit, it’s really nice because we have some books geared towards elementary-age kids as well as middle school kids and teens. I really wanted to have something a little different that would appeal to older kids.”

Inman enjoys bringing NCCIL exhibits to Irving because of both their educational and artistic value.

“The whole genesis behind NCCIL was wanting to give artistic credibility to these writers and illustrators as well as recognizing that children’s literature is an important genre,” Inman said. “These are some of the first books kids are exposed to and it needs to be good literature. Part of the whole success of early childhood and elementary-age books is the combination of words and images.”

To celebrate the new exhibit, the Irving Arts Center put on a comic-drawing event, “Comically Yours,” on Sunday, Sept. 10. Children were encouraged to draw their own comic books using the works of the authors featured in the new exhibit as inspiration for their works. Shelia Cunningham, an art instructor for events at the Irving Arts Center, said being both writer and artist is not as easy as people may think and she respects the often times difficult work these authors/illustrators do.

“The illustrators are fabulous. I think it’s really hard for illustrators to distill big ideas down into one little panel or have that very graphic representation for what’s going on [in the story],” Cunningham said. “I think it’s really hard, but they do a super job.”

Kathy McMahon, an employee with the Irving Arts Center, started reading graphic novels at a young age. She said one reason these novels are so popular is because they appeal to people of all ages and all interests.

“I grew up with comic books, and of course they were very engaging back then,” McMahon said. “I began to appreciate the fact that, even as adults, there are graphic novels that appeal to mystery or adventure, and it’s very much a medium for all ages.”

Marcie Inman feels graphic novels are not just appealing and entertaining for children, but they can also serve an educational purpose in teaching children who have trouble reading regular books.

“I think scholars and academics are starting to recognize the benefits of graphic novels for young readers,” Inman said. “In studies, they show that kids who may have problems reading or may have some learning issues often do very well when they’re exposed to graphic novels with the combination of the images, the text and the way to follow the narrative. It’s really starting to improve reading levels for certain kinds of young students.”

The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of the Dupree Theater until Jan. 28.

About the Author

Ariel Graham

Ariel Graham is a freelance reporter and blogger. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Media & Communication in December of 2011. Prior to moving to Dallas, she worked for AM 790 KFYO in Lubbock, Texas, as a commercial voiceover actress, board operator, and producer for “Lubbock’s First News” & “The Chad Hasty Show.” She also wrote a weekly technology blog “The Geek Girl Report,” as well as various news stories and podcasts for the station. She is currently working on her new blog “Super Geek Girl Report,” and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, video editing, and playing video games.