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The 9/11 Attacks in Pictures: Building a Graphic Novel Collection

September 1, 2011

'The events of September 11 galvanized many disparate groups. Who would have thought that comic books would be one of them?' wrote Time magazine's Andrew Arnold1. Arnold should not have been surprised. Stars-and-stripes-clad Captain America was punching out Adolf Hitler on the 1941 cover of the very first issue of his comic book. Cartoons have a long tradition of responding to real-world crises that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Popular for their 'eyeball traction,' cartoons, comics and graphic novels pull the reader into the content faster than their all-text equivalents and increasingly, educators have grown to appreciate the value of graphic narratives not just as entertainment but for literacy and teaching. The publishing of graphic novels has exploded over the last ten years and librarians have also embraced the format in all types of libraries. Recent books, listservs, conference panels and professional special interest groups testify to the passion librarians have come to have for all types--comic, scary, romantic, serious, and educational at all levels. At W. W. Hagerty a growing graphic novel collecting includes noteworthy titles in the area of African American studies, Japanese manga, health and medicine, and literacy education. Annotated lists are posted under Research Guides: Information Science and Technology/Graphic Novels. With the tenth anniversary of September 11th approaching, the Libraries took the opportunity to add graphic novels about that incident as part of the 'historical' theme currently being developed. The September 11th graphic novels, currently displayed on the first floor of W. W. Hagerty Library, make a particularly good example of how issue-based graphic narratives can bring viewpoints out in the open for reaction and discussion. In comics, the medium is as much of the message as are the words and content. In The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, all characters on all sides are portrayed quite realistically. This is also the case with Code Word: Geronimo, a recent title about the SEAL raid to find bin Laden. But in After 9-11: America's War on Terror, President Bush and some of his staff come off more as caricatures, perhaps to convey doubt that the extensive Iraq war was justified at the time. These titles will be useful in classrooms for drawing out viewpoints and raising questions that themselves can be investigated through graphic novels, as well as traditional texts. Browse the graphic novels research guide by topic, or see all our holdings in the catalog. For more information, email Article by: Martha Cornog & Tim Siftar 1 Arnold, Andrew D. 'The Most Serious Comix Ever.', January 29, 2002. Accessed September 7, 2011,,9565,197890,00.html.
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