Over on Twitter, author Anne Ursu noted that her son's summer reading teacher “doesn't let students choose what they read because 'they'd just read graphic novels and fantasy'”, which prompted the expected sort of incredulous replies and stories about comics as not only valuable in themselves but as gateways to other reading.

What stuck me, though, was a later comment by Ursu, in an exchange after mentioning that her son is autistic and a pretty visual person.

[I]t is fascinating to watch him read. Like most autistic kids he has overactive empathy, so it's hard for him to take on all the emotions of a story at once. So he reads the pictures first to prepare himself for the emotions, then the text.

First, it's refreshing to see someone who isn't themselves autistic recognize that autistic people are not devoid of empathy, contrary to the popular narrative. (I'll set aside the “cognitive vs.emotional” issue for these purposes.)

Second, I immediately noticed that the way in which Ursu's son reads his comics echoes the way of making comics that became known as the so-called “Marvel method” (or the “Marvel house style”).

In a plot script the artist works from a story synopsis from the writer (or plotter), rather than a full script. The artist creates page-by-page plot details on his or her own, after which the work is returned to the writer for the insertion of dialogue. Due to its widespread use at Marvel Comics beginning in the 1960s, primarily under writer-editor Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, this approach became commonly known as the Marvel method or Marvel house style.

I find myself wondering if any comics creators who have used the Marvel method thought about it in quite this way: creating the overall emotional arc of the story first, then filling in the details?

#Autism #Comics #Empathy #PopCulture #Reading #June2019