An Entertaining and Educational Graphic Novel Textbook
Dr. Katie Monnin is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. She is also the author of Teaching Graphic Novels and the upcoming Teaching Early Reader Comics & Graphic Novels.
In February of 2009, GraphicNovelReporter published my Op Ed piece entitled “The Revolution will be Visualized…and Communicated.” Focused on the idea that we currently live during the greatest communication revolution of all time, this Op Ed emphasized how graphic novels are one of the most significant, emerging literary formats of our time.
At the time the article was written, however, the author was only thinking about literary graphic novels. Fast forward to August 2010.
Enjoying the few days left of summer break, I was not thinking about the definition or categorical labels assigned to graphic novels. But when I received an email from Jeremy Short, one of the authors of Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed, I started to do just that. Short asked if he could send me a copy of his graphic novel textbook focused on teaching business management.
Jeremy Short and his team of cowriters and artists (Talya Bauer and Dave Ketchen) have set an amazingly high bar when it comes to rethinking the already amazing and growing potential of the graphic novel format. Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed is a witty, informative, and engaging graphic novel textbook that will hook just about any reader out there (seriously, check out their Amazon.com reviews). Short explains, “The famed media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, ‘It’s misleading to suppose there’s any basic difference between education and entertainment. This distinction merely relieves people of the responsibility of looking into the matter.’ I think this quote applies well to our book. We’ve found that a much greater audience than business students have enjoyed these books.”
Indeed. Focused on Atlas’ slow moving five-year-plan to graduate with a business degree, Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed highlights the basic concepts of business management and efficiency, ideas, and theories that Atlas clearly doesn’t seem to understand at the beginning of the text. A pretty obvious slacker who demeans his studious roommate and rolls his eyes at his professor (right before falling asleep in class), Atlas is a character readers find themselves liking nonetheless. A basic good guy with little motivation, Atlas struggles to pay his rent and plan for the future. But, with the persistent influence of his roommate, the mysterious character “Black,” the guidance of his professor, and his coffee-making barista friend Tess, Atlas just might manage to succeed—despite himself.
Along with cheering for Atlas to better prepare for his fast-approaching future, readers will find themselves learning about (and enjoying!) the history of business management and its contemporary evolution. In fact, Short and his coauthors and artists have created a text that perfectly blends storytelling, business management, and history into a graphic novel textbook both appropriate and enjoyable for any reader.
As part of a contemporary graphic novel textbook movement, Atlas and his story, Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed, both do in fact succeed.