DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

The Graphic Novel: character creation and interactive storytelling

Teacher: Juliann Crooks

Grade Level: 9-12

Title: The Graphic Novel: character creation and interactive storytelling

History and Background:

The graphic novel has come a long way from the comic books of the 1930's to award winning books such as Maus and Persepolis.  They are the source material of movies as diverse as 300, Tomb Raider and Road to Perdition.  There are, however, a few things that most graphic novels have in common - a strong sense of character and an emphasis on visual storytelling.  This lesson will explore the creation of a character, the development of a narrative structure, and the means to visually express the key elements of both.

PA. 9.4.12. B Describe and analyze the effects that works in the arts have on groups, individuals and the culture
9.2.12. F. Know and apply appropriate vocabulary used between social studies, the arts and humanities
9.1.12. A Know and use the elements of each art form to create works in the arts and humanities
1. Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

2. Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media to world collaboratively

Goal:  The students will create character cards, with an illustration of their characters.  Working in groups they will outline a story involving their characters, and will design a cover for a potential graphic novel.  Then they will exchange covers with another group, and that group will write the story they surmise from the cover.


Students will learn about the history of the graphic novel as an art form. They will gain an understanding of narrative structure, and of the use of visual cues in relaying meaning.  

Students will enhance their drawing skills, in pencil, ink and color mediums such as marker or watercolor.  They will study composition and develop skills in graphic design and layout.

Students will gain an understanding of the ways in which art forms that are not considered traditionally "fine art," have been used to create work of great complexity, depth and importance.  

Resource Materials/Visual Aides:  This lesson will require a variety of different graphic novels, from superhero, manga and comic genres to more serious works previously mentioned.  Clips from recent movies made from graphic novels will be used as well.  For the character development portion, trading cards like Yu-Gi-Oh will be helpful. Access to a computer for the Character Card Generator is necessary.

Teacher Preparation:  The teacher should pre-screen the movie clips, as many are from R-rated films.  She should be conversant in a range of graphic novels, and have an understanding of the layout, inking and coloring techniques used in the making of graphic novels.

Paper, rulers, pencils, erasers, graphic design markers, prismacolor markers, watercolors, brushes



The lesson should begin with a discussion of comic books and graphic novels. The students will probably have much to share on this.  Time should be devoted to talking about characters, storylines and the look of certain books.  

The first class should concentrate on the history of the graphic novel.  Books should be shared for examination, clips should be shown, and, time permitting, a class period could be spent watching "Persepolis."

The second class should be devoted to a discussion of character development. There should be a discussion of both heroes and villains, an examination of the look of both, and special attention devoted to the visual cues.  Why is Lex Luther bald, while Superman has a head full of hair?  What does it mean that the Persian king in 300 wears make up, but the Spartan king Leonidas definitely doesn't?  Give the students the Character development sheet, and have them start working on a character. It can be a good guy or a bad guy, their choice.  They need to think about the various aspects of him/her, both internal and appearance.

When they are done with the sheet, they can begin to draw their character. Demonstrate sketching it first, then inking before adding color.  

When they are complete, scan and upload the pictures, and have the students use the headshots to create trading cards using the Character Trading Card Creator.

Print and shuffle the cards.  Divide the cards into stacks of four. Those four students will work together. Talk about story structure, what makes an exciting tale, and have the students break off into groups and brainstorm a story idea with their four characters.

Once they have a story idea, they will work together to create a cover for their novel.  Demonstrate graphic design principles, and have them look at other covers to see what works.  Allow them to divide the labor, and work in stages, drawing, inking and coloring.  

When the covers are finished, surprise the groups by having them exchange all their graphic materials with another group. The groups will write the story based on the cover and the character sheets.
Critique:  The students will present both their finished cover and their stories to the class, and receive input.  Attention should be paid to the quality of the finished product, how interesting and well developed the characters are, and the content of the story.

Time Budget: 6 to 8 class periods

Rising action, climax, denouncement


Some care should be taken to go over all materials before presenting them to the class. Some material may not be appropriate; permissions will be required before viewing the films.


"300" Dir. Zack Snyder, Writ. Frank Miller, Perfs. Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Warner Home Video, DVD, 2007.

Assorted Comics, Graphic Novels and Manga

Eisner, Will, "Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative," W.W. Norton, New York, NY, 2008.

McCloud, Scott, "Understanding Comics: The invisible art." Harper, New York, NY, 1994.

"Persepolis" Dir. Marjane Strapi, Vincent Paronnaud, Writ. Marjane Satrapi, Perfs. Chiarro Mastroianni, Catherine Denerve, DVD, 2008.

Read Write Think: Character creation trading cards, www.readwritethink.org...://www.readwritethink.org

Sabin, Roger, "Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A history of comic art." Phaiden Press, New York, NY, 2001.

Spiegleman Art, "Maus: A survivor's tale" Pantheon, New York, NY, 1996.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.