People often wonder how (and why) a college professor would assign graphic novels (aka comics) to a college classroom. Well, the folks over at The Best Degrees have provided some answers in their article 9 Graphic Novels That Revolutionized the Comic Industry.
Their post is not entitled the "9 Greatest Graphic Novels Ever" (I would then have to argue some of their choices), but rather it is a look at graphic novels that changed the way we look at comics. They include links (click on the pics in Best Degree's post) to some really exceptional analysis essays, essays that anybody writing essays (that's you) should look at as A+ examples of what can be achieved. These are not just book reviews--they go beyond rating comics--they analyze certain aspects of specific texts and critically explore rhetorical strategies you may not have tried before.
Best Degrees places Kurt Busiek's Astro City in the number 8 position because of the way it "showed the comic industry that it could reconceptualize the ways in which [superheroes] are characterized, and bring a bit more anthropology and psychology to the mix." Best Degree's number 8 entry links to Part One of "Welcome to the Real World: Location, Location, Location and the High Cost of Heroes (and Villians)" The author, Iain Jackson, asks "Why do so many superhero stories take place in places that never were, or versions of the here and now that kind of . . . aren't, quite? And how do those fictional cities and towns manage to recover from having superheroes and supervillains around? They can be, to put it mildly, quite destructive." If you read the essay, you can see what a great paper this would be for an anthropology, psychology, or even an architecture class--and something new and different for a professor to read (remember, we want to be entertained just like YOU!)
Coming in at number five on Best Degree's list is Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which links to an eight part series entitled "Reading Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Returns, Part 2". Part two is a colorful essay about Miller's revolutionary remake of the caped crusader by emulating a dark and painterly style. "The total result is a comic that continually engages and reengages the reader’s eye, relentlessly exploring multiple possibilities afforded by such a wide range of colors." Are you an art major? Check out this article as a guideline for your own essays.
And then, of course, there's Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen linked to an essay on Kleph.com which provides a literary critique of the text, "because Watchmen is more than the acme of a maligned medium, it's a vivid bit of literature in and of itself. The pictures are not to 'help' illustrate the story being told - they are an essential part of the way the story is being told." This would be a great essay for a literature or film class.
My advice: Pay attention to essays that interest you and write about things you love. Most essay prompts give you some leeway to discuss what you are passionate about. Believe me most professors know that if you write about something that interests you, you will write a better essay--and that makes their job easier.
You can blend comics with any major. How about comics and medical profession majors? No way! You'd be surprised at how many good graphic novels explore medicine; Harvey Pekar's Our Cancer Year and David Small's Stitches are just two that come to mind.
What about math majors? Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth is the book for you.
Spiegelman's Maus can be used in any history or sociology class.
Think about the comic books and graphic novels you love. What kind of analysis essay could you write blending comics and your major?