Ancient storytelling, showing us how we can learn from comic books

An Ancient Power in Comics

Like everyone else, I love a good story. One of my first memories growing up was trying to decipher my dad’s newspaper. I would head straight to the comic strip section and ask him to read it for me. Once I learned how to read, Batman and Archie became my go-to source for great stories.

I’ve now realized that I was acting upon a basic human need: to learn something new. And I was learning from stories. For thousands of years, our civilization has relied on stories to disseminate traditions, art, culture and knowledge in general. We humans are hardwired to learn from stories; they have been passed from one generation to the next. From the early pictograms in ancient caverns to today’s YouTube videos, sharing knowledge through images has been fundamental to our development as a society and as part of our culture.

In fact, scientists have speculated that the ancient drawings of antelopes, horses and lions in the ancient caves of Southern Europe were used to tell stories. This is amazing, as it points to drawings as our primary and initial way to communicate ideas.

I can’t help but think of comic books this way. These visual stories are structured in a way that is easy to follow, involving characters, situations and emotions that have a purpose – which is often to entertain us, but more often than not, to also teach us something: the moral of the story. It’s the lesson you learn in every movie, the conclusion to every tale.

So, the next time you see a comic book, think about its historic origins, its appeal to our most basic need to learn something new—and pass it on!

What do comic books teach you?

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