From guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Web comics take a variety of forms, some requiring applications like Flash to make them accessible to online readers. Among those that demand nothing more than an Internet connection and an eager reader, Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain or, The Mermaid of the Hudson is a standout graphic novel in the making.
Moodily toned pencil-like sketches show the world of this late nineteenth century tale in detail: shoreline meeting places, the riverboat’s various interior rooms, social classes that cut along lines of race, nationality and gender, and the expressive faces and postures of the large cast.
Although the structure of this web comic follows a relatively traditional book plotline, each episode—and there are three a week—is accompanied by Mark’s blog of 1887 art, artists and artifacts that expand the visual and historical world well beyond the imaginative and engaging story. Reader comment is invited and participation in discussions brings together those who note songs that come to mind as they read and long forgotten books remembered by exposure to illustrations attached to both Mark’s story and his added content from period artists.
This graphic novel was begun online 18 months ago and has unfolded to about its halfway point. In the story, Twain is already in his late thirties, the mermaid is shown bare-chested, and other elements indicate that the audience needs to bring maturity to its exploration. However, that doesn’t mean that older teens won’t find exquisite riches here that are perfectly appropriate to their age! Because the historical Mark Twain plays a major role in high school reading lists, there is little need to introduce them to this fictional Twain before they get started. The realism of personal demons and politically motivated economic decisions are perfectly married to the myth of the mermaid.
The blog and extras give rise to innumerable suggestions for projects of the reader’s own, whether assignment based or as guided independent exploration of such skills as video production or online story making. And librarians and library program developers take note: the Added Links page is a free treasure trove of access to useful reference material and resources that can inspire formal and informal displays and events hosted by your library. Looking for material for an online book group? Or a way to provide enough copies of a title for a group that outnumbers what your collection budget can handle? Try this approach and expose your readers to sequential art storytelling and online reading while sparking creativity that can be fired by any of the add-ons here.