Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga and What They Can Do: Understanding Visual Narratives (FNDS 1308)

Cartoon: Tintin running putting on a coat with dog running with him.

How does visual storytelling work? Are comics just Marvel and DC and Naruto, or are ancient Egyptian drawings, Persian miniatures, and even cave drawings, also comics? Can you express yourself in a comic book? 

Together, we will answer these questions!

Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga and What They Can Do studies this wonderful blending of literature and art of the world of comic books. Reading American comics, the Franco-Belgian comics known as bande dessinée, and Japanese manga, all in English, we will explore the significance of visual storytelling, examine approaches to visual analysis, and discuss their themes and styles. We will follow the history of visual-textual narratives from referring to them as "the funnies" in the early 20th century, limiting them to young people, to controversial issues of censorship, to graphic novels that are now increasingly treated as serious literary works worthy of Pulitzer Prizes and other prestigious awards.

Produced across cultures, this is a mode of expression that ranges widely from an inspiration to major blockbusters such as superhero movies to sophisticated literary works such as Maus and Persepolis. We will discuss the controversies over colonialist-era works such as Tintin and contemporary graphic journalism such as in graphic novels about war and asylum in Rwanda and Bosnia. No artistic tendencies, prior knowledge of comics, or second language proficiency are required.

This course covers topics in the disciplines of English, literary theory, art history, creative writing, comparative literature, history, writing.

Who should take this course?

If you grew up reading comics, watching anime, then went to the movies and watched those blockbusters, loved some and found some disappointing, then this course is for you. If you want to learn about visual storytelling and its limitless potential in our cultures, our minds, and our lives, then join this course!

More about this course

Course number: FNDS 1308

Number of Credits: 4

Search UM-Dearborn Class Schedule to find out more.

Dearborn Discovery Core requirements met: Critical and Creative Thinking, Humanities and the Arts


Meet your faculty member: Wessam Elmeligi, Assistant Professor of Arabic

One of the benefits of taking a Foundations course is gaining a faculty mentor that can support you throughout your college career. Get to know Wessam Elmeligi, faculty member for Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga and What They Can Do: Understanding Visual Narratives.

Wessam Elmeligi
Wessam Elmeligi


With a PhD in literary theory, Professor Elmeligi has published scholarly work extensively on comparative literature, cinema, and comics. He is also a graphic novel artist and writer. He is the Director of the Arabic Translation Certificate at CASL and is trying to introduce new courses that bring new perspectives on gender studies, comparative literature, and visual analysis, as well as translation.

With a teaching experience that spans over twenty years, he strongly believes that all learners have a creative side, and he loves to encourage them to explore it. He is a firm advocate of a stress-free learning environment.


Have questions about this course? Email Dr. Elmeligi at [email protected].