Syllabus bites: Visual literacy



Comics and cartoons use a range of visual conventions and forms to create meaning. The combining of images, words and convention are the key elements of the language of comics, cartoons, picture books and graphic novels.

Comic and cartoon composers use a range of devices to create their visual texts, including:

Structural conventions

Stylistic elements

  • line

  • colour

  • shape

  • pace

  • movement

  • perspective

  • point of view

In this video, Scott McCloud explains how meaning and narrative movement is created visually through the composition and sequence of panels within a comic.

Links  for teachers - comics and cartoons

Picture books and graphic novels

Picture books and graphic novels offer an alternative avenue to reading by combining words and images in a format that is appealing, attractive and fun. These visual texts range from texts comprising images to sophisticated sequential art in print or online formats.

Image depicts giants chasing rat like people out of a city using large loud blowhorns.

The story of The Giants, from the picture book The Arrival

Engaging with picture books and graphic novels requires the ability to read a range of visual images, understand a sequence of events, follow the story’s narrative in sequential panels and make inferences and judgements about language choices.

Popular graphic novels such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret have a strong visual and filmic quality. Films based on the Marvel Comics continue to be box office successes. Both forms rely on the images to tell the story.

Links  for teachers - picture books and graphic novels