The Power of Comics

“…comic strips can have the power of enlightening and transforming the society.” (Muthukumaravel and Mathew 51).

Comics, depending on the structure, could be easily classified as art, literature, a form of intervention, or any combination of the three. Here could be classified as art. Through The Woods could be classified as literature. Some comics, such as “Social Stories,” are even used as forms of intervention for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Hutchins and Prelock). Clearly comics have broadened their application. It did not use to be this way, as they were originally intended for children and served as a form of entertainment, but since it has become a new genre it has the power to “teach us” (Muthukumaravel and Mathew). With it’s new classification, what comics have to say become increasingly important, because with its new stature it has the power to affect society.

Comics have become popular, because it is quick and easy to read, in a world where efficiency is key. They are also relatable, with so many modern comics commenting on present cultural themes (“The Psychology of Comic Books: Why We Worship Superheroes”). For example, the creation of a comic with almost all female characters, like Bitch Planet. In the 1980’s most comic characters were male and had much more variety in their occupations compared to women (Chavez). Present comics have started to compensate for what previous comics lacked, which makes it relevant enough to be popular. So with its newfound popularity and widespread acceptance, it has been elevated to the level of literature. In conjunction with its new elevated status it has started to be studied and used in the classroom as a means of educating (Tatalovic). Comics, as with any literature, are interpreted and discussed by its readers, who often take away information of value; therefore, many people learn a great deal from studying comics. March is one example; by reading it people are educated on the civil rights movement, and it is accurate enough it could be used in the classroom. If March were inaccurate it would wrongly educate those who read it, especially those with limited background knowledge already. Comics are already accepted as possible educational tools in other countries (Tatalovic 4-13). So if the topic of a comic is informational, whether backed by science or history, it becomes important what is portrayed. Comics should be based in some semblance of fact.

An area where comics lack this correctness is in its portrayal of psychology. I first noticed this in Watchmen when Rorashack goes through psychological testing (figure 1); he is given only one test, the Rorashack, which is widely denounced by the field as being inaccurate and not scientifically based. A more accurate depiction would be him receiving multiple psychological tests over an extended period of time, or a “battery of tests” (figure 2).

Accurate Depiction Of Psychological Testing (figure 2)
Testing In Watchmen (figure 1)










Upon further research I also found that psychology in stand-alone comics, such as how Peanuts first began, is largely wrongly depicted. Many comics show therapy sessions akin to the largely misconceived notion that all therapy follows the Freudian psychotherapy concept, with the patient facing away from the therapist and their session based primarily on comments that do not further the client’s recovery (figure 3).
Inaccurate Depiction of Therapy (figure 3)

This depiction is inaccurate because psychotherapy has weak empirical evidence and is not used as widely in the field today. It surely does not follow the wishy-washy comments presented in the comic. A more accurate depiction of therapy (figure 4) would be the therapist sitting across from the client, engaging in evidence-based therapy, such as questioning the client’s thoughts. It would not simply base all the client’s problems on past childhood experiences. Psychology has fought to change its image. With such inaccuracies present in comics, which are now of immense societal relevance, psychology’s misconceptions will continue to be perpetuated.

An Accurate Depiction of Therapy (figure 4)

So by juxtaposing the inaccurate portrayals of psychology with the more accurate portrayals, it shows the volume of comics’ inaccuracies. In highlighting the weight of these psychological inaccuracies, and pairing it with evidence that comics have become more than just a form of entertainment, it becomes clear that comics have the power to shape society’s conceptions about a given topic in detrimental detail. Now, if the portrayal of psychology was corrected, it could aid the field in authenticating its scientific legitimacy: such is the power of comics.



Works Cited

Chavez, Deborah. “Perpetuation of Gender Inequality: A Content Analysis of Comic

Strips.” Sex Roles 13.1-2 (1985): 93–102. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.


Hutchins, Tiffany, and Patricia Prelock. “Parent’s Perceptions of Their Children’s Social

Behavior: The Social Validity of Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations.”

Journal Of Postive Behavior Interventions 15.3 156–168. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.


Muthukumaravel, S., and Suja Mathew. “Exploring Comics: A Revisit Through the

Aesthetics and Educational Values Embedded in Peanuts.” IUP Journal of

English Studies 11.1 (2016): 48–52. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.


Tatalovic, Mico. “Science Comics as Tools For Science Education an Communication: A

Brief Exploratory Study.” Journal Of Science Communication 8.4 (2009): 1–17.

Web. 8 Dec. 2016.


“The Psychology of Comic Books: Why We Worship Superheroes.” Lateral Magazine.

N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.



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