Recent Marvel comics have told the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and now Marvel is delving deeper into the literary canon by marketing a line of Classics Illustrated-inspired comics. Read a press release here. You might be surprised to learn that I never read many Classics Illustrated titles, though I certainly support their inclusion in a classroom.
Now, should they be used in place of the actual novel or story?
There are some who would see themselves as "purists" who would say no. There are many who want students exposed to the classics.
I say there are many different ways to "expose" someone to the classics. And, I hold to this core belief: a student who is being asked to read something well beyond his or her reading level, thereby being asked to "read" at the frustration level, is asked to accomplish an impossible task.
So, "exposure" is right! That's the very best you can hope for if you're asking students to read a novel that is beyond their reading level.
If a graphic novel/comic book adaptation can expose a student to the story in a more accessible format (note I don't say "easier." The interplay of word and image, the conglomerate layers of text inherent in sequential art, take some skill to read and examine fully), why not have it at least available for student perusal? Read the classic to the class aloud, if it's that important to you.
Of course, some studies have shown that comic books have a pretty sophisticated vocabulary too, so here's more evidence to suggest that it might not be as easy a read as some might think. Best to read the adaptation yourself before placing it in your school library, so you know what you're dealing with, then accept it into your room with confidence.
All in all, I favor other graphic novels over Classics Illustrated-type books, but I fully support the inclusion of these in the classroom as well. If they help teachers accept sequential art, and their students show them how much they enjoy the format, maybe it'll lead to a desire to include original graphic novels in the classroom as well!