The Graphic Novel Comes To Mercy


Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns changed how comics are written.


Graphic Novels have become the source material for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster films. Films like 300, Watchmen, and Sin City have captivated audiences’ worldwide and brought newcomers to the literary form that is the “graphic novel.”

Soon the graphic novel will be viewed in a new light. Starting in the fall the graphic novel will be read, dissected, analyzed and interpreted by students in a new class at Mercy College.

“The official name is The Graphic Novel in Media Studies,” stated Dr. Richard Medoff.

Medoff known for his passion of the arts, and has taught such classes as Acting for the Stage, Play Writing, and Play Directing.

It was Medoff who wanted to bring the study of graphic novels to Mercy College.

“My dissertation for my Ph.D was “The Dramatization of Paintings” and so I have been interested in the intersection of the visual and the word as mechanisms for storytelling,” Medoff explained.

The graphic novel will initially be offered as a topics course – MEDA 295. Depending on the reaction of students the college will then determine the life of this class.

“In our culture, film, theatre, and graphic novels are the major conveyors of story through imagery. Each employ arranged graphics and text or dialogue. While film and theatre have long established their credentials, graphic novels still struggles for acceptance, and the arty form, after more than a century of popular use, is still regarded as a problematic literary vehicle. However, I think, once this course runs it will become a staple of Mercy students–with several sections running on multiple campuses.”

Medoff  explained his initial interaction with the comic book field began at his father’s fruit store in the Bron on University Avenue. It was next door to a newspaper/magazine store.

“Once a month he would bring home comics books that hadn’t sold. It was a treat my brother and I looked forward to.”

Eventually Medoff would lose interest in “childish” reading and find his literary prowess tested at SUNY Stony Brook.

“Of course as I grew into literary snobbery I left that form of storytelling behind. My roommate at SUNY Stony Brook hadn’t and our room was filled with comics. Then in the 1980s I heard of a graphic novel “Maus” which told the story of a family surviving the Holocaust” (the family as Mice and the Nazi’s as cats). I became fascinated by the seriousness of the subject matter brought to a media usually reserved for fantasy and horror. I read it and was hooked. I now own well over a hundred graphic novels.”

The Graphic Novel “Maus” by Art Spiegelman mentioned by Medoff, is a retelling in artistic form in which Spiegelman related his parents’ desperate struggle to survive the Holocaust in his 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel.

In the past few years comic fans have listed Graphic Novels such as The Dark Knight returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, 300, and Watchmen as some of their favorites. Medoff made it known that it wouldn’t be a shock to see a hero appear in the course.

When Professor Medoff was asked: What does he want students to walk away with after the class, he stated “I am hoping that this course will help students find another media for self-expression.”