In recent years the graphic novel has morphed into an alternative medium for non-fiction storytelling. From Art Spiegelman’s Maus which documented his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis which details the author’s life during the war between Iran and Iraq, the graphic novel is able to combine the techniques of eyewitness reportage with the medium of comics storytelling to explore often complex and emotionally weighted situations.

With books like Safe Area Gorazde and Palestine, Joe Sacco has also paved the way for journalists to also adopt the medium to report on genocide, human rights abuse and war.

Using the graphic novel as a medium can allow the journalist to reach a new and younger demographic, and to educate them about important issues in a rapidly shrinking global village.

I recently gave a guest lecture on my work with female child soldiers in Uganda to students at Sir Wilfred Laurier Secondary School in Ottawa. I mentioned the work of Sacco to the teacher afterwards, and she said that a book of that nature was something she’d have the class read. In an age where people rarely read a whole article, the visual stimulus of a graphic novel will ensure people keep reading. And it seems this teacher isn’t alone in seeing the educational benefits of the graphic novel:

But we’re now a tablet-generation – forever plugged into our Kindles, iPads and iPhones – and to date this morphing storytelling medium has yet to evolve and adapt to the moving target of technology.

I’ve therefore been playing with a prototype, a hybrid which straddles the worlds of the Internet and the graphic novel – the photo/graphic novel.

This hybrid combines illustrations, photographs, video and audio…but what’s even cooler is that you can ‘interact’ with the characters. You can click on them to see what they’re saying and to get background on them. There’s also hyperlinks to web resources to find further information on the issues being discussed.

Here’s a few example before-and-after screenshots from my prototype. I’m no artist so I’ve doctored some of my photos to look like illustrations. The hybrid documents a former child soldier getting tested for HIV.