Do you love superhero movies?
Are you always checking your phone for news about the latest Batman or Avengers film?
Stories with action and adventure are fun, and there are a lot of ways you can use them to improve your English skills.
But did you know you can also read the books that your favorite superhero movies are based on?
With comics, you can read more about the characters you love and where they came from.
But what exactly do I mean by comics?
While comic strips are usually funny, short and in the newspaper, comic books are their own kind of book.
Comic books, graphic novels or just comics all usually refer to books where a story is told with art, instead of just words.
They are often about people with superpowers (special amazing abilities). Some of them take place in some kind of fantasy world. There are even comics based on real-life events and history. A lot of famous characters in movies come from comics.
Many comics are classics, meaning that they are so well-known that you can mention them and most people will know what you are talking about.
While there are hundreds of comics out there, there are a handful (a small number) that are especially famous.
In this post, we are going to look at a few of those famous classic comics, and how you can use them to learn English.
Pow! 4 Amazing Comic Book Superheroes to Teach You English | FluentU English
Why Learn English with Classic Comic Books?
They are quality reading material
Classic comics are usually so popular because they are really well-written and have interesting drawings. Classics also tend to be older, which means they are good enough to have stayed popular and important for a very long time. Most classic comic books that we know today are either from DC Comics or Marvel Comics.
Reading them is a fun pastime (a hobby or activity that you do for fun)
Comics aren’t just for kids. People can enjoy them at any age. If you like mysteries, science, zombies, fantasy, time travel or stories that make you laugh or make you think, there is a comic for you.
People also often see movies or watch cartoons based on comics, and even cosplay (dress up as characters, “costume play” for short). You can attend conventions (gatherings) to meet other fans and the artists and writers for your favorite comics!
You can learn onomatopoeias
Onomatopoeias are words that describe sounds, or words that are spelled like the sound that is being made. Each language has different ones, and English has a lot of them. They are used in comics often, so reading comics is a good way to learn how to use them.
Famous onomatopoeias include:
- Boom (the sound of an explosion)
- Pow (the sound of punching something or someone)
- Sizzle (the sound of heat, or something being cooked)
- Rip (the sound of something ripping or tearing apart)
- Zap (a sudden burst of energy, often a sound for lasers or electric-based technology)
- Poof (the sound of something disappearing, or a sudden cloud of smoke)
- Splat (the sound of something soft or wet hitting a wall or the ground quickly)
- Zoom (the sound of something going fast)
- Roar (the sound of a lion or beast roaring, or a loud noise)
In comics, you can easily see what onomatopoeias are being used for, so you can memorize them quickly.
You can learn scientific terms
Since a lot of comics are written for people who like science fiction (stories that are based on scientific ideas and advancements), they use words and ideas that are used in science.
The scientific fields of biology, chemistry, physics, geology and astronomy have all been used in comics, and are explained in easy-to-understand ways. Some of the ways science is used in comics is not real, but the stories are often based on real science. So scientific language and theories (ideas) are just one more thing you can learn about while studying English and having fun!
How to Learn English with Comic Books
Use pictures to help you learn new words
Since comic books are like picture books, there are drawings for every panel. A panel is a section or box that separates a picture from the rest of the page. You can think of each panel like a sentence or paragraph in a book. This can help to break stories into smaller parts.
Instead of looking up words, try looking at the pictures to help you figure out words you don’t know. Just like kids grow up reading picture books to understand what they are reading, English learners of any age can use comics in the same way. Look back and forth from the dialogue (the words that are spoken in the story) and narration (the words that tell the story) to the pictures to learn exactly what they are saying.
This is a natural way to learn, especially for visual learners (people who learn better from seeing something instead of only reading or hearing about it).
Watch the movies and read the comics
You may already have realized that you can watch English movies and also read the books that they were based on, in order to understand them better. This same method can be used for comic books! More recently, comics have been a popular source (inspiration or starting point) for movies like “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Batman v Superman,” “Ant-Man” and more.
You can watch the films first, if you have not already, and then find the comics that they were based on and read them. Or, you can read the comics before watching the movie. Either way, you can see and read the same story in two different ways, so that you can better understand what is happening.
Not only will this help with your understanding, but you will have more to talk about after watching the movies with friends, since the comics usually have more information.
These are just a couple of the ways that you can improve your English with comics. Now that you know what to do, look below for classic comics to read!
These books are all around the same level (high-beginner to low-intermediate) but cover different genres (types) of stories that you can choose from.
Although many newer comics especially tend to have more difficult words and phrases, the pictures will always help you to understand them.
Pow! 4 Amazing Comic Book Superheroes to Teach You English
Batman is a comic character and series (set of stories) from DC, and was first created in 1939. He is famous for the villains (bad guys) that he fights like Joker, Two-Face, The Penguin, Poison Ivy and The Riddler.
Batman doesn’t have any superpowers, but he is a master of martial arts (various fighting or self-defense skills). He is also extremely wealthy, so he makes special weapons, cars and other gadgets (really smart or advanced tools, often electronic). He fights together with Robin and Batgirl—and his butler, Alfred, also helps him with advice and information.
There have been many films and cartoons made about Batman. One of the most popular sets of films is “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (a “trilogy” is a set of three) by Christopher Nolan.
Newer Batman comics are for older readers and involve crime fighting and questions about justice. You can use them to learn phrases such as criminal justice (keeping control over crime), conviction (official decision that someone is guilty of a crime), terrorize (create distress and fear) prosecution (legal action against someone accused of a crime) and other law and courtroom terms.
Famous comics from the Batman series are:
Superman is another DC character and series. It started in 1938, and is one of the most famous superhero comics there is. The famous villains that Superman fights are Lex Luthor, Brainiac, General Zod and Doomsday. Sometimes other heroes like Wonder Woman and Supergirl fight against crime with Superman.
Superman has superpowers like invincibility (the ability to not be killed or injured), super strength, X-ray vision (the ability to see through things) and flying. There are also many Superman movies. The most recent were “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” by Zack Snyder.
Most Superman comics are for all ages. While Superman fights crime and is also a reporter for a newspaper, these comics are more like science fiction than Batman. Because his alter ego (secret, more normal identity for a superhero) is a journalist, you can also learn journalism terms like broadcast (put on TV or radio), editor-in-chief (person in charge of a newspaper or magazine) and witness (someone who sees an event take place).
Famous comics from the Superman series are:
X-Men is a series from Marvel Comics that started in 1963. It is about a world that is like the real world. However, there are people in this world who have special abilities and superpowers who are called “mutants.”
Some can heal themselves, fly, control the weather, create ice or change their appearance whenever they want to. The leader of the X-Men is Charles Xavier (also known as Professor X). Their main enemy is Max Eisenhardt (also known as Magneto) and his team of mutants.
This series also has several movies based on it. More recent ones are “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “X-Men: First Class.” There are parts of the stories that are political and about human rights. There are also parts that are more about science and theories of evolution (how humans developed from earlier kinds of life).
You can learn science words from X-Men like evolution and regeneration (the process of reforming or regrowing).
Famous comics from the X-Men series are:
4. Ms. Marvel (also Captain Marvel)
Ms. Marvel is a Marvel Comics character. Her secret identities have changed over time: The most well-known of her identities may be Carol Danvers. She first appeared in 1968 as a love interest of the original Captain Marvel. In 1977, she became Ms. Marvel. She can fly and has super strength. The villains that she fights include Blob, Aria and Battleaxe.
She appears in the Avengers comics and X-Men comics several times. Ms. Marvel comics tend to be more of a science fiction read. They also tend to be for more mature readers, because of the serious themes that they address, such as harassment (the act of pressuring or frightening someone in a forceful way).
Ms. Marvel comics center around superhero strength and justice, so you can learn vocabulary like courage (bravery), scheme (plan, or to plan something bad or illegal) and plot (secret plan, often bad or illegal).
Famous comics from the Ms Marvel series are:
- “House of M” (Ms. Marvel appears in this X-Men and Avengers comic)
- “X-Men Classic #68 (Binary Star!) (Ms. Marvel appears as Binary)
These are only a few of the many famous superheroes of the comic book world.
You can find more by visiting a comic book store near you.
Now that you have a few ideas to get you started, it’s time to start reading and improving your English reading skills (and general English skills)!
Christine McGahhey is an American writer currently living in South Korea who has volunteered for several years to teach students and adults English.
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