What are your thoughts on graphic novels?

jmcc asks, What are your thoughts on graphic novels?

Don’t have to ask me my thoughts on anything twice!

They are pretty simple thoughts.  I’ll number them!

1. I love them.

2. I love Chris Ware’s assertion, which I read in an interview with Marjane Satrapi, that the phrase “graphic novel” makes him think of Lady Chatterly’s Lover.  And not just because Lady Chatterly’s Lover is one of my literary guilty pleasures!  Because most “graphic novels” are actually “comics” but “graphic novel” is a much more palatable term to the literary ear, and if bookselling is about one thing, it’s about comforting people into reading books that they really wanted to read but felt guilty about reading.  For awhile, I used “comics” to refer to single issues, and “graphic novels” to refer to trade paperbacks, but I don’t think that’s appropriate, as collections of single issues are very different from one-shot full books.

3. As I’ve mentioned before, I got into comics by falling in love with a comics dork.  The love for comics outlasted that relationship, but it should be mentioned that I have only ever loved comics dorks.  As a result, my personal comics collection is lacking because I’ve lived off of other people’s.  This makes me really sad.

4. Comics/graphic novels are not a genre of book.  They are an entirely separate medium that has similar packaging as books, but they have almost as many genres in their own right–and the genres they don’t have yet, they’re developing at an insane rate (thanks to the influence of manga and the level playing field of webcomics).  Just ask anybody who is trying to develop a graphic novel/comics/manga section in their store without needing 3 extra shelves.  This is why my business plan for my (future-cross-your-fingers) bookstore is a store that is half comics, half non-comics.

5. They’re a great tool for reading education (see, for example, the new Toon Books) and for keeping kids interested in books when the Xbox et al. unleash their siren call.  I have heard the phrase “graphic novels are a gateway drug!” so many times this year that it makes me a little ill, but it is true.

6. They make discussions of censorship and age-appropriate reading more complicated (see: the post I’m about to write about tween literature).

7. I believe that some of the most creative, genre-pushing, mind-blowing reading experiences in English in the past 20 years have taken place in the graphic medium, and nobody in the literary field noticed because it was comics.  And I’m not just talking groundbreaking stuff like Maus and Watchmen; a lot of the capes-n-tights stuff has been incredible too.  Don’t believe me?  Give me $1000 and I’ll hand you a few boxes of awesome comics that just skim the surface of what I’m talking about.

Seven is a good place to end.  (I like prime numbers.)  I could go on for a long time, but hopefully that’s a brief answer.  What do you all think of graphic novels/comics/manga?  If you don’t read them, why not?  I’ll come right out and admit I have read very little manga, because I find it difficult to read right to left.  There, nobody needs to be embarrassed now.

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3 comments so far

  1. […] post: What are your thoughts on graphic novels? This entry was written by admin, posted on October 7, 2008 at 8:23 am, filed under Uncategorized, […]

  2. jmcc on

    Someone who loves comics also loves prime numbers?! =) Good geek cred!

    I guess my literary ear has always been a sucker for the “graphic novel” label over comics. I also tend to think of comics as being more serial and graphic novels being the one-shots. But story-arc collections of serialized comics definitely expose the overlap.

    What if I had $100 dollars to give you for a box of great comics? I really like the Sandman and Watchmen and Transmetropolitan are on my “to get” lists.

    Thanks as always for a great post!

  3. The Wandering Reader on

    I haven’t read too many graphic novels, unless you put Manga under the category of graphic novels (depends on the person) but I am all for them. I agree that they can help promote literacy, and can encourage children to read that otherwise would not read.

    I’m not sure if anyone else saw it or not,but the Washington Post did an article about how the graphic novel/comic/manga market is growing so quickly in one of the Sunday editions a few weeks ago. I was sad after reading the article because the gentleman that wrote it was VERY against Manga and graphic novels, but I was encouraged that the Post at least saw the importance of graphic novels/Manga to do an article at all.

    Loved the topic of this post; I think that it is one of the least talked about subjects in regards to books and publishing, when it should be at the forefront, especially considering the growth of the market.


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