Weekly Geeks: Graphic Novels

June 3, 2010

I don’t usually participate in this one, but I watch the responses in my reader for things that catch my attention. This week’s topic definitely did that! Here it is:

Do you read graphic novels or memoirs? Who are your favorite authors? Which books do you recommend?

If you haven’t read any, why not?

Some people have the impression that graphic novels are glorified comic books, are unsophisticated or don’t qualify as “serious” literature. What do you think? If you track your book numbers, do you count a graphic novel as a book read?

I absolutely adore graphic novels and graphic memoirs. The first full-length graphic novel that I read was Palestine by Joe Sacco, which Zaid bought for me just after we started dating. I could barely put it down! The realism that is present in the graphic form just brought the events to life for me in a way that text on its own wouldn’t have been able to.

Shortly after that, I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, after seeing the film version first. I have since re-read it for my book club, and was reminded just how much I loved the sense of atmosphere that Satrapi’s drawings gave to her story. Over the past year, I have read a variety of other graphic novels, including Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 (another by Joe Sacco) and, of course, the classic Watchmen (by Alan Moore). All three of the graphic novels that I have just mentioned are ones that I would definitely recommend other people to read.

I definitely think that graphic novels can be considered “serious literature”, depending on the subject. I’ve got a copy of Maus by Art Spiegelman on my shelves at home that I haven’t yet finished reading, which is about the Holocaust and is written so that the Jews and the Nazis are represented by cats and mice. That’s definitely not something that could be dismissed as unsophisticated. The same goes for Sacco’s books that I mentioned above. Just because graphic novels aren’t “text only” doesn’t mean that they aren’t fantastic and often insightful and moving pieces of literature. I think of it in a similar vein with lots of young adult fiction and romance novels; quite often, they’re “fluffy” and not very meaningful, but there are also some that really push the envelope and tell a great story.

On a related final note, I definitely include graphic novels in my “books read” count. If I count young adult books that are often only about 100 pages, why wouldn’t I count graphic novels that often span way more than that? Watchmen, for one, is over 400 pages long. It doesn’t seem right to leave graphic novels out of my tracking, since I spend just as much time and energy reading one as I would a “regular” novel, and get just as intellectually and emotionally invested.

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