Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I heart Novels, Graphic

I've been crushing pretty hard for a while. Sometimes I feel like I have to keep this love in the closet, and sometimes I'm just like, "Who cares! I can give my love wherever I want! I'm grown!" And, then I slink back into the closet with my flashlight and my stack of love. That love? Graphic novels. I heart you so hard my big fat GNs (and my little skinny ones, too). My first school-girl crush was on the funny pages. We connected through the newspaper every day and on Sundays spent even more quality time together. The time-commitment got a little crazy after a while and we just lost touch.

Then, the superheroes and I had this on again off again fling for a few years. But it started feeling like we were doing the same exact thing with the same exact people.* Sorry super comics, did you not get the morning after note I left on your fridge before tiptoeing out? (Remember how I said you're always objectifying women to the point where I felt uncomfortable? I still feel that way. Sorry.)

And then one day I found THE ONE. I am now so happy with my multi-faceted, incredibly gorgeous, smart, witty and very mature partner. With GN I never feel rushed and it's like a different experience every time we're together. Call me superficial, but GN's looks alone just keep taking my breath away. Sometimes I just feel so lucky we're together. (*blushing*)

Semantics! You say. Let me break it down. In my mind I see GNs as having unique art told in a story arc with similarities more with a novel rather than a serial. Usually they have an exposition, character development, a climax and a denouement. They're not serialized. They rarely have a mass manufactured and stylized quality. The writers and illustrators establish newness through voice, character and art.Sure they pull qualities from comics, namely the need to be concise with language, but this often results in a poetic quality rather than jaunty quips. (A lot of really amazing novels without images do this too.) There is also the opposite end of the spectrum when the profuse use of language has also garnered accolades -The Rabbi's Cat, or Maus, or Fun Home. While some still employ a uniquely minimalist form to talk about very serious topics like,again in Maus and also Persepolis. Oh GNs, I could go on about you forever. But, I really need to share you. I wanted to point out three I found in our library that I really liked. The Arrival I might even put on a personal favorite list. It, along with the Ward book below, convey their stories with no dialogue whatsoever, only unique artistry.

The first novel is called, God's Man by Lynd Ward. Free of words, the story is told in woodcuts through a haunting art deco that is detailed and emotive. I would love to see any of these images in a larger scale form. Each one conveys so much plot and emotion. It's brilliant.

The second novel is called The Arrival. I could read this over and over. The creativity behind this book is beyond compare. Shaun Tan creates an intricate made up land of refuge in sepia tones. Following the arrival of one refugee the reader is able to discover this strange and lovely place with virgin eyes, similar to what it must be for any refugee arriving in a new country. The notes at the end of the book ground the story in reality and make the experience of reading it all the more poignant. This is beautifully creative, deep and touching. I would love to own any print from inside this book. Incredible.

And, lastly, I was heartbroken over the tale of Laika, by Nick Abadzis. I didn't know anything about Sputnik II until I read this. Admittedly, it carries a lot of similarities to comics, but some of the images and language are strikingly different. Abadzis used new devices I have never seen in comics to convey complicated emotions and plot points. It's also still told in the story arc of most novels. The story, based on historical events, and the driving plot are what compel this novel into a different echelon. Even a palpable tension and fear that must have existed in communist Russia, (which was similarly felt in the U.S.), comes through.This would not only be a great novel to teach middle school students about the Cold War and the space race, but to discuss humane issues, as well. Note: Each student should be issued one box of tissues, because this was a HARD one to get through.
As the liaison to Art and Design along with Cultural Studies, I'm hoping that GNs have a bigger and more prominent place in our collections. They are not going away and have so much to offer in their quest to convey through images and story. They have certainly won a permanent place in my heart.

*But, even though I distance myself from my own defined idea of "comics," I remain on team Batman and have been for years. Sure you could make a cursory argument that he's not a superhero since he has no genetic superpowers, but please.  The gadgets are pretty darn super and if you want to talk about extreme qualities, no one is as dark as Batman. Sure we all have a dark side, Batman's is just super dark. Speaking of the possibility of superheroes among us, have you seen, Kick Ass? (Warning! Super violent!) 


  1. I have been reading my share of graphic novels this year, but I don't have favorites. Same Difference and Good as Lily were good though.

    1. Oooo Evelyn, I peeped out your Pinterest page of graphic novels. I like that a lot! I might re-use that idea -giving you all props.

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