Weekly Geeks: Graphic Novels

May 31, 2010 at 12:10 am 6 comments

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?

Loyal readers of this blog may remember that I am a graphic novel nut. It should come as no surprise that I absolutely count graphic novels as books read. No one who has read Watchmen or The Sandman series can seriously argue that graphic novels are unsophisticated — and if they can, they’ve missed the point of the work entirely.

If a work of fiction can stand up to literary criticism, it’s literature. Even though  Sandman was originally released as a comic book series, Neil Gaiman makes use of copious allusions to myth, as well as other literary techniques, to explore the themes of death, fantasy, change, and destiny. As a result, Stephen Rauch has been able to compare the plot of Sandman to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey in a full-length scholarly work. The series has won several literary awards, including the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction (won by issue number 19).

The Sandman is spectacularly written. To the best of my limited knowledge, the list of graphic novels on a similar literary level is a short one. Certainly Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a graphic novel by Frank Miller, is one such work, and it appears both on Time‘s Top Ten Graphic Novels list and in a few critical works on the genre.

Watchmen by Alan Moore would have to be on that list as well. While the movie gives some idea as to the scope of this work, it’s hard to understand the sophistication involved without wading through the novel. A glance at Doug Atkinson’s “The Annotated Watchmen” might give you an inkling of the narrative and visual threads Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons are weaving throughout the work.

Sometimes, reading a graphic novel can even be more difficult than reading traditional “words on a page” literature. Everything in a panel matters, whether it’s the angle of the “shot,” the writing on a character’s shirt, the label on a ketchup bottle — in one panel of Watchmen, the logo on a passing truck and the shape of a stain on the pavement are significant. As a result, great graphic novels require an incredible amount of attention to detail, and reward repeated readings in a way only great works of traditional literature can.

But that’s only one (subjective) opinion, of course! Do you have an opinion on graphic novels? Please share it below!

– KT

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Entry filed under: Comic Books and Graphic Novels, Weekly Geeks. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erotic Horizon  |  May 31, 2010 at 2:12 am

    I love this weeks topic and Ii could not agree with you more…

    Watchmen had so many levels to it that it’s only by reading the book could you really grasp that…

    Batman, The league of Extraordinary Gentlemn are two of my fav….

    Loving the Sandman books as well…

    How I love me some Graphic Nonels, let me count the ways..

    E.H>

    Reply
    • 2. KT  |  May 31, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Loved The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen! I think I’m going to have to go back and reread the series now that I’m a little more versed in steampunk and the novels Moore alludes to.

      Reply
  • 3. Carina  |  June 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I just read Watchmen a month or so ago for the first time, and I was absolutely astounded at the level of detail!

    Reply
  • 4. Mish  |  June 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I really like Gaiman’s works, but have yet to read Sandman. It’s in the queue, along with Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

    Reply
    • 5. KT  |  June 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm

      Oooh, you have some excellent reading ahead of you! If you’re new to graphic novels, I’d recommend starting with V for Vendetta and then continuing to Watchmen and Sandman — Watchmen is more visually detailed, but Sandman is more complex in a narrative sense. Happy reading!

      Reply
  • 6. Knight Frank | Stamp Duty: Why Pay It?  |  September 11, 2011 at 7:02 am

    […]  The Top 10 Greatest Batman Graphic NovelsTop Ten Must Read Trade Paperbacks/Graphic Novels!Weekly Geeks: Graphic Novels jQuery.noConflict(); jQuery(document).ready(function($) { $(document).ready(function(){ var […]

    Reply

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