When I started reading graphic novels in 2011, I was all over the place with the types I was reading. Being a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, I knew I had to start reading the Sandman comics to see what they were all about … and I also started reading the graphic novel version of Twilight.
Yeah, two VERY different things.
While the Neil Gaiman comics definitely turned me onto telling a story with pictures and minimal words, the Twilight one turns me off, with its super simple, almost manga-esque quality and boring typography. From there I’d start to read some more middle grade graphic novels, like Smile by Raina Telgemeier and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, and I found myself slowly finding the kinds of graphic novels I liked to read.
What do I like in graphic novels? I like excellent artwork — even something done without colour and without any other mediums other than just drawing can be wonderful — and I like awesome stories. Just like a regular book, I want a graphic novel to suck me in right away and really have me hanging onto the story until the last page.
Thinking about it, the first time I really read a “graphic novel” would be when I was in middle school myself. I was a huge fan of the Archie comics and had a HUGE box full of them (which I, sadly, gave away — who knew they would be so big these days?). That brings up the point about graphic novels vs. comics. I’m one of those people who will lump everything together under the term “graphic novel,” but according to Matt Bowes of This Nerding Life, that’s really not what I should be doing:
“It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine, stemming from the four years I worked at a comics store. To me, the entire medium is called “comics”, while a subset of the works available are “graphic novels”. The term is often used incorrectly to describe bound trade paperbacks of comic stories (collections of The Walking Dead, Fables, etc.). When Will Eisner thought up the term, he wanted it to mean an actual novel designed to be read in that form. I also have a little bit of a beef against the use of “graphic novel” to indicate some sort of higher purpose than “comics”. It’s kind of like someone saying “I only read literary fiction.””
See? For a newbie like me, I have a LOT to learn.
And really, there are a lot of newbies out there, people who want to read graphic novels but don’t know where to start, or people who think that reading a book with pictures (heaven forbid!) is only meant for kids, that it wouldn’t be something a grown-up should read.
Jennifer says, “I’m an avid reader of graphic novels, but I haven’t always been. I always assumed they were just about superheroes (I hate Batman) or somehow just for kids, and it wasn’t until I found stories that spoke to me that I realized there’s a graphic novel out there for everyone. Now, I pick up a graphic novel when I need a break from dense books or when the next book in one of my favorite series comes out. Some of my personal favorites are Fables, Locke & Key, Saga, Dragon Age, Unwritten, Marvel 1602, the new 52 Aquaman, the new 52 Wonder Woman, and the graphic novelization of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.”
What is being a grown-up anyway? When I was younger all I wanted to do was read the grown-up books. I’d try to read Stephen King and my mom’s Danielle Steel books. I’d wander through the stacks of adult fiction and assume that since I was a reader, I’d totally get any of these books. And now that I’m an adult, I’m way more picky. That, and I don’t feel like I should stick to one niche when reading. If I want to read adult books, I’ll do it. If I want to read YA, I’ll go for it. Even if I want to read some middle grade books, I don’t start berating myself.
I know, some people might think that reading just for the sake of reading, or just picking up a book for mere enjoyment is wrong. The older we get shouldn’t mean the harder the books — we don’t always have to be challenging ourselves with what we’re reading. Though frankly, I find that reading a graphic novel is challenging. Whether you’re reading a graphic novel or a comic, it takes a little bit of work to really get into the atmosphere of what you’re reading. When you’re reading a novel, the author can use plenty of words to describe what’s going on, what the scenery is, what the smell of the scene is, but with a graphic novel, you don’t have all of that. It’s a matter of adjusting your brain and really deciphering the pictures on the page.
Margie (from Bumbles and Fairy-tales) says, “With graphic novels like One Summer and Through the Woods, I fell in love with the illustrations! The way that they carry the story so fluently just through pictures and minimal colors. The story-telling and/or conversations supported the illustrations enhancing the plot and yet, allowing your imagination to still build on what you’re reading …”
Not only that, but there’s the layout of graphic novels. I will admit that it took me a little while to get used to how to read a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s not all left to right reading … you have to follow the flow of the graphic novel or comic, what the author and illustrator intended. Some might be laid out simply, while others are more artistic. The fun in reading graphic novels is finding those needle in a haystack books — the books that are not only gorgeous to look at, but fun to read as well.
Laura (from Reading In Bed) says, “Skim was the first one I read and liked. The first one I ever read was about Louis Real, so non-fiction, and I found it pretty boring. I loved Skim because it was a good story and the drawings added to it. Gave it a certain mood.”
Graphic novels are cool because they have to convey so much in a shorter amount of time. While a scene could last a few chapters in a book, it could be condensed in a graphic novel. Just think of the power of words and illustration! I think that it’s kind of great that graphic novels exist for all ages and I feel that so long as we’re still exposing ourselves to books with no pictures (I know, I know), that including graphic novels into our reading schedule is perfect for the bookish diet. Just like adding in poetry, or audiobooks, or books in verse. Changing it up helps us change up our thinking and makes us concentrate a little more on a new medium and for me, there’s nothing wrong with that.
I’m still learning as I go, tumbling through the enourmous haystack of graphic novels that are out there. I still find ones that just don’t suit me, or ones that might be too boring for my taste (I’m just slightly warming up to non-fiction graphic novels), but every once in a while I find one that is absolutely amazing. That’s what I love about my journey as a reader.
Why do you love graphic novels? What are some of your favourites!