Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Graphic Detail

My wife the Librarian (actually, she is a para-librarian since her Master’s degree is not in Library Science)got caught up in a brouhaha, or maybe it was an imbroglio at her place of business the other day. It seems that one of their older lady patrons had chosen Rayda to ask the question, “What is a Graphic Novel ?”. Rayda replied with the answer that set off the aforementioned  rhubarb, stating that “It is a glorified Comic Book.”


Either the answer itself, or more likely the tone in which the information was conveyed, set off her friend and co-worker Monica like a skyrocket (or at least a bottle rocket depending on how much of the story Rayda has embellished). Monica felt that Rayda’s definition was incorrect and demeaned the art form of the Graphic Novel.


Based on what I have seen and read, mostly in Wikipedia (a glorified internet encyclopedia) a Graphic Novel indeed  is a subspecies of the comic book. It differs in its binding, its tendency to be a complete “book” as opposed to an episodic adventure, and, most importantly in  its use of more mature themes. Comic Book aficionados also believe that the art work of the Graphic Novel is inferior. But Monica’s point was correct in that you can place the Graphic Novel into a different artistic medium from comic books or regular novels.


It is axiomatic in the art world that no artistic medium is inherently superior to any other. I personally have always felt  that that point, far from deserving axioms  is quite   arguable. I would have to steal a line from the late Ernie Kovacs and say that the only reason I can see that  graphic novels are  a medium at all is because it is they are “neither rare nor well done”. This is not meant to be a criticism of Graphic Novels. Merely a comment putting it in its proper place. Where is the proper place for a Graphic Novel ? I believe strongly it to be in the library.


Graphic Novels are a wonderful, and possibly necessary, bridge for adolescent boys to move from video games to reading. I know that many females and mature adults read Graphic Novels, and that is fine, many adults also spend the majority of their weekends and evenings watching children’s games being played by adults on television (guilty !).I happen to think, and the statistics will prove me correct, that the fall of the percentage  of college entering boys to its pitiful rate of today, coincides exactly with the invention and subsequent spread of the video game. Getting a boy from a video game (and this may be done through the use of making characters from video games the protagonists of Graphic Novels ) seems to be the only entry of these boys into the concept of reading which may, if they are lucky lead them to higher educational opportunities than they are currently receiving playing “Grand Theft Auto”.


I am certainly not the perfect person to write about Graphic Novels. I have attempted to read them and find them tedious, totally lacking in color  and genuinely hard to see. Perhaps if my eyes were stronger I could enjoy them more. I once made the enormous mistake of asking a young lady lawyer I used to work with to tell me about the Graphic Novel as a genre. She proceeded to go through the plots of several books which she assured me were classics and recommended that I read them . After her recommendation I asked her one question, “Is Jughead in any of them ?” I can only assume that it was that kind of sarcasm which my wife employed the other day when using the term “glorified”, it was probably accompanied with a rolling of the eyes. I can see Monica’s point, this not only denigrated the books, but prejudiced the patron from even looking at one, possibly (but not probably) denying her what might have been a lifetime of enjoyable reading.


It is all subjective, I lived a childhood without the Graphic Novel, although by adolescence,  friends of mine and I would often read “graphic” novels down at the bayou. I would certainly rather see children reading Graphic Novels than hanging out at the mall or spray painting “Can’t ‘09” around  the word “Stop” on a stop sign. In fact, as I see it, only good can come from this reading. In that sense maybe Rayda is right, maybe it is a glorified comic book, but  maybe it deserves to be (glorified that is). Honey, it  is all in the way you say it !


Blogger Jannie Funster said...

The term Graphic Novel is not one I'd heard until last year, and then presumed it to be a novel with either raging sex or gratuitious violence, or both. As in ('way too graphic for me.)

But lo and behold in the small library at my daughter's school where I volunteered one Wednesday a month last year, I chanced upon the "graphic novel" shelf. Ah ha. So that's what they are.

The boys all used to fight over the 3 Tin-Tin books. Physically fight. I became their hero when I found a bunch of used ones at a yard sale. Made for much calmer Wednesdays in the library.

9:47 PM  

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