In my graphic novel appreciation post I talked a bit about what graphic novels are not. Specifically, they are not just larger, more violent comic books read by adult children trying to pass themselves off as grown ups.
Today I want to give you my own graphic novel definition, focusing on the is. And then I’ll suggest a book that helped inform my own understanding of comics and the graphic novel.
Why try to understand it in the first place?
Mainly because I have seen our library’s circulation numbers, and I have been begging kids to read something for the last five years of my career. In my experience, graphic novels are the easiest sell for many kids who simply say “I hate reading” or “reading is boring.”
The circulation statics on graphic novels are headed up and to the right. The stats on other books–biographies, novels, non-fiction, etc–aren’t worth getting that excited about.
In my opinion as a librarian it would be a mistake not to understand the genre, what it has to offer, and what it does not.
Scott McCloud has written a brilliant book called Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.
It is a comic book about comic books, and everything I read in it could apply to graphic novels as well.
Panel by panel, McCloud acts as guide to what is happening on the page, in the dialogue bubbles, and I think most importantly of all, an understanding of why a visual medium might be a superior tool to achieve certain authorial visions.
Of course, I’ve also read plenty of GNs that are juvenile and silly and seemingly exist solely for the author to say “Wow, look at how violent/profane/insert-various-transgressions this is!” I’m looking at you Punisher.
If you’re new to the medium I would read the appreciation post linked to at the top of the page for some recommendations that I and other readers put together.