My relationship with graphic novels began December last year. At the behest of a friend, my first acquisition was Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. My greatest achievement to date: when I referred to Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta” during a contemporary history-philosophy school lesson, and my professor referred to it as a comic, I promptly (but politely) retorted, “I’m sorry, but it is a graphic novel” (though some would say that my impulse buy of a Rorschach mask and hat on eBay is even more commendable).
I love graphic novels.
I have always enjoyed fictional texts (here), so for me the graphic illustrations enhance the reading experience. Every novel is a collaborative piece of work between a team of talented individuals, so crafting the narratives and dialogues is not as straightforward or superficial as it has been construed to be (V’s soliloquies in “V for Vendetta” are brilliant, and the use of the news-casters and talk-shows in “The Dark Knight Rises” just blew me away). The images portrayed are enduring, and the fact that many writers and directors have been influenced by these publications – not just direct adaptions – says something. That the books depict fantastical worlds with colourful characters (not just literally) seals the deal.
Graphic novels that describe and illustrate dystopic worlds astound me, especially those that are peppered with real-world references. The visual element works extremely well in this domain, when you envision how people and societies might change.
Some might be tempted to dismiss graphic novels as “childish” or “a waste of time”. Don’t bother with them, especially if they have not actually picked up one before.
There are classic works that should be read. “Watchmen” and the aforementioned novels in this piece come to mind, as well as the Sandman series (which I’ve only just started on). But as with reading in general (here), I think it’s more important to identify what works for you. Some of my friends – who are graphic novel purists – are very concerned about the DC and Marvel divide, and hence read exclusively. Others end up purchasing what is more popular in recent culture (for instance, when certain film blockbusters are released).
Me? I absolutely adore Batman. In his universe, he’s the World’s Greatest Detective, while the detective-mystery is my favourite genre. The masterful use of red herrings, the wonderful mix of the “whodunit” and the “howcatchem”, the intelligent plots… A perfect match, no?