Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Note on Graphic Novels

I was browsing some books at a bookshop the other day when I overhead a conversation between a father and his young son. The kid asked why there were no pictures in the novel his father had picked out. "That's because these books are for grown-ups," the father explained. The man told his son that he would also read these wordy books without pictures someday as he advances in the education ladder. He added that only little kids such as his son read comics and graphic novels.

This conversation made me think of what my opinion on graphic novels was. A couple of years ago, I would have grudgingly sided with the father. How many times have I kept my Archie comics in my backpack, not daring to read in public for fear of being seen as "immature"? But then, I thought of how my secondary school teachers react to students reading graphic novels and those reading lengthy novels during free period. Teachers would praise students reading the wordy novels but would ask those with comics and graphic novels to keep them away and urge them to read something more "academic". Now thinking about it, didn't graphic novels and novels serve the same purpose of entertaining us while we waited for the free period to be over?

Since starting uni, I've been introduced to different forms of literature. I was a tad surprised when I found out a graphic novel was on my reading list for one of my literature units last year as yes, at that time I did not see it being "academic" enough. But since then, I've changed my mind about this genre. I have long associated graphic novels with my childhood that I have dismissed it as a literary genre. Last year, I reignited my love for graphic novels. Graphic novels, like any other forms of literature keep us entertained. Emotions could be evoked from this art form and lessons could be learnt through the execution of the story. Here's a short list of graphic novels that showed me there's so much more to graphic novels:

1. Maus by Art Spiegelman

Image via Goodreads

Maus is a non-fiction that depicts Spigelman's father's experience during the Holocaust. I've read a few Holocaust stories before this but never one that made me as emotional as Maus did. By depicting the characters as animals instead of human face, it initially gave me a bit of comfort that this would create a distance between me and the story. But even using this method, the reality of the Holocaust as experienced by Vladek and its aftereffects were so awful that the story left a heavy feeling in my heart. Maus gave me a different perspective on the Holocaust. Through this read, I've learned more about this historical event.

2. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Image via Goodreads

Persepolis tells the story of Satrapi's life in Tehran during the Iranian revolution. I was kept entertained and through this read, I've gained new insights on the political and cultural aspects of the Iranian society of the time. There was humour (which I did not expect from a book about experiences during war) amidst sad and heartwarming parts of the story.

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson

Image via Goodreads

Blankets has a special place in my heart. It tells of the author's personal stories of his childhood and his first love. Thompson crafted a beautiful, touching and at times, disheartening story. Thompson's art is beautiful. There were times when I had to take a moment to appreciate the artform itself throughout my read before going back to the story. This graphic novel moved me and stayed with me for days after my read.

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