Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Value of Graphic Novels

For one of my lectures yesterday, my class had an interesting discussion on the value of graphic novels, and their place in the library. It's kind of funny, but before starting university I always thought of graphic novels as easy reading with no literary merit at all. It wasn't until I started my English degree, and graphic novels were on many of my course reading lists, that I stopped to think about the depth and range of themes that these works actually posses. The majority of graphic novels out there focus on a variety of issues such as dysfunctional families, culture clashes, mental health, war, and everyday life.  As a result, while people may think of comics as simply a bunch of pictures, they fail to recognize the comment that these graphic novels make about our culture and everyday life.

There is also the fact that graphic novels promote literacy, especially amongst children. Studies have shown that reading graphic novels actually "requires more cognitive skills than reading text alone." Not only do students have to take information from the text that they are reading, but they are now forced to examine and interpret the vast symbolism provided through the illustrations as well. Graphic novelist, Art Spiegelman, is quoted as saying that comics are "a gateway drug into books," and I would have to agree! Graphic novels are an easy and entertaining way to get children motivated to read. 

I witnessed this personally with my younger brother, who always hated to read, especially for school! He would avoid it at all costs if possible! One day, however, I happened to bring home a graphic novel that I had been reading for my own enjoyment, and persuaded him to take a look at a couple of pages. Within minutes he was hooked! Our basement walls are now lined with the graphic novels that he has consumed, my mom happily providing the money because "at least he is reading something!" 

As a result, I am a strong supporter of graphic novels, especially within the library system! As a future librarian (hopefully!), I really think that the value of reading graphic novels needs to be promoted more. There is a stigma attached with comics that they are not literary, but that is far from being true! Try telling that to Art Spiegelman, who won the Pulitzer prize for his historical graphic novel, Maus, which retells the story of his father's time spent in a concentration camp! Or Marjane Satrapi, whose Persepolis series is an autobiographical account of her life in Iran during the Islamic revolution. Even graphic novels like Naruto or Bone are important for the part that they play in larger popular culture. Graphic novels have value, and as such need to be viewed as something other than silly or a waste of time.

What do you guys think? Have you ever read any graphic novels? Do they have value in your eyes? 
Persepolis by Margane Satrapi

3 comments:

Jenny said...

I should really read more graphic novels. I don't know why I don't. If Koontz doesn't write more Odd Thomas I'll have to give in and start reading the graphic novels!

Karen @ Book Light Graveyard said...

Graphic novels never really seemed like they'd be my thing, so I've never read one. Your post makes me want to try one though. But, even though I don't read them, like you, I appreciate that they get kids reading who might not otherwise read.

Jacquelynne said...

I totally wanted to comment on this yesterday when I was at work but I forgot, haha. I would agree that yes SOME graphic novels have literary merit and deeper meaning behind some of them and some do not. Although I thoroughly enjoyed "Watchmen" and "Sin City" as graphic novels but not so much as movies. And when we were all yung we used to read "Manga" which is a different type of graphic novel I suppose, lol. I do appreciate the fact that they do get a younger crowd reading :)

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