Graphic Novels and Writing

1035x1451-20140415-maus-x1800-1397586962So about a month ago, there was an article that got a lot of attention from writers and comic book lovers about a girl who wanted certain graphic novels removed from the college course she was taking. I don’t want to get into the specifics because they aren’t particularly important for this blog; what is important is that it reminded me of one graphic novel which I have been neglecting.

Maus by Art Spiegelman.

I knew of the story (it’s one of those graphic novels everybody who’s into the genre has heard about) but hadn’t really had the opportunity to obtain. Turns out my library had it. And what was an academic knowledge of its importance turned into a concrete knowledge:

Everybody should check this book out.

I haven’t decided if I want to do full reviews or not of things I read, but suffice to say, this is a good book. I don’t want to say I’m enjoying it, per se, given the subject matter, but it’s powerful. And I can’t put it down.

But it got me to thinking about the media and the differences between it and, say, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Or, for another example, your typical comic books and the stories I write.

There’s a lot of things a graphic novel can do that a regular book can’t, like actually show emotions or allow for a quiet moment of reflection. The size of the visuals and the word bubbles give a greater impression of tone and feeling than standard words on a page can convey. And it allows you to get into the characters’ heads.

So, then, why should we still have books?

Because books, unlike movies and graphic novels, give you greater participation. Even in Maus, I’m an observer of someone else’s story, partly because it’s a biography, but partly because I’m watching other people. I have no opportunity to slip into a character’s head, to interpret their actions as conveyed by the words in a way that makes sense to me. It’s all laid out on the page for me to see and understand, but not necessarily interpret.

And when writing fantasy, that can be a powerful thing. Sure, a comic can show us

But such a yummy example!
But such a yummy example!

Superman or Batman being badasses (or even when they’re not). But books can let us be Superman, or a wizard, or the world’s greatest detective by giving us greater agency over what we see and experience in our minds. I mean, I know I only see Robert Downy Jr. as Sherlock now…okay, maybe that’s a bad example πŸ™‚

Anyway, graphic novels give writers and artists a way of conveying the world they see in a more concrete form and can imply so much through the visual. But a book can bring so much more involvement.

And with all that said, I think I’ve talked myself back into why I started writing my current WIP. Back to writing!

8 thoughts on “Graphic Novels and Writing

  1. An interesting theory, but I’m not sure that I’m more “involved” in a story when I’m reading it. I never ever become so immersed that I feel like I’m living the chracter’s life, not even when the writing is superb. In that way, reading is not quite so different than movies or graphic novels for me.

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  2. Pingback: Graphic Novels and Writing | recoveryinbalance

  3. Landon Clary Eason

    A few years back I found a book about John Wayne Gacy that was written by one of the attorneys who defended him during his trial. I could not put it down either! I finished it in one day I think. I parked my butt down and devoured it in one sitting. It was nauseating and repulsive but I could not put it down!

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  4. People are different. Some people depend on visual and some wanted to be mentally stimulated through books.

    As for me, I prefer books rather than movies or graphic novels. I want the internal thoughts and more because it’s raw, but when it comes to hearing the dialogues in movies and seeing them in graphic novels they are only dialogues for me.Of course, there’s subtext and context, but I prefer them more in a book than to look for them in graphics. I don’t want to observe for body language because they are described for you to imagine and I want my own imagination to run wild. In graphic novels, we are already given visual graphics.

    I’ll have to comment on having it removed. I don’t agree. I think that graphic novels are also important.

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    1. Oh, I’m not saying they’re not important; I was simply musing on the differences and why, given a lot of pluses graphic novels have in combining the written and visual, books are still important. Especially when my preferred subject is traditionally found in comic books.

      I may not have made it very clear though :/

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      1. Oh no, maybe I was the one who wrote a confusing comment. I wasn’t reacting to your post about the graphic novels not being important, I was reacting to your opening paragraph about the girl.

        I guess, I got confused too, but really, I hope I didn’t offend you. πŸ™‚

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