When I was in high school, I wrote a scathing essay about the introduction of graphic novels into school curriculum, with the not-so-subtle title of “The Blight of the Graphic Novel” or something similarly maudlin.
Needless to say, we all do stupid things in high school.
Earlier this spring, during Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, I read a number of comics, including the award-winning Saga. Before that, I blazed through and enjoyed Rat Queens, Vol 1. It’s taken until this year for me to really enjoy comic books, but I have to say—they are awesome.
It’s been a journey.
In college, I was completely obsessed with Superman and was trying to explore the character in any way I knew how. I watched every movie (including universally-panned Superman IV and the disappointing Superman Returns) and I watched every TV show (1950s Superman is kick-ass).
Later on, I even starting reading non-fiction, like the awesome Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero.
The only thing I didn’t do was read any of the comics.
Why? Because ‘reading’ images is simply hard for me.
It’s not that I didn’t want to read the Superman comics. I love superheroes! It’s also a big blow to geek cred to admit that you have trouble reading comics.
When a friend lent me Watchmen in college, it took me all night to read. It was the same length as a pulp novel that I could read through in 3 hours or less, but it took me three times as long to complete.
I kept missing important information that was conveyed through the picture and I’d have to turn back a few pages to figure out what was happening.
As a voracious reader, I’d regularly miss chapter headings, illustrations, or anything else inserted into a book.
As it turns out, like everything else, it just takes practice.
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) May 5, 2015
Comics aren’t the only place where illustrations enhance books.
I love the fantasy novel Abarat by Clive Barker because of the visuals.
It’s filled with beautiful full-color illustrations of the fantastical archipelego of Abarat and the strange characters that live there, all done by the author. The story wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without them.
I’m also starting to see more books like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which mixed graphic novel elements with traditional written narrative.
The illustration portions make a huge difference to the story. I’d love to see more of these hybrid-type novels.
If you don’t read comics, graphic novels, or illustrated novels now, or even disparage them, I’d suggest giving them a try. It took me more than one time reading a comic book to enjoy it, but now I can’t wait to get the next in a comic book series!