Join me every Saturday as I ask a Fun Question that’s been on my mind. I’ll give you my take, but I really hope you’ll jump in with your answers too, since I’m really curious to know what my fellow readers and bloggers think! So today’s question is…
What makes a good graphic novel or comic?
This post may not be exactly what you’re looking for. I’m not about to give you a guide to graphic novels and comics, because the truth of the matter is, I’ve never “gotten” them. But to be fair, I’ve never actually tried either. With so many good books out there, they’ve never appealed to me. But with Buffy the Vampire Slayer being my all-time favorite show (I even named my dog Buffy!) and the knowledge that season 8 is out there in graphic novel form the temptation has hit me to really read them. And then I”ve noticed several bloggers giving reviews for graphic novels and comics. So I got to thinking, what makes a good graphic novel or comic?
Here’s what I’ve deduced, but I’d really love input on this. Tell me if I’m way off and please tell me if there’s something else you look for that I”m just missing. I’d also love to know if there are any good “starter” graphic novels or comics I should consider. I want to read Buffy but I want to be equipped to enjoy it, too – complete with the right expectations.
Okay, yeah, duh! I know that’s an obvious one. But from reading reviews places like Angela’s Anxious Life, I get the sense that it’s just not if the pictures are pretty that matters. Hell they don’t need to be pretty at all, do they? They need to express the characters , right? Is it that there are less words to describe characters’ emotions and reactions, so the images are doing the job? I also wonder how important placement and size of text is – most reviews comment on it, so I think it’s pretty important. Maybe because it influences readability? That’s what I’ve gotten – but that make me raise another question.
How, exactly, do you read a graphic novel or comic? I know, sounds like a dumb question, but I usually read and put pictures in my head. On the rare occasion that a book I’m reading has images, I full on STOP to look at the picture and savor it before I continue my reading. It strikes me that this approach wouldn’t work well for books full of pictures. I’d be reading forever!
Here we’re on much more comfortable ground for me. And yet it’s still trickier than a novel. See in a novel, I’m looking for all the story pieces to come together well. But from what I’ve read, I get the impression that it’s very important for the art and story to work together. Neither one should work on their own, they should both be essential to the plot. Otherwise, it’s just a book with pictures, right? Or art with captions? This again makes me think that I really don’t know how to go about actually reading a graphic novel or comic, so I seriously hope one of you can tell me.
Okay, from what I’ve read it seems that characters are super important for graphic novels and comics. Maybe even more important than the story itself. And you should really get to know them primarily through the art and dialogue. This would be very different for me, since I’m so used to reading about a characters behavior and internal thoughts – so seeing them seems like it would be a whole different experience. It also seems like there would be a lot more interpretation involved. What if I suck at reading people’s facial expressions? Am I doomed to not understand the characters in graphic novels? Or is everything super exaggerated so that I could get it?
If I’m right (and I could be totally wrong) that characters drive the books, then I think I could really love them. I am a very character driven reader and care much more about character development than plot (though I like both to be great ideally).
So all you readers of comics and graphic novels, have I made some correct conclusions? What have I gotten wrong?
How do YOU read a graphic novel or comic?
And, BTW, what is the difference between a graphic novel and a comic?
Thanks for your comments!