Graphic Novels

November 10, 2008 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Book Blather, Reading with Kids | Leave a comment

On Saturday Rocket Scientist and I went to the bookstore to buy Sweetie Junior a birthday present.  We were looking for the sequel to a graphic novel I got her last year, part of a World of Warcraft series.  We didn’t find it until the next shop, though we did pick out a “how to draw manga” book.  Along the way we had a pretty interesting discussion about comics and graphic novels.

I’ve always been a fan.  I started leafing through my dad’s Heavy Metal magazines when I was four.  I spent all my allowance on Mad magazine for nearly three years.  Eventually I found my dad’s stack of underground comics from the 70’s (he has Zap! comics #0!).  On the more conventional side of things, my uncle sent me and my brothers a set of Classics Illustrated, and I read those too.  I like to think I’m not a snob.

But maybe I am.  I can’t be bothered to read most manga or superhero comics.  I prefer the more artsy graphic novels and the more subversive alternative comics.  I also love some of the old-fashioned strips, like Krazy Kat.  Part of me really wants to push the pedagogy on this poor, defenseless almost-14 year old.  I can’t help but wish she enjoyed the video game spinoff stuff less and the stuff I want her to like moreWorld of Warcraft??  *sigh*

The other problem is that she’s just not quite old enough for a lot of what’s out there, while she’s definitely too old already for a lot of other stuff.  She’s somewhere in between the cartoon animals on the nice end, and the decapitated heads on the other end.  (We found no fewer than three decapitated head drawings in three separate books with only a cursory examination).  The other problem is all those boobs, especially in the how-to-draw books.  So I have to ask myself, where does it come from, this desire to shelter the kid from stuff I enjoyed at the same age or younger?

Rocket Scientist ventured the thought that all schools should offer illustrated versions of the classics.  I tend to agree.  I read a cartoon version of King Lear in high school that was absolutely terrific, and it included every single word of the play.  Whatever it takes to get kids to read, I say.  Some graphic novels take more thought and more sophistication to read than the text alone.  On the other hand, these are the types of books most likely to be stolen from libraries – a sure indicator of their popularity, intrinsic attraction, and expense.

What remains is to develop a graphic literature for teenagers that avoids some of the excesses of the adult-oriented material, while also avoiding the kiddie cartoon stuff at the other extreme.  Where are the illustrated Lord of the Flies and Flowers for Algernon?  Won’t someone take on To Kill a Mockingbird?  If I could draw at all, I’d do it myself.


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