I hadn’t started reading graphic novels until my freshman year in college. A few friends of mine were the type of people who had their regular comics sent to them from their hometown comic-book store, or they would travel the distance to Jamestown (the nearest comicbook store around). I had never really given much thought to them, I didn’t like or dislike them, but seeing their interest and dedication I decided to see what they were all about. I started reading Green Lantern (still do) and Batman has since become my absolute favorite (at first I thought he was just a rich guy with no powers; little did I know). Coincidentally I was assigned to read Watchman for Novels and Tales (McRae’s class). I previously thought that graphic novels and the like were cliche nerd paraphernalia, but after reading some on my own and then Watchmen for class my opinion was completely reversed. Graphic novels have the ability to stand on the same level as any other novel or literature. A classic example of this is Watchmen, I know I’m referring to it a lot but that’s because everyone is familiar with it. Watchmen on the surface is a graphic novel, “superheros” fighting against a certain evil. But it tackles a big issue within society, which is who is there to keep those sworn to protect society from taking advantage of their power and using it for their own goals. Moreover, Watchmen isn’t done in a silly way, the images are gritty and the characters are just as real of a portrayal as novelists come up with as well. Maybe this is just personal preference, but the gritty and violent (and not unnecessarily violent) images give the reader a greater impression. The author/artist can use images in addition to text, which enhances the point that is trying to be made.

On the same topic of images, and this may be a little more far-fetched, but graphic novels can use their images to soften or toughen a topic. A perfect example of this is Maus, which all about WW2 and concentration camps. I have seen elementary aged kids reading this and I think the fact that it’s not real people or describing cats, dogs, and pigs as people during WW2 (which seems susceptible to coming across as convoluted), makes it readable to kids of most any age. Conversely, I have seen teachers and parents reading Maus and enjoying it. I believe the power of a graphic novel is in it’s images (astounding), but what I mean is that the images can make subject more real or an issue more age universal. Graphic novels deserve to be on the same level as all other types of literature.

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  1. I agree with your statement on the “power of portrayal” that graphic novels have. I find that in some narrative aspects can be even more provoking than regular prose. Maus is a good example of this, especially how Spiegelman uses different animal species to illustrate different nationalities. You say that the animals give more people the ability to “enjoy” this Holocaust narrative; I say it makes it much more disturbing. We are constantly reminded of the present racism that presided over Europe during that war by seeing the different species walking upright and dressed in human clothes (mice, cats, dogs, pigs, elk, etc). We know that humans are all of the same species but we act as if we are of different ones according to the boundaries that war has caused. Satrapi references Art Spiegelman as a huge influence on her work as Maus was also autobiographical (with a twist though, it was like a second-hand telling of the Holocaust). But yes, I’ve also just recently discovered the graphic novel and think it is just as relevant a story-telling medium as any other (book, film, etc) It will never be a substitute for the prose novel, but it is not supposed to be. It is a medium of itself. One that is fresh and is yet to be exhausted.

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