28 July 2014

Graphically Reading: Thoughts on the Graphic Medium

One of the wonderful benefits of blogging has been the chance to broaden my reading horizons. Until I started Beth Fish Reads, my exposure to comics consisted of my lifelong, daily addiction to comic strips and the comic books I read as a kid.

I guess I should start by admitting I was kind of a lame comic book reader. My favorites were of the Richie Rich ilk. I loved Archie, and I read Superman sporadically, but I was never a superhero fan. I have a few bound comics from my childhood, including a couple of Tintin books as well as some comic strip collections.

I was/am completely eclectic when it comes to daily comic strips. I read everything except Mark Trail. I remember Apartment 3G and  Mary Worth (neither of which appear in my current local paper); Peanuts when there were still new strips; and Pogo, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes (R.I.P.). I read them all from Prince Valiant (so slow but oddly addictive) to Shoe, Nancy, and Doonesbury.

So why did it take me until 2009 to return to reading graphic books? No idea. (Note: My reviews for all the books shown in this post, except the last one, can be found by clicking "Graphic Novel" or "Graphic Nonfiction" in the "Select a Label" pull-down list in the sidebar.)

Over the last few weeks, my Twitter stream has shown a rise in interest in the graphic format, which prompted me to check my archives. I was surprised to discover I've written 80 posts tagged as either graphic novel (includes comics) or graphic nonfiction, especially because I haven't written about all the graphic books and series I've read since I picked up that Nancy Drew (don't bother) almost six years ago.

One of the points I like to make when I review GNs (the term I'll use here for fiction, nonfiction, comics, series, and stand-alones), is that graphic is a format, not a genre. No matter what your reading tastes are, there's a GN for you. So many people associate GNs with only superheros or only fantasy. Others are sure they all are geared to children or teens or that they're meant only for fun escape reading. The truth is very different.

I've read GNs that have explored serious issues, such as the Holocaust, immigration, family, love, sexuality, death, and sickness. Others took me into the kitchen, back through history, into the future, and to makebelieve lands. From fantasy to historical fiction, from mystery to true crime, from contemporary novels to contemplative short story collections: artist/writers have covered every conceivable genre and have written to audiences from the earliest readers to the most sophisticated scholar.

My own tastes are wide ranging, although I tend to be attracted to fantasy (as a huge, broad category) and memoir. I still don't read X-Men or superheroes, I'm not much taken by Manga (yet), and I don't like traditional print novels that have been turned into GNs (based on a sample of about four). I love beautiful, colorful art (Saga) as much as simple black and white (Anya's Ghost). I am as addicted to more literary GNs (The Unwritten) as I am to the fun and goofy (Bones).

If you're new to the graphic medium, you might want read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. I read it soon after it was published (my copy is from 1993), and I remember it as being a fascinating look into the graphic medium throughout history and as comic artists geared up for the changes coming in the twenty-first century. Although the book may be due for a revision (adding eComics and new color technology, for example), it remains a serious, comprehensive introduction to this form of storytelling.

Among other topics, McCloud discusses comics lingo, different styles of art, and the evolution of common icons. He talks about how and why comics work as sequential art and explores some of the issues unique to the format (such as how to draw sounds, movement, and time). If you're unsure how to read a GN or want to know the difference between Western and Eastern comics, McCloud comes to your rescue.

One of the more frivolous things that stuck with me was this (and I'm paraphrasing): When it comes to comics, you really can judge a book by its cover. After all, comics (GNs) are where words and pictures meet.

Thursday: There is still so much I want to say about the graphic medium, I'm going to continue this discussion later this week. I want to talk a little bit about the range of artwork in GNs as well as the different forms (collected issues, single issues, series, stand-alone titles). In addition, I want to share some of the GNs I've read and not yet reviewed plus the titles I have on my reading stack.


rhapsodyinbooks 7/28/14, 6:42 AM  

Me too with Richie Rich, and also Millie the Model....

Anonymous,  7/28/14, 6:58 AM  

I love your point that graphic novels are a format, not a genre. I've found so many that I love and have found that I'm actually a little more willing to branch out genre-wise with my graphic novel reading than I am in traditional formats.

JoAnn 7/28/14, 8:01 AM  

"graphic is a format, not a genre. No matter what your reading tastes are, there's a GN for you."

So true... and I have blogging to thank for introducing me to this format, too!

bermudaonion 7/28/14, 8:03 AM  

I read comics like Archie and Richie Rich when I was a kid too. I think I was slow to pick up graphic novels because I thought they were all manga.

Man of la Book 7/28/14, 8:57 AM  

Great post, graphic novels are a great way to tell a story. I'm a big fan of them (not only the superhero or Archie kind).


Daryl 7/28/14, 11:03 AM  

i wasn't much of a comic reader as a kid tho i religiously read the comics in the Sunday Daily News .. i am not sure why i didnt find Smilin' Jack or Steve Canyon to my taste….. so i am not a fan of graphic novels

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 7/28/14, 1:17 PM  

What a great post and I'll be adding McCloud's Understanding Comics to my list. Like you I always enjoyed comic strips in the paper (back when we still got a paper) but I didn't really discover GNs until I started blogging. Just the other day I bought several Batman comics, something I would have never considered a year ago. I can't wait to get my hands on Saga!

Greg 7/28/14, 4:49 PM  

What a great post, and totally agree. I still like reading old Calvin and Hobbes collections... The nice thing is there is such a range to choose from, you can find just about anything. I keep hearing how good Saga is and I'd like to revisit the Bone series, since I never finished those when they were still new.

I'm slowly working my way through the Tintin series and am enjoying them a great deal. I read a couple as a kid but have discovered there were a lot more, and now my kids like them. :)

Sandy Nawrot 7/29/14, 1:34 PM  

Definitely blogging pulled me back into the medium. As a kid, I dabbled in Archie, Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, and Swamp Thing (LOL go figure). But wow, I have just devoured stuff in the last four or five years. GNs of all genre and style. I just finished the first Saga book (off to order more) as well as the translated "Snowpiercer" from which the movie was based. I can always count on a GN to get me out of reading slump!

Anonymous,  7/31/14, 12:13 PM  

My experience: only with comics, but I don't like superhero comics. I read Dondi and Brenda Starr in the 60's Sunday newspapers and Charlie Brown and the Archies in paperback form. My kids read Calvin and Hobbes oversized paperbacks and more currently my daughter and son in law used to collect first edition comics. I guess I should extend into the graphic novel format, though I wouldn't enjoy it on my Fire, so I would want the print version. Thanks for explaining all this to newbies like me :)

Thanks for stopping by. I read all comments and may respond here, via e-mail, or on your blog. I visit everyone who comments, but not necessarily right away.

I cannot turn off word verification, but if you are logged into Blogger you can ignore the captcha. I have set posts older than 14 days to be on moderation. I can no longer accept anonymous comments. I'm so sorry if this means you have to register or if you have trouble commenting.


All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.



To The Blogger Guide, Blogger Buster, Tips Blogger, Our Blogger Templates, BlogU, and Exploding Boy for the code for customizing my blog. To Old Book Illustrations for my ID photo. To SEO for meta-tag analysis. To Blogger Widgets for the avatars in my comments and sidebar gadgets. To Review of the Web for more gadgets. To SuziQ from Whimpulsive for help with my comments section. To Cool Tricks N Tips for my Google +1 button.

Quick Linker



  © Blogger template Coozie by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP