Thursday, June 25, 2009

Graphic Novels 101

A lot of people roll their eyes when they hear the words "graphic novel", especially in a bookstore. The very idea seems to give people the idea that they're juvenile or disposable. Thanks to writers like Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell, V For Vendetta, all made into horrendous movies that he had nothing to do with), the graphic novel is a medium that can explore facets of storytelling that plain old literature, and even film, can't touch (note above, the movement from a tiny detail all the way up to the first line of dialogue).

And graphic novels in series format can go even further, like Robert Kirkman's zombie opus, The Walking Dead. Stretching nine volumes and still going, this zombie story isn't just your average shock fest. While being character-driven, it deals with the idea of humanity being stripped of money, government, and technology-- and right back into "survival of the fittest". Oh, and there's a lot of entrails. Think more early George Romero than Lucio Fulci.

Y: The Last Man is about an epidemic that kills the male population of the planet, and what happens when one man survives. It's not the cheesy porno set-up you might think it is. What follows is a ten-volume epic that's planned and executed brilliantly, jumping from comedy to drama and back again. There's a reason why the author, Brian K. Vaughan, is now an executive producer and writer for ABC's Lost.

And now for something completely different: Bone, by Jeff Smith, has been heralded as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. Riding the line somewhere between cartoon and fantasy and action-adventure, Bone is a series that is deceiving at first glance-- it looks like a kids' book with its adorable protagonists and woodland creatures, but soon becomes covered in monsters, quests, wars, and all that good fantasy stuff. And I don't even like fantasy! I even dare to say this one manages to tug at the ol' heartstrings occasionally.

So there you go. Hopefully these get you started and then eventually addicted.


The Inkwell Bookstore said...

Can I suggest another?

Alec and the King Canute Crowd:
Written and drawn by From Hell's illustrator, Eddie Campbell, it's the thinly disguised autobiography of the Scotsman as a twenty-something writer whiling away his days (by working in a metal shop) and nights (by drinking with a Joycean cast of characters at the King Canute pub). Simple, sketchy artwork backed by some of the sharpest, smartest dialogue ever to hit comics.

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