On "serious" comics that want to be called Graphic Novels

Shazbot!Shazbot! __BANNED USERS
edited October 2007 in Graphic Violence
I suppose this is half a discussion thread and half a recommendation thread. I'm a huge fan of literature and have always loved comics as a kid, but to this day, I can't really get into the "graphic novel" for adults. The ones I've read seem to lack the depth and complexity of a proper novel and don't have the joy and exuberance I've come to expect from a comic book. That's not the exact reason, but it's simplified enough to be coherent.

This isn't a thread about The Watchmen, which to me, was very very fun, and was followed in theme and tone by some great stuff like DKS and DKSA, Kingdom Come, and Moore's run on Miracle Man. Among many other mature works about superheroes and their adventures. Or superbeings, if we want to bring Sandman into this.

I'm speaking more about comics like Maus, Ice Haven, Persopolis, Epileptic, and the other "graphic novels" that are involved with literary themes and plots. Great literature (or art), as defined by, let's say Susan Sontag, isn't escapist, but draws one closer to reality. Whereas a great comic exists in its own world, and is inherently escapist. I never liked Kirby's Fourth World until its characters stopped becoming soap boxes for lazy-symbolism (Barda represents the female! and the like) and crossed over into regular kickass supervillain terrority. I am looking forward to Persopolis the film because the graphic novel was uneven, poorly paced, and isn't a graphic novel just a polished storyboard anyway? What makes a serious graphic novel different from a polished storyboard?

I would like to think of graphic novels as art and not merely great entertainment, but I haven't read anything that would dissuade me of my complaints. Can someone recommend me a graphic novel they would consider literary?

For comparison, the first five novels I can think of loving are, in no real order: The Moon and the Bonfires, Cesare Pavese; Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens; The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner; Billy Budd, Herman Melville; Dubliners, James Joyce. And similiarly, my five comic trades: Moore's run on Miracle Man; Miller's DK2; A Superman for All Seasons; Marvel Zombies; Sam and Max: Surfin' the Highway.

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Posts

  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    I picked up Will Eisner's 'Contract with God' and 'Life on Another Planet' on a whim, and they are both extremely excellent. I'd consider them both literary according to your definition.

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  • hughtronhughtron __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    I don't understand how comics are somehow inherently escapist.

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  • HooraydiationHooraydiation Registered User
    edited October 2007
    hughtron wrote: »
    I don't understand how comics are somehow inherently escapist.

    EscapistVol1.jpg

    Strong evidence.

    I also can't understand why you'd equate comics to polished storyboards. You might as well refer to the opening night of a play as a polished rehearsal. Essentially, you're discounting the thought and effort that separates a preliminary design such as a story board from a final product simply because no transition from paper to real life or animation takes place.

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  • hughtronhughtron __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    For the argument to work, you'd have to agree that superheroes = comics.

    You're confusing genre with medium.

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  • hughtronhughtron __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    Also, I don't know if I'd agree with the idea that great 'literature' draws someone closer to reality.

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  • HooraydiationHooraydiation Registered User
    edited October 2007
    hughtron wrote: »
    Also, I don't know if I'd agree with the idea that great 'literature' draws someone closer to reality.

    Well, it depends on what he, or rather she, means by that. If you can say that the experiences of a character who is far from human in a world that is far removed from our own can still be judged as bringing one closer to reality thanks to the universality of those experiences and the resulting feelings and consequences, then I would agree. Seaguy was by no means a realistic story, but I still believe that it draws the reader closer to reality (specifically, the realities of loss, powerlessness, and shrinking personal importance) and, through that, can be judged as a success.

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  • hughtronhughtron __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    hughtron wrote: »
    Also, I don't know if I'd agree with the idea that great 'literature' draws someone closer to reality.

    Well, it depends on what he, or rather she, means by that. If you can say that the experiences of a character who is far from human in a world that is far removed from our own can still be judged as bringing one closer to reality thanks to the universality of those experiences and the resulting feelings and consequences, then I would agree. Seaguy was by no means a realistic story, but I still believe that it draws the reader closer to reality (specifically, the realities of loss, powerlessness, and shrinking personal importance) and, through that, can be judged as a success.

    Oh, I agree with that completely. I got the impression from the first post that they meant it more in terms of a binary opposition between escapism and reality. Like literature is about boring gray days and comics are about fighting and color and explosions.


    (PS: I think Seaguy 2 is finally coming!)

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  • KVWKVW Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    hughtron wrote: »
    For the argument to work, you'd have to agree that superheroes = comics.

    You're confusing genre with medium.

    But the medium IS the message! (I'm sorry, only Canadians will probably get this)

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  • HooraydiationHooraydiation Registered User
    edited October 2007
    hughtron wrote: »

    Oh, I agree with that completely. I got the impression from the first post that they meant it more in terms of a binary opposition between escapism and reality. Like literature is about boring gray days and comics are about fighting and color and explosions.


    (PS: I think Seaguy 2 is finally coming!)

    Yeah, that is the impression that the OP gives. I was just responding to the quote he used, which I believed to be open to a different interpretation.

    And yeah, Seaguy 2 is gonna be great.

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  • hughtronhughtron __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    KVW wrote: »
    hughtron wrote: »
    For the argument to work, you'd have to agree that superheroes = comics.

    You're confusing genre with medium.

    But the medium IS the message! (I'm sorry, only Canadians will probably get this)

    Marshall Mcluhan is defintely a part of my heritage.

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  • Shazbot!Shazbot! __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    I picked up Will Eisner's 'Contract with God' and 'Life on Another Planet' on a whim, and they are both extremely excellent. I'd consider them both literary according to your definition.

    Thanks for the req., I'll try to find them and check them out -- the description on Amazon sounds interesting, to say the least.

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  • augustaugust where you come from is gone Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Shazbot! wrote: »
    I am looking forward to Persopolis the film because the graphic novel was uneven, poorly paced, and isn't a graphic novel just a polished storyboard anyway? What makes a serious graphic novel different from a polished storyboard?

    Read Understanding Comics.

    As a suggestion, read From Hell.

    And if one is to judge art based on it's "reality" (which I certainly don't) how does one reconcile the fact that the novel is in fact arguably the most abstract and unrealistic art form?

    august on
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  • silkypeasilkypea Registered User
    edited October 2007
    Really I think that a graphic novel is just a comic that comes out as one single story in trade format. It was never released in issues. I'm pretty sure that is the definition. Otherwise it's just people who wanna act like this certain comic is more intelligent than this one or whatever.

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  • Red or AliveRed or Alive Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    silkypea wrote: »
    Really I think that a graphic novel is just a comic that comes out as one single story in trade format. It was never released in issues. I'm pretty sure that is the definition. Otherwise it's just people who wanna act like this certain comic is more intelligent than this one or whatever.

    I don't think intelligence has anything to do with it. In my book, a self-contained story with a distinct beginning, middle and end can be called a graphic novel when delivered as a comic. Sure, some pretentious types (and insecure bookstores and vice-versa) will draw a line between what they consider literate and what they deem not by use of the phrase, but that doesn't mean it isn't valid.

    As for serialisation, well, how many English lit. classics were initially serialised. Would you refuse to call Oliver Twist a novel? Then how is From Hell any different?

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  • AlgertmanAlgertman Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Blankets is the worst thing I have ever read.

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  • Kipling217Kipling217 Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    In a word Wil Eisner. Not only did he draw one of the best comics during the Golden Age(Spirit), a comic that is as funny now as when it was writen(and that not something you can say about the Golden Age Superman/Batman). Contract with God and Life on another planet are his most famous, but he drew several books in his later years that are way ahead of the competition.


    His last book was an treatment on the background of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion called the Plot. Charting its course from a pamphlet against Napeleon III to a centerpiece in anti-semetic propganda. Another book you should read is Fagin the Jew. The book rewrites the whole story of Oliver Twist around Fagin, explaining not only his background, but the environment for jews in Victorian England.

    Both books are masterpieces. In fact in my opinon you can't really call yourself a comicbook fan until you have read at least one of his books. (read, though maybe not liked. I understand that he is not everyones cup of tea, but reading him gives you a foundation to understand the rest of the comics medium. Its so much easier to spot hack writers and artist afterwards).

    They don't call the comic version of the Oscars, the Eisners for nothing people.

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  • silkypeasilkypea Registered User
    edited October 2007
    Shit I haven't read either of those books I guess I've just been lying to myself thinking I was a fan of comics all these years.

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  • Kipling217Kipling217 Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Read them, you will thank me.

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  • KilljoyKilljoy __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2007
    From Hell comes to mind.

    Is Scott Pilgrim literary?

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  • SUPERSUGASUPERSUGA Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Algertman wrote: »
    Blankets is the worst thing I have ever read.
    I was somewhat indifferent to it. I don't regret reading it or anything though. What is it that you dislike so much about it?

    SUPERSUGA on
  • Red or AliveRed or Alive Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Kipling217 wrote: »
    In a word Wil Eisner. Not only did he draw one of the best comics during the Golden Age(Spirit), a comic that is as funny now as when it was writen(and that not something you can say about the Golden Age Superman/Batman). Contract with God and Life on another planet are his most famous, but he drew several books in his later years that are way ahead of the competition.


    His last book was an treatment on the background of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion called the Plot. Charting its course from a pamphlet against Napeleon III to a centerpiece in anti-semetic propganda. Another book you should read is Fagin the Jew. The book rewrites the whole story of Oliver Twist around Fagin, explaining not only his background, but the environment for jews in Victorian England.

    Both books are masterpieces. In fact in my opinon you can't really call yourself a comicbook fan until you have read at least one of his books. (read, though maybe not liked. I understand that he is not everyones cup of tea, but reading him gives you a foundation to understand the rest of the comics medium. Its so much easier to spot hack writers and artist afterwards).

    They don't call the comic version of the Oscars, the Eisners for nothing people.

    They're all interesting books. Though I remember Eisner dancing around whether or not he felt guilty designing a 'darkie' stereotype in The Spirit (Ebony White) - which is a pity when so many of his novels contain anti-semitism as a theme.

    But, yes, the impact of his layouts can still be seen in most of today's comic art. And he was one of the first American artists to produce literate, critically well-received by the mainstream, pieces.

    I'll be damned if I ever use the phrase "sequential art", however.

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  • Rabid_LlamaRabid_Llama Registered User
    edited October 2007
    On Maus: I enjoyed it, though I really don't think it is an outstanding peice of literature. Everyone always holds it in such high regards (my senior english teacher included) and honestly the story was just not that good. Given that it is based on fact, that is a little unfair to say but really nothing jumped out at me as being well done when reading it. The book was very disjointed and repetitive and just never stood out when compared to other holocaust storys other than its medium.

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  • AlgertmanAlgertman Registered User regular
    edited October 2007
    SUPERSUGA wrote: »
    Algertman wrote: »
    Blankets is the worst thing I have ever read.
    I was somewhat indifferent to it. I don't regret reading it or anything though. What is it that you dislike so much about it?

    I don't know. I just hate the damn thing with a passion.

    Algertman on
  • Ethan SmithEthan Smith Origin name: Beart4to Arlington, VARegistered User regular
    edited October 2007
    Hellblazer strikes me as having remarkably good prose. I'm reading Trainspotting at the moment, and I feel that the Empathy series and it both get the feeling of Scotland (though this is said only as a guy who's been to Scotland twice, but also as a guy who reads a lot of Scottish literature)

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