Want (or maybe need) some pictures to spice up your reading material? Let bookseller Jaime Cary of Maria’s Bookshop teach you about graphic novels. They’re a whole lot more than your nerdy friend’s comic books used to be.”
How did you discover graphic novels?
I had a great teacher in fourth grade who made us read one book a month, and each month was a different genre. The month that graphic novels were assigned, I chose one about “Sailor Moon,” because I was already watching the TV show and had a good idea of what it might be like. I was immediately hooked. Everything I loved about the show was there, but darker, cooler and stranger.
What got you on board so quickly?
I loved to read as a kid, but I also loved the visual of TV, so it was amazing to feel like I got both things at the same time. You get the physical cues of expression and posture, as well as some great action sequences, and also the subtleties of text. They just mesh wonderfully to tell stories that are interesting, complex and often wonderfully weird.
Who do you recommend them to?
Everyone should read a graphic novel at least once, and the topical matter is so unlimited that everyone can find something that they’re interested in or enjoy. They’re wonderful for the child who’s a reluctant reader, but they’re also a great way for a serious reader to reimagine or reconsider a classic like Moby Dick. If you’re more visual than textual, and you haven’t read a graphic novel, you’re missing out.
Where should the newbie begin?
For the adult, I’d say Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. It’s nonfiction, which is somewhat rare for the graphic novel, and it’s the story of 1979 Glorious Revolution Iran, as told from the perspective of a young Muslim girl in secular Iran as it transitions to a religious government. The art is very simple – black and white – and it’s an easy world to enter into. I’d also recommend graphic novels that have been turned into films – V for Vendetta, Watchmen – because it’s easy to track a story you’re already familiar with. From there, people can begin to form their own tastes. Book Riot posts wonderful reviews.
What do you say to those who dismiss graphic novels as comic books? Where’s the line between the two?
Anything that makes you feel something is important, and shouldn’t be dismissed. “Beauty and the Beast” earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in 1992 because it’s a beautiful story being told in an interesting, unique way. Graphic novels have the same power. As for the line, it’s tricky. A comic book is episodic, like a sitcom that wraps up in a half hour, whereas a graphic novel is a film. So there’s an argument that you can collect a series of comic books to make a graphic novel, that each comic book becomes a chapter, but I think the intention is a bit different.
Give us a graphic novel that made you laugh cover-to-cover, and one that made you think, cry or hurt?
Smile, by Raina Telgemeier is one that really made me laugh. The protagonist is a young girl who gets braces, fights with her younger sister, and tries to survive middle school. I had braces, and I remember what it was like to not be able to eat spaghetti, and to feel so … awkward. Preacher, by Garth Ennis bothered me. It’s such heavy and philosophical topical matter and explores all of these things – the nature of good and evil, God, Jesus, the fallibility of humanity, and religion – in ways that are just unsettling. But it’s so great.
What’s your Mount Rushmore of graphic novels?
V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore, The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, which is probably the most ambitious graphic novel yet, as far as length, Maus, by Art Spiegleman, and one that I think anyone who’s into graphic novels should read immediately, Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan. The art is spectacular, and the writing is dark, funny and totally consuming.
— Cyle Talley
Cyle Talley loved reading Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel while preparing for this week’s Get Smart, and would never openly admit it, but will totally read any graphic novel featuring Batman or X-Men. Though he supposes he just did admit it openly, didn’t he?