Rediscovering Graphic Novels

All of a sudden, I’ve noticed graphic novels.  They are everywhere – being reviewed on blogs, lining the shelves of bookshops.  The world is going crazy for them!

For someone who likes to think of herself as one of those “geeky types”, I am ashamed to say that for many years I didn’t dabble too much in comics.  Of course, I was keen on manga as a teen, and bought a Marvel comic or two, but really the genre washed over me a little bit in my younger years, and I felt very much like when it came to comics (manga aside, now), my choices were superheroes or superheroes.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like reading about superheroes, but I just felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of them, and was uninspired by the options available to me.  On top of that, comics had yet to hit the high streets in the way they have in recent years (I discovered four entire shelves of graphic novels in a recent Waterstones trip), and the tiny comic book stores were intimidating – I didn’t feel “nerdy” enough for them, like I was unqualified to go inside and enter a world I didn’t understand.

And then I started going to comic conventions, and my eyes were opened.  I began to discover that artists I loved were self-publishing short comics with beautiful artwork and dark storylines – Girl In The Rain has created a wonderful short comic called The Doll Maker which I highly recommend.

Things changed again when I stumbled upon Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green.  While I was browsing the graphic novels shelf in my library, it stood out, dominating the bookshelf with its sheer size and impressive expanse of pages (it still is, to this day, the biggest graphic novels I’ve ever seen).  Katie Green writes and illustrates the book, which deals with the author’s own struggle with Anorexia.   It is moving and honest look at the eating disorder, and the abuse and anxieties she has battled with throughout her life.  (She also runs her own zine called The Green Bean, which extends her autobiographical work further, ‘a celebration of the things I love’ she says on the site – I’ve been meaning to buy myself a copy!).

After discovering excellent comics like Hyperbole and a Half, The Oatmeal and Deathbulge, I’ve realised that the graphic novel genre is far broader than I ever imagined.  Comics are a wonderful medium, capable of telling horror stories, of inducing tears and laughter and of providing education on a number of topics.  Not to mention the fantastic Questionable Content books, which I would buy in an instant if I could find them for sale in England (update: I managed to grab a bargain on Amazon in the end – they were second hand and a bit grubby but I don’t care!).

So, I have come full circle with my graphic novel journey.  Enlightened by the many options out there, I finally picked up a DC comic, and thought “well, I may as well give this superhero thing a chance”.

You can view all of my graphic novel reviews here.

Emma

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