Graphic Novels for Beginners

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You’ll remember in the movie Beauty and the Beast that Gaston couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that Belle enjoyed reading books without any pictures.

(This is not strictly true- when she’s waltzing around the town with the book in the opening scene and starts reading it to the sheep, she opens it to a page with a picture on it. Go figure.)

I kind of always had the opposite opinion. I love books without pictures. I read my first one when I was six years old and pretty much never looked back. There was a certain magic in not having any pictures to rely on you to tell the story- instead, you had the interpret and invent your own version of what you were reading. The ability to make my own (imaginary) contribution to a story was huge for me as a six-year old.

So there, Gaston.

It’s pretty safe to say then that I never particularly warmed to the idea of graphic novels. They just seemed like longer, more complicated comics for adults and seeing as I was never that interested in comic books as a kid (see above). I guess I just figured that now I was older, it was too late to give them a try.

Until I dated a guy who at first described himself as a reader. Naturally I thought we were a match until I found out his reading material consisted mostly of graphic novels. And they were mostly of the Batman variety. I pride myself on my willingness to read everything I put my hands on so I cast my doubts aside and gave it a go.

Don’t think I’m knocking Batman, because I’m not. In fact, I’ve changed my mind about Batman. I think I kind of like him.

Because what I didn’t count on was discovering a different kind of magic- the kind where an illustrator has the ability to draw evocative, emotional scenes that actually leave the reader filling in the blanks where words would normally do the talking. It’s magic as well, that an illustrator can perform this task in tandem with an author who writes around the scenes rather than describes them. The words, in this case, set the tone and context. It’s the pictures that truly tell the story.

I didn’t realize that graphic novels had the ability to do that; to grab and pull at the imagination and allow a story to take shape using images rather than words to give their ideas meaning.

Having said that, reading Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Saga was kind of a springboard for me into the world of graphic novels. Arkham Asylum, however, remains one of my favorites as well, if only because it’s possibly one of the creepiest things I have ever read.

Persepolis is another graphic novel that stands out in my mind as one of the more unique books that I’ve read. Before I started dabbling in the world of graphic novels I had read just one, which happened to be this one, for some women’s studies course in university. I don’t even remember the name of the class, but I do remember the book, which goes to show how much I enjoyed the book (and how little I enjoyed the course).

My foray into graphic novels also happened in conjunction with the release of two films based on graphic novels, Watchmen (2009) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).

I loved Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim and enjoyed seeing all of the familiar sights around Toronto where it was filmed, and where the story actually takes place. The movie adaptation is actually just one part in a series of books starting with Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, and the novels give a little more backstory as to how he got his superpowers. (Hint: he’s a video game nerd.)

I wasn’t particularly compelled to read Watchmen after suffering through the three-hour movie. It left me with so many questions, like, who are these people? And, why is this happening again? A friend insisted reading the novel would help me gain a better appreciation of the movie, and he wasn’t wrong. I now think that the reason why Watchmen is so misunderstood as a movie is that it’s not so much a story about superheroes as it is a story about what it is to be a superhero, and what that means to the ones you love and know around you.

I’ll never my abandon my picture-less novels completely (sorry, Gaston) but I can definitely say that I’ve enjoyed adding more graphic novels to the mix over the years. They may be a slightly different art form than the one that I’m used to, but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

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I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.