Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In Defense of the Graphic Novel

Last month, we posted some unpleasant thoughts about EW's Top 100 Reads of the last 25 years, and complained that there were too many comic books on the list. Our friend Joe posted a reply in which he defended the genre, which we're pasting as a posting below. But first, in related news, here's the trailer for the film adaptation of Watchmen. (Warning: it features Billy Corgan's very annoying voice):

Take it away, Joe!

I'll personally vouch for half of the comic book entries (Side note: "Graphic Novel" is a legitimate term, but it's often misapplied by people who are embarrassed to admit that they read comic books. A graphic novel is any comic book that acts as a stand-alone work of previously unpublished material. Following this definition, "Maus" and "Persepolis" would be graphic novels, but "Watchmen" and "Sandman" would not.) I've said on more than one occasion that "Sandman" and "Watchmen" belong among the greatest literary works of the past quarter century.

"Watchmen" works, not just as a fantastic, genre-bending adventure story, but also as a loving deconstruction of the super hero mythos in American culture. Moore juggles a lot of philosophical perspectives, namely the plight of man navigating the space between determinism (represented by Doctor Manhattan) and nihilism (represented by Rorschach), and touching on a lot of really fascinating stuff along the way.

"Sandman" is absolutely unparalleled in terms of breadth and scope. It's an Aristotelian tragedy told in more than seventy-five parts over nearly ten years. Gaiman incorporates his incredible knowledge of mythology, history, and literature into a breath-taking epic that is alternately thrilling, frightening, and touching. Start with "Preludes and Nocturns" and keep reading; each book gets better and better.

I would also argue that "The Dark Knight Returns" and possibly "Batman: The Killing Joke" belong on the list as well.

Comic books and graphic novels are a medium just like any other; they have certain advantages and limitations and they have their own way of conveying a story and information. I think to write off the entire genre would be the equivalent to saying "Film is a waste of time," or "Books are for nerds."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post... Looks like solid-state memory is really starting to become more popular. Hopefully we'll start seeing a drop in SSD prices in the near future. $5 32 gig Micro SDs for your Nintendo DS flash card... sounds good to me!

(Submitted from NextPost for R4i Nintendo DS.)