On Reading Graphic Novels discussion

Serious discussions?

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message 1: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments Is there anyone still in this group actually interested in having serious discussions about graphic literature in any kind of meaningful way. All I see are topics posted by fanboys about which superheros could beat up which superheros. Here's a better question.


Has anyone in this group read the book
"Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud?
This is one of the most insightful books I have ever read in my life. It dissects the medium in a way few people have ever thought of consciously. It is not only an analysis of comic books, but of art, storytelling, and the relationship between the artist and patron.
This book has also been recommended in many film schools, and for good reason.

It is ironic that the country that gave birth to the medium of comics, they are marginalized the most.
They are not a part of the cultural conversation,
as they are in Europe and Japan.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that many Americans simply don't read anything at all.
And yet some of the most exciting and unique writers and artists work in the medium of comic books.
While many of mediocre, uninspired novelists have their books skyrocket to the New York Times Bestseller list.

I personally think all comic book publishers should pull their resources together, change the format size of graphic novels, which are awkward and do not fit on most peoples shelves easily. Something akin to the last publications of the Sin City books, and the Jeff Smith Bone books, would be much more palatable.
The publishers should pull together (like all the dairy farmers did with the Milk campaign) and make a campaign encouraging people to read, and to read different types of graphic novels, specifically, non-superhero graphic novels.
Make the deceleration that no matter what your tastes and interests are, those tastes and interests are to be found in the world of graphic novels.

I'm encourage some meaningful discussion here.
If there are no takers, well than I guess this is group truly has lost all relevance.

message 2: by Bryn (new)

Bryn I read and very much appreciated Scott McCloud's book, and share your feelings about graphic novels as a form. There is so much possibility for story telling here, for wild imagination and gorgeous art. I've never been into the bright colours and simple naratives involving people who like to wear their underwear over their clothes and it depresses me that this single genre dominates the form. Thankfully there are all kinds of stories and art styles out there - especially in the webcomics.

message 3: by Dan (new)

Dan (gibsondaniel) | 5 comments i think there is room for both discussions -- fanboy matchups and serious conversation. but i do applaud your effort to steer us in a different direction.

i too have read mcclouds book and agree with you regarding the variation in permeation in america vs other countries. however, i think you are going in the wrong direction with the size (and color?) of graphic novels, at least for me personally.

the only way i would be comfortable with that decision would be if these volumes were also offered at oversized high quality paper hard cover editions ala the dc "absolute" line. so then people have a choice between cheap small versions they can leave on the bus for someone else vs a reference bookshelf for full immersion like me.

thanks for the topic!

message 4: by Bryn (new)

Bryn It does depend a lot on the kind of artwork, as to what size of paper it needs. Some artists being a lot more intricately detailed than others. Anyone seen cursed pirate girl? You couldn't do that at regular book size without losing something.

message 5: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments As far as the size and format of graphic novels, the oversized hardcover editions are the norm in France and do very well there. But that is a country that places a strong emphasis and reverence for the arts.
To be perfectly honest, more so than America.
Part of the reason graphic novels are as successful as they are in Japan is the small, convenient size of manga books. They are easy to take on subways and enjoy. Now that size is bit too compact for my tastes.
I think I am correct in my estimation regarding the size and format of the books.
I had been reading Jeff Smith's Bone it was coming out. And while the trade paperbacks were modestly successful as far as independent comics go,
The books sales sky rocketed when Scholastic published the whole series over again, in a slightly smaller, more accessible size. And the books were now colored as well. (Not that I think color is necessary for success).
When you go into a Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore and see their displays of new and interesting books and note. They might throw us a bone and put one oddly shaped awkwardly sized graphic novel, which is the normal size for graphic novels. It always seems to be some kind of misfit book among all these novels.
Now the current publication size of Frank Miller's
Sin City books, which more closely resemble a traditional paperback, not the mass market editions but the ones slightly smaller than hardcovers, were very easily placed on displays wight alongside mainstream novels. I believe this format removes a lot of the stigma for civilians to pick up such books and give them a chance.
Either go oversized, so it can be treated like an artbook and the gorgeous work of the illustrator can be showcased properly, or go with the slightly undersized paperback format, a la Sin City and Bone, so graphic novels can take their place right along side prose novels and not feel like some awkward thing in civilians hands.
I have read Cursed Pirate Girl and the artwork is hyper-detailed to be sure. But I think even those books could be published in the smaller paperback format to which I am referring without loosing much.
I can look at the work of artist Ted Naifeh, who has a similar style of black and white line work and cross hatching. Though not as detailed as Pirate Girl, the style is along those lines. His collected mini series of Courtney Crumrin have been published in the smaller paperback size and his artwork has not suffered that greatly for it.
To be sure an oversized edition would be a better showcase for his art, that might just have to be a luxury that is earned. As they are earned with the DC Absolute books. They just don't put out anything in that format. The ones that are, have earned that treatment. And it's not just the superheros that get the absolute showcase. The Sandman was published in that way. And Grant Morrison's We3 will have an absolute edition as well. again these books have earned it.

I didn't hear any feedback on my idea of publishers pulling together for a campaign to encourage reading of graphic novels. Graphic novels must learned to be appreciated on their own terms. Too many publishers have given up on that hope and are banking on their titles being nothing more than a treatment for film and television. A surefire recipe for failure, and deservedly so. You have to genuinely love the books your making, if the creators don't, why should anyone else?

message 6: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) Do you think the publishers aim to make their money with individual monthly sales versus the volumes and collections?

I am not deeply versed in graphic novels, and the book that you mentioned by McCloud sounds very interesting. However I have been won over to the format by the quality of what I have found in recent years. Fogive me if I am behind, but I am now delving into DMZ, Preacher, Scalped, and finished Walking Dead.

I think for me the cost of the Collections and Volumes is prohibiting me from wanting to buy. $60 for the Walking Dead was a doozy, even though I think that it is very excellent and probably the best zombie story out there is a glutted market.

My uneducated is that marketers think they can make more money and individual issues than on collections. Volume sales. So maybe they don't put the money into marketing to bookstores that sell the collections. My nearest Borders has a Graphic Novel section that is rather nice, better than I see at most stores.

message 7: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) What drew me into Manga and graphic novels was Death Note. I read about it on a recommendation list somewhere. It was fantastic.

I liked the manga format for that story, but I think it only appealed to me for novel reasons, reading back to front and it was in black and white, it just seemed 'correct'.

But I think the format and size of the graphic novels like Preacher, DMZ, Walking Dead are fitting also. The large color graphics just seem to flow better in a larger size, the old-fashioned comic book size. I think a great deal would be lost if they were shrunk down to trade paperback size.

I have not purchased any graphic novels, however, I am a library reader. Except I did buy some Death Note and have purchased a few manga to get the feel of them (Fruits Basket, Bleach).

I think graphic novels could be heading toward a resurgence, especially to the bookstore chains, if the publishers will push it. Readers need to know there is more there than superheroes.

I appreciate someone opening up a lively conversation here also.

message 8: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) I did try to get my superhero loving husband to read Marvel Zombies, but he had none of it. That is one of the superhero ones I DO like.

message 9: by Dan (new)

Dan (gibsondaniel) | 5 comments i agree with your points, i just dont want that format to be the only option. if they had both i would be happy with getting rid of the current halfway inbetween size. ive read the color scholastic bone volumes for example, and sin city is also offered in a large hardback version. dc is strict about what meets their criteria for absolute editions and i want that to be expanded for more things.

youre right about the need to prevent graphic novels from being viewed as only the source material for hollywood. and an important way to achieve that is not only to position them differently in bookstores, but get them into the hands of more readers (and early readers) like with the annual free comic day and the read a graphic novel in public day. the former being an example of publishers pulling together like you said -- the latter is fan driven.

regarding bookstores, dc is working on that by making stand alone graphic novels of their major characters for places other than just comic stores (like superman earth one). i know thats not helping the non-superhero genre but at least its a foot in the door. in the meantime there are people who cant afford any size or price graphic novel.

so i think more importantly we need to lobby for teachers and librarians to celebrate the format for the unique combination art and literature that it is. it can also serve a dual purpose to get more americans reading in general. ive personally done both and found good receptiveness. you just have to be willing to donate a variety of collections that are high quality stories (for example, when you upgrade to newer printings). many people have just not had any experience with them before and dont know that theyll like them is all.

message 10: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) Maybe the success of Walking Dead on AMC will provide a medium boost?

message 11: by Katie (last edited Dec 16, 2010 12:34PM) (new)

Katie | 12 comments I would have to agree that there is a place for both. I don't think it's so much that the members of this group aren't willing to have serious conversations about graphic novels (whether it be style, marketing, which are great to read, etc); I believe it's just that no one has started up serious topics. Now that you have, you're getting responses. And I'd be happy to talk about this novel or that novel and why it's great or not great. Or why on earth Gail Simone doesn't get most of the cred she deserves as a writer.

But in my fandom, I also love a little Batman vs Ironman stuff. Perhaps it's the trivia geek in me. This is the same kind of thing that happens in other fandom. Could the 1985 Bears beat the 1966 Packers, etc. And of course there are people who couldn't care less about such made up scenarios, but I think it's unfair to think of us as less serious readers because we indulge in a little imagination now and then.

message 12: by Dan (new)

Dan (gibsondaniel) | 5 comments can you recommend some gail simone for the uninitiated? whats a good gateway read to that style, regardless of subject or character? thanks!

message 13: by Katie (new)

Katie | 12 comments Often the people who don't understand how amazing graphic novels are, are simply people who haven't read them before. As someone who works in a library, I am constantly pushing graphic novels and getting them into more people's hands. Most times they don't realize the complexity of storytelling that can be involved, or how an artist can make or break a book.

For those who refuse to take graphic novels as interesting or serious storytelling I tend to push Millar's Red Son or Kirkman's Walking Dead.

For those of you who have libraries that have small graphic novel collections, you don't necessarily have to donate your old ones to boost theirs (though we DEFINITELY appreciate it). Most libraries have a form where you can request materials for the library to purchase. More often than not, they will honor your request and get it for the collection.

message 14: by Dan (new)

Dan (gibsondaniel) | 5 comments i gave a lot of credit to dc earlier, but i should also point out that marvel has been making an effort as well in their line of digest sized collections. ive had some success with younger family members and titles such as runaways, which is a hit both with adults and kids for its various themes. and they sell that at all three sizes we have discussed in this thread.

message 15: by Ken-ichi (new)

Ken-ichi | 7 comments Good thread (I also tire of these endless X vs Y threads). I think Scholastic's smaller formats are a good thing, but I wonder if their popularity is due to the format or Scholastic's ability to reach a broader audience than Image or Cartoon Books.

Actually, I don't entirely share the feeling that comics are still an embattled medium, at least not as much as they were when Understanding Comics was published. Back then, Maus might have been the only graphic novel taken seriously by the literary community, but today there are comics up front and center in popular book stores and regularly reviewed alongside the most important prose books in major publications. I'd say they're still a little stigmatized, but things are definitely better than they were 10-20 years ago. We may not have a comics culture like they do in Europe or Japan, but we do have one, and it seems to be growing.

message 16: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments This may be an unpopular stand, but i think one of the key elements that keep graphic novels down in America,
from being fully embraved, is the superhero genre.
Now I grew up with this genre. The first comics I ever read as a child were X-Men and Batman.
But as long as this single genre dominated the medium so, it will remain an uphill struggle. Most adult sophisticated readers simply do not want to read the adventures of Superman or Spider Man, especially when there's decades of back story you need to get caught up with. Why Bother?
There are so many talented writers and artists doing things outside of the genre of superheros.
Look at the success of The Walking Dead and the TV series it inspired. And that comic book series worked because Robert Kirkman invested everything into what he was doing. he wasn't banking on some sweet deal from Hollywood. But because he made the best comic book he could on its own terms, Hollywood came knocking.

I can't tell how many times I have heard something close to the following statement from people.
"Oh yeah I just can't get into comics, it's just not my thing. Oh but I loved that film Sin City, oh and I loved The Crow, oh and 300 was awesome, Kick-Ass was one of my favorites of the year, Oh my god I loved Ghost World, Oh V for Vendetta was so intriguing"
Those are all based on comic books people!

Proof that these people are making pre-conceived judgments and not really giving the medium a chance.

Now Katie, you've touched on an interesting subject.
What graphic novels would you recommend to someone who had never read one in their lives and didn't take the medium seriously.

I think it's important they be self-contained, and not a series of graphic novels, because that's just to big a commitment for a first timer. Once they're ingratiated, perhaps. but for a first read...
One I have recommended to many is
We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
It is an original self-contained story.
Both writing and art are superb, it is a deeply moving book, outside of the genre of superheros. The book is a quick read, not too demanding of someones time, yet so effective and powerful in the little bit of space it tells its story.
It's actually quite female friendly as well, as the protagonists are animals, it is very easy to invest and root for these main characters. And I think more than anything when people absorb a story, they want to feel something. Be it in a film, novel, play, song, or comic book. And I know more than one individual who have told me that We3 moved them to tears.

Other titles I would suggest for the uninitiated.
Blankets by Craig Thomson.
A love story recalling the feelings of that precious first love, told so eloquently, and fully utilizes the medium to tell its story.

Ghost World by Dan Clowes.

And I will now contradict myself by recommending a series. There are other series I like more than this book, but something about it which makes itself very accessible to outsiders,
Preacher by Garth Ennis.
The book is just so outrageous and unapologetic, I think it does make people reevaluate their views of what a graphic novel is.

And for anyone here who has not read
Understanding Comics by Scottt McCloud. It is essential reading. One of the most illuminating of books, You will see and appreciate the medium in a whole new way. It will give a greater appreciation not just of comic books. but of art.

message 17: by Paul (new)

Paul Dinger | 18 comments I enjoyed all three books by Scott McCloud as I also enjoyed meeting him at Comic Con in 2000. As far as Maus goes, I would also bring up two of the best graphic novels around which are, and came out at the same time, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. I don't think Superhero comics keep comics from being appreciated. I think the fact that one movie after another featuring them is successfull would show the opposite, that the culture is embracing them.
Now Dan, thanks for jazzing up this board, finally someone wants to talk comics without being too much of a fanboy. I love a lot of the titles you brought up. I have to admit however, Sin City isn't my favorite Frank Miller. It was too much of a homage to hard boiled fiction and things happened because they happened in a lot of other stories, not because they were central to the plot. Artiface won out over art. You mentioned Ghostworld, have you checked out Clowe's latest?
And do you buy the comics that come out monthly? Lots of good stuff in the superhero world.

message 18: by Dana * (last edited Dec 16, 2010 05:57PM) (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) http://www.npr.org/2010/12/09/1319372...


I remember reading Maus and marveling at its uniqueness and intensity.

message 19: by Dan (new)

Dan (gibsondaniel) | 5 comments as good as the dark knight returns and watchmen are, i dont know that they would work as someones first graphic novel. theres just too much to appreciate that would go over the readers heads -- especially considering they are both reflecting on the existence of graphic novels and those characters in the first place.

i liked the suggestion of we3, but i am worried it could be too polarizing or scifi. what about something like pride of baghdad? it has the same qualities you listed, especially superior anthopomorphism, but is not too dense or long (while also being a bit more topical than we3).

you also get around picking something that has been adapted as a film (sin city, v for vendetta, many others you listed) even though the we3 movie is not out yet. i think that could be an important step in order to mitigate preconceptions. unless you want to use that to your advantage and give someone who liked batman begins a copy of a non-morrison collection.

message 20: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments I agree I don't think Dark knight Returns or Watchmen would be good books for a first timer. Those books are too referential on the medium and self-conscious in a way for someone who has never read a comic book at all.
I have not read Pride of Baghdad. So I can't say too much about that. I am somewhat weary of political books. Politics are like fashion, quickly dated.
We3 has a timelessness to it that will keep it relevant in the long run.
I'm sure it's a good book though, I'll give it a shot next time I see it.

To be perfectly honest I would simply avoid any superhero title as a suggestion for a first timer.
They know those books are there. I'd rather defy their expectations with what a graphic novel can be.
And recommending a graphic novel that is already a movie is kind of a cheat in my opinion. If the movie has yet to come out, as We3, I think that's all right.

Recently someone told me that they are in fact a heavy reader of novels, but just can't wrap their heads around reading graphic novels because they are not use to "reading images".
I have found this to be true of other non comic readers, they just skip to the word balloons and text, without really taking time to absorb the images by themselves. Comic books, like film, are first and foremost a visual medium. Many things are communicated in the image alone.
So to that individual, I lent the graphic novel
Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott.
A graphic Novel which is entirely silent.
What better way to condition someone to the language of graphic narrative than by forcing them to stop and absorb the images on their own terms in order to follow the story.
This may be the equivalent of throwing someone off a boat in order to teach them to swim.
The stakes aren't as high though, she'll be all right.

message 21: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments Paul, I'm not sure who your addressing, you cite Dan, but I'm the one who mentioned Ghost World.
If your referring to to the GN Wilson by Clowes,
yes I have read it. It's so funny. That character is such an asshole, it can't not be funny.
Dan Clowes has a warped sense of humor that I love.
Dan Clowes books would be good for someone who were say a fan of Woody Allen films.
The wit is razor sharp.

message 22: by Paul (new)

Paul Dinger | 18 comments Sorry Cesar, I will get the names right in the future. Have you ever checked out Eightball? It was a series that Clowes did. Ghostworld made it's first appearence there as did Art School Confidential, David Boring, etc. If you can find them, they are a great read. Speaking of funny, have you ever read issues of Hate? Another hilarious sarcastic comic.
Pride of Baghdad isn't as political as B K Vaughn's Ex Machina. It too as a wonderful sense of humor in the way it fits in mayor/ superhero into news of the day. I really enjoyed it and can't recommend it enough.
And I am glad to see you are a Grant Morrison fan. We3 was great as was The Invisables (a great early version of the Matrix), the Filth, Etx. A lot of Morrison's Vertigo stuff is really worth looking out for. His mainstream work is really good too. His XMen and Justice League were very well done. I think he is to comics what Philip K. Dick is to Sci fi, literally creating his own metagene comics.
But speaking of great titles, have you ever read Moonshadow or Dreadstar?

message 23: by Katie (new)

Katie | 12 comments Cesar, if the reader can stomach zombies, I always recommend The Walking Dead, it's beautiful in it's simplicity.

As for not recommending superhero titles for first timers, I'd have to say it depends on the book. Even if someone isn't an avid comic reader, I'd say they know who Superman is and the basics of his origin. So stories like Ross' Peace on Earth is accessible and has beautiful artwork.

We3 is amazing and I would agree with you that it could make a great first graphic novel, thought I'd never thought of it that way before. Morrison is very hit or miss with me.

Blankets is also a wonderful story, but I think the 500+(?) pages might be a little daunting.

I think I gave Pride of Baghdad 3 stars. It's not an awful story, and I like Vaughn, but I'm not sure about a first venture into graphic novels.

message 24: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments I don't know Katie, you say 500+ pages a bit daunting, but look at that Walking Dead Compendium book. And the series has still yet to conclude. I think if you do end up going with a series of graphic novels for a first timer, I think it's more important that the series have concluded by the time the recommendation is being made. Having to keep up with the books until who knows when, is the kind of thing that might frustrate an uninitiated reader of the medium.
You might think Walking Dead is that good, that they will remain hooked. I wouldn't take that gamble.
Especially when there are so many amazing series' that already have conclusions.
As I mentioned before, Preacher, or The Sandman, or Transmetropolitan.

My own personal tastes and snobbery would keep me from recommending any superhero title for a first timer, if the person were open to that though, I'd go with
Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. or
Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Or perhaps
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont.
The kinds of superhero graphic novels that elevated the genre.

Paul, yes I love Grant Morrison's work, his insane personal projects as well his interpretation of comic books most iconic characters. His New X-Men run were the best X-Men stories since Chris Claremont in his prime.

I have read Hate and the original Eightball comics.
Great stuff. Although I think I prefer Dan Clowes over Peter Bagge.

I have not read Moonshadow or Dreadstar, though I am familiar with those books, I have yet to read them.

message 25: by Paul (new)

Paul Dinger | 18 comments Walking Dead is a great series, more so since it doesn't really have an end in sight. That it continues on and on is what makes it so good. It is not only a great read monthly, but reading it all togather in the hardcovers is great too. It really pays off rereading. You should give it a try Cesar, you will not be sorry.

message 26: by Katie (new)

Katie | 12 comments I'll sing the praises of Gaiman from here til Doomsday, but I still don't know if I'd start someone out on Sandman. I know what you mean about the series having a definite end though. It feels like less of a commitment to the new reader. "If I don't like it, I can stop soon." sort of thing.

message 27: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments I'm not criticizing the merit of Walking Dead,
I'm simply saying the fact that the series has yet to conclude, in my eyes that disqualifies it as a good recommendation for a new reader to the medium.
A new reader to the medium I think would be left very unsatisfied by not reaching a conclusion.
I would say this about any series that has yet to conclude.
It's safe to say most of us here are accustomed to this format of storytelling. And there are plenty of ongoing series out there that I would recommend after that first book.
I do think it's important that the very first graphic novel you may recommend to someone new to the medium, have a beginning, middle and end.
Walking dead does not have an end yet. It will one day.
But it hasn't reached it yet.
I would give someone a taste of what the medium is about with a self-contained story. Once they become accustomed to the language of comics, than spring something like Walking Dead on them.

I do intend to read The Walking Dead. I read a little bit of it years ago when it first came out, but didn't keep up with it. I'll give it another go.
I'll probably just go to my local Borders, get a cup of coffee,and sit there for hours and read as much as I can of it.
Does that make me a bad person?

message 28: by Ahimaaz (new)

Ahimaaz R Nice discussion. I saw The Walking Dead Compendium 1 which has an End printed on it if I'm right. Yet it would be a long (1000-page) book for a starter. How about Persepolis, Maus, Safe Area Gorazde.. before All-Star Superman, Demo, Preacher..

Anyone exited about McKean's Cages back in print? It is and it is awesome.

I wish Adventures of Luther Arkwright had an absolute kind of edition.

message 29: by Karen the Comic Seller (last edited Dec 18, 2010 04:39PM) (new)

Karen the Comic Seller (comicsalive) | 5 comments One shot books I'd recommend would be V for Vendetta (the film doesn't strictly follow the book) and The Sandman , not only for Gaiman's storytelling - and since he's written several novels, his name & style might be already familiar - but because each volume of the GN series is a set piece unto itself - you can read one volume without having to read the whole series (except for the final books)
The Dark Knight has my vote also - sure, there's a lot of back story that Miller expects you to know - but there's a lot he creates (Selina is a lesbian prostitute?) But between TV, movies and cartoons and toys - don't we all pretty much have an idea of the basic Batman story? I don't think it's that far a stretch for a first timer unless they've spent the last 70 years in a bubble.
Marvels is an excellent choice - the joy and the wonder and the amazement of what superheroes can be - inspiring.
Especially when coupled with Ruins - what it can be like when it all goes wrong. The two books together present an interesting and thoughtful contrast.
And for the more light-hearted - the first collection of the Fables series. Fairy tale characters living in NYC and upstate NY. Yep, that would explain some of my neighbors....

Someone else urged getting more people to read comics. My Dad, because of a speech impediment, never learned to read well (he couldn't sound out the words) But comic books were easy to read, the words relatively simple, and most of the action in the pictures, not the words. He was especially fond of Batman & Superman.
When I was small, Mom & I would read Little Golden Books together. Dad and I read comic books.
As a result, I'm a voracious reader with widely eclectic tastes, which my full and overflowing bookcases can attest to.
Mom says I bought my house just so I'd have some place to keep my books.
She's not that far wrong......

message 30: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments That's a nice story Karen.
I heard many soldiers in World Wat 2 read comic books regularly in the trenches.
As I stated earlier, I'd avoid recommending any Graphic novel to a first timer that had already been made into a movie. Too easy.
You know I remember really liking Ruins when it came out, being really impressed by the bleakness of it all.
I've read it again recently though,
and I wasn't so impressed.
It felt very much like a shallow, rebellious, teenage, knee-jerk reaction against the establishment.
Ruins is a very nasty book, which doesn't bother me, bu the lack of depth and meaning does.
It really is someone, or to be more precise, Warren Ellis, spewing their venom, hatred, and negativity.
He tears these iconic characters down in a very crude, unsophisticated manner.
Rereading it, I found the whole thing very unbecoming.

Karen the Comic Seller (comicsalive) | 5 comments As I said, I like the contrast between Ruins and Marvels - and I prefer Marvels (Marvels is on my bookshelf - Ruins is on the To Be Sold pile) Marvels inspires us to be our best selves, by "super-sizing" those qualities via the superheroes. No, us mere mortals aren't going to ease ruptured planes gently to the group, or run an organ transplant from the East Coast to the West in a matter of minutes to save a life - but we can go out of our way to help the old lady across the street carry in her groceries...or really STOP at the stop sign, and give the pedestrian in the crosswalk the right of way, rather than demanding "me first". That's the value of superheroes - to exaggerate our best qualities larger than life...and inspire us to exhibit those qualities in more human size proportions.
Ruins is a depressing, negative book. And again, it exaggerates, holding up, larger than life, our lesser qualities...encouraging us to NOT emulate them...by giving the darkest, most despairing results.
I'm an optimist, and I prefer Marvels, and have no desire to re-read Ruins. But I acknowledge that darker, despairing aspect within me, and strive to overcome it, not by ignoring it, or burying it. But by letting my Light nature overcome the Dark aspect.
You can't have light without darkness. The question is, which do you choose to be your dominant nature?

Karen the Comic Seller (comicsalive) | 5 comments By the way, thanks for starting this thread. I was really bored with the X vs Y stuff, and ready to cut of Goodreads all together. I was an English Lit major (back around the time we were switching from papyrus to linen as writing material) and miss discussions about the written word. Most of my friends are movie and theater buffs, so our discussions include whether or not the lighting and costuming were effective, and the overuse of F/X and blue screen in most films. So it's good to have a literary discussion again. And comic books & graphic novels are literature - they tell a story - and good storytelling, no matter the medium, always captives, and poses questions.

message 33: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) I think I would recommend Local for a first time reader - nothing superhero or unnatural about it, and you can read the whole series easily. It tells a lot of story in art with no words.

message 34: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Size and format mean nothing to me when it comes to buying/reading. It's the story.
Whether the story is in text only or mixed with graphics is also of lesser importance than the story itself...or even if it's a movie.
It's the narrative that, to me, is the key.
Which brings me to what to recommend to a noob: what films and books do they go for? Break them into the medium with something from the same genre.

message 35: by Jack (new)

Jack (kcorstel) | 28 comments I'm just catching up with this conversation (still in the 5th or 6th comment on the thread) but I wanted to disagree with a point that Cesar made about the success of the Scholastic Bone books. It's not just that Scholastic published them in a "smaller, more accessible" format. It is also that these books were AGGRESSIVELY marketed towards kids, really for the first time ever. When Jeff Smith was first publishing them through CB, he never thought about whether he was putting them out for kids or grown-ups -- he was just telling the story he wanted to tell. When he gave Scholastic the rights to republish them (and to colorize them, which also made them more accessible to kids and which I'll say more about in a minute), he opened up a door to an amazingly well-developed sales/marketing infrastructure and a hungry, largely captive audience. That promotion brought it to the widespread attention of teachers and librarians who past it onto their students and patrons and got them hooked. My point is that it was not a matter of format (or not only a matter of format) but a larger perfect storm of marketing and promotion among an established and hungry audience.

That all said, I am sort of disappointed by the decision to colorize Bone, or at least to have the colorized versions be the most visible ones. Re-reading Bone in its entirety on the publication of the One-Volume Edition, I was stunned all over again at Jeff Smith's clean line work and use of stark blacks. Granted the colors are very well-done, but it detracts a bit from Smith's masterful art. AND, being a teen librarian myself, it saddens me when I talk to kids who are ravenous Bone fans but will refuse to check out copies of the books that are in the original black and white. But I do earnestly hope that opening Bone up to this whole generation of kids will ensure it's place in the children's lit pantheon for years to come, and allow Jeff Smith a throne made out of money.

message 36: by Jack (new)

Jack (kcorstel) | 28 comments As I mentioned, I am a librarian. I'm also totally obsessed with comics and whenever I see somebody wandering through my Graphic Novel collection I always run over to push stuff into their hands. Here are some of my favorites for adult readers new to the comics world:

* Persepolis and Fun Home (both very full literary works dealing with universal-ish themes and with enough political hooks to get people engaged, and also very good for female readers)

* Super Spy (terrific densely plotted spy fiction that is also something of a puzzle - not well known but highly recommended!)

* The Arrival by Shaun Tan (silent and gorgeous, very relatable)

* Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men (because it is just plain FUN!)

* Signal to Noise

* Scalped (epic noir set on an Indian reservation, easily my favorite currently running series)

* The Unwritten (a dark spin on Harry Potter)

message 37: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments Well Old-Barbarossa, you seemed to focus on one aspect of the conversation while not getting any of the other points. Clearly, if you're in this group, you do not need to be convinced to read a graphic novel.
And if graphic novels were part of the cultural conversation and selling in significant numbers, that didn't require a film or television adaptation to be a bestseller, than your assessment might have worth.
That is not the reality of the situation.
The conversation is about opening up graphic novels to the wider reading public.
And my point was that the standard comic book size and format is quite an ugly and unwelcoming one to non comic book readers. And yet it's one that everyone is held slave to.
If you don't think packaging and design have anything to do with the sales of books, graphic or prose,
well then your simply mistaken.
Whether your aware of it or not, your sub-conscious mind is drawn towards a welcoming and inviting format and design. When browsing in the book store, and tempted to pick up a book you've never heard of, what drives you to pick up that book, it is the format and design.

As for the success of Scholastic's publication of Bone.
I agree with Jack's assessment for the most part.
But if you don't think there weren't serious discussions about the size and format the books should be published in, I believe your just mistaken.
That accessible size in my opinion was as key to the success of their publication as anything else.
They were published in that format in a very deliberate and conscious reasoning, that succeeded.
So I do not discount any of your points, except say the size and format was very much a part of that perfect storm of the books success as any of the points you made.

Design and packaging is something that works in our sub-conscious mind. The traditional comic book size has grown a stigma around it for the general public.
It appalls me still to hear the term "comic book" used as a synonym for illiterate, cheap, low brow, exploitave, juvenile, and or disposable.
As far as comic books have come, they are still relegated to a place of literary ghetto.
That is changing, More and more graphic novels are being reviewed by mainstream book reviews.
But while there are still mediocre prose novelists skyrocketing to the New York Times bestseller list, and some of the most unique, interesting, and engaging graphic novels out there selling a fraction of that,
comic books in America still have a long way to go in being wholly embraced by the culture.

message 38: by Katie (new)

Katie | 12 comments Am I the only person in the universe who thought Fun Home was not that great?

message 39: by Jack (new)

Jack (kcorstel) | 28 comments Yes Katie, you are :P

message 40: by Dana * (last edited Jan 03, 2011 09:02AM) (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) I have just started Ex Machina and this looks great, on to the second volume. This is a type of superhero novel that I usually avoid, but this one appeals to me for some reason.

I also read the first two volumes of Scalped and really LOVE it. Is Bad Horse a superhero, or just a really good shot?

And then I finished the 6th volume of Preacher, as bad ass as always. This was a great backstory on the Grail and Herr Starr. I think this is a stellar series.

Ex Machina, Vol. 1 The First Hundred Days by Brian K. Vaughan
Scalped Vol. 1 Indian Country by Jason Aaron

message 41: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments Preacher is a stellar series.
Look at the success of The Walking Dead TV series.
Shows they really dropped the ball with the development of Preacher.
As cool as Walking Dead is, Preacher is so much better!
Preacher would have made an amazing TV series.
Definitely a better TV series than film.
You can't compress all that story into a two hour movie.

Some people here were raving about The Walking Dead comic book series.
I've read the first ten volumes.
It's good... not great.
The dialogue is kind of stiff at times and the characters don't have a whole lot of distinction.
I don't think this book is that particularly special,
not like Preacher, Transmetropolitan, The Sandman, or
The Invisibles.
If anything I think the TV series is actually improving on the book.
It's a good book, but I felt it a little over-hyped.

message 42: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) I tried to read two different volumes of Transmetropolitan and could get nothing from it. Gave up.

message 43: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) I am reading Fun Home right now. I like it as a story.

message 44: by Paul (new)

Paul Dinger | 18 comments Any CrossGen fans out there? They had an all too brief run at the beginning of the century and then disappeared. With the return of two of their titles, Ruse and Sigil, I decided to check them out again.
They hold up.
I have been rereading Crux. What an amazing title! More hard science fiction than 'super hero' and yet enough super hero to make it interesting. I bought their whole ouvere way back when, and in re reading it, it still comes across as a breath of fresh air. Try some, you won't be disappointed.

message 45: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) Finished with the following volumes:

Ex Machina 2 Tag and 3 Fact v Fiction
Y The Last Man 1 Unmanned
Scalped 4: Gravel in your Guts
DMZ 4 Friendly Fire

message 46: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jan 18, 2011 12:16PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Cesar wrote: "And if graphic novels were part of the cultural conversation and selling in significant numbers, that didn't require a film or television adaptation to be a bestseller, than your assessment might have worth..."

Hmmm, I noted: "what films and books do they go for? Break them into the medium with something from the same genre."
I think you have to take a gentle approach to those new to the medium, if they have no interest in spandex clad heroes then starting them on Watchmen would be pointless (as good as it is). But giving a fan of The Big Sleep a copy of Fell Volume 1: Feral City might turn them.
This is an approach I've seen work with a friend who was all about conspiracy theory books and went from Global Frequency Vol. 1: Planet Ablaze and The Losers, vol. 1: Ante Up to Alan Moore's work.
And it doesn't hurt to let folk read The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius 1...it doesn't all have to be serious artistic stuff, sometimes ass jokes work too.

message 47: by Cesare (new)

Cesare (spiritscar) | 22 comments Old-Barbarosa, ass jokes can be just what some people need. One of the best comic books series' out there I would say is The Goon.
A wonderful book for newbies. It's fresh, funny, and irreverent style is a lot of fun.
SO yes I agree, it doesn't always have to be serious artistic stuff to pull in the new readers to the medium.
It will always depend on the person and what their tastes are, and finding the appropriate graphic novel for them. And there will always be a graphic novel for anyone you might know. The beauty of the medium. How rich and diverse it truly is.

That being said, certain graphic novels do rise as classics of the medium as certain novels do.
They transcend culture and genre and find a universal truth. For me Grant Morrison's We3 is one of those books. That is why I cited it earlier as an excellent first time graphic novel for newbies.
A beautiful and moving story, exquisitely illustrated, and that is an original and self-contained book.
No decades of history and baggage attached.

message 48: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Aye, love the Goon.
I think the medium is just that though, a way of transmitting the tales or message.
If the only comics in existence were those Japanese romance manga things then I wouldn't be interested in the medium as they would be the only tales available. A genre I have little time for.
But, as with cinema, comics are a broad church. And while I do get a bit like "comic shop guy" from the Simpsons from time to time, I try to be subtle in my evangelism for the artform.
Having said that, I find the way people read any books similar. No point in raving about The Count of Monte Cristo to someone who only reads vampire lit.

message 49: by Dana * (new)

Dana * (queenofegypt) Would these even count as graphic novels it the medium today, I just read Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels) by SparkNotes Editors and Shakespeare's Macbeth The Manga Edition by Adam Sexton

message 50: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa That's a point...what ratio of text to pictures changes a book from an illustrated book to a comic/graphic novel? Is it once the graphic bit becomes integral to the story? So variable for each work...don't think Perrault's Fairy Tales counts but the Gustav Dore (Illustrator) work is incredible.

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