by Raelene Gorlinsky
Way back (okay, showing my age), there were comic books. They were mainly about superheroes or funny kids and teenagers, and the audience market was children and male teens. Oh, and all those adult men hung up on comics as collectibles. Then graphic novels joined the "stories in pictures" world. Followed by the evolved Japanese version, manga. But basically the subject matter and intended market were pretty much still the same.
However, graphic novels aimed at the adult audience, and at romance readers, have been around longer than many people realize. Kafka's books were available as graphic novels by the early 90s. Harlequin was putting out romances as manga in Japanese by 1999, labeling it "Harlequin Comics". (I've got Anne Stuart's Heart's Ease and Housebound, Deborah Simmons' Taming the Wolf. Too bad I can't read Japanese.)
There has been a recent surge in "real" novels presented in graphics. Books by best-selling romance/paranormal/urban fantasy (whatever you label them) authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Laurell K. Hamilton. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice graphic novel is, according to the publisher, aimed at pre-teen and teen girls.
I'm not sure how I feel about all this. Even as a kid with comic books, I read the balloons and barely noticed the drawing. I lifted the Hamilton and Kenyon graphic novels off the shelf in the bookstore, glanced through them, and put them back--I realized they would not be an enjoyable or satisfactory reading experience for me. I'm very definitely a word person, not a picture person. So a graphic novel, which contains a fraction of the text of the original book, just doesn't do it for me. I want the beauty of language, the flow of sentences, the descriptions and musings and nuances.
I hear the argument that our children aren't interested in reading, that comics are a way to tempt them to the classics, to interest them in books and ideas. And isn't it better that they be reading something, rather than just staring at a video or a video game?
I don't know. I wonder if we aren't, instead, teaching our children that the written word doesn't matter. That any idea can be reduced to a line drawing, that spelling and grammar are unimportant, that communication via words isn't important. I don't believe any of that, and I don't want to raise a generation who believes it.
But that's just me. Maybe graphic novels are indeed where "books" are going in future, and maybe that won't signal the fall of civilization. What do you think? What graphic novels have you read? Did you enjoy the story presented that way? Had you read the original novel first? I'd really like to know how adult authors and readers feel about this trend.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
by Raelene Gorlinsky