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Graphic Novels


Graphic Novels

by Kenneth Lyen

Last week the New York Times published an article about the demise of poetry, and how the general public abandoned poetry to read novels instead. Now, novel readership is starting to fade, and in time will bite the literary dust. And from the ashes, will arise a phoenix in the form of the graphic novel.

The graphic novel is actually nothing more than glorified comics printed on higher quality paper, heavier and thicker covers, and a spine which allows the printed title to be seen. Plus the story line is better delineated compared earlier comics.

The precursor of the graphic novel are the American DC comics, and the French Asterix and Tintin. And in turn, the precursor of these are the early cave paintings, hieroglyphics and mediaeval tapestries. "Sequential art" is the name given to this genre by graphic novelist Will Eisner. By this he meant that the illustrations, when viewed in order, can tell a story.

There are several indicators showing the rise of the graphic novel. Entire shops devoted to comics are proliferating like coffee joints. Bookshops are devoting more and more space to graphic novels. Children read more graphic novels than novels, with the exception of JK Rowling Harry Potter books. Films of the older comic characters are multiplying. More recently, films capitalising on stories from graphic novel are erupting with increasing frequency. Titles include "From Hell", "The Road to Perdition", "Ghostworld", and Japanese series such as "Akira".

Personally, I am a fan of Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Max Allan Collins. If you are not a graphic novel fan, you may not recognise some of these names. Funnily enough, I don’t find the graphic novel displacing my reading of novels or poetry. What does displace my reading are the scourge of television and the internet.

I read both novels without graphics, as well as graphic novels. Both have a place in my literary diet. And I advocate both equally. However, I am disturbed that fewer people are reading books without pictures. This bodes ill for a nation. Can you imagine, an entire country reading comics? Quoting Jimmy Olsen: "Cripes!"

In my opinion, whoever said that "a picture is worth a thousand words", has gotten it wrong. Pictures can never adequately tell you about your innermost thoughts, abstract thinking, and philosophy. In such instances, a thousand words is worth far more than a picture. You can quote me on this.