Why you should be reading Graphic Novels in 2016

Recommended reads peek

My latest novel “The Launch” is ostensibly about two characters with a great love of comics, pursuing their dream to become professional comics artists. They go to great lengths (think cross-border kidnapping) to achieve this goal, which may leave some readers scratching their heads and thinking, what could make someone so passionate about comics?

When most people think of Comics, the first thing that comes to mind is superheroes in tights or the newspaper funnies. Granted, there is a lot of both in Comics, but also so much more. Comics is a medium and superheroes represent only one of the many genres within that medium. Comics which will appeal to grown-ups have come to be known as Graphic Novels.

medium vs genre

In his book Understanding Comics – The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud defines comics as “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” You may have noticed that it contains nothing about tights. 🙂

If you look at my Graphic Novels shelf on Goodreads, you’ll find an eclectic mix of genres, art styles, and content. Mostly fiction, but also a good amount of non-fiction (which belies the use of the word “novel,” of course, but nobody has come up with a better term, yet). Comics is actually a surprisingly good vehicle for sharing ideas and information. History, biography, and science all can benefit from this collision of words and pictures. Either way, it has emerged from its infancy into its own literary form.

Witness only the number of major literary prizes which have been awarded to graphic novels over the past few decades with growing regularity. These include the Pulitzer Prize as well as the Hugo, Bram Stoker, World Fantasy, and Guardian First Book Awards. This is a medium taken seriously on the world stage. Take a look at the best-selling books for adults in France, Italy, and Japan, and you may be surprised to find many graphic novels (aka Bandes Dessinées, Fumetti, or Manga) on those lists.

If you need more proof that graphic novels have some of the most engaging storylines out there, look no further than all the recent movies which began their lives as comics. You may not have even known that the following movies were graphic novels first: Men in Black, 300, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Sin City, The Mask, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Road to Perdition, Cowboys and Aliens, Blade, Red, The Crow, Kick-Ass, and many more. I didn’t even mention all the blockbuster superhero movies that were (obviously) adapted from comics.

By now, I trust you’re convinced there is more to comics than superheroes and that they represent lots of great reading opportunities that you may enjoy. To get you started, I have personally curated a list on my Goodreads profile of suggested titles for the newbie graphic novel reader. I read most of these from my local library, but they aren’t much more expensive than trade paperback novels. They are a shorter read, yes, but often my appreciation of the artwork brings me back to re-read them again and again.

Recommended reads

I hope you enjoy these titles as much as I did. Please send me your feedback, good or bad. Any recommendations? Let me know. You can also read some of my own comic strips, written by me and illustrated by Tim Levins at levinsandyoung.com.

This post originally appeared on the Pure Jonel Book Blog.