Thursday, September 12, 2013

Making the Case for the Graphic Novel

I would never in a million years claim that every graphic novel version of a story is better than its "regular" novel counterpart. However, that's our shtick this week, so I'm going to make the argument for graphic novels over "regular" novels.

Some People Are Visual Learners
This is particularly helpful with instructional graphic novels (for a meta-example, check out Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics) but also historical graphic novels like Maus by Art Spiegelman. If the book is trying to teach something (even if it's also telling a narrative tale) some people learn better with pictures and graphs and charts. Even just having the same person teaching you something can help a visual learner learn something more efficiently and effectively, so having a recurring character explain several things would work.

Not Everybody Likes to Read... But Everybody Likes a Good Story
Disliking reading is not a sin. It really isn't. Sure, Cassy and I like to read, but we don't think less of people who don't. Seriously. Reading is time-consuming, it takes effort and attention, and it's something you don't do unless you really enjoy it. Graphic novels, by definition, usually have less reading involved. Some don't even have any reading (by traditional standards... but I'll get to that in a minute).

Not Everyone Can Visualize Well, Either
If you aren't a very visual person, sometimes you might need help getting a good picture of something in your head. No matter how much description you get of a setting, character, or event, it might just not click for you. Having a picture of something in front of you can help you move on from trying to remember what it looks like (what was that character wearing? is it night or day? is this inside or outside?), and you can focus on the story (which is usually more important).

Same Content, New Audience
This applies particularly well to classics and kids. It's hard to get kids and teens excited about classics, especially when they've been watching cartoons that parody those classics their entire lives. (It's why I don't think much of opera; Bugs Bunny already made fun of it, so the original just doesn't pique my interest.) But it works for all sorts of things. I read about the Green River Killer simply because there was a graphic novel on the topic. That isn't to say that I wouldn't have read about it if there weren't, but since the GN section of the library is considerably smaller than the non-fiction, it was easy to find a new and interesting topic to read about.

There are Different Types of Literacy
You probably know that "literacy" refers to one's ability to read, but there is actually a whole pile of types of literacy. What we usually refer to as literacy is also called analphabetism. Information literacy deals with finding, understanding, and evaluating information (like on the internet or in library resources). Digital literacy involves things like understanding the layout of websites, and basic computer skills. Mathematical literacy is having the ability to do basic math in your head, and understanding how to use a calculator or other tool to accomplish more complex computations. Graphic novels help readers develop their visual literacy, which has to do with "reading" images, or seeing an image and interpreting what is happening in it. It's an important skill, and graphic novels (along with picture books and movies, not to mention daily life) help develop it.


  1. All very good points. I have no issues with graphic novels, but I don't think I'd want to read a version of one that is also a regular novel. But I don't know. Maybe...

    1. If you read the review today, you'll see two COMPLETELY different opinions on the matter