Monday, July 6, 2009

I like my literature with pictures.

Greetings and salutations, readers.

My name is Greg, and I'm the newest familiar face at the Boswell Book Company. I'm the one with the eclectic and arguably unenlightened staff rec shelf. I'd like to take some time to start off on the right foot and answer some potential questions shopgoers might have come up with when perusing the staff recommendations. Namely, why is my shelf full of graphic novels?

I think graphic novels sometimes get a bad rap. People see the artwork and immediately think of the Sunday funnies - Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and the like. They think it's childish. I suppose I can understand this mentality. After all, Batman was marketed to kids. I grew up watching Batman and Robin (which I now find to be offensively campy) and laughing at Mr. Freeze's frosty blue teeth. My parents were bombarded with pleading requests for money that I would spend on action figures and cheap plastic Batman utility belts.

But Batman has been around for awhile. The first generation of kids who read Batman comics grew up, and some of them grew up to be writers and artists themselves. And they remember Batman for how he was in the beginning - frightening, ruthless, and violent. Graphic novels like Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke, and The Joker are a testament to how the material has changed in accordance with the general audience. The kids have grown up, and so have the storylines. Pick up The Joker off my staff rec shelf and page through it. It's not childish stuff.

Recently, writers have been drifting across the borders of regular literature and graphic novels. Neil Gaiman, author of the Newberry-winning The Graveyard Book, accumulated a massive fan base for his ten-part comic epic The Sandman, which helped put Vertigo Comics on the map. Judy Picoult, author of a long list of books I haven't read but have been very popular nonetheless, has started writing the Wonder Woman comic series, the first volume of which we used to stock regularly. And the forthcoming Logicomix marks a zany new entry into the genre of graphic novels - I guess you could call it a nonfiction, philosophical biography? I don't know. It's good, whatever it is.

The point I'm trying to convey is this - graphic novels are a viable medium for telling a story. Take a look at Watchmen. I don't really need to defend it; a Google search will do the work for me. If the story is good enough, it shouldn't really matter how many pictures there are between the covers.


  1. Hi Greg! Welcome to the shop! Don't ever be ashamed of loving comic books. Or graphic novels. To me, they're still "comics" and there's nothing wrong with that. I look forward to coming in and seeing your recommendations!

    A correction though: Jodi Picoult only wrote about six issues of the Wonder Woman series, and that was maybe two years ago? It wasn't very well received, since her hands were tied. She had to follow what the previous writer had done, and also had to write within the context of a horrible miniseries ("Amazons Attack!" which was as bad as the title implies) that ran at the same time. A better read of hers is "The Tenth Circle," a chilling take on Dante's Inferno that also adds a graphic novel of its own into the mix. Pretty interesting.

    Oh, and there's NOTHING childish about "Calvin & Hobbes"! One of the greatest comic strips ever, and one that I'll be more adults read than kids. It had a child-like wonder about it, but it was never childish.

  2. I almost forgot! As fan of Gaiman's books (both the kind with pitcures and the kind without), and a HUGE Batman fan, I appreciate this post Greg. Nicely done!