I didn't read many graphic novels as a kid. Occasionally I'd buy a Batman or X-Men "comic book" if the mood struck me and had enough money left over from my allowance. I always seemed to read these books in the middle of the story, and didn't have much of a clue as to what was happening, who was allied with whom, and most importantly, why I should care. Also, as a child, most of the graphic novels I found seemed to all be marketed for boys - I didn't see myself on the cover or even as secondary characters in the plot. I had no one to relate to.
Yet the graphic novel has evolved greatly in the last 20 years. No longer are they "comic books" (Garfield, Funky Winkerbean, Blondie), now they are graphic novels - literally, novels with graphics. The themes found in a contemporary version of Wonder Woman, for example, examine not only Wonder Woman's inherent (and somewhat over-developed) sense of justice, but she is no longer the school marm of the world, shaking her finger at those "pesky, trouble-making boys". Now she is the ultimate agent for change. Female novelist Gail Simone (who is almost single-handedly responsible for Wonder Woman's fierce conversion) said:
If you want to stop a meteor, call Superman. If you want to solve a mystery, call Batman. If you want to stop a war, call Wonder Woman.
This is but one example. The face of graphic novels is changing drastically, and not just for superheros. There are many wonderful graphic novels commenting on everything from culture and politics, to climate change and relationships. Want to read about the childhood of a female protagonist set amid the Islamic Revolution in Iran? Read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Want to learn about dual perspectives during China's Boxer Rebellion? Read Boxers Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Moreover, graphic novels help to foster visual literacy, support English language learners, motivate reluctant readers, and are an all around excellent teaching tool (Sean Connors, The ALAN Review, 2010). Did you know that most major universities now offer courses dedicated to the graphic novel artform? With wonderfully expressive artwork and common themes in humanity, let graphic novels become your new favourite read in 2014.
Who should read graphic novels?
- Anyone learning English as a second language
- Anyone who is intimidated by reading literature and novels
- Anyone who appreciates wonderful writing and beautiful artwork
- Anyone at all!
Great Graphic Novels for Adults and Teens, I recommend:
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (also watch the movie!)
- Boxers/Saints by Gene Luen Yang
- Blankets by Craig Thompson
There are also some wonderful graphic novels for kids. I recommend:
- Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson Series (yes! Now in Graphic Novels!)
- The Hilda Series by James Pearson (Hilda and the Shadow Giant, Hilda and the Troll, Hilda and the Bird Parade)
- The Gods Series by George O'Connor