Some Graphic Novels

Before I started reading graphic novels after a lit fair presentation in my PS1, I was really reluctant to because I’m such a good text-only reader and not really much of a visual learner, but I’ve completely fallen in love. I’m a strong tactile learner and the higher sense of physicality and space that graphic novels provide really speaks to me even though it’s just pictures and words.

I’ve felt myself growing in visual literacy as I’ve read graphic novels. I’ve always really struggled with picturing what I read. If you ask me what a character looks like, I’ll just recite the exact words the author used to described him/her because that’s all I’ve got. I tend more to imagine how things would feel rather than what they would look like. Since I’ve been reading graphic novels, however, I have been picturing things more when I read text-only books. I still don’t do it as much as other people seem to, but I’ve been surprising myself by adding physical characteristics to people and places that the author hasn’t explicitly attributed. For example, in One Year in Coal Harbour, I pictured Ked as Metis and Eleanor as Asian and, looking back, I’m not entirely sure where I got that from.

My lack of ability to picture things may also be another reason that I enjoy graphic novels. I don’t have to picture anything because it’s already done for me. I’m not missing anything.

So, I’m definitely a convert and most of the reading I’ve been doing in my spare time lately has been graphic novels and here are some that I thought you might want to know about. In particular, I’ve tried to hypothetically relate them to education, but I also just consider these books to be good reads.

I’ve included links to the Amazon page I purchased each book from, just in case you wanted to look into any of them.

Laddertop is written by Orson Scott Card alongside his daughter and I think a few other people. For those not familiar with the name, Card is the guy who wrote Ender’s Game.
The genre is sort of a mystery sci-fi combo, fairly typical of Card and although it’s not really heavy on social issues, the main character does seem to have an abusive step father (although it’s not really brought up much in the first two volumes, which is what I ordered from Amazon) and it also brings up issues of bullying, pressure to perform at school, religion, privacy (the children in the book are sort of turned semi-bionic at one point) and so on.

Overall, I would say a great read for middle school aged readers or reluctant readers. Heavy on images and relatively light on text but still manages to tell an interesting story.

  Skim is the earlier book written by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. I ordered it after reading “This One Summer.” I’d say probably middle/high school age and, like “This One Summer,” it brings up a lot of issues and leaves a lot of loose ends but is really realistic. It’s set in a private Christian all-girl’s school and touches on topics of family disharmony, bullying, suicide, depression, sexuality (especially non-traditional sexuality), spirituality, etc… I liked This One Summer a bit better, can’t say for sure why, but still a great read, Canadian, and great for encouraging discussion on some more difficult issues.

  Julius Caesar, a graphic rendition. I ordered this after somebody in class mentioned graphic novel versions of Shakespeare plays and I was like “That is amazing! Why did I think of that?” I haven’t read this through all the way and it’s been a while since I’ve read Julius Caesar, but so far, I see the potential of books like this in the classroom. Mostly, what I like is to be able to see the set and characters because Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen. I think graphic novel renditions are actually closer to the original versions in this way than text-only versions.

This version, in particular, is quite a bit shorter than the original, so it would probably be used in younger high school grades or with students who struggle with Shakespeare. I also found that all the characters kind of looked the same and I had difficulty remembering who was talking but that’s just a weakness in this particular version. All the dialogue is in Shakespearean English, but it has explanations written in Modern English, which is great for filling in gaps in knowledge of Shakespeare’s language and time and Roman customs.

I just got Watchmen last Friday, so I haven’t finished it, but I’m immensely impressed so far. It’s by far one of the most famous graphic novels that I know of. It deals with more mature subject matter: politics, violence/death, war, rape, determinism, etc… so, if you were to use it in school, the students would have to be older and probably a bit more mature. Also has some nudity and sexual content but nothing raunchy. I’d say it’s all fairly tastefully done, considering the subject matter.

For any adult, I would definitely highly recommend this. It’s honestly so brilliant in so many ways. The reason I would love to see it in school is because A) it deals with really relevant issues that could be explored and discussed but more importantly B) it has so many literary devices and symbolism that you could teach as well. It could also be used to teach the Cold War era even though it’s set in an alternate universe. There’s no way you can read this book and not realise that it is really eloquent and sophisticated literature.

My only complaint might be that it’s a very male book but this makes a lot of sense because it’s basically a comic book on literary steroids.There’s only one prevalent female character and she’s very emotional and dependent, although I honestly still like her and relate to her, albeit a tad bit begrudgingly. And her dependence and over-sensitivity is later justified when you learn more about her.

Has anybody else read any of these books? I think I’ve heard a few people say they read Skim and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s read Watchmen or a graphic novel version of a Shakespeare play. What did you guys think of these texts?

And are there any other graphic novels anybody would suggest? Next on my list is V for Vendetta, Maus, and Logicomix which I’ve heard are all good.

~Christiane

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One thought on “Some Graphic Novels

  1. I read Skim! I liked it overall and when I reread it for my essay I found I liked it more than the first time through, but the first go round I was a little overwhelmed by the quantity of text. I found that because it was written almost as a diary the images became less central and more supplemental, like the narrative could have existed, albeit in a more limited form, without the illustrations. That said, I think that the text was still very interesting and have come to enjoy the way the images and text interact. My favourite aspect of the text, I must admit, was the way that Kim’s sexuality is present and part of her identity, but is never the centre of attention. I felt that it was explored in a non-judgemental way, which I loved. The problems that come from Kim’s relationship with her teacher don’t stem from her sexuality but her obsessive relationship with Ms. Archer. Love love loved that.

    I don’t have any other excellent graphic novel recommendations – try Kevan, she has a million 😛

    ~Cayley

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