Readersforum's Blog

September 25, 2014

Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics

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July 23, 2012

Graphic Novels To Film: ‘A History Of Violence,’ ‘The Mask’ And Other Unexpected Adaptations

By Hallie Sekoff

Graphic novels are an interesting medium — wedged between a standard novel and a comic book, they don’t quite fit in either category, but meld the two into one.

Even the term “graphic novel,” is a point of contention for some scholars. As comic book scholar and author Gene Kannenberg, Jr. told The Huffington Post, via email, the term graphic novel was “coined independently by Richard Kyle (in 1960’s) and by Will Eisner (in the 1970’s) [as] a long-form book in comics form which stood on its own literary and artistic merits, not on a franchised commodity. Those types of graphic novels are out there, but so are a lot of long superhero stories under the same banner.”

For Kannenberg, the term “is more of a marketing term than anything else.”

With the release of “The Dark Knight Rises” today, we decided to go the opposite route and research some graphic novels that don’t encompass the larger franchised superhero comics and have been compelling enough to score a Hollywood script.

For example, many people would be surprised to learn that David Cronenberg’s “A History Of Violence” is actually an adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Or that the 1994 Jim Carrey film, “The Mask,” is actually based upon a series of comic books published by Dark Horse Comics.

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February 28, 2012

10 Graphic Novels for the Literary Minded

Filed under: Lists — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:44 am

By Kelly Thompson

As graphic novels continue to become more widely accepted by the general public, I encounter more and more people unsure about where to start reading.  There’s a lot of product out there, which can make it difficult to find the right entry point.  Additionally, many pick the wrong entry point and tend to run screaming from the medium. But when you read a bad book, you don’t swear off books, you just swear off that author, or perhaps that genre.  The same should be true for Graphic Novels.  And so with that in mind, I offer you 10 graphic novels for the literary minded, broken down by genre to give you a fighting chance at picking something you might enjoy.  I’ve avoided the usual suspects – Maus, Watchmen, and the like, which are both excellent of course, but have also been recommended a million times before – in favor of some more recent offerings that you may or may not have heard about.

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February 18, 2012

Comics 101: A Question of Canon

By BH Shepherd

When one associates with excessively literate company, it is quite impossible to avoid the game of canon bingo. Titles of books are invoked and those assembled either declare they have read it, or confess they haven’t yet. The only prize in this contest is the smug satisfaction of being the most well-read person in a room full of well-read people. These are special books, tomes that the enigmatic cabal known only as THEY have decreed you must read, classic works of genius so time-honored and true that they made it on the only list that really matters in literature: canon.

As comics continue to accrue cultural currency, their occurrence in canonical conversations can only increase. Academic studies of graphic storytelling proliferate in centers of higher learning while publications of note have bestowed the classification of literature on certain exceptional titles. Though the medium is young, its offerings are vast and varied, which can be discouraging to the uninitiated. Establishing a canon of essential titles not only provides a road map for newcomers, but also builds a frame of reference for furthering the debates of the medium’s more fervent disciples.

To that interest, I have compiled a list. It is neither comprehensive nor definitive. While I cannot presume to speak for THEY, I have spent the better part of my life reading and talking about comics. These graphic novels are typically regarded as unimpeachable pinnacles of the form. Of course there are always those that would disagree, but there is no denying that these books are frequently the subject of both casual conversation and deconstructive discourse. Any discussion of comics, once all participants have exhausted their enthusiasm for their favorite heroes, will inevitably visit one if not all five of these books. Whether you love them or hate them, being familiar with these volumes will ease your entry into the realm of illustrated adventures.

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October 17, 2011

After a Quarter-Century, an Author Looks Back at His Holocaust Comic

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Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” the most unconventional great book yet written about the Holocaust, the one that turned Nazis into cats and Jews into mice and Poles into pigs, turns 25 this year. It was the first comic book to win a Pulitzer Prize, and it changed the way comics — the term seems wrong for “Maus” — are viewed in America. It proved they could be serious art.

“Maus” is not a graphic novel but a work of memoir and history. It tells the story of Mr. Spiegelman’s father in Poland before World War II, in Auschwitz during the war and as an old coot in Rego Park, Queens, after the fighting stopped. Part of Mr. Spiegelman’s accomplishment in “Maus” is that he turned it into a second-generation Holocaust survivor’s account, too. That is, he made himself a character in the book and threaded in his own quizzical modern sensibility. “Maus” doesn’t have a tired or sanctimonious bone in its body.

Mr. Spiegelman’s new book, “MetaMaus,” functions as a kind of artist’s scrapbook, chapbook, photo album and storage trunk. Packed with more extras than a new “Transformers” DVD, it’s a look back at “Maus” and its complicated composition and reception. His publisher calls this shaggily engaging volume, accurately enough, a “vast Maus midrash.”

An extended Q & A with Mr. Spiegelman, a kind of swollen Paris Review interview, fills most of the book’s pages, while arty and inky things pack the margins: draft sketches from “Maus”; personal photographs; family trees; official documents like his mother’s passport and his parents’ arrest records from Auschwitz.

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September 12, 2011

The Literary Worth of Comics

The debate about whether or not comics are a form of literature has raged on since the early 80’s, and a key component in the debate is trying to build criteria for literary worth. This is, in my opinion, a fruitless endeavour. Literary worth is purely subjective and determined not by criteria, but by personal importance. The academic perception of literary worth is very different, and it’s this academic perception that I wish to discuss. It generally takes three elements into account when attempting to determine worth in storytelling mediums.

These elements are the narrative itself, it’s cultural importance and its Innovation as a piece of literature. When comparing comics to other forms of literature it becomes clear that the medium itself should not be ignored, but afforded a place among the literary elite.

Why do comics get a bad rap?
In order to fully understand why comics should be accepted as having literary worth we must first understand why they generally aren’t. Comics have been around since people could draw, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s and 30’s that the ‘American Comic’ became popular. The boom coinciding with other ‘low-brow’ literature of the time, namely science fiction and the pulps. Comics and pulps were inexpensive escapist fiction written simply with little subtext, so the story was easy to follow and easy to read. It was storytelling for the masses. Genre fiction in general has only recently gained critical acceptance anyway, with gothic horror such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stocker’s Dracula, followed by fantasy fiction such as The Lord of the Rings. Comics were doomed from the beginning.

It also doesn’t help the medium’s cause that there is a culture and perception that ‘comics are for children. I’m not sure how this perception came about. Certainly there have been many comics for children over the years, but for every Donald Duck, there was also a Fritz the Cat. Perhaps because comics have been used to bridge the gap between picture books and works of prose in teaching children to read or may be because they bear resemblance to children’s picture books, comics have been unfairly labelled ‘for kids’.

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August 10, 2011

How comics influence graphic designers

Five celebrated designers talk about how their work has been shaped by Batman, Captain America and others

By Michael Dooley

Fine artists look down on graphic designers. And graphic designers look down on comics artists.

Like all generalizations, this one isn’t entirely true. For one thing, a great number of successful designers look into the work of comics artists, very often and very closely.

Chip Kidd is, of course, the prime example. He was also the obvious choice to moderate a discussion about the art of design, and how it relates to comics, at the recent San Diego Comic-Con. Panelists included Seymour Chwast, Craig Yoe, Michael Gross, and Mark Chiarello. You can find a thorough report on the session at Comic Book Resources.

Afterward, I asked these super-pros about design projects that were directly inspired by the comics medium. And here are their answers.

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