Saturday, May 24, 2008

Graphic Novels

I have been drawing a lot of sequences lately, which are closely related to the graphic novel. I discovered the graphic novel about a year ago; I am now a big fan. Before discovering graphic novels, I thought comic books were for kids. Now I know better. Graphic novels for adults are books with strong story lines told in both pictures and words. This posts discusses some graphic novels I have known and loved.

Epileptic by David B. is an autobiography. David B.'s brother has epilepsy, and this novel tells his story growing up in France. His parents focus on his brother as they desperately seek a cure, sometimes putting their faith in charlatans. The novel is compassionate and truthful and never bitter. The pictures are in black and white.

American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar by Harvey Pekar is another autobiography. Pekar, a V.A. (Veterans Affairs) hospital file clerk, uses his mundane, everyday experiences as source material and manages to make them interesting.The black and white drawings are by Robert Crumb, a well-known comic artist. The movie American Splendor is based on this book.

The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar starts when an Algerian rabbi's cat eats the rabbi's parrot. This gives the cat the gift of speech, and the cat has conversations with the rabbi on a broad range of topics including spirituality and human relationships. For example, the cat wants a bar mitzvah. The rabbi says no, a cat can't be Jewish, which leads to a conversation on what differentiates humans from animals. Midway through the book, the cat looses the gift of speech, and the books focuses on the rabbi's family and Jewish, Arab and French culture. Sfar's artwork is colorful and whimsical.

Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152 by David Petersen tells the story of a band of mouse protectors set in Europe in the middle ages. The artwork looks like watercolors with pen and ink and is awesome. The official site for Mouse Guard is here, where you can see a large selection of art from the book. Unfortunately, the story line is not as strong as the artwork; it did not hold my interest. A graphic novel is a novel, not just pictures. My two boys are big Redwall fans; Redwall is a series of novels by Brian Jacques aimed at upper elementary and middle school children. These novels tell the story of Redwall Abbey, a community of mice set in a medieval England-like place. The Redwall mice battle against villains, typically rats, foxes, ferrets, and the such. Since the subject matter of Mouse Guard is so similar to the Redwall books, I couldn't help but compare them, and Mouse Guard just can't compete with Brian Jacque's story telling skills.


juj said...

I'm a huge fan of graphic novels myself - I haven't seen Epileptic before but I will be looking for it now. Thanks for this post.

Laurel Neustadter said...

I am glad to hear there are other fans. Let me know what you think of Epileptic.