Books with Pictures

October 9, 2014 – Culture

Fake Geek Girl explains why books with pictures are just as important as those without.

You like books, right? Of course you do, look at you, you’re obviously a well-read and attractive individual. Books are right up your street.

But perhaps you haven’t given too much thought to the books with pictures in them. Well, without putting too fine a point on it, you should. Comics and graphic novels are the shizz.

The comics and graphic novels that you see huddled together on a small shelf in your local bookshop look up with thinly-veiled hope as you saunter on by, and then back down at their feet as they’re ignored by you. They just want to be picked up, and loved, and re-read the same way that the (so-called) proper books are. They just want to be shoved into your friend’s hands with the phrase, “you have got to read this!”

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Because they’re not just collages of colour, weirdness, and super-heroes. Comics are filled from the cover to the back-page with vibrant art, story, and dialogue. The uses of different art styles, onomatopoeia, and panel-sizes to control the narrative’s pacing can draw you into a much more immersive experience than some novels can. This is why comics and graphic novels are ideal medium for fantasy stories such as Batman, Superman, X-Men, and Fables. It’s a throwback to the days when you were read bedtime stories and had to take an extra minute to have a good look at the pictures to help visualise what the words were telling you. Comics do that for grown-ups.

But it’s not just fantasy worlds that have used graphic novels and comics to help tell their story. That was what surprised me when I first started reading them. I was expecting nothing but superheroes and speech bubbles; instead I came across polished and thought-provoking novels. For example. I recently spent an afternoon reading Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot. This novel is part personal memoir, part biography of the life of Lucia Joyce, daughter of James Joyce. It’s elegant and fabulous, the type of book I’d happily shove into anybody’s arms and hiss “Read it!” in a wild-eyed fanatical voice. It also won the 2012 Costa Biography Award, so there’s that too.

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Speaking of graphic novels that are highly praised, you can’t not mention ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman. This novel is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and uses techniques that echo Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’  by depicting different races of humans as animals. When you pick up the physical book the first thing that strikes you is that it’s heavy and a long piece of work. This is not surprising when you take into consideration that the author is telling the story of his father, a Polish Jew, who was a survivor of the Holocaust. It’s a post-modern piece of work and the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer.

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The best news about graphic novels is that it’s a genre that’s booming. More and more people are reading them, and there are loads of currently existing works that are being adapted for them. For example, if there are any Margaret Atwood fans reading, her acclaimed ‘The Handmaids Tale’ is currently being adapted into graphic novel. Game of Thrones people: there’s a comic series there too for you.

So if you like your strong narratives and striking imagery in your reading (who doesn’t), you really should take a stop by the graphic novel and comic section sometime. You might be surprised what you find there.

Words: Fake Geek Girl