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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Advice on Suggesting Graphic Novels to Format Novices

Today I am answering a question I get asked quite often: What are the best graphic novels to suggest to adults who are new to the format?

Well, like all RA questions, the answer is dependent upon what the reader in question already enjoys in their prose only leisure reading.

For example, sometimes I start people who like memoirs with Fun Home by Allison Bechdel, much like I did here with my book club, because then they have the comfort of a genre they enjoy along side the “newness” of the visual storytelling element. Also, Bechdel’s storytelling style is fairly intuitive for those new to reading comics.

You can follow this logic for almost any type of reader. This post from Bustle entitled, “11 Graphic Novels to Read If You’re New tot the Genre and Son’t Know Where to Start" is a good example of how to do this as the post matches a graphic novel to the reader based on their overall reading preferences.

Mashable also offers up 2 annotated lists of ideas on where GN novices should consider beginning. This one suggests 25 Comic Books for Nerdy Newbies to Read First while this one has 20 Comics for Non-Comic Book Readers. I especially like the latter list because it offers a wide range of titles, both in the diversity of creators, variety of genres, and most importantly, in the examples of how different the art portion of the graphic novel reading experience can be.

And that is the next point I want to make. once you figure out the type of story your GN newbie likes and you start to find similar appeals in the way the writer tells the story, you then also have to consider the art-- how the story is told visually-- because even within the same prose genre, that varies widely. An easy example is in horror comics; the art in that “genre” ranges from ethereally beautiful to straight our gore-fest with many stops in between.

You will need to show the patrons some examples of the art as you suggest titles to them, but do this AFTER you find a few matches based off the story. Pull multiple titles off of the shelf and show them the pictures. See how they react. See if they can follow the way the story is laid out. Are they enjoying how it looks? This is so important to consider, and often is more crucial to whether or not someone will like the book than the storyline or genre. Please take the time to show people the work of multiple artists.

All of this being said, when I don’t have time to really work with a patron on assessing a story they would like and then spending time showing them different artist options, I do have 1 go to graphic novel title that more often than not is the one I give to readers new to the format--- SAGA by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

My reasoning has always been that the storyline has more than proven itself overtime as it can be described as Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars, and the layout is fairly initiative for new readers. But recently, Book Riot had this much more thoughtful and in depth look at why SAGA is the best gateway comic for new readers. This piece considers the story and the art and discusses why it is so compelling to hardcore fans and newbies alike. I especially appreciate how the author takes his time explaining how the art is used to enhance the reading experience.

I hope this discussion on how to match readers with Graphic Novels when said readers are new to the format was helpful. For those who want to go even deeper into this conversation I suggest you read the notes from our ARRT Graphic Novel Genre Study. This document is an overview of our entire year of conversations and includes the opinions of everyone from experts to novices. We considered the format and how to best serve readers based on their preexisting preferences. We also have a list of the best resources, but first and foremost both you and your newbie graphic novel patron should look at Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. Seriously, don’t forget to suggest this title to patrons. Even a quick skim may help them to select the type of graphic novel they want to try.

[Also, side note: that link to the MCCloud book has more Goodreads graphic novel reading lists to peruse. Plus here is a link to more by me on graphic novels including many reviews. Okay, not I gave you too much. I need to stop before you are overwhelmed.]

Good luck, and if you do end up suggesting a graphic novel to a patron who have never tried the format before, let us all know how it went.

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