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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What I'm Reading: Genre Graphic Novels

As I have mentioned a few times during 2013, I have been participating in the Adult Reading Round Table graphic novel genre study all year.  We finished up on December 5th with a meeting about Manga.  I have not shared our notes here on the blog because you need to be a member of ARRT to participate in the genre studies.  However, after we complete an entire genre study, ARRT does post the notes from the genre study meetings on our websiteClick here to see the notes for the previous genre study on Historical Fiction [2011-12].

Back in our October meeting we all read Genre Graphic Novels.  This happened to be an area where I have read a bunch, especially in the Horror section.  For this meeting I read Saga (volumes 1 and 2) by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples and Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, by Dawyn Cooke and Richard Stark.  I was going to write just about my experience with those books, but as I looked over the notes from the group, I was struck by how useful they were in a larger picture sense.

Since the genre study is now over, I am posting the notes on all of the titles we discussed that day.  If I have reviewed a title in the past on either blog, I have included a link to that review.  I hope you find this helpful.

Also, look for news about the brand new Crime Fiction genre study for 2014-15 being led by ME coming soon.  Although I cannot post the notes for non-member until we finish the genre study, I will be posting the assignments here on the blog so you could read along with us over the next 2 years if you so choose.

ARRT Genre Study: Genre Graphic Novels

We discussed reading genre graphic novels from two different approaches:

·   Fans of genre prose fiction reading that genre in graphic format
·   Non fans of the genre in prose fiction reading the genre in graphic format
·   Genre graphic novels have a narrative quality that really appealed – more like reading a short story or watching an episode of TV
·    Unlike the Superhero graphic novels, the series had a starting point and some of the series even had an ending point
·    Most all written for adults – contained sex and violence – unlike the Superheroes graphic novels which generally had to appeal to both Teens and Adults

Overall, we agreed that sometimes if you weren’t a fan of the prose genre you could still be a fan of the graphic novel form of the genre.  For the same reasons, some fans of the genre may find their favorite elements lacking in the graphic novel version of the genre.  In particular:

·    Graphic novel genre fiction skips over the slow, long build up to set the place.  Instead it jumps right in and establishes the setting with just a few images.
·    In graphic novel genre fiction the language becomes less primary and important.  So if you read for language and style, you may be less satisfied by graphic novel versions.  Graphic Novels are more likely to appeal to people who like the TV show equivalent which is short and episodic. 
·     However, character is still just as important in graphic novel genre fiction.  If you don’t care about the character, it is hard to get drawn into the story, or series.
·    Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror) prose readers are generally more open to trying graphic novels than other genre readers.  So it may be easier to hand sell cross-over formats to this group.  Always remember to put graphic novels on these displays.


·    The fact that the graphic novels are shorter makes them more palatable to people who don’t like being scared.  So it may be easier to interest people who don’t like horror prose fiction in graphic novel versions.
·     Whether in prose or graphic novel, the two most important elements are atmosphere and character
·    The atmosphere has to be established right away, although that may be easier to do quickly with the images and the color palate 
·    If you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care that someone is trying to kill them or threatening them. This is true in graphic novels as well as in prose

 American Vampire, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King, and Rafael Albuquerque
Felt as much like a western as horror, which combines with the short format to make it accessible to people who don’t like horror; Even though the leads are violent, blood thirsty vampires, they have a moral code; Unique in that it has a strong female lead

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Wonderful graphics, which really make the horror element; Probably the best horror graphic novel out right now; Series has a definite end point; Lots of imagery and symbolism

The Walking Dead:  Days Gone Bye, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
Zombie apocalypse may not scare everyone, but the gore of killing the zombies might make it more horror; The Post-apocalypse story draws the reader in; Reader really comes to care about the characters and the interactions between them; Almost becomes a soap opera set in a post-apocalyptic world that happens to have zombies as a threat. The most popular graphic novels right now, especially with the TV show tie-in

Revival: You’re Among Friends, by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton
Reminiscent of The Returned  by Jason Mott; Genre blend of horror and crime; Horror and crime; It’s a mystery of why people have come back; Rural noir; The story is eerie, but not really frightening


Saga, by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars; Doesn’t take a lot of pages to set up the world and backstory, just jumps right in; Broad appeal across ages and backgrounds; The characters have hope and are likeable; The characters are easy to relate to; The storyline isn’t as dark as a lot of what we’ve discussed; The graphics are beautiful; Along with Walking Dead, the most popular genre graphic novel series right now.

DMZ, by Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli, and Brian Azzarello
May appeal to fans of The Walking Dead; Similar Post-Apocalyptic feel, but with parts of America having risen up in a civil war; A photojournalist is the hero reporting from the middle of the war zone

Sandman:  Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III
Very strong world building, that draws you in and makes you wonder how the everlasting ones will all fit together; Reminds you of Greek mythology; Reminiscent of American Gods; Feels more like reading legends than pure fantasy  

Unwritten:  Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Reminiscent of Harry Potter; Draws in a lot of literary themes and allusions

Fables:  Legends in Exile, by Bill Willingham, James Jean, and Alex Maleev
Familiar fairy tale characters may make it more accessible to non-fantasy fans; Genre blending mystery element; Grimm and Once Upon a Time TV Shows fans may enjoy the series


·    Action Adventure novels are read for plot, but without enjoyable characters, people really weren’t enjoying the graphic novels.  Character seemed to still be the most important element in the graphic novel.

The Adventures of Tintin, by Herge
Written for plot; Characters don’t grow or change; Revered in Europe, but less of a following in America; Some of the adventures were dated by their social viewpoints; While originally written for children, may have some themes that aren’t currently considered child-safe

Casanova:  Luxuria, by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba
Time Travel elements can make for a confusing plot; A tale of spy and counter spy, but a lot of time jumping and multiple time lines; Humor reminiscent of Burn Notice; Was hard to care about the characters

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Hero is a bit of a jerk, so it’s hard to care about the hero (gets easier as series progresses); Secondary characters are much more enjoyable; Crosses a lot of genres; Couldn’t be told as a prose novel, has to be a graphic novel; Great for fans of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline with a lot of pop culture references; Also for fans of  Big Bang Theory – cool to be nerdy


Richard Stark’s Parker:  The Hunter, by Dawyn Cooke and Richard Stark
Graphic novel version of Donald Westlake crime noir novels; The visuals really set the 1960s New York feel; The graphics are very stylized; The story is very predictable, but still enjoyable; The readers who don’t like noir crime novels liked the graphic novel version better because it was faster and the visual descriptions instead of verbal details; The readers who love Richard Stark missed the language that is part of the prose writing

Chew: Taster’s Choice, by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Genre blending crime with science fiction; Has the limiter of the gruesomeness of eating human flesh; So improbable that the humor overcomes the darkness; Appeal of the  procedural aspects; Appeal to apocalyptic fans; Unique world with an interesting setup

Scapled:  Indian Country by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera
Very violent plus has the bleakness of the Indian reservation; Would definitely appeal to mystery fans; A lot of politics and a lot of backstory; However, the images are dark and hard to distinguish; Could easily be made into a TV show

100 Bullets:  First Shot Last Call, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Interesting setup with a puppet master and a briefcase with a gun and 100 bullets; 100 short setups of different scenarios; Each volume contains multiple vignettes each of a different bullet

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