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VBC wants to know: Thoughts on graphic novels

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VBC wants to know...Earlier this week, I received the email below from a VBC reader. She asked me to about beloved authors publishing graphic novels in addition to traditional novels. I’m not the best person to ask, to be honest. I have great respect for the talent that goes into conveying the emotion and narrative of a complex story visually, but I’m just not into graphic novels. I will say, before turning it over to VBC reader Noreen, comparing the two isn’t really fair. They are two different art forms requiring varied skills. But I would never suggest that one is better than the other. Merely different.

To: Chelsea / Vampire Book Club
From: Noreen
Subject: Suggestion

So I am an avid reader, two sometimes three books a week, in all different genres, but I do not get the graphic novel craze. Recently some of my favorite authors have ventured into the graphic novel arena. Authors such as Diana Gabaldon and Janet Evanovich among others, who are amazing writers and great storytellers, have released basically very long, not very captivating, comic books. I don’t know if it is an author’s desire to attract new readers or just to try something different that would encourage them to release works that are, in my opinion, so below their amazing talents. For me the attraction of a novel or series is the depth of character development, depth of plot, the development of the story, everything that takes time to build up to. Also the imagery you create in your mind of characters and scenery. In a graphic novel you don’t get the build up and depth of the story because you only get snippets of dialog based around someone else images of the characters, which I have found often don’t live up to the images I have created for characters which tend to ruin the character for me.

The most recent author to join the graphic novel trend is Kim Harrison with Blood Work: An Original Hallows Graphic Novel being released in July, and I recently read Karen Moning is completeing a graphic novel about MacKayla and Barrons. I am a huge fan of Kim Harrison’s Hallows Series, so for this reason alone I am going to try this book and hope for the best. Now I have never really been a fan of comics so that is what I’m wondering, is it just me not being a comic book fan that turns me off to the graphic novel or do others agree with me that they are not worthy of the authors efforts. Just wondering if you could pose this question on your site so that I might get others opinions on this.

I know several of you are big fans of graphic novels, and I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions on Noreen’s question of whether novelists should be writing graphic novels, too.

27 Responses to “VBC wants to know: Thoughts on graphic novels”

  1. Alyson says:

    Well, I do not like graphic novels. I don’t think that if you draw a bunch of pictures and put small captions on, you can consider yourself a writer. Authors, real authors, write for hours a day, they wait until ideas that will draw somebodies attention pops into their heads and wait even longer to get them published. I think it’s disrespectful to take their hardwork and destroy it by making it into a graphic novel. The authors shouldn’t even waste their time really. It’s not like somebody can’t just wait to watch the movie if you want to see pictures.

  2. Mel says:

    I am a comic book reader and to say that someone who writes comic books isn’t a writer is beyond disrespectful. Comic books and graphic novels have been around for many, many years. They have been turned into movies, my favorite of which being The Crow and TV shows like The Walking Dead. Those movies and TV shows that are making butt loads of money wouldn’t exist if the writers hadn’t created the world. Look at Neil Gaiman, who is a highly reputable writer. He started with comic books and look where his extraordinary writing got him. Then you have super successful writers like Joss Whedon who took beloved TV character and picked up where the series left off by turning their stories into comics. You are ignorant to the art form. Just because you don’t get something or like it doesn’t make it bad.

    Now that I’ve addressed the issue of comic book ignorance, I will address authors that I love turning their books into graphic novels. The main draw for this is the artwork. The author and the artist work together to bring those images to life.

    Though I don’t like the fact that she’s taking books she’s already written and turning them into graphic novels, Laurell K. Hamilton has done a great job with her graphic novels; the artwork is amazing. Then you have authors who have not done such a great job. I love the Mercy Thompson series and picked up the graphic novel. It was very disappointing. The story was lacking and the artwork wasn’t consistent. Hell Mercy’s tattoos varied throughout the book. I bought the book because it was a prequel and a new story.

    I’ve seen some of the pages in Kim Harrison’s upcoming graphic novel and based on the artwork I will not buy it as I was not in the least bit impressed. I have an image of Ivy in my mind and the art of her looks nothing like I pictured and is very unflattering. Yes I’d love to read another story from her POV and get to see more Kisten (yes it is a prequel) but I don’t won’t buy the book.

    I’m not sure why authors are turning their work into graphic novels. I’m sure the reasons vary. Maybe they want to branch out and do something different, maybe they want to bring in a new audience or maybe it’s about money. Whatever the reason, I will continue to read those I feel are worthy of my time and money. So far I haven’t found very many.

    • Noreen says:

      Your comments as to the image of Ivy you had in your mind and the art work of her not matching was exactly what I was saying when I spoke of the imagery you create in your mind of characters and scenery, and then the graphic novel intrepretations not living up to your own. I also haven’t found many graphic novels that live up to the authors traditional novels.

      • Mel says:

        Noreen, my comment about comic book ignorance was not directed at you but another that posted about comic book writers not being real writers. I want to apologize if it seemed like it was. Everyone has a right to their opinion but bashing another persons trade bothered me as I grew up reading comics and it was what turned me on to my love of the fantasy genre.

        There are lots of people that don’t like comic books and to each their own. The format is very different than a book and sometimes people have a hard time relating to it. What turned me on to them was not only the artwork but the fact that for the first time in my life I didn’t feel so alone and different. Well that and they were much cheaper than a book and came out on a monthly basis. The first comic I ever picked up Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and I read it until it ended.

        As much as I love comic books and some graphic novels, most of the ones written by authors that I love are just lame. I will still look at the books in store to see if the artwork draws me in but if it doesn’t, I’m gonna have to pass. Graphic novels are really expensive and where you pay that much for a book you expect greatness.

    • Kristin says:

      Thank you Mel, very well said:)

  3. Sara H says:

    Being raised on the stories of Wolverine and Peter Parker as much as the tales of the Bros. Grimm, I have a deep apreciation of cominc books and the storytelling involved in bringing their characters to life. I also understand that authors are artists (as well as entrepenuers) and as much as any singer or actor they want to try new things and stretch themselves creatively.
    However, I have very rarely been anything but disapointed in graphic novels written by authors I enjoy. The worst of these being Patricia Briggs’ graphic novel “Homecoming”. I actually took it back to the bookstore for credit. I did enjoy the free graphic novel on Kelley Armstrong’s website “Becoming”.
    I just find that they’re superfluous, they tell stories that don’t relate to the book or series and they depict characters in a way that usually shatters the image my imagination has conjured. I also kind of feel like they’re a cash grab. Look something new by Author So and So, you’re invested in their characters so you’ll buy it even though the characters won’t be the same as the book and the storyline may or may not line up with the series, and it will usually cost you more than one of the author’s books.
    Anyway..um..yeah..don’t like the trend of authors doing graphic novels. Rant over. 😀

    • Re-working the same story in another form is less impressive than the entirely new ones. I’m curious what people will think of BLOOD WORK, as it’s not taking a previous novel and putting into a new form, but was a story written to be told in a more visual way. Whether that matters, I don’t know yet, but I’m intrigued.

  4. Noreen says:

    Chelsea – First I want to thank you for posting my inquiry. As to my comparing graphic novels to traditional novels, I never meant to imply that one is better than the other just that I prefer traditional novels over graphic novels. I want to add that I appreciate the talent behind a graphic novel; it takes great ability to create such works of art. That being said, the fact that they are two very different forms of art is what lead to my initial question as to why traditional novelists are going in this direction. That a graphic novel relies on more visual aspects to relay the story not dialog, which is the author’s strong talent, showcases the illustrator’s abilities more than the authors and thus seems to me to show less than what the author is capable of.

  5. Graphic novels require a different mindset to read–just like short stories do. You kinda gotta be in…skimming mode, I guess. I’ve read a few and frankly, for me, I miss the immersion. It’s more like, well, reading a comic book. There’s catchy little scenes, but it’s not the same experience as a book. Neither is a short story. I like a quick short story, and I view graphic novels in that light. It’s okay for a “break” type of thing or a novelty factor, but I don’t read them often and while “interesting” they aren’t the same escape for me as a book.

    Nothing wrong with authors branching out. You get different mind muscles working when you try something new–new form, new characters, new dimensions. Short story writing requires different skills–faster plotting, faster reveals, super tight prose. Graphic novels, (not that I’ve written any) have their own skill sets I’m sure. You don’t have to do any description. Some of the action is shown too. Different skills. And that equals different experience.

  6. I’m a big comic book fan, so I’m torn about this one. I think it really boils down to if the author wrote the story intending it to be in graphic novel format. For example, Jim Butcher wrote Welcome to the Jungle intending it to be a comic, and I thought it was great. Stephen King’s Gunslinger books were not intended to be comics, and while I love the books, the comics just didn’t hold my attention the same way – they lost something in the translation. It’s great that the comic medium exposes the writers to a new group of readers, but I think the story has to be designed with that medium in mind or it loses something.

  7. Kristin says:

    I’m not a huge graphic novel fan, but certainly respect the medium. Don’t really see a need to insult graphic novelists just because they’re not my thing:)

  8. Kristin says:

    I consider Neil Gaiman a “real author” and his Sandman Series is wildly popular, so, yeah….

  9. Candace says:

    I am a huge advocate of literacy. At this point, July 1, I have read over 130 books this year alone. Walking into a bookstore, the smell even entrances me. So, books are my addiction (and coffee, can’t forget that). Two years ago, my son who is now 14, was diagnosed with dyslexia. Getting that child to read over the years has been like pulling teeth. My 10 year old will read anything, but the 14 year old? No way. So finding this out was a big step for us. I took him to various bookstores and spent a lot of time trying to find out what he wanted to read. He got caught up in the Manga section. That was a year and a half ago and my child, who formerly despised reading, has a collection of over 300 Manga and graphic novels in his room. I attended the RWA Literacy Signing in Orlando last year and Sherrilyn Kenyon signed and personalied her first Dark Hunter release for him. The thing here is that whether the book be in the form of a traditional print book, eBook or graphic novel or Manga, reading is what is important. Also, from the bits I have read from authors who have gone through the process of having their traditional books converted to a graphic novel version, there is a lot of time and work put into this process. And the end result is two versions of a book that appeals to fan bases everywhere, in another form that will appeal to even more.

    For the record, if the KMM rumors are true and there is a Mac/JZB version coming out, I will gladly add that to my collection.

    • Kristin says:

      Candace-
      What a great point! I think graphic novels and comics are great for reluctant readers as well, and thanks for sharing your son’s story!

  10. Alyson says:

    I’m sorry if it offends you, Mel, but I really don’t think that you’re really reading. I mean the captions in comics and graphic novels are tiny, and all you’re doing is looking at pictures, you might as well be reading a childrens book (which are often longer). Sorry but that really is my opinion. If you don’t have enough imagination to picture the characters in books than you should pick up a comic, but just don’t think you’re reading, you’re not.

    • Angelica says:

      Alyson, as someone who reads a ton of comics (and a healthy supply of prose) I have to pipe up and say that yes, reading comics is a form of reading – just not the same /type/ of reading as prose reading.

      When one reads comics, they’re not just reading the words, but the pictures as well. Comics creators put a lot of information in the images – facial expressions, background detail, body language, and so on. It’s like the “show, don’t tell” rule put into overdrive!

      Think of pictures as the comics “version” of written description. If you skim over it, the story won’t make sense, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll have a wonderful time. :]

  11. Sharon S. says:

    I have become a big lover of graphic novels. You get the wonderful art work and a great story. What takes an author a whole page to tell me something, an artist can do it in one panel. There are some graphic novels out there that aren’t very good. The story seems choppy and simple, but I just reviewed one that was kick ass!!
    http://ismellsheep.blogspot.com/2011/06/graphic-novels-perfect-combination-of.html

    check out what I had to say about Criminal Macabre. This graphic novel will change your mind about them. I plan on reviewing more graphic novels for our site.

    • Kristin says:

      Criminal Macabre kicks butt, as does just about anything Steve Niles writes. Thanks for drawing attention to that, Sharon! His novels are awesome too:)

  12. I have to agree with Candace on this one, though I haven’t read any graphic novels yet/ Manga- my son has = who like Candace’s son hates to read I have tried everything under the sun to get him to read something and manga has been something that has peeked his interest. So while maybe its not the traditional novel if it gets kid’s too read I am all for it. And as for myself I have been wanting to give the Dark Hunters Manga’s a try simply because I love the series so much. I will let you know what I think after I do.

  13. I don’t know if this is stated before, but I’m not a really big fan of the comic book genre. To me, comic books are like an excuse for those who don’t want to read novels and just look at pictures all day. Sorry if it offends anybody, but that’s what I feel. I have read some comics in the past, and it’s just not the same as a novel. I also feel that it takes away from the actual story if it is turned into a comic. Some examples, Anita Blake series, Buffy the vampire slayer series, and for the young adult genre, Meg Cabot’s Avalon High series have all turned to the comic book faze, and for the most part, I avoid those like the plague.

    • Angelica says:

      Comics aren’t a “genre,” though – they’re a medium. Likewise, it’s unfair to compare comics to prose – just as it’s unfair to compare them to movies, or plays, or computer games. They’re all fundamentally different approaches to telling stories, and each has something they excel at that the others simply can’t do. (Movies, for example, have the benefit of sound, while games are interactive.)

      Please look up some comics – any form, be they comic book, graphic novel, manga, webcomic – and give ’em a chance. Adaptation works are pretty hit-and-miss, but there are good ones out there. And there are plenty of fantastic original comics out there!

      At the risk of over-plugging, my blog Hey, Women! Comics! has a small and steadily-growing collection of recommendations, sorted by genre and subject matter. Please give it a look, and feel free to ask me for a personalized recommendation! :[)

  14. Sharon S. says:

    You guys who don’t like comic books might like graphic novels. There is a big difference. Then you need to read the right one . I *love Manga! Vampire Knights is one of my favorites.

    You have to realize the art, and it is artwork, is part of the story. The words are only part of the experience. But I guess different strokes for different folks. I love all forms of Urban Fantasy and PNR.

  15. Karen says:

    I have to jump in on this because I have a 16 yr. old. And let me tell you, he and his friends (both boys and girls) are very into manga (Japanese comics) and graphic novels. In fact, they spend hours discussing the various stories, spend a fortune on them, and go to conventions where they dress as their favorite characters. I understand the enjoyment of it because I grew up on X-men, Batman, Tales from the Crypt and Archie comics.

    Most of manga, btw, is Urban Fantasy. The stories are epics, the characters are tortured, good guys aren’t all good, bad guys aren’t all bad and the worlds are brilliantly created. And while I haven’t read any of my son’s manga (he has so many, they’re overtaking the house), he tells me what’s happening in them. Some of them have as many as 32 books in their series so far. The stories are so interesting, that if they were books, I would totally be reading them myself.

    I think what a lot of authors are realizing is that a large chunk of the upcoming generation is into graphic novels and manga. These are their future readers. Its smart business to translate their books into graphic novels, because it opens up a whole new market of 16-25ish readers who will eventually want to read their books.

  16. Sara says:

    Graphic novels, manga, and comic books are all very valid artforms. While I agree than not all novels could work in graphic novel format, that is no reason to dismiss it. If you’re only reading the words, you’re missing half the story. Good graphic novels stand out as much for the artwork as the storyline.

    That said, its definitely not for everyone. Some people would rather come up with the visuals in their head (which is fine too).

    If you want to see if you like graphic novels and the like, do not start out with a book turned graphic novel. What’s drawn will likely not live up to what you already have pictured in your head. I would recommend going into a comic book store and talking to the guys behind the counter. In general, I have always found people in comic books stores to be very agreeable and eager to talk about their passion (much like us book lovers). Just tell them you’re looking for a graphic novel or comic and what kind of books you typically enjoy. Depending on the size of the comic book store, they might have something on hand or can order something for you. Or just browse the shelves for a minute and see if a cover catches your eye.

  17. Lex says:

    Graphic novels are amazing in their own right and show off some amazing talent. They are not for everyone though. To some it is a wonderful addition to an author’s work, to others they could just as well ignore it and not feel as if they are missing out (I place myself in that last category). Either way it is impressive what authors/graphic designers can put together but I don’t think I will seek out any graphic novels that my favorite authors put together.

  18. Sharon S. says:

    I think most people would be disappointed with a graphic novel or comic of a beloved novel. Like someone said, you already have the pictures in your mind. I just read Richele Mead’s Dark Swan comics, and I haven’t read the books yet. I was blown away. It was so funny and there is a smexy naked shifter 😉 It has made me want to read the novel.

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