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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Case for the Graphic Novel

They have long been derided and ridiculed(by self-appointed guardians of "literary" fiction) as "fat expensive comic-books" and criticised for an apparent lack of depth.But make no mistake,graphic novels are quietly making their their presence felt in the literary world over the past few years.

The modern graphic novel received a shot in the arm towards the late 70's and the 80's with the advent of people like Will Eisner(A Contract With God and Other Tenement stories),Don McGregor(Sabre) ,Alan Moore(Watchmen,V for Vendetta,The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and others, like the legendary Stan Lee. Perhaps the most influential among them was the hugely popular Frank Miller,creator of the Daredevil comic strip of Marvel Comics.

Their success was to prove a huge inspiration for new artists experimenting with the genre.A defining moment came when in 1992, the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer Special Prize Award.The autobiographic novel,depicting the struggle of a Polish family during the Holocaust years,went on to be declared a masterpiece,and is still widely regarded as perhaps the greatest graphic novel of all time.

Meanwhile Frank Miller continued to rule the 90's with best selling titles like 300 and Sin City.Film adaptations of these two films, the film 300 being a smash hit,only helped popularize the genre.And with the success of Blankets by Craig Thompson and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi in the past few years,graphic novels seem to have hit the right chord.

The medium itself is,in my opinion,immensely powerful.With a few bold strokes,graphic novels can achieve the lucidity and scope of much longer prose works.Evocative and touching art like that found in say,300,can provide for an exhilarating and immensely satisfying reading experience.I would rather read and enjoy the growth of a character like Leonidas through the pen (and pencil)of Frank Miller rather than see some half-baked Marlboro-Man shrieking "This is Spartaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!" on screen.

I would even go on to argue that the graphic novel,far from lacking depth,is actually a more layered and nuanced art form than the conventional novel.The relaionship between images and text is certainly explored to the hilt here.And what with the increasing number of aficionados all around the world,one feels that it's time the doubting thomases were put to rest.

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