When the average person thinks of comics, he or she probably thinks of superheroes in spandex tights. Y’know, the kind of stuff you used to read as a kid.
However, comics are not kidstuff necessarily. You can arguably trace the beginnings of so-called “alternative comics” to artist/writers like R. Crumb, magazines like RAW and Art Speigelman’s Maus (in which the artist depicted his father’s experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust by drawing Nazis as cats and Jews as mice.) Originally serialized in RAW , the book won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
The term “graphic novel” came into widespread use following the success of Maus, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (named one of TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 Best English Language Novels Since 1923) , Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Will Eisner’s A Contract With God And Other Tenement Stories.
Today you can find “graphic novels” or book-length comic books for adults of all ages (if you prefer) in bookstores and libraries.
An archeologist, art restorer, architect and actress/director (among other things), Antonella Caputo is an artist who proudly lists her contributions to comics on her website. Isabelle Arsenault is a Canadian illustrator who has won the Governor General’s Literary Award several times; Allie Brosh wrote and illustrated a piece to deal with her depression; Tom Hart used the graphic novel format (Rosalie Lightning) to help cope with the grief he and his wife, cartoonist Leela Corman, experienced following the loss of a baby daughter; John Lewis is “an icon of the Civil Rights movement” and U.S. Congressman “who has joined co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell for the new graphic novel March: Book One. (Mr. Lewis says his background as a civil rights activist was inspired by reading the comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in !958.) Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home has been turned into a hit Broadway musical.
Among other things, the graphic novel format can introduce kids to timeless novels. Put off by blocks of print and thinking more in visual terms, younger readers may like Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Caputo has adapted works of literature by O. Henry, Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain (among others) for the Graphic Classics series. There is even a graphic novel version of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past on Amazon.
Of course, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with reading a Fantastic Four compilation or watching an X-Men movie for those of us wishing to relive our childhood for a couple of hours.