I have been mulling over the question you posed to us at the end of tutorial last week with regard for what makes graphic novels good/literature. One of the issues I keep coming up against is the vocabulary we have been using for comic books versus graphic novels. Really I suppose your point is exactly this, that the phraseology of the medium is pure semantics, that when we (as a class) attempt to defend graphic novels we are, in fact, defending comic books (or condemning them as the case may be). As I mentioned in discussion, most of the artists or authors we are examining have had their work presented in serial format long before they started producing graphic novels. From this statement an important question arises vis a vis the medium's integrity: why did these artists decide to begin displaying their work in graphic novel format? Was/is it an attempt to bring some legitimacy to the medium, or is it simply a more practical format for presenting an extended work?
I have always found it interesting to come upon graphic novels that present existing works of literature (there are many graphic novelizations of Shakespeare's work as well as a great version of Tolkien's Hobbit) or historically accurate studies (From Hell). I wonder whether these collaborations/graphic interpretations are designed with a specific demographic in mind or whether they are an attempt to legitimize the medium.
If we were to take the example from the British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, where Rimmer is elated to discover that Lister is reading Shakespeare and dismayed to find that it is a comic book version, then we could assume that the general consensus is that these works (Shakespeare, Tolkien, et al.) should not be converted into graphic novels.
If there is a justification for the graphic novel as literature I believe it must come out of the quality of work irregardless of the artwork which must be secondary to the writing, that is not to say that the art work is not important but that without solid writing the pictures may mean very little.
Along with this quality there should be a level of social/political/economical/self-referential content, as there is in many great works of literature. These works should provide some level of contribution to the medium as a whole, as Miller's Dark Knight does with it's critique of the Batman character and the world of super heroes in general.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
A classfellow send along this commentary which seems spot on & perhaps more broadly stimulative.