A Baby Step into the World of Graphic Novels

exileWhen I cheerily announced on Facebook that I could officially check “read a graphic novel” off my bucket list, I heard from several interested parties.

”Was it the one I sent you ten years ago?” asked my sister. That was one of  the Sandman graphic novels (There are more than one, right?), and no, that wasn’t what I read. I admitted that it was Gabaldon’s The Exile, which is a graphic novelization of roughly the first third of Outlander, a book I’ve read multiple times.

My friend Diana (not Gabaldon) thought I had taken an important first step, but could not really check anything off my bucket list until I had read “the Shakespeare of graphic novels, Maus I and II”. My cousin Shannon agreed with her (maybe because they are both English teachers?) and also recommended Persepholis, which my sixteen year old daughter liked too.

Maybe I’ll get to them…sometime. I really enjoyed The Exile, but I’m not sure I’m a convert just yet. I get that it’s an art form, and that it’s something more than novel-meets-comic book. But I also have a big, fancy imagination that I have no problem employing while reading books without pictures. And my list of books I “should” read – and haven’t yet managed to – is pretty long.

That said, I found my first graphic novel experience interesting. Gabaldon mentions at the start of the book that she actually got her start as a fiction writer with graphic novels; she wrote them for Disney for years, and was predisposed to like the idea of an Outlander graphic novel from the start. It’s certainly a different way of telling the story; sometimes a single page with several pictures can show the equivalent of several pages of text. I felt I was helped substantially by the fact that I already knew the story quite well. It does mostly follow the story, though it tells events predominantly form Jamie’s perspective rather than Claire’s, and throws in some stuff with this guy Kenneth (a compatriot of Geillis Duncan) that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there before.

Though I had my own preconceived picture of all the characters, I loved the artwork; I found it beautiful. Jamie and Claire were fairly close to the way I imagined them, as was Laoghaire. But I have a confession: I couldn’t really tell the rest of the Scotsmen apart. They were all wearing kilts, and everyone except Jamie had brown hair of a similar shade. Mostly, I figured out who they were from context.

It is worth your money? If you’re a big Outlander fan, probably. I can certainly see myself reading it again. Will I make time to read other graphic novels? Maybe. Would I read other Gabaldon graphic novels? Definitely.

What’s your experience with graphic novels? And should I really listen to Diana and Shannon and read Maus I and II?

- Blythe AAR

8 thoughts on “A Baby Step into the World of Graphic Novels

  1. Welcome Blythe to the world of graphic novels! I am a late convert myself. I definitely recommend the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman – there are 10 volumes. They are so popular they should be available from most public libraries. I also loved Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – it’s an autobiographical graphic rendering of growing up in Iran and how the author’s life was affected by the revolution. I have not read Maus yet – so hopefully someone else can speak up about it.

    I am looking forward to The Exile – it must be very good to be able to draw non-graphic novel readers in. Graphic novels tend to be expensive – I have read most of mine from the library. I think it enriches a story if you have it in different media.

  2. Graphic novels hold no appeal for me although I admit to sneaking a peek at Kenyon’s Dark Hunter graphic when it first came on the shelves at my local B&N. I think it was beautifully done but not for me.

    I’m really commenting to say thanks to you because with the links from your post (I’m always curious!) I found a gift for my Twilight crazy niece. The Twilight graphic novel is in hard cover and looks to be well done.

    Book ordered, Shopping trip avoided. Thank You!

  3. My daughter gave me the graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice for my birthday. It was a real hoot, though I must admit I couldn’t read it all the way through. (Too graphic? Sorry, couldn’t help myself on that one!)

  4. I haven’t been tempted to read any, until the Gabaldon novel. I will read that, and who knows…I might try another at some point if I really like it. Up until now they just seem like comic books which hold no appeal to me at all. I like to imagine in my mind the pictures that spring from the words of a good author. Perhaps I’ll change my mind after reading Exile.

  5. I read Maus 1 and 2 in college and really enjoyed it. My professor never called it a graphic novel, I read it in contempory American literature. It is a very poignant read, telling the story of a family that survived the Holocaust.

  6. I’ve read Persepolis as well as several other graphic novels as a teen (which wasn’t so long ago), since several of friends termed graphic novels as “spectacular” => remember… TEENS! Although I found Persepolis rather different, it was I confess, entertaining; but my interest for graphic novels itself has yet to graduate since (I guess they’re just not my cup of tea). Despite this, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of The Exile, simply because Outlander is my all time favorite romance (read it bout a dozen times). I’ve seen several available sneak peeks of the graphics (available on Gabaldon’s web, among others) and boy must I say the artwork is “DASHING!” Illustrated by a fellow Vietnamese, need I surrender more info on my reasonings on my purchase of several copies?

  7. Definitely second/third the Sandman series. If you read no other graphic novel, then you have to read that series – it’s a pure classic of the genre. Go for something like DREAM COUNTRY as that’s a collection of short stories which would give you an idea of the Sandman world and an award winning short story centering round Shakespeare and the origins of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

    Then, of course, you have classics such as MAUS and also Alan Moore’s backlist which have unfortunately all been made into terrible movies… For sheer enjoyment, though, I have a soft spot for Ennis’ run on HELLBLAZER mostly because the original Constantine (NOT the Keanu Reeves pale imitation) is basically sex on legs ;-)…

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