Sunday, January 02, 2005

Grappling with words and pictures

At The Agony Column, Rick Kleffel finally gives in to the "graphic novel phenomenon," and provides what he calls "A Reader's Guide to Reading Graphic Novels." It's largely a chronicle of his difficulties jumping from reading prose to sequential storytelling:

"... Many of the so-called graphic novels are not graphic novels in the sense that Watchmen was. They're episodic montage narratives, or disconnected short story collections. Not that I'm holding that against them, though I prefer reading novels to short fiction, and that certainly plays into my disinclination to read graphic novels. Moreover, even if they are novels, they're often released in serial form. The Issue #1 rule takes effect and puts the bar up against me reading them, so I don't -- until they come out in an omnibus format, as did Watchmen.

"But damn it, it's the words and pictures that threw me at first, even when I wanted, I really wanted to read them. You see, as I pick up a graphic novel to read, I'd just speed through the words and glance at the pictures, applying the same reading sensibility to the graphic novel that I did to the typeset novel. That style of reading renders the graphic novel into an annoyingly vapid and underwhelming reading experience. The pictures then lack the fullness of illustrations and the words lack the richness of a novel. The experience won’t gel correctly if you read graphic novels like novels."