Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Graphic Novel and Me

Graphic novels are an unexplored realm as far as I'm concerned. I barely knew they were even out there until I picked up a copy of Lonely Planet's Guide to Cult Fiction one day in a library and discovered a whole section on graphic novels, including a debate I didn't know existed - is the graphic novel 'literature'? (Seems rather a ridiculous debate to me, since nobody can pin down or agree exactly what 'literature' is, but there we go.) The closest I'd come to reading a graphic novel is either an illustrated Pratchett novel or an abridged graphic novel version of The Hobbit, which I've had for aeons and only recently read.

I have, however heard of Neil Gaiman's legendary Sandman series of graphic novels, so when an acquaintance offered to lend me the first in the series to get me started, I decided to take her up on it. With promises that I'd be hooked by the end of the novel ringing in my ears, I settled down to read Volume One: Preludes and Nocturnes. I have yet to be hooked.

It's not that I don't like the storyline or the illustrations; I have some minor issues with the font used and the apparently arbitrary way some of the words are in bold which makes me emphasise them in my head when there is no need - see? And I have to concede, the more I read, the better the storyline becomes (more intricate, more questioins being raised). But, the main sticking point for me is that I find it a disturbing mix of film and written novel. A lot of the scenes are drawn as they might be shot in a film, and there is a little voice in my head asking why. Perhaps it's simply because I'm not accustomed to the visuals being provided when I read or that I'm not used to that kind of illustration techniue. I'm not saying I dislike the novel because of it, but I'm finding it hard to adjust.

Having said that, I am enjoying the concepts and characters in the novel - in attempting to summon and capture Death, a mage manages instead to capture the Sandman, and, fearing punishment, will not release him. Strange things begin to happen to people and the dreamworld crumbles without the Sandman there to control the nightmares, and worse is to come when the Sandman finds his release and begins a quest to recover what was taken from him. I'm still only halfway through, so addiction could develop yet. And if I do become addicted to the genre, there's always Japanese manga to explore!


Stefanie said...

I had a spurt of time when I thought I needed to try and understand just what a graphic novel is. I read several and enjoyed them for the most part. I would like to try Sandman sometime since I like Neil Gaiman. I did enjoy Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. That one might even fit in with your around the world reading!

Anonymous said...

It's nice that you're open to giving graphic novel a try. Not everyone is as inclined to try new things in their readings.

"The Sandman" is a good place to start, although "Preludes" is not the best in the collection - but essential if you want to get the background on the mythology of The Sandman.

Hope you have fun.