Why Are Graphic Novels Still a Step Too Far for Some Fans?


“I’ve outgrown picture books…” one reader commented, dismissing the graphic novel format outright on a blog I frequent.

Frustrating, right?

How many people do that? And why? Are there some people for whom the comic book – or the graphic novel, to use the medium’s more sophisticated nomenclature – is simply a bridge too far? Why do someĀ  to follow their favorite characters across multiple formats – audio book, television pictures, motion pictures and even games – but stop short of the sequential storytelling medium?

I’ve met them myself. I’m friends with some of them, even. They’re the people who get a panicked look when you tell them that if they like The Walking Dead TV show then they’ll love the comic. The folks who will preface their love of the Batman movies with this careful preamble: “I don’t like comic books, but…”

It’s hard to believe that in this stage of the geek media game (I mean, c’mon, sci fi is mainstream now: The Hunger Games movie had the third highest movie opening of all time) that some people remain resistant to what that one reader dismissed as “picture books”. Where does this resistance come from?

Does there yet remain some residual prejudice that comic books are for nerdy, acne-ridden perma-virgins? Or is it that some people consider pictures of the sequential storytelling medium to be a prop-up for people who can’t read well enough to tackle a proper novel? Maybe it’s both.

Should we care? I think so. People are missing out on some amazing stories and beautiful art. But how do we get them to step over the gap? To take that leap of faith? I say that we give more graphic novels as gifts.

Why not start with something that you know they love already? Take the new House of Odd graphic novel, for example. I bet you know a fair bunch of Koontz fans. If they like the Odd Thomas books then you might have a fighting chance of convincing them that they should give it a try. Tell them that this doesn’t replace the Koontz novels – it’s not a substitute or “eazy-2-read” versions for problem readers. This is is an expansion of the stories and character they already love. Maybe having a graphic novel in the privacy of their home will be enough to get them to give the medium a try. Who knows? Maybe they’ll like it.Maybe you will have created another comic book fan.

I feel strongly that we should share our passions with others. If we’re not going to at least try to spread the good word about our favorite books, movies, games and comics, how can we complain when other people – like the reader who has “outgrown picture books” – dismiss them out of turn?

  • I tend to not like graphic novels or comics for a few reasons. I really do not like comics or graphic novels for books that I have read.

    In broad terms, I think comics and graphic novels often fail to get both good art and good writing. One always seems better than the other and its annoying at best and disrupting to the story at worst.

    I really do not like graphic novels for books because I already have my OWN visual ideas of what the world looks like and it always clashes with what the artist of the graphic novel.

    Lastly, comics and graphic novels are too expensive and don’t delivery enough story.

  • Benna

    My first graphic novel was MAUS. It’s “intellectual”, “literary” and “serious” enough to get started. I followed up with Persepolis, which, again, is on the snootier side of lit. Once the barrier was broken, however, it was easy to pick up the Dresden Files graphic novel while I was waiting desperately for the next book. And, I promise, MAUS and Persepolis are not “dumbed down” at all.

  • David S

    I don’t read graphic novels because it has they (somewhat) have depth limitations of a movie, and also ruin the imagination of characters and settings, like a movie.

    Also, while the visuals can be amazing, its just not as good was watching it happen in “real life”

    It seems like the worst of both worlds to me.

    I do, however, love high quality art drawn or painted from fantasy books I read. John Howe, Alan Lee, John Picacio etc.