The Strange World of Graphic Novels

By: JD DeHart

GraphicNovels

The days of superheroes in comic books are far from over, judging from the popular films that are being released en masse, but longer comic book works called graphic novels are not just about super-powered people in tights. Indeed, the topics these visually-engaging books cover vary far and wide.

The Oven

Sophie Goldstein’s The Oven can be read in a very short amount of time, taking the reader into a post-apocalyptic world of hippie culture. The color scheme of the book relies largely on white, black, and orange, creating the kind of washed-out world that is common in the dystopian genre. The art is beautiful and simplistic, and reaches for a level of symbolism that challenges the imagination of the reader.

Sexcastle

Kyle Starks’s book, Sexcastle, works as a satire of 1980’s action films. The use of humor in the book makes it a unique entry in the genre, and the level of violence takes the text directly to a more mature audience. One of the joys of reading this graphic novel was the inclusion of characters who resembled actors made famous in the films the book sends up. The main character, Shane Sexcastle, looks like Kurt Russell and can overcome any set of obstacles with wit and bravado, not to mention a few hidden weapons.

This One Summer

Jillian Tamaki’s art struck me as particularly beautiful in this book. This One Summer is about social and body image issues, developing as a coming of age narrative. I also cite her book, Super Mutant Magic Academy, although this book is much less linear in its storytelling. Super Mutant Magic Academy features short vignettes, sometimes as quick as one page, that follow the lives of young super-powered characters dealing a bevy of issues. Humor and satire come through in the magic academy text, while This One Summer is much more down-to-earth.

These four books are just a small glimpse at the world of diverse texts that can operate simultaneously with text and image. The medium of comic books, extended into the larger works of graphic novels, has traveled beyond its star-spangled shorts origin and spans a variety of worlds and purposes.

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