At some point, we’ve all picked up a graphic novel. From a Marvel comic, a graphic adaptation of The Great Gatsby, or a copy of the One Piece manga –  graphic novels form part of a large, mainstream industry, with fans and communities of all ages. Despite this, there has been strong contention within the reading community as to whether graphic novels can really be considered as ‘proper’ books. 

Some readers believe that a graphic novel isn’t a ‘proper’ book due to its length. It takes a lot less time to read a graphic novel, due to there being less text involved – so there isn’t the same commitment required to complete it. But the biggest difference between traditional books and graphic novels lies in perspective. Traditional books rely purely on words to draw the reader in, and readers rely on carefully crafted words to allow them to be able to visualise the world the characters reside in. This, however, can’t be said for graphic novels as they are able to use, and often rely on, images to craft the characters and worlds inside the novel. This leads to a stark difference in the method of storytelling between image and text. Arguably, the use of images makes them appear closer in nature to magazines than books, breaking down the validity of graphic novels being understood as ‘proper’ books.

However, it’s important to note the argument in favour of graphic novels. They’re commonly sold in bookstores and even have their own section, for example. Also, when reading a graphic novel, you are still consuming a story – whether it be a short one-shot comic or a behemoth 100+ volume manga. Not everyone processes information the same way, and where some may struggle to connect with stories with a more traditional format, they are able to engross themselves fully in both the art and text. This point is also exemplified in audiobooks as well – they utilise tone as a creative device to convey additional information to the listener that books cannot, but as evident in their name, are still considered books themselves – and rightfully so!  

So are graphic novels considered a ‘proper’ book? Well, they do say a picture is worth a thousand words, although not everyone agrees. When looking at the argument between categorising graphic novels and books in the same boat, it’s easy for the opposing sides to get tangled up in the details. Avid literature fans hold traditional books close to their chests, with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as the standard, and refer to comics as ‘children’s books.’ Graphic novel lovers turn their noses up at the staggeringly high word counts of classic literature and their superfluous descriptions, as they flick through another page of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim.

However, the most important thing we as readers need to focus on is the experiences we get out of our chosen medium. As long as you’re having a good time unwinding with whatever you choose to read and it’s able to bring some joy to your day, that’s all that matters. Instead of drawing a hard line in the sand we should focus on bringing more readers into the world of both literature and graphic novels, and embrace the differences between each medium. Taking this into account, if you have the chance I’d strongly suggest picking up something you wouldn’t usually read for a change of pace – you might be able to discover a newfound passion!

Categories: Arts Books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *