When I think of graphic novels I think of beautifully complex graphic illustrations, intricately designed artwork full of exuberating colour and detail that takes the reader into a world of vivid adventure. The storyline is just as important, there is no point having amazing visuals and a terrible plot line, these two factors must be succinct in order to be successful.
A graphic novel is similar to comic book, narrated through a sequence of images directing the reader on a journey through actions, dialogue and much needed exposition yet is significantly longer and should be read as a novel with graphic visuals rather than in short episodic segments as one would with a comic book. To read a graphic novel is an experience in itself.
So what makes graphic novels so great?
As a graphic novel enthusiast I regularly visit my local Forbidden Planet in Croydon, wide-eyed and mesmerised by the plethora of graphic literature; like a child in a sweetie shop. Although I am easily amused by the aesthetics of a graphic novel, the storylines are often equipped with witty repartee, catchy phrases and slogans, and usually has an underlining message that reflects the current issues in today’s contemporary society.
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Art Spiegelman’s Maus are just two examples of how a graphic novel can examine societal issues through visual interpretations. The great thing about graphic novels is the emotive response and connection between the reader and the novel. You no longer have to use your imagination to create an idea of the mise-en-scene and character profile as a graphic novel illustrates every emotion, struggle and physical changes in the characters.
Yet it is the superhero and supernatural theme of science fiction genre that most readers would identify with graphic novels. The Superhero theme is a class all on its own and bodes well in comic books and graphic novels as artists can really take full advantage of the action, magic and supernatural elements that become lifelike. DC and Marvel have had huge successes turning comic books into films franchises, with requests for graphic novel special editions and even encyclopaedias. Even film franchises such as Star Wars have converted into graphic novels at the request of popular demand.
I personally prefer Image Comics, Dark Horse and Titan Books as they specialize in publishing graphic novels that aren’t your typical cliché Superhero-Ville storylines and many of the titles published incorporate neo-noir artwork such as Sin City, The Walking Dead and Watchmen.
My latest graphic novel read is Saga published by Image Comics, written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples. Saga is graphic in more ways than one and should be cautioned as an 18 as there are some exceedingly gruesome scenes that may make the weak squeamish. But I guess that is another great thing about graphic novels, the ability to experiment a storyline with artwork.
Unfortunately, many publishers are reluctant to entertain the demand of the graphic novel form, which I believe is a missed opportunity. The cost of creating a graphic novel is a risky investment, managing the quality of paper, colour, print and the use of illustrators, graphic designers and typographers.
Comic Con events are proliferating across the UK, reflecting the increased interest in graphic novels, comic books, manga and anime. One only needs to follow the trending topics on Twitter to see just how influential the graphic novel experience can be.
Here’s a list of the Forbidden Planet’s top 50 graphic novel titles.
India Hosten-Hughes is a MA Publishing student at Kingston University. She’s also a blogger, and graphic novel, manga and anime enthusiast.