As a child I enjoyed comic books as well as regular novels. One day while at Girl Scout Brownies, while all the other kids were doing a craft, I found a comic book on a shelf, and soon I was lost in the story of Elfquest. When Brownies was over, I still hadn’t done the craft, and I had no idea what the others had talked about, but I’d read a wonderful fantasy adventure. The story and pictures haunted me: Cutter and his Wolfrider clan of elves, the dangers they faced in the primeval forest, and Cutter’s romance with Leetah. This year as I read James A. Owen’s Drawing Out the Dragons, I found that he had also read and enjoyed Elfquest as a child, so I decided to look it up. Sure enough, the library had a copy of Elfquest Archives, Volume One, by Wendy and Richard Pini. To my delight, I opened the book and found the same story I’d read as a kid: the elves’ bond with wolves, battles with humans, deadly hunts, traditions, their search to find a safe place to live, and of course romance. The artwork was beautiful, and the story was rich in detail. My interest in graphic novels and comics was rekindled.
Kids often have trouble reading or finding an interest in reading. With a regular book, the reader’s imagination must supply the visuals. But children have been entertained with television since birth, and they sometimes have trouble figuring out the meaning and context of the written word. Picture books do a wonderful job of conveying the story, but at some point children are supposed to leave picture books behind (a real shame) and read chapter books. If they are not good readers, their problems compound, and they end up falling through the cracks. But their interest in reading can be kindled if introduced to comics and graphic novels. From here, they can move into regular books.
But graphic novels and comics are not just for children, especially today. It is a different and growing art form, as different as novels are to film, but it can be just as subtle and complicated… if it is well written. A good story, whether presented through written or visual means, must be fulfilling emotionally and psychologically, with a complete plot line and interesting characters. The graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time conveys all the emotion that the original book did. On top of all this, the graphic novel also must be well drawn. The art and adaptation of the graphic novels of Twilight and New Moon, by Young Kim, are gorgeous.
While graphic novels won’t ever take the place of regular books in my heart, I enjoy them very much, and I’m glad that I have rediscovered them as an adult.