Graphic Novels Instead of Written Novels?

charlie brown

Reading all this material about comics has really got me thinking about them and realizing how popular they are becoming. When I hear the word “comic,” I think of stories about superheroes saving the world or Saturday morning funnies. Growing up, I only read newspaper comics on occasion so I have never really gotten into them. I did glance through a comic book once, but gave up when I found the panels hard to follow. McCloud’s graphic novel about comics really opened my eyes on how comics are written and how to understand them. His description of the space between each panel, the gutter, as where the story really comes to life makes so much sense. It is the reader’s responsibility to embellish the story in their own way which is something that cannot be done with a regular written book.

Persepolis was a lot different than my other comic book experiences. The written text seemed to be the primary aspect of the book with the pictures to support it. Also, Marjane’s thoughts or the background information for a specific panel appeared frequently at the top or bottom of the panel, but obviously separate from the action within it. The pictures were very supportive of the story; they described the words and gave the story a vividness that written stories do not have.

I discovered a few things while reading Persepolis that I found interesting. It seemed harder for me to retain the information from the graphic novel rather than a written book. While the outline of the story remained, I forgot the finer details and mixed the images and events up in my mind. Another observation is that written novels spend a lot of time developing their characters and scenes, whereas graphic novels don’t. Comics focus on the plot development because they use pictures to show readers the characters and scenes. I enjoy both comics and regular books, but I think my preference is a written book since I can comprehend it better.


5 thoughts on “Graphic Novels Instead of Written Novels?

  1. Your comment on having trouble retaining the information is something that I can relate to as well. I often found myself having to go through and re-read and re-interpret the pictures in order to gain a sense of what was happening throughout the story. While I feel as though the comic book did an excellent job portraying her life story, it was very hard to understand all of the history and events that were going on because there was not much clarification. It was hard for me to make a timeline of all of the events in my head. I think that this is partially due to the fact that a lot of the events were depicted so similarly that it was hard to distinguish them from one another. I think that having pictures with the text, while it does make it easier to visualize, takes away from the actual story because I found myself either looking at the only the text mainly to gain a sense of what was going on. I found it very hard to keep up with all of the characters because they showed up very briefly, and I believe that if this story had been depicted through a book, it may have been easier for me to connect with each individual character because they would be better developed and their presence would not be so fleeing. I also found that McCloud’s article was helpful for me while reading Persepolis. I was able to appreciate the work much more after having read McCloud’s “guide” for comics, and it made the experience with this story much easier. All in all, I enjoyed reading this story in comic form, but I do agree with you in that I still prefer the book to the comic because I am able to relate more to the characters, and I gain much more detail from a written story.

  2. I completely agree with you! Although the pictures make the novel more entertaining, written books are easier to follow. Unlike you I read the Sunday comics and Calvin and Hobbes, I just never found the as alluring as books. I used the comics as coloring books instead. I really enjoyed Persepolis, and like you I find it extremely difficult to keep up with characters and events, I only remember prominent details. The pictures give life to this story in a way that isn’t as gruesome as a written text would be which makes this novel easier to read for everyone. You can read a detailed book on such gore but you become disgusted, when its told like a cartoon simply and less detailed you can digest their life better and think about why it was a horrible event that shouldn’t be repeated. I love Persepolis like you, but if given the option I would choose written text.

  3. I totally agree with what you’re saying! When I was a child I never really picked up a comic book until later on in my years. They never seemed to interest me. If I would pick up a comic book I would put it down within minutes. I thought the comic books were quite cheesy actually. However, as I started to read more I got more interested in them, especially the ones that were about super heroes. They always had action in them. But when I read Persepolis, I start not to like comic books again. Even though it is an easy read, the book left me confused. I felt like I was reading a novel again, but not really. Even though there were pictures to go along with the words they didn’t really stick in my mind. After reading a page, I would wonder what I just read. And I see I’m not the only one with this problem.

  4. I think that you have raised some good points. Comics are widely misunderstood. It is difficult to appreciate what you do not understand. I feel that if more people understood them, the popularity of comics could very well skyrocket. I like your point about the reader’s responsibility and would have to agree with you. The feature of allowing readers to use their imagination and interpret the piece on their own is unique to comic books and something to admire. I would have to agree with you about the difficulty of retaining information from the graphic novel as I experienced the same problem myself. As I was reading Persepolis, I found myself distracted by many of the images on the page. Although they did provide “the story a vividness that written stories do not have,” they made it more difficult for me to follow along. The illustrations, though, pulled me into the story, and kept it interesting. I realize that for some, images may allow them to remember the information better. I think it just depends on the reader whether or not the style or structure of comics works for him/her. This idea is also prevalent in learning styles. Ebooks, or textbooks that are available online, give the option of removing images and figures on a page while reading. I always select this option because I get distracted easily by images on a page, similarly to the way my focus is limited by illustrations when reading comic books. I tend to be more of an auditory learner. Those who are “visual learners” would benefit from the use of images in a work. I, though, prefer the written book as well.

  5. I found your insight about how Persepolis was put together to be interesting. You mentioned how comic books focus more on plot development and how it was harder to retain the information obtained from a comic book rather than a novel. I agree with this statement because I believe that when reading a comic book, you focus your attention equally between reading the words and looking at the pictures; you take in each together and read the words primarily to understand what is going on in the picture. As you continue to read on, it should come as no surprise that the details of the story gets fuzzier. I also agree with your statement how Persepolis focused more on the written text and the images were used to support it. As a read the comic, I realized that I tended to look at the images first, because they are the majority of the page and then focus my attention on the words to try and decode the pictures. I discovered that it was impossible to try and follow the story by solely looking at the pictures. I also discovered that, like you, I prefer written books to comic books. Although I’ve grown to like graphic novels after reading Persepolis, the pictures often distracted me from the plot of the graphic novel. I prefer the feeling of getting lost in the words of a book with a few images to help guide me rather than trying to figure out what the pictures are saying the entire time while reading.

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