This is the first in a multi-part post through which I hope to introduce the reader’s of this blog to the idea of carrying graphic novels in their store. Space in a retail shop is limited; inventory is expensive, and there needs to be a reason why any product is carried in a store. Through these next few posts I hope to be able to provide a bit of insight into graphic novels and why they might be a good item to carry, as well as an introduction to the medium, and a list of some of the more famous and mainstream works out there.
If you’ve read past articles of mine here you know that I read comics. I read them as a kid, starting with my dad’s collection of superhero comics from the 60s and 70s, and then I moved on to reading contemporary superhero comics (Green Lantern was always, and still is, my favourite, by the way). I stopped reading them when I was about 14, figuring that I had outgrown them. Years later I was re-introduced to comics by a friend, David Uzumeri, who has gone to great effort to show me that graphic novels, and comic books in general, are a medium that spans all age groups. I went to a comic convention last October and learned a lot. What I saw there, and what I learned from the people I met, showed me that the comic book, and the graphic novel, has the potential to be just as powerful a story-telling tool, it can be just as literary, as any novel. All you need is to know what to look for and where to start.
Let’s look at a few ways that a comic book can be used as a teaching tool.
Comic’s can be used as an aid in teaching reading skills.
Years ago I read an article by Spider Robinson where he talks about learning to read. His mother would begin reading him an issue of a Lone Ranger comic book, then go off to do a chore just as they reached a critical point in the story. He quickly learned to finish reading the story himself.
Comics can present works in new and more accessible formats.
There are many series of graphic adaptations of famous works of literature. A few random ones I have seen: innumerable adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and Richard Starke’s Parker novels, which are currently being adapted by Darwyn Cooke to much acclaim. Reinterpreting a story into a graphic form not only makes it more accessible to a new audience, but if done well it can provide insight into a whole new version of the story, allowing someone who has read the original to enjoy it anew.
Comics are really entertaining
For all the arguments that can be made for how comics have changed as a medium and are now works of literary genius, they are still fun to read. The big two comic companies DC and Marvel have had some amazingly entertaining story lines lately (Green Lantern: Rebirth, Y: The Last Man, Civil War), and have made a renewed push to get their monthly comics published as trades on a regular basis and trade collections look way better on a book shelf than a box full of comics.
In recent years the comic book has gone from niche to mainstream. This has been helped by a glut of blockbuster comic book movies that have brought the comic book into the mainstream public consciousness, but also by the literary acclaim that has become associated with certain comic writers and artists in recent years. The literary acclaim, the idea that comic books and graphic novels need not simply be kids picture books with men in tight clothing fighting each other, really began to take hold when Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer prize for Maus in 1992. Since then, people have realized that the comic medium can be used as more than simply a way to entertain. Using pictures to tell stories is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of humanity. It’s a way of teaching and informing. It can add depth and nuance to a story. It can still simply be entertaining, but it’s not just “kid’s stuff” anymore.
And there you have it, folks. The first post about why you might want to start stocking a few graphic novels. Tune in next time for a look at what exactly a graphic novel is, how it’s different from a comic book, and why it sometimes matters.