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Graphic novels -- originals

- I think you’re thinking about graphic novels wrong.

- What do you mean?

- You keep talking about them as if they were novels when they’re not.

- Wait a second. You’re the one who says that they have depth, and complicated plots, and multiple characters, and themes, and story arcs, and blah, blah, blah, just like novels.

- They also have pictures.

- So?

- They’re a different medium.

- They’re two-dimensional, using words. . .

- So does the script for a play.

- But plays are performed.

- And graphic novels are illustrated. You can’t judge the words without the pictures.

- The words are important. You know that some comics writers are better than others.

- And some playwrights are better than others. A badly written play will come out flat, no matter how good the players. Just as a badly written comic will not be as good as a well written one, no matter how good the illustrator.

- But good illustrations can pull along bad writing.

- It can. But then the “novel” part of the graphic novel is pretty thin. What you’re enjoying are the graphics. A different medium.

- Okay. So graphic novels are a different medium than word novels. [Pause] Maybe they're more like movies.

- Movies?

- Yeah. Like cinema, a graphic novel has a team to create the final production. You’ll have the writer, the illustrator, the colorist, the letterer, the editor, the publisher, and who knows who else. And like film, the story is told sequentially using separate panels or splash pages. The visuals are as important, often more important than the text. The mood will be set by the colors chosen, or the lack. . .

- It’s not the same. There’s time involved.

- Graphic novels take almost as long as movies to produce.

- That’s not what I meant. When reading a graphic novel, you can pause, admire a page, spend some time figuring out the details of an illustration, savor the composition. You can’t stop a movie in the middle. You get to see each scene for exactly however long it’s been cut.

- I suppose. . .

- Think about Fun Home.

Fun Home paperback cover

- What about it?

- It’s written, illustrated, colored, and lettered by one person. It’s themes and scenes have more in common with a fugue than. . .

- A fugue?

- A piece of music which intertwines themes forward, back and inside out, to form a whole. Like Fun Home does.

- Now you're talking about music. I was talking about movies.

- But that’s my point. Graphic novels aren’t movies. They aren’t music either. Yet they can be compared to both.

- You know, when people talk about Fun Home, they often compare it to Proust and Ulysses.

- A novelist and a novel.

- Right. Which brings us back to that text thing. You know, novels.

- And we shouldn't ignore that. But graphic novels are more. They fuse text and color and pauses and visuals and musical structures, all in a 2-D format.

[Pause]

- All right. So if you're saying that graphic novels aren't novels, or plays, or movies, or music -- they can be compared to them but aren't the same thing -- then what are they?

- Their own damn thing.

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