Comics turn a new page into literature


Photo illustration by Yolanda Granados/The Telescope


Since the 1930s the traditional comic book format has been seen in newspapers and magazines with humorous cartoon characters and daring heroes.

The “funnies’ in the paper were met to be escapism from the hardships of the war and never intended to replace script in hardback covers.

Today, comic books have evolved as a backdrop for social commentary entwined with immersive art that most would call a modern day literature. Graphic novels including “Watchmen” and “Maus” pave the way into a new generation looking for more substance and context in their comics, rather than a void filled page of superhero onomatopoeia.

However, some critics say that comic books are not an artistic expression of writing and are just the backdrop for the over saturated films, television shows and cartoons pushed by the entertainment business.

It is easy to condemn comics for their childish intentions. Superheroes fighting supervillians with overly drawn demigod like features with an array of flashy art spread throughout the page.

But there are comics that take the genre and throw away stereotypes.

Alan Moore’s “Watchman” was one of the earliest examples using old stereotypes and giving it a prevalent and realistic tone. It uses superheroes and villains to show an alternate America and troubles of power, corruption and greed.

Even though “Watchman” was adopted in a Hollywood blockbuster, the novel is considered to be the gateway into a new generation of literary comic books. Moore himself even chastised the film in an interview by Geoff Boucher on saying “It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination.”

The integrity of Moore’s art was compromised, since he believed that the essence of “Watchmen” belonged on the page to be read.


One of the best examples of this is the graphic novel “Maus” by Spiegelman.

The story revolves around Spiegelman listening to his father’s story being a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. The cartoonish characters are used with precision to represent different races of humans.

Mice were Jews, cats were to represent the Nazis and non-Jewish Poles were shown as pigs.

“Maus” was made in 1991 winning a Pulitzer Prize for it’s achievements, and cementing the relevance and importance of graphic novels and being considered as literature.

Words on a page can string any amount of emotions. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the destruction of society or the loss of innocence, the way authors like Hemingway, Orwell and Lee used language as paint strokes can be described as art.

The word is literature; stories, poems and biographies that transcend the basic structures of print and enhances it with what the author believes to be quintessence of life.

Although, a more modern and more relevant expression of writing has became one of the biggest explosions of pop culture in the last 15 years.

Comic books have expressed the same quintessence using actual paint coinciding with text to build a new generation of literature.

What is great about the popularity of comic books in our culture is using these techniques to get kids unwilling to read the actual books of literature and giving them a graphic makeover.

Children can read “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka in the form of a graphic novel.

This can be the medicine dipped in sugar and hopefully entice those to read more books of literature and help educated today’s youth and even adults to the world of script.

Comics have been around before, Salinger, Lee or Tolkien wrote stories of angst, human nature and fantastic journeys.

However, both can coincide together as artistic views of writing. Many purest can scoff at graphic novels, but as long as people can read, absorb and comprehend the messages in works of both, we are better off. Being a more intelligent and literate society.



Author: Lloyd Bravo

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