Are Graphic Novels ‘Real’ Books?

Are graphic novels books?  This question seems to keep coming up at libraries across the nation, and ours is no exception.  As an avid reader of comics and graphic novels, this question is of particular interest to me on a personal level, and I no longer define comic books as a guilty pleasure, nor does Hollywood, apparently.

Let’s backtrack a bit and illustrate the difference between graphic novels and comics, two seemingly interchangeable words.  Comics are loosely-bound magazine-style 32-page (give or take a few) booklets, filled with advertisements and are published monthly.  Graphic novels, while oftentimes collections of comic books, contain no ads, are bound together in hundreds of pages in hardcover or paperback form, and frequently found in bookstores and libraries.  That’s really the only difference.

So back to the question, is a graphic novel a book?  I have witnessed well-meaning parents allow their child to check out a ‘comic’ book if it accompanies a ‘real’ book.  So why aren’t comics considered real? They contain stories and ideas just like ‘real’ books, does the accompaniment of illustrations lessen the impact of the work?  A recent Eisner-winning author (Eisners are the ‘Oscars’ of graphic novels), Marjorie Liu had this to say at the New York Comic Con, as recorded by Julia Heller, our Digital Services and Events Coordinator.  “Any time that we can introduce our children to words and stories, that’s an opportunity that should be cherished. Stories are stories are stories.”

To me, reading is reading is reading.  If your child is reading, encourage that behavior.  If your Library Director is reading a graphic novel on his break, ask him about it – you never know, he might be able to recommend a title that you may be interested in.  After all, there’s a pretty good selection down at your local library!

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