What is an acceptable piece of literature? Are stories only acceptable after they have survived for generations? Do they have to be distributed throughout the world? Or can they be contained in just a handful of pages?
Comic books, or graphic novels as they are marketed in places, have historically been looked down upon as childish. While they might be allowed for children, for the rest of the population they held little to no value. And someone who wanted to read one was considered foolish and unable to read a regular novel. Over the last couple of decades comic books, rather graphic novels, have made strides, and are now considered by some people to be acceptable.
There will always be those who view comics as nothing more than children’s picture books. But as with anything, you should judge something on its own merits. Yes there are comic books out there that are intended for children or simply to quickly entertain us. A perfect example is Calvin & Hobbes; there is no story here. Then of course there are comics that do tell stories whether seriously or with a healthy dose of campiness.
Any story can be made into a comic book, not just tales of super heroes. Just like any media there is a tradeoff to be sure, but it is not inherently a bad thing. Just because there are pictures to set the stage does not mean the mind is off the hook when reading a comic. Yes the pictures do perform most of the heavy lifting for the imagination, but like any still photo there is more going on than in the frame. Unlike with a photo, it is not our memory that works it is our imagination that takes the frame and words, and, while blending the two together, completes the stage set by the picture.
Jim Butcher, the author of the Dresden Files, is currently one of my favorite authors and he has entered into the realm of comic books. The first comic book series that was released was a four book series entitled Welcome to the Jungle. As soon as that story arc was finished, Storm Front and Fool Moon were translated into comic book, I mean graphic novel, format. Having read both the novel and the comic books, I mean graphic novels little was lost in the translation. Now with that said don’t get me wrong there are differences. The same story was told by differently. And I enjoyed both formats immensely. But I have also enjoyed the first installment of The Ghoul Goblin, the latest graphic novel in the Dresden universe.
Should I enjoy graphic novels as I do? Are they simply childish diversions? My answer is that a good story will transcend its medium and be recognized as such in time.