Not just Pulp: A Comic Book Conundrum

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Comic books. Just the words bring to mind an image of a socially inept spotty teenager with too much time on his hands. Seen as a nerdy pastime (just look at The Big Bang Theory) comic books and graphic novels alike have both been misjudged and undervalued by the everyday public. There is more to them than meets the eye than simply the out-dated assumption that they are for kids. In fact, quite a vast array of graphic novels portray within them images I certainly wouldn’t want my kids exposed to due to its mature material. They are not something to scoff at simply because of the stereotypical and ultimately negative images society has assigned onto comic book readers. After all, leading bookshops such as Waterstones are expanding the number of shelves they allocate for graphic novels in their stores so surely they must see something in them that others do not.

Graphic novels have recently become integrated into popular culture than you might have originally guessed. Obviously they have been used as the core material for an abundance of movies such as the Batman and Spiderman film franchises. Yet, comic books have permeated into filmdom much more than these frankly obvious examples. How many people knew that V for Vendetta, Sin City, Constantine as well as 300 were all adapted for the big screen from graphic novels? These adaptations were created because their original media platform were thought to be worthy of captivating a much larger audience in the cinema. Additionally, comic books are also used in some cases to continue already aired TV programmes that were extremely popular but too expensive to screen continuously; two examples of this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which began publishing ‘seasons’ through graphic novel format after the season 7 finale on television, and another cult television series Farscape which has so far released 8 graphic novel volumes since 2003. Additionally there have been some examples where films have also been adapted into comic book format such as the Star Wars franchise; however there are very few compared to television adaptations.

Graphic novels are also used because they can express views on key social issues more easily than other forms of literature due to the blurred lines they draw between word and image. Comic books have already been used to discuss mental illness (Batman), anarchy (V for Vendetta) and even environmental issues as seen in Swamp Thing just to name three. A key figure in this approach to using graphic novels as a conduit to discuss important subjects that were originally thought as too complex for comics is Alan Moore. Moore is thought to have helped add a greater respect for the medium by evolving them out of the simple pulp comics of the 1950’s and into mediums which stand on their own due to their social critique.

Just as comics have evolved from simple pulp, so has literature. It is a fluid concept that constantly changes over time. Arguably graphic novels are simply the next evolutionary step of literature; moving contemporary texts away from the post-modern writing style. What other alternative can literature make after post-modernism which is defined as a style that attempts to be different than any other form of literary movement that has preceded it? Additionally, classic texts such as Brontë’s Pride and Prejudice have been converted into graphic novels suggesting an attempt to ‘modernise’ old classics. Other popular texts which are not renowned for being classics such as Meyer’s Twilight saga have also been converted into comic book format, again suggesting a leap towards a future where graphic novels are viewed as a key form of literature rather than a form of low art only geeks and adolescent boys read. Proving that comic books are NOT just for kids!

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