Writing + drawing = art

Alicia BessetteI’m becoming enamored with the art form of the graphic novel. It fascinates me, how the creators of graphic novels master not one craft, but two — storytelling and drawing — and blend them. I know very little about graphic novels, and I want to learn more.

The first graphic novel I read was Watchmen, considered the Big Daddy of graphic novels, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It’s easily one of the chewiest, most riveting books I’ve experienced.

In a very different vein is French Milk, a sort of graphic travel memoir which I read last month in one sitting (and first heard about here — thanks, Bermuda Onion!).

Actually the author, Lucy Knisley, calls French Milk a “drawn journal.” The delight Knisley takes in sampling French food, strolling through museums, and simply passing the time with her family in a foreign land, is totally contagious. Flipping through the pages made me feel like I was a college-aged artist navigating Parisian streets. Charmant!

In November I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Emond, whom you’ll be hearing more about in March when Little, Brown will release Happyface, his illustrated debut young adult novel.

Anyway, I’m curious: What’s been your exposure to the genre? And, which graphic novel should I read next? I’m open to any and all recommendations. Educate me, please!

~Alicia Bessette

18 Replies to “Writing + drawing = art”

  1. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read a graphic novel in my life! (I did think that Sin City was an awesome movie though, do I get points for that?)

    You’ve inspired me to check out French Milk, Alicia. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Hey Al-
    It’s Britt (Q’s class and Peru way back ;-)).
    Love the blog, I’ve been reading every Wednesday but this post really hit me.
    I was exposed to graphic novels living in France, and after taking a while to get used to, I fell in love. My all-time favorite is one called “Le Photographe” (the Photographer) by Guibert, Lefevre, and Lemercier. Incredible- a photographer who works with Doctors w/o borders in Afghanistan and it’s a mix of his actual photos and drawings. I highly recommend it!
    Also, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Maus (the whole series) by Art Spiegelman, “Le Chat du Rabbin” (The Rabbi’s Cat) by Joann Safr, and last but not least, Will Eisner- the grand-daddy of American graphic novels. Read “Contract with God” or “Life Force”- he writes/draws so powerfully about urban life and ethnic changes in neighborhoods.
    Sorry to take over the comments :-D. I hope you love these!
    PS Congrats on the book, you and Q are quite the dynamic duo. I’m waiting eagerly for both of your books to come out!

  3. Last but not least:
    * Tintin- even though they’re stereotypical and written for children.
    * Asterix and Obelix- a wonderful distraction!

  4. Great to hear from you, Brittany. Hello to your family. And thanks so much for the kind words. Viva Peru! And trapezoids! Now I must read some of these graphic novels.

  5. I’m guessing it’s because I’m not a very visual person, but I can’t get into graphic novels at all. I’ve tried, most recently with STITCHES. I can’t follow the story because I forget to look at the pictures. I just skip to the next text block. How sad is that??? Oh, well. Regular old prose for me, I reckon!

  6. Sin City and Persepolis, of course. I admired both movies … now, to check out the sources.

    And Britt, I appreciate all your recommendations. I’ll certainly check them out. I’d forgotten all about Tintin (and Milou!!) and Asterix and Obelix. I had a French teacher in high school who planned entire units around those series. Thank you for reminding me!

    BD, French Milk really is cool. And I know I’m going to love Happyface too.

    Kathy, I’ll check out The Shiniest Jewel.

    Merci, tout le monde!

  7. Although very visual, I’ve never read one either. Perhaps it all feels too cluttered, too similar to a comic book or the fact I enjoy having a book’s words draw my mental images.

  8. The Sandman series is great, though not technically a graphic novel (they were published as individual issues). Most people might not care about the distinction, but when dealing with comics you must deal with some serious nerds (like me!).

    Of course, Watchmen was also a series of issues and not published as a graphic novel.

    The movie American Splendor is worth checking out, too. Paul Giamatti is in it and it made me appreciate the nonfiction graphic novel.

  9. THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT by Bryan Talbot is my favorite graphic novel; I won’t tell you what it’s about…just let me know your thoughts after you read it. Talbot is a genius. Just have tissues available. They were making that into a movie years back, but it got stalled.

    Also THE FOUNTAIN was written at the same time the movie was being made because of all the drama around the film. They weren’t sure if the story was ever going to translate to the screen, so they wrote the GN.

    STITCHES is next for me, and BLANKETS by Craig Thompson is also on my desk.

    I love the graphic novel. You are so write; a good artist tells a good story through the pictures, and sometimes without saying a word (as in Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL…another great GN, though this may be “labeled” as a children’s book).

    Enjoy all the reading!!!

  10. Hi Alicia (and Q)! I loved FRENCH MILK too, and I hope you enjoy HAPPYFACE. Here are a couple of favorites: FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel and BLACK HOLE by Charles Burns. Adrian Tomine is also great, and also Daniel Clowes (GHOST WORLD).

    BLANKETS is in my all-time top ten books.

    Hope you’re having a great 2010!

    – Connie

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