I’ll admit it—I read a lot of comic books when I was a kid. As I grew up and older, reading comics regularly faded from my lifestyle, but my love of comics—and for the medium itself—never did. So imagine how sweet it is that now, as a librarian, it’s actually part of my job. But I’m not just reading them for myself—I’m also reading them so I can share them with you!
However, these ain’t your momma’s comics. The medium we’re all now familiar with as the “graphic novel” may have started out as simply longer versions of comic books, but over the past few decades it has adapted, evolved, and been reborn into its own singular experience, with as many different styles and perspectives as you can imagine. There’s something about the interaction between illustrations and text that’s bigger than the sum of its parts—when all the elements of a great graphic novel come together properly, the result is a reading experience truly unlike any other—it combines the best aspects of watching a movie and reading a book and draws you into the story in ways that neither a book nor a movie can.
Subsequently, subject matter for graphic novels has by now ranged far afield of superheroes. And our collection here at AHML is loaded with amazing titles covering an array of topics that just might surprise you. For example, if you like the Beatles, you might want to check out Baby’s in Black
by Arne Bellstorf
. Drawn in a relatively simple line style (reminiscent of a New Yorker cartoon
), it tells the story of the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg
, centered on the love story between the “fifth Beatle,” Stuart Sutcliffe
, and photographer Astrid Kirchherr
. Another excellent and provocative title is The Voyeurs
. It’s a real-time memoir of a turbulent four years in the life of renowned cartoonist, diarist, and filmmaker Gabrielle Bell
(featuring a cameo appearance by her then-boyfriend, director Michael Gondry
of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
fame). Accounts of her daily life may sound like boring reading, but Bell manages to take the mundane and make it absorbing and thoughtful. My final suggestion is Guy Delisle
’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
. In early 2001 cartoonist Delisle lived in the North Korean capital for two months on a work visa, and observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered—his findings form the basis of this graphic novel. Truly fascinating, more than a little bit funny, and slightly tragic.
Break out of your normal routine and give a graphic novel a chance this summer!