Over the past month, I’ve had several conversations with different people about either graphic novels, manga, or comics. When I mentioned reading graphic novels to a couple of my sociology students after class, one of them said, “Aren’t those for kids?” Of course, this belief is quite common. I’ve decided that the next time someone asks me this, I’m going to respond to go read “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, and then we’ll talk. During my first year at the University of Georgia, I took an honors English class with a teacher originally from Germany. At the time, I was a bit bitter because I wasn’t performing as well as usual in the class.
Later in the semester, we read the Pulitzer prize winning graphic novel, “Maus.” The book transformed me in multiple ways. First, I realized the importance of graphic novels and refuse to accept the idea that it’s impossible for graphic novels to be “serious literature.” Second, it deepened my understanding of the Holocaust and led to me exploring that horrific period through other works. Third, my analysis of it became an obsession. I discuss critical thinking skills in my department at work all the time, and the assignment on “Maus” changed my life.
This short, twelve minute audio of Spielgleman is paired with slides from the graphic novel. I highly suggest that you watch it, as it explains the origins of “Maus,” as well as many of the choices that Spigeleman made in creating it. I’ve already reviewed several graphic novels and illustrated books like the Owly series. Recently, I’ve started a graphic novel series called “Locke & Key.” It is Lovecraftian and set in Massachusetts. I’m planning a separate post on it, but the conversations with other people made me realize that I still feel like I have to justify reading graphic novels occasionally. “Locke & Key” begins with a brutal murder of the father in a family, and it has also won awards. Certainly, it’s not for children.
While discussing language and culture today in class, I passed around a volume of manga that a friend brought me from Japan years ago, as well as an english translation of Kenshin. Many of the students seemed really excited to see these materials. I’m really curious if there is an data on people’s changing perceptions of graphic novels. Do people view them more seriously today? Is there still a stigma associated with the genre, as some people don’t view them as for adults? I wonder.