Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Armchair BEA - More Than Just Words

Today we’re talking about other ways to tell a story than just with words.

For me it was easy to decide what talk about for this topic:
Graphic novels.

I grew up with graphic novels and comics around me. My first heroes were Yoko Tsuno from Roger Leloup’s Yoko Tsuno series, and Philip Mortimer for Edgar P. Jacobs’ Blake and Mortimer series. I always kept on the look out for more graphic novels to fall in love with, and this is how I discovered Neil Gaiman: a friend let me borrow Sandman. I fell in love with it. The Sandman series is wonderful. There are so many cool characters, and the stories are magical and haunting at times.

But why are graphic novels so great?

I ‘read’ the first Yoko Tsuno book before I could read the text. But even without text I was engrossed in the pictures, telling me an exciting story about a young Japanese woman who has adventures in space. To this day when I read De 3 Zonnen van Vinea (The 3 Suns of Vinea) the story that I made up myself those first few times I ‘read’ the book, lingers somewhere in the background.

What I’m trying to get to, is how pictures can tell so much, even without text. Sometimes a picture can tell more than text ever could. Just look at the below pictures for example. On the left is Olrik, the villain from the Blake and Mortimer series by Edgar P. Jacobs. On the right: Edgar P. Jacobs. I think it’s pretty clear who Jacobs used as inspiration for his villain. If he had used words instead of pictures, I’m not sure anyone would be able to pick up on who the villain is based on. And yes: it’s an interesting look inside Jacobs' mind, that he based the looks of Olrik on himself, instead of painting himself as one of the heroes.

All in all I love reading graphic novels, and I’m always on the look out for new ones that are both beautifully drawn and have a great story to tell.


Enbrethiliel said...


I'm not very visual, so my favourite way to enhance a story is to use music. =)

I occasionally vary up my reading with a graphic novel, but I confess that the ones I find most interesting are versions of books which originally appeared in print. I like comparing the way I visualised the scenes to the way the artist did.

Sullivan McPig said...

I think here it's more part of our culture to read graphic novels. especially as a lot of really great authors of graphic novel come from Belgium and France. Although I did notice a decline. Maybe i'm one of the dinosaurs ;-)

Leeanna said...

I've never been able to get into graphic novels -- I've just always preferred text -- but now I can see more of the allure of them. That's pretty cool, that you would make up the story before you could read it.

Alisha (MyNeedToRead) said...

One thing that's so great about graphic novels (and comics in general) is that they can use the very style of art to convey the emotion of a story... some use water color with minimalist brushwork... some are digitally colored with bold shades... others are in newsprint-stylings... and on and on. The black/white/red of the Sin City stories are just as critical a part of the soul of the work as anything else. I luuurve it!

Tanya @ Moms Small Victories said...

I read Sandman back in college too and loved it. Back before I met and married my comic-book fan of a husband and now I don't read his graphic novels. I am going to have to reread Sandman and give some other graphics a try!

miki said...

i wouldn't say there is a decline;... a few really well loved authors/senarist etc died unfortunately and yes when someone else continue it('s rarely the same but there are a lot of other excellent one only not advertised really well ( cheaper for the publishers to promote older ones than new one)

^^ i will add that to your list ( so you can add a longer selection ^^)

Sullivan McPig said...

@miki: True, there are still beautiful things being created. It's just that less and less people buy graphic novels here. I've seen a couple of comic/graphic novels shops disappear here in Groningen because of low sales.

Aurian said...

I confess I don't read comics anymore. I still have a huge stack of Suske and Wiske, de Rode Ridder, Robert and Bertrand, and more by Willy Vandersteen. And Elfquest, those are just so pretty.

miki said...

i love elfquest but i was so sad when they stopped it in the middle ( or at least teh translation in french)