Reading Comic Books Instead of Writing

I have been really sick this week. Luckily, last week, I went to the local library to look for some books, and, finding none of what I wanted, realized they had a pretty good graphic novel section. Until the last couple of years, I don’t think I’d read a single comic book. I think my first experience with a comic book I really loved was Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, an autobiographical comic that recounts her young life and finding out about her dad’s secret life and how it coincided with hers. I could dedicate a whole post to how awesome that book is, but let’s just say that that one got me started that thinking graphic novels could be alright.

Anyway, library plus sick plus in bed all week equals me reading 5 comic books in the last few days. They are as follows:

Maus Vol. 1, My Father Bleeds History and Maus Vol. 2, And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

Okay, I had been hearing about these two books that tell the tale of the Holocaust by using mice for Jews and cats for Germans for a really long time, and my expectations were really high. That said, I was moved to literal tears at several points by the story, but the drawings themselves actually didn’t do that much for me. There were a few moments when the art was really moving (for one, there was a panel at the very start of the first book where the aging father is getting on his exercise bike as he tells the story of his experiences in WWII to his son, and at the edge of the picture you see the numbers tattooed on his arm in Auschwitz), but beyond the cat-mouse representations, I didn’t really think that much of the drawings.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, illustrated by David Wenzel

This one obviously had no chance of being as good as the book. (And I wonder if novels turned comics ever do?) The illustrations were good at points, but there were also times when I felt like I was reading an illustrated Bible. And because there was so much text from the original to fit in, there were actually HUGE blocks of text throughout the whole thing, which at times made it tedious to read. When I come to a graphic novel, I guess I expect less exposition.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Illustrated by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo

You know how I just asked if a novel-to-comic representation could ever be as good as the original? Well, I can’t say in this case, because I (sadly) have not read the original. But the graphic novel was excellent. The story of two boys from different social classes in an Afghanistan facing several regime changes is beautiful, but in this representation it is told in sparse words (sometimes only one or two to an entire page of frames), with gorgeous, sweeping pictures. Nothing is lost of the plot–in fact, much of character and tone is gained. And the scene in which the young boy Hassan is raped is one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen, yet the affect is achieved in a minimalist way. I highly, highly recommend this one.

Black History for Beginners by Denise Dennis

Okay, maybe I should have known this one wouldn’t be great based one the “for Beginners” in the title. A few pages in, the author begins talking about how black people were instrumental in the “conquering” of Mexico and Peru. And I automatically think, how is a book that’s supposed to be about the history of the marginalized bragging about the subjugation of any people? From there it only gets worse. Though I usually love black history, this book was boring, with pedantic language, no sort of story or cohesiveness, and really uninspiring images made it barely readable for me.

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing in the last week instead of writing. Hopefully back to the writing soon!

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About thebaffledkingcomposing

Pamela DiFrancesco is a writer with a community college degree in journalism, a fancy art school degree in fiction and a penchant for community organizing. A native of Pennsylvania coal country, Pamela lives in Astoria, Queens, writes, and does whatever else it takes to pay the bills. In the past, Pamela has worked for newspapers and taught children journalism in an after-school program. Pamela's fiction can be found on the web at Cezanne's Carrot and Monkeybicycle, in print in The Carolina Quarterly (who nominated "The Chuck Berry Tape Massacre" for the Best American Mystery Writing anthology) and forthcoming in The New Ohio Review. When not writing, Pamela practices acts of love and kindness in hopes of a radically different world, and is preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse through acts of badassery.
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