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Cady is a staff writer here at The Hudsucker. She is an English major and Writing minor at Grand Valley State University. Her dream is to be a novelist or to work for a publishing company. She enjoys reading, traveling, and watching Boy Meets World, The Voice and Back to the Future. Follow her on Twitter as @cadyelizabeth9

Graphic Fiction: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Recently, I’ve discovered graphic fiction: comic books, graphic novels, and manga. Without a doubt, graphic fiction is an under appreciated genre of literature. And I admit, up until taking a class on graphic fiction at school, I’d never given the genre a second thought myself. To me, they were always about superheroes and villains, fighting and violence. I preferred my pages filled with text instead of pictures and my stories to be more sophisticated than Spider Man slinging webs from his wrists.

Still, when I first picked up a comic book for my class, I was intimidated. I just didn’t know how I was supposed to read it. I’ve been reading books for most of my life, yet something about taking away most of the words made the task seems daunting. I was so used to deriving the meaning of a story through text, so when most of the narrative text was taken away, I didn’t think there could be any story left. Boy, was I wrong.

Remember that saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? When you look at a piece of graphic fiction, that phrase could not be more true. Regardless of the style of art within the work, the artist includes a multitude of detail within the images they create for the story. Just one panel of artwork can tell so much about one snapshot moment within the book: a character’s facial expression or body language conveys their emotions and personality, the background and objects within the frame reveal the setting, the colors used in the image convey the tone of the moment. All of this can be given to us without a single word. Imagine how many sentences in a traditional novel would be necessary for all of that to come through in the text.

Image Credit – Flickr Sam Howzit

I think there are some big misconceptions that a lot of people, myself included, have about the genre. We might think, “that stuff is for kids!” or “it’s mostly pictures so it doesn’t really count as reading.” But why shouldn’t it count as reading? We read a novel to get a story. That story can be conveyed just as well through pictures, and sometimes it can be even better.

What we may not realize is that the genres within graphic fiction are as wide and varied as those associated with traditional novels and that superheroes aren’t the only subjects found within the pages of those comics or graphic novels. Of course there are superhero stories, but there are plenty of others: science fiction, fantasy, romance, humor, horror, crime, biographical and autobiographical, and even adaptations of renowned literary masterpieces like the works of Shakespeare.

Comics got their start in newspapers as daily or weekly installments of a series back in the 1800s. Then they branched out to other forms and appeared in magazines and eventually the actual comic books that we’re familiar with today. There are some comic strips that just about everyone seems to know, like Peanuts, Garfield, and Blondie, but some of the longest-running comic strips are less well known, like the Katzenjammer Kids, which began in 1897 and is still in syndication today, and Gasoline Alley, which began in 1918.

Manga is a huge part of the graphic fiction medium. The name refers to the Japanese style of art and numerous widespread publications in magazines and books. Manga is a large part of Japanese culture, and the phenomenon is so great that it has spread around the world and has sparked the proliferation of comics into everyday life.

Though graphic fiction may not be widely appreciated, it has an incredibly dedicated fan base. There are entire conventions dedicated to comics, graphic novels, and manga, with people from all over coming together to enjoy everything graphic fiction has to offer. Some fans even cosplay, meaning they dress up as their favorite characters and unleash their creativity.

Image Credit – Craig Thompson / Top Shelf Productions

My journey into graphic fiction so far has hardly scratched the surface of the huge amount of unique and innovative stories out there. I’ve read superhero comics and graphic novels like The Spirit, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns, but I’ve also read Blankets and Robot Dreams, which have become two of my favorite stories, regardless of genre.

I have a new-found appreciation for graphic fiction and it has opened my eyes to a whole world of fantastic stories and beautiful artwork that I may have never gotten a chance to see otherwise. I will always be a traditional novel lover, but I have come to see the immense value of graphic fiction.

Traditional 300 page novels of text aren’t necessarily superior to graphic novels that are filled with more images than words. Pictures can tell compelling stories, as can words. And when they come together in the form of graphic fiction, some of the best stories are born.

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One Comment on “Graphic Fiction: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words”

  1. uwillumination November 20, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Illumination.

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