Comic books and graphic novels are very popular. Both children and adults read them. There are comics for children, comics and graphic novel for adults. Although they are filled with pictures, they encourage people to read. But are they literature?
Question 102 – Do you consider comic books and graphic novels to be legitimate forms of literature?
Linda G. Hill
I’ve never actually read one, but why not?
Yes. They are legitimate storytelling mediums with their own styles. The presence of illustration does not change this. Comics have a history of not being taken seriously, but I don’t think anyone who still holds on to this view has taken a look at a comic or graphic novel from recent times. The mediums have come a long way.
D. T. Nova
Graphic novels, absolutely so.
There’s more of a continuum than a sharp definition of distinct categories, so whether most comics are “literature” has at least as much to do with definitions as it does with “legitimacy”.
Paul B. Spence
Literature? I suppose. I think they are legitimate ways to tell stories, but then so are video games and movies. Not sure I’d call any of them literature…
Gregory S. Close
Yes, but like any medium, some of it is better than others. My fatigue with comic books and graphic novels began in my teen years, mostly around the depiction of women. While there certainly are great female comic book characters, in general they are treated as Big Boobs in Spandex and it’s just so objectifying. I noticed it more once I had daughters and realized how the female heroes were portrayed compared to their male counterparts. I think changes are happening, but slowly, and the industry needs to do more with its female heroes (maybe starting with clothing them more, so that their appeal is based on character and not sex appeal).
I do. I think they tell a story through image dialogue. It’s not a genre I ever got into, but I do believe they count as literature.
C E Aylett
I’m afraid I don’t consider them at all. They just don’t interest me. I don’t read them – I’m still unsure as to whether graphic refers to pictures or porn! LOL.
However, I don’t like using terms such as ‘legitimate’ when it comes to areas like this. It smacks of elitism, that one particular group can make a judgement call on behalf of the rest of us in accordance to rules they made up towards their specific tastes.
What we’re really talking about is the term ‘literature’ to mean a form of written art. (Technically, all texts that form and communicate ideas are literature!)
Graphic literature is so hybrid I don’t think you can make a judgement in such direct terms. The rules that apply to visual art or literary art cannot be applied to both in the same way. Graphic literature is an art all of its own and any ‘legitimacy’ should be one form of it ranked against another in the same form. A bit like commercial vs literary novels.
At a push, I guess I would compare graphic literature more in line with film. So, is script writing considered a ‘legitimate’ form of literature?
Tracey Lynn Tobin
Absolutely, yes. They are obviously a very different form of literature, being that the vast majority of the written words are dialogue, with the rest of the necessary information being portrayed by the imagery, but literature none-the-less.
Comics and graphic novels aim to do exactly the same thing that traditional novels do: tell a story. And to be quite honest, I’ve read some comics and graphic novels that accomplished that goal much more successfully than some traditional novels I’ve read.
Also, my personal opinion is that reading is a good thing regardless of the exact specifics of the material, so if someone wants to spend their time reading comics…go for it! It’s all literacy!
They are definitely valid forms of story-telling. Literature? Who cares about literature. If you have a story to tell, tell it in the best way you can. If that’s a comic book or graphic novel, then there you go.
I suppose so. Can’t say that I’m a big fan of either, but I have enjoyed one or the other from time to time. If pictures help get people reading, I’m not going to debate about the legitimacy.
H. Anthe Davis
About half of my recorded Goodreads entries are graphic novels or manga, so I absolutely consider them literature. Setting aside such materials as the X-Men or the Justice League, which most people think of when the idea of comic books crops up, there’s the Sandman series — which won a literary award that was subsequently clarified to be not-for-comic-books — and such materials as Persepolis, Maus and Zahra’s Paradise, which tackle serious memoir- and literary issues that just happen to be best shown through illustration. Sure, there are plenty of throwaway superhero stories in the genre — but 90% of every genre is throwaway crap. Comics’ throwaway crap is just more visible because the visuals make them easier to translate to the screen, and the somewhat disjointed stories are more easily massaged into screenplays to support whatever the movie studios want. Just like it’s hard to find literary mysteries under the pile of James Pattersons, it can be hard to find literary comics under the pile of Avengers and Batman — but they exist.
Jay Dee Archer
In general, I’ll say yes. Maybe my definition of literature is a bit broad, though. I consider it any form of print that use words to convey a story or a message, just as long as it isn’t just a scrap of paper. It should be a book, at least. Even short ones. But if I were to narrow my definition down to books that are written to tell a great story rather than to simply entertain, then it depends. There are a lot of comics that merely entertain and don’t even tell a story. Garfield, for example, although I love it, probably wouldn’t be considered literature. However, something like Sandman would be considered literature.
How about you?
Do you think comic books and graphic novels are literature? Let us know in the comments below.