I Need a Graphic Novel Compass

Does anyone else get lost in graphic novels?

Seriously—I get lost, and not in the “Wow, this is so good, it swept me off my feet!” kind of way. I actually lose my way. Do I look at the pictures first, or the dialog? When there’s a big box that spreads over two pages, where does that fit into the sequence? Are these people talking or fighting, or both? Do I read right to left or up and down? Do I read them or look at — ooh, that picture is pretty!

You get the idea.

When I was about ten, I fell in love with an Elfquest novel so obscure I almost couldn’t find it on Amazon at the moment—a novel, not a graphic novel, one with no (or at least very few) pictures. I loved it so much, I requested another Elfquest book from another library. When it arrived, it was—

A graphic novel.

I was flummoxed. I tried to read it, but it outdid me. It was beyond my ten-year-old powers of comprehension.

That’s weird, right? Kids are supposed to like comic books. Lots of action, pictures, not a lot of reading. But even as a kid, I thought, “There aren’t enough words in this book!”

Now, as a “grown up,” I’m trying to read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, but The Dream Hunters, the only one I’ve successfully made it through, was more like a picture-book than a graphic novel. I’ve also ordered The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire, Season 8, Volume 1), because I need (that’s an imperative) more Buffy… but what if I get lost again?

Do I need a graphic novel primer? Does such a thing exist? Can you help me? I feel as though my nerd-credibility is slipping.

10 thoughts on “I Need a Graphic Novel Compass

  1. Hmmm…I can’t say I’ve had that problem, but you definitely need to read Season 8. Season 9 is about to start! Also, John got me the hardback compilation of Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires for the holidays, and it is awesome.

    I feel like the panels in the Dark Horse Comics are pretty linear…generally you read from the top dialogue bubble downward and to the right.

    If you can manage to get into graphic novels, the 30 Days of Night series is phenomenal with some of the most interesting and breathtakingly scary artwork I’ve ever seen in a comic. Also, the Walking Dead series is killer.

    • MORE Buffy? That’s exciting. I also discovered the various omnibus editions–I think after you mentioned them–and Season 8 has been on my to-read list forever. I really want to like graphic novels, I really do! So thanks for the recommendations… maybe it’ll push me to actually try.

  2. Graphic novel fluency just comes with time, the more you read the more natural it will feel.

    If you’re like me, you read text at a rapid rate — and you really can’t do that with a Graphic Novel and get the full effect. Try forcing yourself to slow down, and absorb the action along with the text — good artists/designers will naturally direct your eye to the next panel , and to the important parts of a big splash page.

    • That’s good to know. My other half flies through graphic novels and makes me feel inferior because I take forever to read them. Still, I’m glad to hear it’s a semi-learned skill. Makes me feel like less of a doofus.

  3. Oh, wow. I’m pretty sure I read that Elfquest novel, Journey to Sorrow’s End, when I was a kid. I hadn’t read anything Elfquest before, but I liked the book so much that I started buying the black and white comics and was quite a fan for a while.

    Thanks for bringing back those memories for me P-)

  4. Ah, I’m not the only one. I don’t like graphic novels for the same reason. I just get confused and put the book down. Maybe there are different kinds of nerds…

    • YES!! You made my evening. I’m so glad not to be the only confused one.

      I’m *trying* to be a comic book nerd… though maybe that’s not something I should brag about?

      • Maybe you should read to enjoy? Maybe you’re just not ready for graphic novels or comics?

        I’m in my forties. There are styles of music and movies that I would have hated in my twenties that I now enjoy. We grow and change. Twenty years from now, you might be writing/drawing a graphic novel – you never know.

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