There is an indubitable stigma surrounding graphic novels and comic books that unjustifiably conjures up images of the strongly-opinionated Comic Book Guy of The Simpsons. Despite being an avid reader, even as a child, Superman, Captain America, and other such superheroes never held much of an appeal to me. It wasn’t until I was in college that my eyes were finally opened to the not-so-reputable literary medium, the graphic novel. However, it was not the superheroes that lured me in, but an entirely unfamiliar genre of comic book (I use this and graphic novel interchangeably) commonly referred to as antihero.
The main catalyst in my love affair with graphic novels was a man by the name of Neil Gaiman. Before I start gushing about Neil (which I’ve been known to do), I should say that he is one of the most versatile writers I have ever encountered. His 75 issue comic book series, The Sandman, is unfathomably creative and drenched with as much existentialism as any Dostoevsky novel. He writes “normal” books, such as American Gods, that are on the New York Times Best-Seller List. Neil is also a highly acclaimed writer of children’s books, and even had one of his stories, Coraline, turned into a feature film. Okay, okay, I’ll stop.
What I’m trying to get at, and eventually prove with the following 5 quotations, is that the comic book is as rich and ripe of a literary experience as any standard novel. My apologies that you have to deal with all of the amazing artwork that accompanies the words, but hopefully you can find a way to look past that. I would certainly never say that one medium is better than the other, but I can assuredly declare that the graphic novel has the potential to be as profound and moving as any book ever written. Let’s get started.
“Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night.
Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else.
Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.” – Alan Moore, Watchmen
I mean…fuck! This one speaks for itself. There’s a reason why Watchmen is considered the greatest graphic novel of all time.
“I like the stars. It’s the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they’re always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend…I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…” – Neil Gaiman, The Sandman
As amazing as this is, it’s that much better with the stunning artwork that accompanies it.
“Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.” – Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
I love this. I feel that it’s a microcosm for all forms of artistic expression, whether it be music, film, art, or literature, and how they inspire us.
“…though queens are a particular obsession of mine. I’m not speaking of European sovereigns, mind you, but that most glorious force of the chessboard. Did you know her square was originally occupied by a male “vizier,” able to advance only one meager diagonal step per move? But during the reign of the great female monarchs, this piece metamorphosed into a “queen,” and her power grew commensurate with her title. Only then did the game become something more— A mental odyssey that helped reshape the world.” – Brain K. Vaughan – Y the Last Man
Anyone who can turn a quote about chess into something so wonderfully profound is a fucking class act in my book.
“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”– Neil Gaiman, The Sandman
This guy just gets it. I hope this has inspired you to go out and pick up some comic books!