Last weekend I went to the San Diego Comic-Con. My reasons for going were the panels on my favorite T.V. shows and the free swag, but this year I saw a slightly different side to the Con, as my friend continued his plot to drag me to the dark side with graphic novels.
I was never much for comic books as a kid, despite my life-long love of superpowers, though I admit to buying the occasional Archie comic. Even then, though, I wanted the Pals & Gals digests because they would last longer than the 20 page Betty & Veronicas, and seemed like a better investment.
I never consciously avoided graphic novels, but I had enough book and television series to obsess over, and didn’t think I needed to spend the money on another one. I still like to get my money’s worth, but I’m afraid I’ve lost the internal struggle. It was inevitable, really, after my friend loaned me his complete Sandman collection. I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman’s novels, so it was an easy gateway. Though the individual books could and did pass quickly, there were enough in the series to keep me occupied for a few days, and the stories were so complex, with so many literary allusions to spot, that I loved every minute of it.
It was the beginning of the end.
For my birthday, that same friend bought me the first book in the Fables series, which places fairy tale characters in our modern world, exiled from their homeland. Straight up my alley, as I adore magical realism. My defenses were weakened, and once I let down my guard, something really unfortunate happened: I realized that most of my favorite television series that were cancelled before their time were continuing in graphic novel form. I had so far managed to avoid them, feeling that they just wouldn’t be the same, but having now a greater appreciation for the skill of the storytelling, I was powerless to resist.
There is a remarkable freedom in the graphic novel. There are effects that could never be done on television, stories that couldn’t be told. The writers have more control, and their joy in that shows on the page. They can practically do whatever they want, providing they can get someone to publish it, and if they’re continuing the story of a show with an established fanbase, they’re set.
Comic-Con was probably the site of my last stand, and a pretty weak one it was, especially after that same friend (damn him) introduced me to the 50% off graphic novel booths. I was lost. I came home from Comic-Con with the next 3 books in the Fables series, the second in the Buffy series (having already read #1), one created by Seth Green with a different take on a Heroes-type situation, Neil Gaiman’s award-winning 1602, one by Michael Turner, and another that just sounded interesting.
Though I’m wary of reading them too quickly, that does have its advantages. My schedule these days is so hectic, so crowded, that I rarely have time to sit down with a book, and even when I have the time, I feel guilty for devoting the time to reading when I could be writing. (Which is ridiculous, I know, as every teacher I have ever had has told me that writers need to be readers.)
It’s nice that graphic novels are gaining more respect in the world. I think there’s still a learning curve for people who have attached a certain stigma to “comics.” I’m still struggling with it, and trying very hard not to feel guilty about the tall stack on my desk right this moment.