The Weird Beauty of Graphic Novels

Hello there, I’m Sophie and I have never settled on one thing in my life. If anybody asks me: science or humanities, tea or coffee, cats or dogs, rock or pop etc, my ultimate response is: why not both? These are not mutually exclusive things, people! The same goes for my taste in visual art. As much as I adore Schiele, Chagall, Breughel and other creators of “high” art, I am equally thrilled to hold a good graphic novel as I am to see their paintings in person.

I think my admiration for this peculiar kind of art comes from understanding the enormous effort of creating a proper graphic novel. In many ways it resembles writing a creative story combined with drawing a picture, except there are additional challenges to face. Perhaps the hardest one is creating a wholesome, believable character and sticking to the vision both literary and visually. Or maybe it’s the framing, organising your art in a way that is easy to read and has a flow. Or it’s the cover and the lettering that should make the reader interested, give a sample of your artwork and foreshadow the atmosphere and plot without spoiling it. I suppose the complexity is the reason why every piece that manages it all seems so special. It’s like holding a whole new world with its own rules and visuals between your thumb and fingers.

As an enthusiast, I feel the variety of graphic novels is generally overlooked. Most of the people associate comic books with Donald Duck or Batman and think “it’s not for me, it’s immature”. But the truth is, it’s a medium and like any other it can be a vessel for different topics. I’ve read comics that could be labelled as biographies, detective novels, family dramas, fairytales retold, reportages, philosophical stories… Even fantasy stories can surprise with depth and thought-provoking plot.

Personally I love the latter the most, but as much as I adore phantasmagoric visions and unique creatures, I also find interest in learning about foreign cultures. Maybe you don’t believe reading a comic book can be educative and enriching, but if you’re into history or anthropology, you might want to check these out and see for yourself: Pyongyang, Jerusalem and Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle, A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori, Persepolis and Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, Marzi by Marzena Sowa (the last one is set in XX-th century Poland, my own country).

Overall, in consequence of my philosophy of not denying myself  “contrasting” cultural experiences, comic books (or graphic novels, whatever you prefer) are an important part of my life, along with classical painters and centuries-old mosaics. Even more so, I feel incredibly lucky as I recall wandering into a comic workshop held by the author of the third page below. He introduced me to this amazing, confusing, diverse world of graphic novels, where you can’t decide what to lay your eyes on, as you’re standing before countless combinations of personal styles and conceptions. My usual approach? Read them all.

The featured images are sample pages from some of my favourite titles:
Daytripper, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Father’s Son, Nicolas Presl
Bloomsaga, Tomasz Grządziela

  • Sophie

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