Graphic Novels (Comics) as a New Literature Format

Historical Review

Lynd Kendall Ward is considered to be the father and the creator of graphic novels throughout the world. Even within the corresponding scope it was spoken about that he was destined to become the father of graphic novels. If we read his surname from the opposite side it will be Draw, which means “to sketch”. K. Ward made his first graphic novel “God’s Man” in 1929. Ward’s handwriting was not simple: he often used metaphors, allusions, allegorical pictures. All of his pictures till the last one were unicolourous, however, the monotony of colours never hindered him to create amusing, acutely developing plots, which were reproduced in his pictures. His last published and the most famous graphic novel is “Vertigo” released in 1937. As an artist Ward did not satisfy himself with mere pencil and ink, he also used watercolour. Ward devoted himself to lithography as well, thus leaving a deep imprint in the world of graphics.

Comics (from the English comic –funny) are drawn stories or stories represented in pictures. Large-scale comics including a complete volumetric plot rather than being restricted to only one or two pictures are called graphic novels. These comics have their special name in some countries: in France- bande dessinée(BD), in Japan- manga. Alan Muoore, representative of 1980s’ graphic novels, suggests differentiating comics and graphic novels by their value: “Graphic novels”, he says, “are big expensive comics”. The term “graphic novel” was created during the 1970-80s to separate the latter from continuously released comics about Superman. However, nowadays this line of distinction is removed and that is why these two definitions are identified.

Comics are usually released periodically and consist of 32 pages (17,78 x 25,4 cm).

Discussion of the Question

Nowadays, comics or graphic novels throughout the world are considered to be a format that represents literature, instead of a literature genre. In our opinion there are several reasons for defining comics this way:

  1. Literature is a factually written story and comics present those stories to us in pictures and dialogues. However, the presence of dialogues makes those graphics a part of literature.
  2. Though graphic novels tell stories by pictures, there are widely used numerous means of expression, stylistic devices, as well as literary genres. As it was mentioned above, L. Ward widely used metaphors and allegories in his works, but it should also be noted that a part of the “vertigo” series created by him, as well as other comics have features characteristic to detective genre or that there are a number of comics typical to fantasy genre that are in popular demand.

Therefore, we regard comics rather as a literature format, which widely utilize literary genres, than as literary genres themselves. Since the 2000s comics have found a great acceptance among teenagers and young people. Once being created as an entertaining genre to cheer the readers, nowadays comics and graphic novels have become something new. Shortly after the creation (especially since the establishment of the Soviet Union for Armenians) of teaching by pictures, which is factually a method of presentation of graphic novels, parallel with the narrative teaching method was considered the most effective, taking into consideration the phenomenon of “visual memory”. That is why generally all primers are illustrated and the material is mostly rendered by pictures. Later, “comics-stories” for children were created parallel to textbooks, however, within the time comics ceased being perceived as a format of teaching or children’s literature. Nowadays especially all the graphic novels released within the last 40 years are far from being for children: those include intimate scenes, as well as forbidden lexicon for children, violence is usual, pages of comics are painted in blood-colour. Hence, to consider those still being released generally as children’s brochures is wrong. Myriad of comics have even an age restriction to 18+ because of the pictured violent scenes.

Comics as Reading Stimuli

Some specialists regard graphic novels (comics) as the reason for the reduction of demand for books (according to classical standards), whereas the others regard as the second life. In this century of few book-readers, teenagers and young people give preference to these very comics and if print books give way to e-books, comics continue to remain preferable in printed version. This fact is contributed by some factors: first of all, comics are illustrated, have bright colouring, which does not allow to read for long on computer, and the second reason is the convenience. The more popular comics become, the more authors try to make the dialogues more meaningful, which was rare in previous comics. This is also explained by the fact that authors of science-fiction comics feel obliged to explain and interpret everything scientifically but on popular scientific level, so on the one hand young people can easily perceive it, on the other hand it will contain scientific veracity. Taking all these facts into consideration, researchers, after researches in Great Britain and the USA, have come to the conclusion that pupils reading graphic novels have richer vocabulary, perceive some physical experiments more easily and tend to read voluminous books more than other pupils, who consider it a boring activity. In this sense we must note that comics are stimuli to pupils for getting acquainted with different literary genres, as well as with science-fiction (as it was mentioned above), mythology and history. Though developments take place beyond our reality in numerous comics, there are comics that touch upon some epochal phenomena of our reality. Not in vain Arta Spiegelman’s MAUS is regarded as the best comics of our times. It was awarded with Pulitzerian prize in 1992. MAUS is about the holocaust executed in Poland, which the author has written based on his father’s memories. Jews are pictured as mice and Germans as cats in the comics. Comics also develop interest among young people towards the art. Libraries in some countries have clubs for comics-lovers, where young people not only read and discuss comics, but also try to make their own comics with interesting and original plots.

Fascinating Features and Advantages of Comics

  1. Action: generally comics develop by an alternation of important actions, where denouement follows right after the conflict, missing unnecessary details and prolonged descriptions, which are revealed in the pictures.
  2. Picturesqueness: generally when we read a book, we picture it in our minds to perceive it better. In case of comics, there is no need to imagine anything. Comics contain images themselves, hence comics have a great emotional impact on readers.
  3. Reference to topics important to young people: one of the fascinating features of comics for young people is the reference to the topics important to them, such as non- adjustability, social unfairness, personal development, contact, etc.
  4. Superheroes: generally the real prototypes of superheroes in comics are myths. These legends are just presented with a new wrapping, with a modern approach, like the fantasy genre. At all times mythical heroes divide into good and evil groupings.Supporters of good always defeat evil. This very hypothesis is laid on the basis of characteristics of superheroes in comics. The difference is that nowadays heroes are not antogenous, they are results of either failed scientific-experiments or deliberately created super-heroic serum. Originally people made up mythical heroes and glorified them, as they had always had a need of a stronger protection, than their countries could provide. Comics about superheroes are meant to protect the weak, to withstand unfairness, to prevent wars, etc. In other words super-heroic comics are a sort of modern fairy-stories for “adults”. Today two American companies of super-heroic comics, Marvell and DC, are leaders in this field throughout the world. Each of them has its peculiarities and its readership.
  5. Pleasure: the style of modern comics (colourful pictures, simplified language) makes reading more pleasant for teenagers and young people. Let us never forget that in nowadays’ reality the reduction of interest towards reading is mostly explained by boredom.

Nowadays comics producing companies know which topics are the dearest to the readers from their experience. In accordance with that super-heroic, fantasy, horror, science-fiction, dynamic-novel, comic, educational comics are especially rife. The average age of comics readers is 25. However, this is a middle statistical datum: actually, an interest towards comics among adults increases year by year. The reason is, perhaps, the variety of topics and modernity of the format. Not little is done to spread this format abroad. For example, American Library association (ALA) regularly posts materials about graphic novels on their site headed under the title “Comics are serious”, and “Criticism of the 20 th century” American publishing-house spared 100 pages for analyses of graphic novels and the most famous comics-authors, Spiegelman, Eisner, Crumb, Lee, etc.

Statistics also reveal numerical facts about fame-acquirement of this format. According to statistics on May, 2003, the market of graphic novels was worth 23,7 million dollars throughout the world. In 2013 that number reaches 45,12 million dollars. That is, comics have become for 90% more required within 10 years.

Graphic Novels in Armenia

Armenia also takes steps in comics-production. The first contest of young comics-painters in Armenia took place in 2008. Another such contest, which had a topic (Corruption and Its Negative Impact on Life), unlike the previous one, was arranged in 2013. It should be mentioned that meetings of comics-lovers are regularly held in Mirzoyan library, where young painters participate in “Drink’nDraw” event. Though graphic novels are novelty for Armenian society, they try to find their place in our reality. The fact that young comics-painters draw not only in free topics, but also try to make works of national value reachable throughout the world in comics format, is the effort of two students from Faculty of Economics to present “Daredevils of Sassoun” in illustrated comic format, giving people an opportunity to be inspired not by the heroes of Marvell, but by the heroisms of David of sassoun and other daredevils”.


  5. komiksax/komiks-kultura- komiksy-raznyx- stran/
  6. novelly

Author: Arman Veranyan: © All rights are reserved

Translated by Tamara Sargsyan