What I Learned When I Started Reading Graphic Novels

I’ve never been a huge fan of graphic novels. I’ve made that pretty clear. They just never did it for me. The art didn’t appeal and I had trouble sometimes figuring out what panel I was supposed to read next. While I wasn’t the type of person to say ‘Well, it’s not really reading, is it?”, I definitely thought it at least once or twice. However, given my partner reads them, and my eight-year-old loves them… Let’s just say it was inevitable I would say “Okay, geesh, what’s the big deal?” and give them a proper try.

So, what did I find out?

Well, first off, and probably most surprisingly – I found that I wasn’t the only one who sometimes had trouble figuring out what panel I was supposed to read next! You have no idea how happy I am to have found that out. I felt like an idiot because so many people enthuse about how awesome graphic novels are, and I would get a headache just trying to read them sometimes. I like things to be neat and orderly, and that was a rare find in the world of graphic novels.

Book cover for Saga Vol 1

The biggest help for me with this has been ComiXology.com (no, this isn’t a paid ad or anything.) ComiXology has this thing called ‘guided reading view’. When you double-click on a panel, it automatically enters you into guided reading view. That starts showing you the book one panel at a time – blown up large to fit your screen – and then when you swipe, it leads you straight to the next panel! Seriously, my enjoyment of graphic novels went up by AT LEAST 25% when I could suddenly just sit back and just read the story. And it’s not one of those things you had to search to find, either. Guided Reading is easy to spot and start. I love it.

I learned that I have no interest in superhero comics. And that that’s okay. Because there are lots of graphic novels out there for me to read that don’t involve superheroes! (Who else out there basically had that misconception? I know it couldn’t just have been me.) I think I started to realize this when I was reading some of my child’s graphic novels with her. Books like Ghosts and El Deafo. But those are kids books, so I didn’t really even consider if it would apply to adult books, too. The possibilities for adult reads hit my awareness when I snagged a copy of Saga Vol 1 while at Barnes & Noble and gave it a read. And then when I read Lumberjanes Vol 1 shortly thereafter, I started to really get interested.Book cover for Scooby Apocalypse #1

Finally, I saw Scooby Apocalypse at B&N and every time I was in there, I found myself wandering over to have a look at it. I just couldn’t convince myself to pay $16.00 for a comic book! And that, ladies and gents, led to me voluntarily buying my very first (e-book) graphic novel. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. So much more than I thought I would. I got into Scooby Apocalypse in a way I normally only get into purely-print books. 

I discovered that I’m definitely a bit of a style snob. There were several books that I picked up, looked at a few pages, and then put right back down. The ‘look’ of them did nothing for me, so I didn’t want to keep reading. I’m probably missing some good stories, but if I don’t enjoy what I’m looking at, what’s the point?  And then, right on the heels of learning that I’m a style snob, I also learned that if I give a story a chance, it might hook me anyways. (Still not going to stop me from not giving most books a chance because of the artwork, though.)  The Manhattan Projects Vol 1 brought that point home to me.  I disliked the artwork intensely, but I needed to read more.

So, all positive things thus far, right? I’m painting a rosy picture of reading graphic novels, aren’t I? I’ve learned a lot of positive things about graphic novels since I started reading them. And I have to say I’ll definitely pick up more of them in the future to read. I’m learning what I like and don’t like, and figure my experience can only get better.

But…Graphic Novels Still Lack Something

I still don’t get the same feeling of fulfillment from graphic novels that I get from reading books. (Maybe this is because they stretch out their stories over issue upon issue instead of just giving me one complete story?) I don’t like it when writers parcel out their story into bite-sized pieces, and I don’t like it in graphic novels either. I know it’s a different format, and that the drawing and stuff takes longer to do. I also don’t care. I’ll borrow these from the library, but I’m not going buy a lot of graphic novels. I’m just not interested in spending a lot of money on a story that if, in written format, I could probably get in one or two books.

And I learned that I still prefer non-illustrated work. Graphic novels are definitely fun, but they have a place and a time for me. They’re good for me to read when I don’t feel like devoting the brain power to reading a non-illustrated work. The horror/scary themed ones I’ve read were mostly fun to read (Wytches aside), but they didn’t even come close to spooking me. Scooby Apocalypse is fun, but if it wasn’t for a lingering affection from watching Scooby Doo growing up, I can’t say I’d have ever sought it out.  I’ll read more of it in the future, but it just didn’t have the sci-fi bones I crave.


Overall, I have to say that it’s been an interesting and positive experience reading graphic novels. I can no longer say that graphic novels just aren’t my thing because some of them definitely are. I’ve learned that even the graphic novels like Lumberjanes and Scooby Apocalypse are fun to read with my kiddo. Once I started enjoying them, it ratcheted up my enjoyment of reading them with her. We were both in stitches over Lumberjanes Vol 1. And finally, I’ve learned to appreciate the depths of what is available for people like me, who aren’t interested in superhero books but still want to read graphic novels.

What about you? Are you a graphic novel fan? What are some of your favorites?

Did you ever have trouble reading graphic novels?

Talk to me!


6 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Started Reading Graphic Novels

  1. Having a girlfriend who is a cartoonist and who is working on a graphic novel, it’s not surprising I’ve read some, both those that began as individual comic books in a series (the majority you easily find out there) and some that were conceived and written that way.

    In some ways, writing a successful graphic novel is very hard, since it has to be both well written and well drawn, and that’s two way the creator(s) can misjudge your tastes. And on top of that is the issue that some things should not be turned into graphic novels, either because their subject matter doesn’t come across well in pictures, or they require delivering more information that can comfortably go with pictures.

    Probably the most helpful graphic “novel” my girlfriend brought home was “Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person” by Miriam Engelberg; it matters because my girl friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the time. (And she’s free of it 7 years later, so happy ending for her.)

    1. I think I’ve actually heard of that one graphic novel! I’m glad she’s breast cancer free now and has been for so long. Thats great, Brian!

      Some things should definitely not be made in GNs, but some stuff that you wouldn’t think would work… Does. Like Maus.

  2. I love comics and graphic novels! But I’m totally with you here. It wasn’t hard for me to read the panels of comics, but when I tried mangas, I got confused because the direction to read is reversed.
    And I also didn’t want to read the superhero comics so I was glad when I heard about Saga and Rat Queens and The Wicked + the Divine, which were the first ones I read when I decided to get into this. I agree that they aren’t as fulfilling as reading a novel, but I see them as a different way of reading so I don’t expect my experience with them to be the same as with novels.
    I’m also a style snob too and have avoided some comics because I don’t like the artwork. The artwork is a major factor for me because I think the whole point is to see illustrations and words working together to get a point across. Because of this, I avoided Fables for a while, but finally bought a copy a couple days ago because I kept hearing how great the story is. My curiosity was stronger than my dislike of the art and the paper quality, which looks like newsprint. It has that newspaper, vintage style to it.

    1. That’s a good point. They are a different way of reading so maybe our expectations should be different! I haven’t read anything you mentioned but Saga. I have delved more into the horror side with 68, Hellraiser, 28 days later, etc.

      I love that I’m finally able to read these types of books with Miss L and actually enjoy them (even if she does make me read Ms. Marvel.)

  3. There’s one I made the mistake of downloading from NG that I can’t get through because reading it as a PDF is nearly impossible 🙁

  4. I’m so so relieved to know I’m not the only one who has issues with graphic novels. I’ve had one one NG for a few weeks but 1 I had to download something to read it, 2 I get lost with all the cases!

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