If a picture is worth a thousand words, how would you count the pictures of a graphic novel, in terms of how they make you feel?
I’ve read about four graphic novels and each one was so good.
I took them in pairs. The first pair was Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History (I’ll call it Maus I for future reference) and Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. Both novels cover Spiegelman’s relationship with his father, who is a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, and his father’s experiences in Auschwitz. What’s interesting about this book is how Spiegelman chose to depict the different people in the book: the Jews are mice, the Poles are pigs, the Germans are cats, the Americans are dogs and the French are frogs.
I read Maus I and Maus II because World War II history is fascinating to me and I loved the author’s approach of telling the story through a series of cartoons. (The Pulitzer people thought so, too. Maus I won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and was the first graphic novel to earn that honor.)
The story is brutal — especially since it describes what happened in Auschwitz — but seeing it depicted in pictures makes it even more real, somehow. When we read an author’s words, I think we form pictures in our minds of the characters and their environment in our minds. Here, the pictures were already there, in front of me.
I find it mildly ironic, in a literary way, that the “Spiegel” part of Spiegelman’s last name means “mirror” in German. You could argue that Spiegelman was holding up a mirror to his family’s past?
The second pair was Persepolis: The Story Of A Childhood and and Persepolis 2: The Story Of A Return by Marjane Satrapi. These books are Satrapi’s memoirs of her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, her college years in Austria and her eventual return to Iran. Feisty, funny and intense, Satrapi went through a variety of experiences, including homelessness and racism, that influenced her progress from young girl to adult woman.
I read both Persepolis books from curiosity after I heard about the 2007 animated movie and to discover what life was like for ordinary Iranians. Nobody seems to talk about that very much. (Travel expert Rick Steves did once, in a travel documentary.) We hear about a country’s turmoils and political problems from news sources, but day-to-day life for the average person gets missed sometimes. I’m of the opinion that most people are just that — people. They may have different looks or ways of living, but in the end, they’re just people. (Or bloggers.)
The most moving scene in Persepolis shows the death of a friend, who was running from a party that had been raided by guards enforcing the morality code. You see the silhouette of young men being chased and jumping from rooftop to rooftop at night. In the next panel, the last man tries a jump and in the panel after that, there’s no young man any more. It was a more poignant way of evoking a reaction from readers than a mere word-filled description.
Will I read more graphic novels in the future? Maybe. I’d like to try Japanese manga novels someday.