People in my profession and other bookly professions (editors, publishers, artists, authors, even readers) argue over whether a book should be called a comic or a graphic novel.  There is a line in Blood and Chocolate (the movie, not the book) where Vivian refers to Aiden’s books as “comics” and Aiden replies that “they’re not comics, they’re graphic novels,” at which, she shrugs.  Her shrug signifies how most people feel about the argument, while Aiden’s declaration shows the prejudices some people have against “comics”–comics are crude funny pages with bleeding color and shallow characters, among others.

My opinion isn’t a strong one.  I don’t care for super hero comics, but I do like serials.  Some of my favorites are Girl GeniusUnshelved, Questionable Content, Bad Machinery, Diesel Sweeties, Get Fuzzy and xkcd.  These are all available on the web, which is a must for me, because otherwise I will never keep up.  I do also buy some of these and they often include never before seen panels, which makes it totally worth it.  What I consider a graphic novel is a comic that tells a story contained in one book.  They can stand alone or be a series.  Some examples of these are Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Blankets by Craig Thompson, I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly, J.M. Ken Niimura (Illustrator), and–ah well, here is a list of the ones I have read in the last couple of years.   Don’t judge me too harshly for continuing Buffy through comics.  I know they aren’t as good.

What am I reading? As promised, here are some graphic novels that I learned about in a webinar a couple of weeks ago:

How I Made it to Eighteen; A Mostly True Story by Tracy White really struck a chord with me.  I have a few people near to me that struggle with some sort of addiction, whether it is drugs, alcohol or eating disorders.  This book helped me look at those illnesses from the person experiencing them’s perspective.  It made it a little easier to forgive and to stop feeling guilty for not “being there.”

This is a memoir style comic that tells how Stacy Black ended up in a mental hospital to deal with the depression that has been slowly building up  in her over the last several years.  The situation in the mental hospital reminded me of the movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story–there’s art class, group therapy, individual therapy and stark hospital rooms.  The characters have to figure out what is really wrong.  Most of them are lying, even to themselves and they can’t get help until they stop.  There are interjecting chapters where questions are asked of Stacy’s 4 closest friends that give insight into her illness as well as some into the corners of their own minds.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch This one is a much more lighthearted story set in an Orthodox Jewish community where a girl’s future is to get married, take care of the house and have children.  Mirka doesn’t deny those ideals, although she does do her best not to learn the lessons her step mother painstakingly tries to teach her.  Mirka wants to find a sword and kill a giant.  Being attacked by a pig really wasn’t what she’d envisioned for her quest.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier Another Memoir style graphic novel.  It begins with Raina in 6th grade, dreading what braces for an overbite will do to her social standing.  She races her friend to her front door, but trips and falls on the cement, knocking her one front tooth out  and the other up into her gums.  Ouch, I cringed at the scene, remembering having my own front tooth broken off when I was in Middle School.  It was years of temporary crowns until I could finally get a permanent one at 18.  I have pictures from choir of what could happen if I ate a cookie and the cap fell off.  Raina has a worse fate–several weeks of painful recovery followed by years of painful and embarrassing orthodontia.  This might sound depressing and dull, but the story is bright with coming of age stories, humor and a journey to self actualization.