The Graphic Reader
Q: What are comics? Graphic Novels? Manga and Manhwa?
A: Comics are defined as “An artistic medium consisting of juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer (also, comix)” (Definition courtesy Scott McCloud). There are entire books devoted to the definition and explanation of comics, so you can hunt those down If you want. (see the end of the FAQ for suggested titles)
Graphic Novels are traditionally self-contained stories in an illustrated format following the conventions of comic illustration. Major monthly publishers often collect story arcs into books called Trade Paperbacks, but they're usually considered to be graphic novels as well. Allison Bechtel’s “Fun Home” is a graphic novel, whereas Marvel’s “X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills” is a trade paperback. Most folks consider both the be graphic novels.
Manga and Manhwa are two types of foreign comics, from Japan and Korea respectively. Manga is usually easy to distinguish from comics by not only the art style, but also the publishing format. Where western titles read left to right, Manga reads right to left.
Q: Aren’t comics and graphic novels just a waste of time? Y’know, vapid kid’s stuff that leads to societal collapse?
A: While I feel an urge to strike you around the head and chest with a copy of Action Comics #1, I will refrain from doing so to address this seriously.
Comics have been around (arguably) since the invention of cave images. Well, let me rephrase that. Communication through images has been around since cave paintings. The modern understanding of comics didn’t really coalesce until 1895, with the creation of Richard F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid. From there, comics went through a flurry of excitement, often with certain titles helping to sell newspapers. Before long, publishers started branching out into monthly titles. The first American title that most historians point to as the definitive “First comic book” was published by Dell Publishing in 1933, titled Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics. It wasn’t until 1938 however that comic books effectively became synonymous with super heroes, with the creation of Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Skipping a fair amount of history, in 1954, Dr. Frederic Wertham, a noted psychiatrist published his infamous book, Seduction of the Innocent (which has subsequently been pilloried and debunked) which prompted parts of the US Government to examine the detrimental effects of comic books on America’s youth. The Comics Code Authority was subsequently created, and almost destroyed the medium in the process. Their self-governing, self-censorship forced stories to become “family friendly” and “safe” for kids – basically, the CCA gutted comics to the point they became vapid, uninteresting, silly stories that few people would want to read. The CCA controlled publishing abilities for close to 60 years before its final collapse in 2011.
Now, think about a governing body that controls what you can and can’t read for 60 years. Operating under the guise of keeping people safe, they controlled the themes of comics for so long that people began to believe that there was something to be protected from in comics. That then fueled the concepts that comics were bad, or they were subversive, or they were contributing to the downfall of civilization. Fortunately, the CCA has been dismantled, and comics have begun to reclaim their rightful place in American Literature.
Q: But don’t they?
A: But don't who do what? Oh! Do comics contribute to civil disobedience! No. Not any more so than watching a medical drama will make you a doctor, a gun will make you a terrorist, or eating fish on Friday will doom you to hell. On a side note, you should really clarify your questions.
Q: So, what do you hope to accomplish here?
A: I want to help folks find titles they will enjoy reading. Go to your local library sometime. Find a section of the library you’re not familiar with. Take in the size of this section. What do you suppose is the likelihood of finding a book at random that is going to really grab you, and make you want to come back for more? That’s what librarians help with. Now, that’s just a broad generalization of both comics and librarians, but that’s what I see myself as. A steward of reading interests when it comes to comics. I do the majority of heavy lifting (I read a lot of comics) and then write about them to help folks find titles they will enjoy.
Q: What makes you think you're qualified to do this?
A: Wow, way to make me feel self-conscious. Since I don't think that was your original intent, and with the web being a horrible transmitter of tonal frequency, body language, and other subtle indicators of communication, I'll take that as an earnest question and check my anxiety. I've been a lifelong reader of comics, starting out with old Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics. around the age of 7, I discovered the underground "Comix" scene via The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Fat Freddie's Cat, among other titles. As I got older, I followed the exploits of The X-Men, Bat-Man, Archie and others, while hearing rumors of subversive and transgressive titles. In my later teens, I discoverd the wonder of Vertigo, along with the works of Robert Crumb, Spain, Alan Moore, Bill Willingham, and Neil Gaiman. All my life, people said that comics were a waste of time and had no literary value. After reading Art Speigelman's Maus and Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, I realized that comics and graphic novels are just as powerful and important as any other work of world literature. Eventually, I wrote a book about graphic novels for younger readers, and started doing talks about how graphic novels and comics can be used for childhood literacy and how comics can be used to bridge between different classroom elements. I've branched out into the history of comics at times, and talked about some of my favorite authors. I've been a presenter at Page 23 (the literary arm of Denver Comic COn) and have given several presentations at libraries across the Western Slope of Colorado. I'm a founding member of the Comics Studies Society, and I read every day (on average I manage 3 - 5 titles) and by my estimation, I've probably read well over 10,000 books. That may seem like hyperbole or exaggeration, but there are many, many more books than that out there.
Q: Have you read <Title of random book>?
A: Possibly. Check the archives. If there’s not a review, drop me a line. I may have not read it yet, or I have read it, and I just haven’t written a review, or I didn’t feel it warranted a review, or I just didn’t like it. There’s also a good possibility that I haven’t heard of it. I’m always on the lookout for new titles, especially from indie or debut artists/writers. If there's a title you think I need to check out (that you didn't write/illustrate) let me know.
Q: I’ve written/illustrated a comic book. Will you review it?
A: First off, thank you for thinking of me! I’m deeply honored that you value my opinion enough to ask me to look at your work. That being said, if you want me to review your book, contact me so we can discuss details. Even if I don’t publicly review your work, I’ll give you a private review. Basic rule of thumb, especially for first timers, send me a digital copy if you can. That will save you printing/shipping costs, and it will save me storage space. If you want to send me a hardcopy version, I won’t say no.
Q: Why did you review <Title of random book>? What is wrong with you?
A: First off, there’s plenty wrong with me, but I’m not giving you permission to judge. Second, I'm guessing you've been in the Mature section. Might I suggest the general audience section instead?
As for why I review a certain title, there is a whole slew of criteria I run through to determine what I review, and why. Most of the time, it boils down to a) how new is the title in question? 2) is this something that I feel many people would enjoy? 3) what about this title captured my interest? 4) how much time do I have before I flip out and rush a review.
Q: I understand you will commission banners from time to time. What are your requirements?
A: Yes! I love doing banners for the site. The only major requirement is that the title of the site be prominently displayed. I can only afford approximately $20 for the image, and I retain the copyright on that specific image. If the image includes a character you have created, you retain all rights to that character. Please, do not use any copyrighted characters that do not belong to you, unless you have written permission from the copyright owner. You will be credited for your work. I don't solicit work without compensation, but if you want to gift artwork, I'm more than happy to take it. Please contact me to discuss details.
Q: I’m offended by something on the site!
A: I’m sorry. Perhaps we can discuss it privately. If not, you’re welcome to go elsewhere.
Q: the images you have are interesting. what are they from?
A: Well, the majority of them are from comic books that have fallen into the public domain. The images are as follows:
News and Updates: Daredevil and the Little Wise Guys from Daredevil (Lev Gleason Publications): The Complete Archive vol. 1
Newest Reviews: Anti-Man from Fatman the Human Flying Saucer #1
Reviews for All Ages: Crauley from The Spirit #11
Reviews for Mature Audiences: (I've lost the original attribution! If anyone can help, please drop me a line!)
Frequently Asked Questions: The Spirit and Plastic Man from Police Comics #23
About the Graphic Reader: Saitama from One Punch Man (Chapter unknown. If you can help, drop me a line!)
Forums: Magno and Davey Vs. a Nameless Nazi from Super-Mystery Comics Vol. 2 #4
Even though the majority of these characters are in the public domain, I do not offer any claim to ownership f said characters.Copyrighted characters are owned by their copyright holders.