While my nights as a child were spent reading Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot, and The Far Side treasuries until I had them memorized, I didn’t get into reading comic books until much later in life.
My first introduction to comics came during the summer before my senior year of high school, when I first read Art Spigelman’s Maus. It was unlike anything I had ever read, and I remember being intrigued by such a powerful story told in an innovative way. After graduating college, I scored my dream job working at a public library, and found a source for my growing interest in comics. I dove deeply into a world that I had missed out on for so long. I found that I loved the combination of text and art working together to tell a story. Regardless of what kind of story I might have wanted, I could find it in a comic format. Which, brings me to an important point:
GRAPHIC NOVELS AND COMICS ARE A FORMAT, NOT A GENRE!
Repeat this until it haunts your dreams. The comic format can be used to tell any sort of story the author wants, and I’m hoping to expose you to the wide variety of stories available.
Another point of business is graphic novels vs comics. Some people draw a distinction between them that comics are (at least at first) published in the traditional serialized floppy comic book format, while graphic novels are published like a novel in hardback or paperback. In my opinion, I think “graphic novel” is mainly a marketing term that many people use to give comics an air of respect, which I don’t think it needs. I use the terms interchangeably, though comics is my preferred term.
I’m hoping through these posts to introduce you to the wonderful world of comics. We’ll cover some classics that everyone should read, do deep dives on some of my favorite comic creators, and whatever else y’all are interested in reading!
Elizabeth Weislak is an avid reader and lover of comics, working as a youth services librarian in North Carolina.
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Have a suggestion for what Elizabeth should review next in Comics 101?