So, I’ve been thinking about the graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimistriou with art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Dona and graphic novels in general.
I read the book last year when my school library got it and put it in a prominent position on the graphic novel shelf. The title alone was intriguing and knowing I was going to be teaching a course called Truth and Fiction meant I was double intrigued.
I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels in the past few years for a few reasons. First, my personal kids like them and I like to read what they read so that we can talk about what the same book. Seriously, there are very few more satisfying dinner table conversations than when we are all talking about a book we love or don’t love. Next, the graphic novel genre is not one I know well, and I am trying to fix that. I’ve been reading some that are aimed at the middle school crowd, some aimed at the older kids, some commentary, and some that just have good cover art. I will admit, I am more influenced than I probably should be by a good cover. One group I have not read a lot is the classic superhero graphic novels. I have Watchmen on my desk, staring at me, watching me, while I read other books. (I recently watched the ThugNotes video on it, and I’m ready to give it a solid attempt. Soon.)
In addition, I am a fan of books that integrate drawing and graphics into a story even if you might not look at them and say graphic novel. For example, I LOVED Maira Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness. Another book I noticed on the library shelf at school. This is totally the way my brain works when it’s spinning. Some information, some story, a great image, some art, some potentially random connections and leaps of logic. Finding an author who speaks your language is exhilarating. On the other hand, The Collected Works of T. S. Spivet, although highly recommended by NPR librarian/reviewer Nancy Pearl had a lot of potential with side notes and maps of all manner of things and events, but somehow it didn’t work for me.
Back to Logicomix. Reading it has made me unwilling to read mediocre graphic novels. By that I mean graphic novels where I can’t tell the characters apart because one angry young man looks just like every other angry young man, and they are all in a band together playing angry music. Sigh. I am not the target audience for that book. I have also discovered that I do not appreciate marching through row upon row of same sized rectangles. I may have set my standards too high, but I blame Logicomix again. The interesting and thoughtful paneling layouts added to the story.
Before the winter holidays, I read a pair of graphic novels about the development of the atomic bomb. Having seen a review of the newer Trinity by Jonathan Fetter Vorm, I was interested in checking it out. One not very flattering review mentioned the older Fallout by Jim Ottaviani so my school’s librarian got them both for me through interlibrary loan. I love having a library at my place of work. Have I mentioned that before? It is seriously fantastic. Both books are about the Manhattan Project and therefore have many of the same people in them. In addition, both are in black and white. Even with these similarities the books differ in style, story, and concept. Fallout has a lot more surrounding events and a longer timeline. Trinity is a more straightforward narrative with some helpful science explanations to help the reader. I enjoyed them both and did not feel that Trinity was a poorly done remake of Fallout.
Then over winter break I read the charming Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, author of the Lumberjanes series. Nimona is a wannabe supervillain sidekick. She is pudgy, has some anger issues, doesn’t run around in the equivalent of a swim suit, and ends of sidekicking for a super villain who may or may not be more good guy than bad guy. Totally lovely. My personal kids had already read it and had somehow neglected to tell me that I should do the same.
I am slowly working my way to some comics and have recently read a collection of issues of Chew, a series from Image Comics where the main characters have food related superpowers. Weird and not for the squeamish, but I’ll be reading more.
Anyway, I think the point here, if there is one, is that this relatively new-to-me genre is one that I am actually starting to understand and appreciate. I have put in some time to get here, and it has been worth it. Do students get to have this experience? Do they get to decide to take on something of their choosing, about which they know very little, and just keep going on their own, changing direction, altering their course, ultimately reaching some level of understanding they can articulate for themselves?