Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, November 4, 2010

visual storytelling

I just finished reading Bone — all 1300 pages of it. It was okay, I guess. The usual cod-Tolkienian stuff, with the slight twist that the hobbits are Pogo characters. Well-enough told, but . . . meh.

I’ve been reading a number of comics-slash-graphic novels, and too many of them are trying to do in comic form what word-only forms (novels, essays) do better. There’s really no point to a graphic story in which the visual element isn't pulling a heavy load of meaning and mood. Too often you have art that isn't doing a lot except, perhaps, to conceal how drearily familiar the story is.

But a fine example of art that contributes mightily to the character and power of the storyis Asterios Polyp, which would be a fantastic book were it not marred by an utterly ridiculous ending. I get annoyed every time I think about it. But until that ending, the book is a great example of visual storytelling.


  • I've only read one of the stories on offer at www.rice-boy.com, but I get the sense that Evan Dahm's works do what you're looking for. The star of "Rice Boy" is really the strange, intricate world that Dahm has created, and the art is (I think) essential to its effect.

  • Alan--
    Have you ever read Cosey's Jonathan or A la recherche de Peter Pan? Both excellent in terms of the use of images in the narrative, though I think both are available only in French, maybe German, too...

  • Thanks for the tips, guys. My reading list is getting longer rather than shorter!

  • Alan, I would love to see your list.

    My wife and I are heavy graphic novel readers, mainly because we are also both self-employed parents and home-schoolers and can't sink as much time into single-tasking as we used to. All three of our kids used age-appropriate graphic novels to bridge them into a love of novels, but they still like to go back to graphic novels. FWIW, here are some of our favorites:

    American-Born Chinese and Eternal Smile
    The DMZ series
    Kin (Good Neighbors)
    La Perdida
    Most of Doug TenNapel's stuff
    The Arrival

    For our kids (ages 5 to 11) we've mostly done these:
    Kibuishi's Flight anthologies and Amulet series
    Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge and others
    All the Herge Tintin books + Asterix & Obelix
    Amelia Rules
    Fog Mound series
    The Plain Janes

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