Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Graphic Novels-- The Rant

Jeff Smith has been publishing his series about Bone since 2005, which puts him ahead of the crowd. Bone: Out From Boneville was amusing enough, and didn't look like a medieval-ish fantasy As Performed By The Cast of Speed Racer. This is my main complaint about the majority of these titles.

In short, Phone Bone, Fone Bone (which was needlessly confusing) and their cousin leave Boneville for vague reasons, get lost, get separated, and and spend the winter apart. Fone finds a girl named Thorn, and stays with her and her grandmother, who races cows. Rat like creatures threaten the community, and seem to be targeting Phone for unknown reasons, but the cousins are all protected by a dragon. The cousins eventually find each other and all seems well, but clearly there is still a problem and lots more adventures to come.

This was fine, fairly clever, and distinctive. I was vastly confused because this looked rather like Walt Kelly's Pogo at first, complete with a character with a cigar and hat talking in weird dialect. Pogo was apparently an inspiration for Bone, but no more than that.

The Rant-- Got a catalog from Perma-Bound proclaiming "Graphic Novels!" Problem is that these are mainly reworking of young adult novels ala Speed Racer. These are okay-- I don't mind handing them to reluctant readers who might then try the novel. What I object to is the way everything is now a graphic novel, and the artwork is pretty bad. Moby Dick: The Graphic Novel? Bleargh.

I think my complaint centers around the lack of creativity. Bone has some originality. Certainly Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret was innovative. Actual translations of Japanese manga seem very much the same to me, and some of the interesting graphic novel have mature content. I loved Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle. Pictures supported the story. A little goofy, but fine. Captain Underpants uses illustrations well. Did enjoy The Plain Janes, but felt the audience for it was limited. (Boys like these a lot more than girls.)

I am having trouble locating original, creative graphic novels. I would not mind buying these. I just refuse to purchase huge amounts of things like R.L. Stine's Creepy Creatures just because they are graphic novels.

1 comment:

  1. I had a very similar reaction to Bone, I think. The Pogo characters don't even really fit the rest of the style either. The story arc IS odd, but at least original.

    It could be a huge and important market, but you're right, there's not much available right now outside of english-version manga, reworks of books and superheroes.

    Scholastic's imprint "Graphix" (Bone's publisher) is a good start, but those are mostly for younger middle graders, not YA.

    There are a few of small publishers ("indie") making quality, original graphic novels (First Second, Top Shelf), but a lot of those are pretty adult oriented. One, though, I've heard a lot about lately is "Life Sucks" a modern-day teen vampire story.

    DC has an imprint for graphic novels just for girls called Minx that has a few good ones (like "The Plain Janes").