I wish I could get excited about graphic novels. I looked at Maus several years ago and tried to get into it. I couldn’t. I didn’t like having prefab images put my own imagination on hold. I didn’t like the lack of complexity I enjoy so much in a literary novel (no graphics). It was like watching tv in print. Everything is oversimplified. Reduced to its lowest common denominator.
Oddly, I loved comics as a child. I inhaled them, swallowed them whole. Stacks and stacks of regular and classic comics. I couldn’t get enough of them. I can remember walking blocks, my piles cradled in my arms in front of me, to keep an appointment with another kid who was willing to trade. It was serious stuff, these exchanges. I would go home with my new supply and bury myself until I’d read them all. They may not have been artful, but they had my attention. I was only interested then in their plots.
But why was I able to embrace them then? I think it’s because as a child, I didn’t have the same need for depth and complication. I was perfectly happy to have someone else give me the images and simple text. I see something similar happening with my husband’s eleven year old grandchildren, twins who attend private schools in England and not only speak and read Latin, French, and German, but also are reading the classics. Still, when they visit us, they are mesmerized by tv. It doesn’t require them to give something of themselves to the viewing other than just being receptacles. I feel comic books and graphic novels work in a similar way.