Of late, I have been reading a few of what one calls as graphic novels. In short, these are comic like books that deal with simpler themes than saving mankind and are targeted at a less interesting audience. The first graphic novel I picked up was Marjane Satrapi’
s Perspolis series. Satrapi has the ideal profile for an author- Iranian woman, immigrant, liberal, non veil-wearing; and Persepolis
was a huge critical success. The series deals with the life of an Iranian woman who attended school at Iran
during the revolution. It has occasional moments of brilliance but overall plays to western stereotypical notions of liberal Muslim women.
Eventually, I ended up reading the pioneer of graphic novels: Will Eisner. Eisner worked for DC comics during the depression years and his books are closely related to the lives of struggling people and families of New York. Eisner’s story lines are well knit, thought-provoking and supported by really good graphics. For example, in his work “A Life Force”; Eisner draws analogy between the unique power of two species - human beings and cockroaches, to survive and multiply among all adversities. Eisners “Contract with God” is regarded as the milestone in the history of graphic novels; I am yet to access it.
And then there is Art Spiegelman; his Maus series is one of the most acclaimed graphic novels. I haven’t yet read Maus; but have read through his series on 9/11: In the Shadow of No Towers. Spiegelman, an ex-New Yorker cartoonist, uses quite innovative techniques: Imposing photographs, posters etc. But his obsession and over emphasis on 9/11 as a total U-turn for American lives seems quite an exaggeration.
I am not sure if graphic novels are available in bookstores in India; works by some of the authors are available at FirstandSecond.com, but there they are prohibitibly expensive. Would strongly recommend to read a few if one happens to be abroad. They are good read; can be finished in a couple of hours; and most important of all: they are the in-thing now.
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