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The Graphic Novel

by Peter Sugarman

This is a collection of free-arising thoughts on comic books and their evolution.

Comic books work with their limitations to achieve the highest possible artistic expression. Words and story lines are limited to precious, poetic headlines. The art is static, yet must tell a story that moves. It is a two dimensional medium which must invoke three dimensions within the imagination.

When comics become inspired, they leave the page, "break plane", snap the gap. They come out to getcha!

The graphic novel came into its own in this country when the comic industry realized that the Baby Boomers had grown up and, still reading funny books, they would not quail from the prospect of shelling out 8, 12, 15 bucks for a single comic. That is, provided that it was substantial, both in size and in merit.

The Japanese have always taken the comic form seriously. The Europeans have also treated the comics with great respect, bringing it to artistic fruition long before we did.

Five Great Graphic Novels

Batman - The Killing Joke
Written by Alan Moore
Drawn by Brian Bolland
Published by DC Comics
Written by Alan Moore
Drawn by Dave Gibbons
Published by DC Comics
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Written by Frank Miller
Drawn by Frank Miller
Published by DC Comics
The Dark Phoenix Saga
Written by Chris Claremont
Drawn by John Byrne
Published by Marvel Comics
Give Me Liberty
Written by Frank Miller
Drawn by Dave Gibbons
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Classiest Graphic Novel Ever?

Published in 1989, The Complete Frank Miller Batman wins hands down. Copyright held by DC Comics, this edition was published by Longmeadow Press. It cost, at publication, in the neighborhood of thirty bucks and is worth every penny. It is leatherbound, the pages edged in metallic silver, with an exquisite design gracing the inside covers. It even has a silk ribbon for a bookmark. (The mind boggles.) Like a good Chinese meal- must look good, smell good, taste good. YUM!

The Complete Frank Miller Batman includes:

Batman: Year One
written by Frank Miller, drawn by David Mazzucchelli
Wanted: Santa Claus Dead or Alive
written by Denny O'Neil, drawn by Frank Miller
The Dark Knight Returns
written by Frank Miller, drawn by Frank Miller.

What is it like, reading comic books in my forties? I see popular culture becoming more like the comics all the time. That Batman was such a successful movie came as no surprise to me. "The Year of the Bat" was a vastly pleasurable vindication of my private passion.

TV and film, the moving media, are migrating closer to the clear moral structure of comics, with clean sides drawn on the good/evil question.

Comics, on the other hand, are evolving into an ever more complex and subtle artform. The best comics deliver the subtlety and moral complexity that used to be the province of the "fine arts".

As Mike Gunderloy says, "Comics are serious business".

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