Graphic Novels' Stories Appeal to All Types of Readers

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Long

Outside they're the size and shape of an ordinary book, but inside they look like comic books. What are they? Most likely, they're graphic novels.

Joel Hahn, a cataloging assistant at the Niles Public Library told me that a graphic novel is a book that uses art and words together to tell a story and is much longer than a standard comic book.

"But it doesn't have to be fiction," he said. "One of the best- known graphic novels is about one man's life before, during, and after being imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp."

Hahn was referring to "Maus," by Art Spiegelman, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

The term was coined in 1978 when legendary cartoonist Will Eisner created a four-part story in cartoon form called "A Contract with God," put all four parts into one hardbound book, and labeled it a "graphic novel" right on the cover. Comic book publishers seized on the trend, realizing that many people had grown up with comic books and were ready for something more sophisticated. Graphic novels became a new form of publication and are now so mainstream that they are available at most public libraries and even cataloged with "graphic novel" as a subject heading.

I asked Jane Halsall, head of youth services at the McHenry Public Library, which patrons read graphic novels.

"Everybody," she said, and went on to point out that they are favorites with males ages 14 to 24.

I asked her what graphic novels were about, and she said, "Everything," noting that "A Contract with God" was about people living in a Bronx tenement. Another Will Eisner graphic novel, "Life Force," is about life during the depression. Eisner even wrote his autobiography "To the Heart of the Storm" in graphic novel form. …