Over the past few posts I’ve talked about how surprised I was when I discovered the wide range of genres addressed within the comic book format.
From deep psychological thrillers to political essays, passing through (auto)biographies, comics have lend themselves to become nearly factual accounts like any novel. However, the plasticity this medium has to offer allows for strong metaphorical approaches. Our world is visually distorted, real people morph into animal creatures, their actions mirrored by funny or weird/odd/outlandish behaviors.
When talking about political comic books, the first title that comes to mind is “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman. The hard critique enlaced in irony while approaching such a dark and delicate subject is known by its stark crisp visual style and incisive/scathing/sharp narrative. I know it is majorly considered a biographical work, but for me the theme of anti-Semitism prods my bleak political consciousness.
The story sparks a strong emotional response and is an obvious example of the resort to anthropomorphism to highlight the different ethnical groups and how they were treated.
And let’s not forget that Maus was the first graphic novel to be awarded a Pulitzer, in 1992. This achievement is proof of not only the high quality of this specific work but also the powerful reach a graphic novel can have.
Another example that crosses the lines between the political and coming-of-age genres is “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. As an autobiographical graphic novel, “Persepolis” it has a delves into Satrapi’s childhood and her life as a young adult in Iran. This means dealing with all the political commotion of Iran after the Islamic revolution.
Besides winning multiple awards, like the Angoulême Coup de Coeur Award, in 2001, this narrative was adapted into a 2D animation film with the same name. Satrapi wrote and directed the film. As a movie, it was recognize in multiple festivals which in turn helped solidify the comics recognition as one of the most well-known stories of its format and genre.
There are also a specific themed series like SelfMadeHero’s “Art Masters series“.. So far, you can immerse yourself in Pablo Picasso’s early years with “Pablo“ or explore the creative turmoil of Munch, Rembrandt and Vincent. These graphic biographies use the artists’ unique styles as the visual matrix of each book, so you experience their story not only through the narrative but also by the intrinsic characteristics of the illustrations. Whether you’re an art buff or just curious about one of these characters, these graphic novels are a wonderfully immersive way to delve into these unusual personas’ lives.
Memoirs, (auto)biographies, historic, fiction or in a mix of genres, graphic novels reach us through many different angles. This dynamic format allows us to delve into fantastic superhero filled worlds, but more and more comics offer us the opportunity to explore relevant current subjects of our own very real world.