In many facets of life I am a snob, and I embrace this pomposity. Coors Light does not pass my lips nor does popular music assault my ears. And graphic “novels,” oh no no no, graphic novels most certainly do not join my stack of reading materials.
Enter my daughter. She is nine and will soon be getting braces. Recently she read Smile by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel about a 7th grade girl getting braces. Soon I was harangued with, “Dad you have to read this! Read it tonight. Have you read it yet? When are you going to read it? It’s great! You have to read it. Have you read it yet? You said you’d read it. Read it right now!” So I read it.
And it was wonderful.
So I thought it was time to find the root of my prejudice against this popular format. After scant seconds of philosophical reflection, I realized that I equate graphic novel with comic book. And I do enjoy comic books when in the mood, but for my daily reading I crave novels or non-fiction with elegant prose and captivating stories.
Smile met my daily reading needs. It is a novel told with both words and pictures. Just before the main character is about to get braces she accidentally knocks out her front teeth and more serious dental measures are needed. The embarrassment of false teeth, braces, puberty and non-stop teasing by friends all make a story that is easy to relate to for anyone who has been a teenager.
“Could there be other worthwhile graphic novels out there?” I wondered quietly, or perhaps in a scary out-loud voice, to myself. The Everett Public Library catalog revealed several titles that seemed worth investigating.
I confess that I’ve somehow made it through life without being exposed to Anne Frank’s story in any detail. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a graphic novelization of this sad tale. What I found in this first graphic biography of Anne Frank was an informative, touching account of a family, people who could easily be my neighbors, and the destruction of their lives by Nazis. No comic book here—we learn about the history of Anne’s parents, events leading to the rise of the Nazi party and conditions in concentration camps. This graphic novel provides an excellent foray into events surrounding World War II and the tragedies and atrocities that resulted from the conflict.
The Adventures of Unemployed Man by Erich Origen
Yes, I was sucked in by the title and the cover. And I fully expected this tome to be a stupid comic unworthy of the virtual paper I’m currently keyboarding upon. But as the Greeks say: Eureka, I was wrong!
What I found in The Adventures of Unemployed Man is perhaps best described as a parody of Batman and other Silver Age superhero comics driven by an educational/political agenda. The Ultimatum, well-known superhero and champion of the downtrodden, makes the world a better place for the poor and disenfranchised by spouting pearls of wisdom such as “In America, if anything is possible, then why have you chosen to fail?” and “It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s you!” Upon finding abuse of workers in his own corporation, The Ultimatum confronts the board of directors and is fired. He begins a rapid descent to rock bottom, discovers the inequities of capitalism and begins a new career as Unemployed Man, champion of all who’ve lost their jobs.
But wait, there’s more! Check out these other exciting graphic novels available at Everett Public Library!