2011 at 11am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Published September 2008 by Oni Press (originally appeared as 12 issues between January 2006 and June 2008)
I don’t know if I should start this post with “Oh my god, I finally read a graphic novel and it. was. awesome.” or “I’m so ashamed that it took me so long to give graphic novels a shot. What’s the matter with me?” So I’m starting with both. But first, I have some ‘splaining to do.
Until I moved to Richmond and became a bookseller four years ago, my reading preferences were narrow. Lit fic, memoir, a touch of nonfiction to mix things up. Sure, I read the occasional thriller or chick lit-y beach book, and I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone to read the Twilight series and find out what all the noise was about (if you’ve been reading The Book Lady’s Blog for a while, you know how that turned out), but I had found a happy place with books, and I was content to stay in it. I liked my tiny little box, thankyouverymuch.
But then I started blogging, and blogging led to meeting all kinds of incredible people who were passionate about all kinds of books. And I could only ignore them for so long. I’ve been dipping my toes into new genres over the last few years (I NEVER thought I’d read a romance novel), but I’ve held out on graphic novels. Why?
Well, because up until a few years ago, I was laboring under the impression that graphic novels were just comic books dressed up to appeal to grown-ups and make them feel okay about reading comic books (I know, I know…believe me, I get it now that there are many, many adults who read comics and don’t need any help feeling okay about it). You know, men in spandex swooping from the sky to save lives. Guys who develop strange powers after an accident in the lab. Damsels in distress and whatnot. The proliferation of comic book-inspired movies (and the attendant swarms of adult male fans) didn’t do much to persuade me otherwise. I mean, I love a good Things Blowing Up movie as much as the next girl (and I won’t say no to Robert Downey Jr. in a pinstripe suit or Christian Bale with that husky Batman voice any day), but do I really want to read about it? And as a verbal learner who absorbs information by reading or hearing it can I really “get” a graphic novel?
Turns out I do, and I can.
I came to this conclusion the way I’ve come to many other expanding-my-reading-horizons conclusions: I realized that people whose taste I trust and who have never steered me wrong with book recommendations were all talking about graphic novels, and I figured it was high time for me to get over what I was becoming increasingly sure were my misguided notions and actually find out for myself. So I decided to read a graphic novel, then I went and bought one (for a future episode of the Bookrageous podcast), and then Josh got tired of telling me about Local and just up and shipped it to me.
Reader, I loved it.
Local is about Megan McKeenan, a young woman who leaves her home in Portland, Oregon with nothing but her backpack and a serious case of wanderlust. Each of the twelve installments is set in a different major North American city and represents a year of Megan’s life. Authors Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly did hardcore research about each city, and it shows in the illustrations. One installment is set in Richmond, and I have stood in the places they depict, and let me tell you, the level of detail (and how accurate it is) is ridiculous. Brian Wood has crafted a character and storyline that are compelling in their own right, but Ryan Kelly’s illustrations—the depth of feeling and meaning they communicate—are really what sold me.
Turns out that my concerns about not being able to follow a story told primarily through pictures were all for naught, and my misguided conflation of graphic novels and comic books is gone gone forever. So now comes the fun part: tell me what other great graphic novels I’ve been missing out on!