Graphic Literature - Pictures With Words or Words with Pictures?

It’s been interesting to see how much graphic novels have taken a turn in the last decade. Not comic books, but graphic novels. Adult graphic books were termed as juvenile trash that supposedly ruined the young minds that read them, either corrupting their minds or making them too reliant on image, thus stagnating their reading abilities.

Despite these criticisms, it seems the genre has greatly evolved, and I have to say I've become a HUGE fan of the graphics. Again, we're not referring to comic books like Archie, Marvel or DC series (although I love these). I’m talking about literature (and everything it embodies) in graphic form.

In some ways, graphic books say a lot more than narratives do. It's one thing to type out the emotion of a character and simply read it. It’s another to visualize that emotion and see it utterly outlined in great and intricate detail by the artist. While a situation is described in a narrative, with graphics you actually get to see this situation and analyze it yourself through the images. Needless to say [and not to undermine the work of narrative authors], a lot of hard work is put in the single production and publication of a graphic novel.

So is graphic literature pictures with words, or words with pictures?

Although both the graphics and words complement each other, I believe this particular genre is picture with words rather than words with pictures. Children’s books are what I call words with pictures (illustrations), because they consist of narrations and illustrations to better describe the words. The illustrations don’t have to be there, but it’s there to help the child with better understanding and comprehension. Graphic literature leans more on the graphics, and the words are simply there to help describe the illustration. 

Can the graphics still bring understanding without words? Yes, they can. Some graphics speak for themselves with no words needed; infact, there are existing adult graphic novels that are simply images with zero words. When an artist is able to successfully portray an intricate story line simply by their graphics alone with little or no words, then they have reached a pretty high level of artistic and aesthetic achievement in the history of graphic books and art in general.

Let me introduce you to a few graphic novels that spiked my interest during my undergrad as an English major, thus planting the love seed in me:

When I read these, my interest immediately skyrocketed and I knew I had to know more, and read more.

So I read some more, and there's been no going back since... 

These are a few lovely books I've had the pleasure to read and I know will open your eyes and mind to one of the most amazing reading experiences you’ll ever encounter. If you appreciate art as much as I do but have never read graphic literature before, try something new today and pick one up; I guarantee you'll come out of this reading experience a different, more enlightened person.

PS: Check out my review of this nonfiction graphic novel - Quiet Girl in A Noisy World: An Introvert's Story.