Bookish Musings: Why I Love Graphic Novels & Comics (Sometimes Even More than Regular Books)

 
 

When I first started book blogging in 2015, reading a story in comic form never even crossed my mind as a thing to do. This is probably going to sound horribly judgmental or maybe just ignorant, but when I thought of comics, I thought of superheroes and Sunday newspapers, and that was about it. That was all I knew of.

But then I started hearing the term graphic novel, which somehow sounded a lot more appealing (maybe because it had the word novel in it), and hearing about ones like Saga and Sex Criminals, books that used comics as the medium but were about all sorts of things that sounded interesting to me and were compiled together into volumes and had a whole long story, just like regular books.

I read my first graphic novel, Saga Vol. 1, in November 2015. Actually, I sat and read straight into Vol. 2 and halfway into Vol. 3 all in one sitting. After eventually completing all the Saga volumes that were out, I checked out the selection on Hoopla and ended up reading the entire iZombie series in a day. Then I started Sex Criminals. Then I tried some other random GNs from Hoopla and NetGalley. More recently, I’ve also gotten into webcomics and have a whole bunch I really want to read.

So I think it’s safe to say that I have, in fact, discovered a love for graphic novels and comics. Now I will explain why, and maybe, if you’re not a comic fan already, I’ll convert you into one too ;-)


I Like Art & Pretty Pictures

I’ve always liked art. I used to be more artistic myself, but, even though I don’t do much art myself anymore, I’ve always liked to look at it, to admire it, to enjoy it. And I just like looking at pretty things in general. Don’t we all? So I like to look at pretty pictures! You don’t get those most of the time in normal novels.

 

Graphic Novels Take Less Concentration & Provide Better Distraction

Some of my chronic illness symptoms are cognitive, including brain fog and difficulty concentrating. So sometimes it’s incredibly hard for me to concentrate on regular novels. It’s also harder to concentrate when I’m not feeling well. Graphic novels are perfect for all those times because they’re just easier to focus on, probably because they have less words. And somehow having pictures to look at is a better distraction for me during those times.

 

Graphic Novels are Usually Quick Reads

And sometimes a quick read is exactly what you want/need. They’re good palate cleansers, refreshers between regular books, or slump-fixers.

 

Seeing Characters Makes Me Feel More Connected

This doesn’t necessarily always hold true, but sometimes it’s easier for me to connect to or feel for characters in graphic novels because I’m actually able to see them. This is also one of the reason I like book covers with artwork of the characters—sometimes I’ll already feel a connection or feel emotion from/between the characters before I even start reading. It’s weird because the reason I prefer books over movies is because I can’t get into characters’ minds in movies and therefore never feel as connected or invested, but then there are times when actually seeing a person’s body language or facial expressions makes me more emotional. And I think that’s also what happens for me sometimes in graphic novels.

 

It’s Like Having Automatic Fan Art

I don’t read a lot of series that are popular enough to have fan art, which is disappointing, but with graphic novels, I don’t have to be sad about that because every page is like fan art! Except even better in a way since it’s completely canon and exactly the way the characters are supposed to look!

 

Graphic Novels Can Also Just Be Good, Period

Obviously, much like regular books, not every single graphic novel or comic will be good or right for you. But I worried when I first started reading them that I wouldn’t be able to connect with characters without seeing inside their heads, or that I’d be confused, or that the characters wouldn’t be developed, or that the plot would be lacking, etc. I felt like something would be missing without all the description and thoughts and writing. And I do admit that, if I had to choose to only read one or the other for the rest of my life, I’d choose regular books. However, I’ve discovered that graphic novels can absolutely be just as amazing and engaging and developed and emotional as regular books (I swear I actually shed tears while reading one last year, and those of you who know me know that I rarely ever cry over books). They can have amazing characters and amazing stories, and those that do are worth reading for that reason alone!

 

Some of My Favorite Graphic Novels

*Covers are Amazon affiliate links (except for Hotblood). You can support this site by using them :-)*

Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Sex Criminals Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky | books, graphic novels, reading, book covers
iZombie Vol. 1 by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred
Hotblood! by Toril Orlesky
Chester 5000 XYV: Isabelle & George by Jess Fink
 

Saga Vol. 1 Review
Sex Criminals Vol. 1 Review
iZombie Vol. 1 Review
Hotblood! Review
Chester 5000 XYV: Isabelle & George Review

 

Some of My Favorite Ongoing Webcomics

*Covers link to webcomics.*

 
 
 

Talk to me!

Why do you love (or not love) graphic novels and comics?
What's your favorite one?
If you've never tried them, do you think you might one day?

 

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  1. Greg

    I’ve been getting back into GN’s more after taking a break (and it wasn’t even planned- I just didn’t pick any up for a while). It’s nice to come back. And I agree about the art- sometimes certain GN’s just click, where the writer and artist (if different) are in sync, and it just works. I love that they’re quick too.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I actually haven’t read any in a while either, except the latest Saga volume and the Bang! Bang! BOOM! webcomic that I follow whenever it updates. But it’s the best when both the art and the story are great!

  2. Adrian

    I get why people like comics and graphic novels, for me, I feel as if I’m being spoon fed things through the pictures. I like books because we each interpret things differently and I like to conjure up my own images of what someone or something looks like. But, you know, different strokes for different folks ?

    1. Kristen Burns

      I get what you’re saying because I like to make my own picture of characters in my head, and that’s why I don’t watch movie adaptations (it takes that picture away from me). But I guess it doesn’t bother me with graphic novels because I don’t have any picture beforehand to ruin, and that drawing is exactly how the character is meant to look. But yep, we all have different tastes!

  3. Daniela Ark

    ohhh here we go. You know me. Filled with odd habits. Like thinking I’m not going to like a graphic novel. Other than the ones that are humorous like Adulthood and Hyperbole and ONE horror I don;t think I have read ANY! Which one would you pick if you were me between all your favs?

    Daniela Ark recently posted: Bookworms sometimes worry!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Don’t think that way! Graphic novels are great! I can never keep track of your reading moods anymore lol, but honestly I recommend Saga to most comic newbies because that was what I started with, and it has great characters with a great story, and I’ve never seen anyone say they dislike the art.

      1. Daniela Ark

        The funny thing is the three I read I LIKED! LOL
        Thanks I see if I can find Saga! would be another bonding exercise :)
        And well.. as far as my ever changing reading moods.. I like to keep you on your toes! I wouldn’t want you to get bored with me ;-)

        Daniela Ark recently posted: Bookworms sometimes worry!

        1. Kristen Burns

          Gah, then you should read more of them! I hope you like Saga, can’t wait to see what you think :-) But don’t read it around the kids because there’s some graphic stuff, and I don’t want to be responsible for scarring them for life lol.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Don’t be intimidated! You read them left to right, and then go down the page in rows, the same way you read a normal book :-) The only ones that are different are manga. Those are all sorts of confusing to me. I think you start to get the hang of it, of figuring out which bubble to read next, the more you do it.

  4. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I feel you, sometimes graphic novels/comics are just more fun than books. They don’t take as much time to read but it never feels like you’re getting less of a story. We are never past the age of appreciating a good book with pictures (or even a good picture book in general). I think my favourite part is it’s far easier to remember who all the characters are as I’ve got their image on a page, I remember pictures better than written word descriptions. I may not remember their name still but there’s no flicking back to figure who that random named person is because I can remember their face.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Five Reasons To… Read Chaotic Good

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! And right? Why should kids be the only ones who get to enjoy pictures? I feel the opposite about the names though. In a book, the names are used a lot. “Bob walked over the bar. Mary sat down in a chair next to him. She looked at what Bob was wearing.” Whereas in comics, there’s usually not narration, so names are only used if someone happens to be like, “Hey, Bob, what’s up?”

  5. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    Oh, I love graphic novels. iZombie is great, and Saga (I need to get updated on the newest volumes though). I also really love Locke and Key by Joe Hill. I want to read all the Sandman graphic novels someday – I’ve read a couple and love them! I think it’s great to see what the characters look like; that visual aspect is a lot of fun. Plus, you can often see the emotion on their faces and that really can make you feel more than just reading someone’s sad (sometimes). I definitely want to read more graphic novels!

    -Lauren

    Let's Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted: Blow Down by J.L. Merrow

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay fellow iZombie and Saga fan! :-P I haven’t read Lock and Key, but I think it’s on Hoopla? So maybe I’ll check it out. It’s weird how actually seeing the emotion on a character’s face and their body language and all that can sometimes have more of an impact, but I feel the same way.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, there was a bit of a learning curve for me too. Do you have a library card with access to Hoopla? Cuz there are lots available there, including Saga, iZombie, and Sex Criminals.

  6. Erica Robyn

    Yaaaas! Oh my gosh, I love graphic novels as well! If you’re looking for a dark one, I HIGHLY recommend the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill. It’s by far my favorite comic series!

  7. Mikky @ Nocturnal Predators Reviews

    The first graphic novel I remember reading was a Mercy Thompson one (based on the novels by Patricia Briggs) and that was YEARS ago. I remember liking it but I don’t think I ever took it any farther than that. Up until a few years ago, I also thought of graphic novels as superhero comics! I have nothing against them, but it’s not something I’m actively seeking out. I have yet to find one with a storyline that interests me enough for me to go out of my way to read it :)

    Mikky @ Nocturnal Predators Reviews recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: Nine Movies I Adore

    1. Kristen Burns

      I haven’t read that series, so I haven’t read the GNs for it either. But that’s good you liked it! And yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to find there’s more out there than just superhero comics. Which, like you said, I have nothing against, they’re just not for me. Maybe you’ll find some GNs that work for you at some point!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, I’ve seen you reviewing some manga on your blog! That’s something I actually haven’t tried yet. I’ve read some that was manga-like, but not true manga, I don’t think. And yep, comics can be a good brain break :-)

  8. Lindsi

    I love this post! It speaks to me, lol.

    As you know, I’m a big fan of comic books. I haven’t really gotten into graphic novels, but I want to. There are some comics that have been ongoing for awhile, and I think GNs would make it easier to get through them. I’m definitely going to read Saga! It’s been highly recommended.

    I agree that sometimes it’s easier to read through a comic, and it helps you feel connected to the characters. I like to read them between books, because I feel like it exercises and entertains a different part of my brain. I love the artwork and how the story is played out over multiple issues.

    They’re also just a lot of flipping fun!

    Do You Dog-ear?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha yes! I do know you’re a fan! It’s good to have a fellow fan, even if our taste in comics is different. Saga is a great one, I think you might like it.

      Yeah, I actually wondered if maybe comics, because of the images, stimulate a different part of the brain. Like, not just figuratively, but literally. Either way, they are just a different experience, and sometimes they’re exactly what I’m in the mood for! And when you find one with good artwork, that’s the best.

      Yes, that too!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, Saga took my graphic novel virginity :-P I haven’t read much in the way of horror GNs, but I have read one or two that might fall into that category.

  9. Sam@WLABB

    I think graphic novelists are very impressive, because they are able to tell a story and evoke strong emotions with so little text. To be able to pick just the right words, and then have an illustrator, who can fill in the gaps and flesh out the full story takes a lot of skill.

    Sam@WLABB recently posted: Discussion: How Do You Round?

    1. Kristen Burns

      You’re so right! I wouldn’t even know how to pick and choose which moments to show and how to use just pictures and dialogue to evoke emotions and tell a story. It’s impressive, both what the writers and the artists do.

  10. Luna & Saturn

    We normally don’t read graphic novels and comics too often, though we do read manga, which is pretty much the same thing. True, reading graphic novels can make us feel more connected to the story, but sometimes the character doesn’t look like what we expect them to be, which takes time getting used to.

    ~ Luna & Saturn @ Pendragons

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I’d say manga is the same thing. It’s the same medium, even if the stories are maybe different :-) I’ve never had that problem with characters not looking how I imagine in a graphic novel cuz I’ve never read a GN that was a companion to a regular book or anything like that. But I can see how that would be a problem if that’s the kind of thing you’re talking about.

  11. Stephanie Jane

    An ex-boyfriend was into graphic novels and comics in a big way so due to that negative connotation I’ve avoided them for years. I also kinda thought of them as just something for boys which I Know Is Really Silly!! Social conditioning, huh?

    Your enthusiasm is tempting me to give a couple a try, especially as they’d probably be good for discovering WorldReads authors. A question though, does the formatting work ok in digital editions (like NetGalley) or is it necessary to get paper editions?

    Stephanie Jane recently posted: Jennifer Brown's Journey by Angie Langley

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ah, yeah, I can see why you’d avoid them cuz of the ex reminder. But no worries, I thought they were just about superheroes (which, nothing wrong with that, but not for me!), so I can’t blame you for also having strange ideas about them.

      I totally recommend giving them a try though! I’ve never bought one through Amazon, but I know they sell them, so I’m sure those must work fine. To get them from NetGalley, you have to read them in the Adobe Digital Editions thing on the computer (or maybe something similar, but that’s all that’s ever worked for me). I’ve never found a way for them to work on Kindle. I backed one on Kickstarter once, and it was sent as a PDF. Also if you have access to Hoopla, there are lots available to read on there. So it really depends where you’re getting it from.

  12. louise ☆

    I haven’t read any comics for quite some time now because I’ve kind of gone off of Western superhero comics, but recently I’ve gotten back into manga and I love them for all of the reasons you’ve said you love graphic novels. I sometimes have difficulty concentrating too, so comics are definitely perfect for those times!

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s great! I haven’t read manga, but I can definitely see how this post would still apply since it’s all the same medium, even if the stories are maybe different :-) Comics are so great for those times when it’s hard to concentrate!

  13. Lola

    I used to read a lot of manga when I was in my late teens I think it was. I like stories in whatever format they come in and manga’s were just another medium of experiencing stories. And what I really like about maaga’s or graphic novels is that you also have the art and that somehow adds so much to the story as well. And it was nice how I could read a manga in an hour or so. Nowadays I rarely read them anymore. When my money got tight I stopped buying manga’s as they are pretty pricey for the amount of time you can spent reading them, so books seemed to offer more story for the same price, so I only bought books. And I never seemed to get back at maga’s or graphic novels as much as I used to, although I still have a whole collection of them on my shelves. And some series I hope to buy the rest of the books of someday.

    I think you sum it up pretty well here what is so great about graphic novels, the art can really add something and indeed they seem easier to get into at times than novels. And they are usually pretty quick reads indeed. I know I could read most manga’s in an hour or so. And indeed the stories can be just as good as in books, it’s just another medium to tel those stories.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #276

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, they’re all stories, regardless of the medium! I love looking at the art, so I agree it does add something to the story. Unfortunately GNs do cost more, though I can understand why. But that’s why I mostly get mine through NetGalley or Hoopla (library). I’m glad you feel the same way about my points!

  14. Olivia-Savannah Roach

    The only downside to graphic novels is the price DD: Back when I was a member of a library I used to read them more, especially when my favourite books were made into graphic novels and I could reread them in that form. I love the artwork and how quick of a read they are – something calming on the brain. But yeah, the price is almost the same as a normal book (I get that we are paying fo the artwork too, as well as the story though) so almost every time a long book wins out over buying a graphic novel.

    Olivia-Savannah Roach recently posted: Private Reserve [Book Review]

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, they’re pricier :-/ though I understand why. But that’s why I mostly get mine through Hoopla or NG. They are kind of calming on the brain though, aren’t they? I’ve only read one graphic novel based on a book, but I really enjoyed getting to see the story in a different format!

  15. Aleen @ Lampshade Reader

    Graphic Novels are like brain candy for me. Like you I read to cleanse my pallet in between books and I love that they’re quick reads as well. Great post. Glad to find a fellow blogger that loves GN as much as I do. :) (even though I’m fairly new to reading them on a regular basis. :) )