Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I Look For In A Comic Book/Graphic Novel/Manga

Sequential art can take many different forms, but good storytelling can take even more shapes when it comes to the world of literature. Though most comics that are popular deal with superheroes, there are, in actuality, just as many genres in the medium as there are in television. In the United States we tend to think of comics in terms of either superhero stories or kid's stories, but over the years slice of life, drama, mystery, and every other type of story has found it's way to panels and pages.

When I'm selecting a comic to read, I often do something that most people say is wrong to do, which is judge the book by its cover. If the artwork isn't something that grabs my attention, be it in a subtle or arresting way, I'm not likely to purchase or read it. The next step for me is to always jump to a page, any will do, but I often find myself in the middle. When I've found a page, I'll take a look at the panel layout and see how the pacing of the story is setup. If it's overly wordy or the format seems to be dull, I might want to shelve the book without another thought. Not every wordy or simple formatted comic is bad, but it often means it isn't being told with as much versatility as the art form allows.

After that's done, I of course consider the overall genre that I'm dealing with. Superhero stories by now are pretty easy, I know which characters I like and what kind of stories I enjoy reading. With slice of life stories, I tend to try and find books dealing with subjects I might have experienced when I was younger, what I might be dealing with now, or intrigue me as "what if" scenarios. Drama and mystery are pretty easily enticed through comic book panels. most often they're mixed with other genres, but I really enjoy a writer or artist who can get me turning the page before I realize I'm actually physically doing it.

In the end, it all comes down to the story. If the story keeps my attention, even for a quick glance of two to three pages, I'm willing to devote the time to read it. I might read a bad one anyway, just to appreciate the ones I do like more. Or, since I'm writing some of my own, I'll look for things that made the comic bad and try to avoid them myself during the scripting process. But the good stories are just as useful tools as the bad ones. Take any comic, graphic novel, or manga out there, and find me one without a compelling story that gets the reader to turn the page.

But what makes a great story?

I suppose it's vastly different for everyone. For myself, I like to emotionally connect with what the characters are going through. If the story is able to make my heart beat at the same rate of the characters at any given time, be it during an action sequence or a string of heartache, I know that the story has been worth my time. That goes for all types of media, not just comics, but this is a blog about sequential art after all.

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