Is it Literature?


According to Time magazine, the graphic novel Watchmen is on the greatest novels of all time list. Like many, I’ve only seen the movie version and never read any of the graphic novels. But in order to explore the idea of a comic book being considered literature, we need to look past the pre-established rubric and examine the terms fiction and narrative. Comics are simply just another form of fictional narrative wrapped up in the package of a graphic novel (comic books). Graphic narrative can take many forms.

The most commonly known “short story” narrative of the traditional and well-loved comic strips as seen in Sunday newspapers. The comic book is typically 32-pages long, and contains one continuous story, or often times an installment of stories released in a series. According to Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, comics are “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” What seems to set comics apart from the common cartoon is the use of verbal content in the form of a contextual narrative, which then begs the question, should it be considered literature?


While this may be reaching, consider the Lascaux complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. Could one not look at these drawings and call them cartoons or comics? They are no more than a pictorial representation of the life and culture of that time period. Historians place an enormous amount of cultural significance on these paintings. Why then would we not place the same level of importance on comics and treat them for what they are?

Comics are one of many types of cultural representation that reflect the life and culture of the time they were created. In my opinion, they are just as significant as  the cultural contributions of paintings, music, architecture, novels, and many more. Comics and graphic narrative offer diverse and compelling examples that engage us with different styles, methods, and modes of communication that offer a historical representation in the form of visual-verbal texts.


2 thoughts on “Is it Literature?”

  1. I enjoy that you are tying our class reading into your blog post and expanding on McCloud’s thinking and line of questioning on the subject of comics. i don’t necessarily think that comics are as important as ancient scrolls, but I do see the point you are trying to make. Comics are underrated in our society, even though they play a vital role in helping us perceive our environment and culture.


  2. I fully believe that well written comics have the ability to be read alongside novels and be considered on equal standing. Your example, Watchmen, is a great story told with great evolution of plot and characters and tells a superb story (I would highly recommend reading it, the ending is different from the movie, plus it has a lot of “bonus” material, like a comic story within the graphic novel that parallels the characters’ plight, case files, and the like) While modern comics are not considered as important as ancient scrolls like Krista said, we take measures to protect cave paintings just as we do the scrolls. And the modern comic isn’t really of any historical importance in directly documenting history (at least not often), but commonly reflects the current events and culture that shapes the modern world. I feel that modern comics would be better compared to modern novels. Different genres and stories in both create worlds for the reader and may preserve a moment of our history by showing how we perceive our modern world.


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