Recently, I’ve noticed a trend toward comic books. Stephen King has several novels either already adapted or being adapted into comics. Ted Dekker has some novel to comic books adaptations going on. Then there’s the boom in the manga (graphic novel) market. Not to mention all the movies and TV shows with comic book-type superheroes and the movies based on comics.
Is this an indication that adults don’t want to grow up? Or an attempt to interest kids and teens in reading? Or is it just a new way to make money?
Thinking back to when I was a kid, I don’t think I ever read a comic book. My friends didn’t either. We all read novels that we pulled off the library shelves or sometimes each other’s book shelves. Before you think my childhood coincided with the Dark Ages, let me assure you I’m not that old. I grew up in the eighties and nineties. Comic books were around and superheroes were popular, but they didn’t seem to take over the way they are today. My friends and I read a wide variety of books, but the highly illustrated books we read were picture books and we all outgrew those at a fairly young age. By high school, I was reading books from the adult section of the library because I’d already gone through most of the young adult section.
Kids who were born six or seven years after me can’t seem to get enough of the comic-type books, shows, movies, etc. These kids are now old enough to vote, yet they still gravitate to manga and movies with characters who have superpowers. There’s also this strange fascination with zombies, but that could just be a weird quirk of the people I know.
Perhaps the influx of comics is a means of escaping reality. If the story’s told with pictures and short snippets of text, it’s easier to handle than the real world. I’m just guessing here, and I admit I’m probably way off. Most likely it’s just the latest fad in entertainment, one that seems to be lasting an awful long time and growing more popular as time goes on. I just wonder if the wide availability of comics and graphic novels, as well as the encouragement to read them, will prevent kids and teens from discovering all of the wonderful non-illustrated literature out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against comic books, manga, or superheroes. I think they’re great, but I also think that like video games and sitcoms, they should be taken in small doses. If you read only graphic novels, try picking up a regular novel. You might be surprised at how much you like imagining the scene and the characters rather than looking at them on the page. If you read only traditional novels (no illustrations), check out a manga. Some of those artists are really talented, and the stories can be very entertaining.
Personally, I will always be drawn to the written word rather than the illustrated page. But broadening one’s horizons leads to a well-rounded individual. So perhaps I’ll borrow a manga or two and see if I can figure out what seems to draw teens more to graphic novels than regular novels. At the very least, reading a graphic novel will entertain me for a weekend.