More Than Capes And Costumes: How Comic Books And Graphic Novels Are An Art Form All Their Own

Comics have been long overlooked by the general public. It wasn’t until the surge in comic book based movies that comics started to move back into the public’s eye. What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that comics have moved on from being little stories about people in costumes fighting evil and saving the day.

Even in the 70’s and 80’s, comic book artists and writers have developed the medium to become an art form in itself and not just in terms of visual art. A strong blend of both the visual and the written, comic books and their big brothers, the graphic novels, have become a unique art form beyond the visual and the written as individuals. Here’s how:

Distinct Art

Comic book artists often move from title to title, unless it’s a title they’ve created or own. What remains constant, however, is their signature art styles. Rather than all striving for a uniform look, most artists develop a signature style that comic book readers can immediately identify, much like the way one can identify the work of classical and contemporary artists based on their style and technique.

Any prolific reader will immediately be able to identify the art of Chris Bachalo, Jim Lee, Skottie Young, Amanda Conner, or any of the other comic book greats. In fact, some styles are so distinct that some comic book characters, heroes and villains alike, see resurgence in popularity due to a design that becomes iconic.

Compelling Storytelling

With plots and character development to rival some of the great stories and novels through history, comic books and graphic novels have told stories that were told over the course of months, sometimes even years. And these aren’t always just stories about the battle between good and evil; they talk about human failing, redemption, family, and life.

Not all are about superheroes, too. There are true stories, told through the guise of a comic. Maus, for example, talks about the real life experiences of a young Jewish girl escaping the Holocaust. Giant Days is a slice of life comic about three girls who go to the same college and how their friendship helps them grow as people. There are even comic book retellings of some of the world’s most popular novels.

Commentary In An Accessible Medium

Not all art exists only for entertainment. Dante’s Inferno for example, was a comment on the political climate of Dante’s time. Jane Austen’s work was commentary on the expectations forced on women and the relationship dynamics of her time. The trouble with political and gender issues faced now is that it’s hard to introduce them without people automatically going on the defensive.

Comics however, have managed to bring these issues to light in a medium that’s more accessible to people. DC Comics, for example was able to talk about the dangers of abusive relationships through Joker and Harley. Marvel was able to talk about racism through the X-Men comics. This helps comics carry on the legacy of great writers trying to make these issues visible to the masses.