National Comic Book Day

On September 25, we celebrate comic books, or simply comics. They have had a varied history, with generations of children growing up on the adventures of Superman and other superheroes, and adults who have tried to censor the literary form. What I appreciate about comics and graphic novels is the way bold artwork and words combine to tell a story.

Although comics had some origins in 18th century Japan and 1830s Europe, comic books were first popularized in the United States during the 1930s. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the United States in 1933 and was a reprinting of earlier newspaper humor comic strips, which had established many of the story-telling devices used in comics.

In the U.S., comic books are generally divided into eras. The Golden Age began with the publication of the first Superman comic in 1938. Those associated with what would become DC Comics were nearly godlike beings who always worked for the good of humanity and helped defeat the Nazis.

The Silver Age began with the publication of stories about The Flash in 1956. This is the time of Marvel, whose Avengers movies have dominated theater screen for the last few years. Marvel heroes are mostly ordinary people who have by some bizarre chance been endowed with superpowers, such as Spiderman.

However, not all comics are only for adolescents. For me, the best of the “comics” is the Sandman series of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. They tell the story of a group of beings called the Endless, particularly Morpheus, or Dream. The stories are filled with literary allusions and the myths and legends of many cultures. It feels like a world just on the other side of reality, and can be enjoyed as literature and art.

So don’t be afraid to find a graphic novel and dive in.

Quotes about comics and graphic novels

Comic books and graphic novels are a great medium. It’s incredibly underused.–Darren Aronofsky

Personally, I’d never seen a graphic novel. I knew they existed because friends of mine like Jonathan Ross collect them and some very literate and intelligent people really rate the graphic novel as a form.–Stephen Fry

If I had to rank my skills, I have a long way to go before I can write a good graphic novel.–Ted Rall

Expand the definition of ‘reading’ to include non-fiction, humor, graphic novels, magazines, action adventure, and, yes, even websites. It’s the pleasure of reading that counts; the focus will naturally broaden. A boy won’t read shark books forever.–Jon Scieszka

Doing graphic novels is cool! It’s fun! You get to write something, and then see it visually page by page, panel by panel, working with the artist, you get to see it fleshed out.–Anthony Bourdain

I always loved comic books and I’m still a great fan of the graphic novel.–Walter Hill

I am pretty interested in hybrid forms. I love graphic novels and I think there should be more graphic poems in the world.–Matthea Harvey

When you hold a graphic novel in your hands, you’re holding artist blood made ink.–Molly Crabapple

Graphic novel genre become really quite popular. It’s really a big screen film genre that they have successfully moved into the small screen.–Dustin Clare

The graphic novel form really interests me and I like the freedom that format offers.–Walter Hill

People don’t like to say comic so they say Graphic Novel, despite the fact that I don’t think the true Graphic Novel has been written anywhere.–Terry Pratchett

To me any given story has its appropriate form. There might be some story I get involved with that’s begging to be a graphic novel, so that will have to be that way.–Dave Eggers

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