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Why graphic novels?

Why graphic novels?
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First Published: Sat, Apr 07 2007. 12 36 AM IST

Updated: Sat, Apr 07 2007. 12 36 AM IST
The wife is convinced I read graphic novels because I have a thing for soft porn. No, she’s never read Gaiman or Moore, but the covers of some of the Manaras and Serpieris that form part of my library have given her the impression. Then there’s the copy of Heavy Metal, which calls itself an “adult, illustrated fantasy magazine” or some such, that lands up home every month.
Why do I read graphic novels? Why does a balding, overweight, almost-40-year-old-father-of-one read what are essentially comic books?
Escape? Maybe. Then, most works of fiction do that for most people. The minority to whom they don’t, is usually people suffering from an inability to suspend their disbelief—the kind of people who will likely say, “There’s no such thing as a hobbit, and we have never heard of anyone living in holes.”
The pursuit of cool—don’t snigger. A lot of people I know read books for this reason, including one former colleague who started reading Philip K. Dick because he once saw me with Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and decided he liked the way the cover looked; poor sod picked Valis as his first, that PKD book is harder to get through than Finnegans Wake. The cool factor could be one explanation, except that comics are associated with sub-teens in India and any adult reading one is immediately dismissed as being not-all-there.
Genetics? That would be unlikely. Neither of my parents is into something that even remotely resembles graphic novels. Why, mom couldn’t even sit through a viewing of TLTR: Fellowship of the Ring—she said it was “too unbelievable”.
The desire to be different? Now, that’s a tempting reason; only people who want to use books as a means of differentiating themselves usually read ones without pictures written by people with difficult—to—pronounce Japanese and European names.
I think each of us is wired differently up there. The wiring sort of dictates what or who we like—books, music, movies, food, even people. It’s the reason Shakira’s music does nothing for me (as for her music videos, suffice it to say that were my room in the office to have a TV, like my boss’ has, it would be on mute and tuned VH1—my boss’, in case you are interested, is on CNBC). It’s the reason I still get goosebumps on a twenty-thousandth listening of Franklin’s Tower. It’s the reason I still re-read Wodehouse and Sudden. And it’s the reason I can recite dialogues from The Maltese Falcon, Reservoir Dogs (what dialogues?), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
As for the soft-porn allegation..., well, Serpieri’s Druuna has wonderful lines.
P.S: Captain America died last fortnight. He was not one of my favourite characters, although Neil Gaiman did do a wonderful job with him, and a clutch of other Marvel characters including Spiderman, Daredevil and several X-men, in Marvel 1602 . He was killed by Ed Brubaker, who happens to be one of my favourite writers (Sleeper, anyone?). Knowing his writing, he is unlikely to bring Captain America back.
(Write to cultfiction@livemint.com)
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First Published: Sat, Apr 07 2007. 12 36 AM IST
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