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Does the West Dismiss Graphic Storytelling as Second Class?

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

It’s rare in the West for graphic novels to win major mainstream awards. In the United States, for example, the last graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize was Art Spiegelman’s Maus back in 1992. And as Duncan Jepson notes in today’s feature article, “Why Asia is Obsessed with Graphic Novels and Comics,” some consternation surrounded the short-listing of two graphic novels for Costa awards this year in the UK, including the eventual winner in biography.

Comic books…let’s not even go there, as they are all too often easily depicted by the popular culture as the obsession and interest of the emotionally or socially underdeveloped. (Want evidence? Just watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory — smart guys, but you wouldn’t want to date one necessarily.)

Of course, this is much different in Asia, where the graphic novel or comic is frequently the bestselling and dominant literary form. As Duncan Jepson notes, “p

This, arguably, gives those readers a stronger foundation and ability to appreciate the graphic novel or comic as an inherently literary form.

It should come as no surprise that in the recent past in the US, one of the few graphic novels to be shortlisted for one of the top awards was American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, which was shortlisted for a National Book Award in the category of Young People’s Literature back in 2006.

This year, if the Pulitzer Prize committee can find it within their power’s to actually confer an award, would be wise to take a long, hard look at Chris Ware’s Building Stories — a book that itself embodies a deep appreciation of the power of graphic storytelling.

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  1. Janis
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Interesting observation. I would say this is a trend that people can only subvert by reading more graphic novels! I myself am a culprit of often judging graphic novels as “not real literature”, when in fact they require a complete package of skills- literary mastery, intuition, art direction, illustration… to name a few. Any recommendations for one’s first foray into graphic novel awesomeness? Also, would like to know what Jepsen said, as I think the quote was accidentally omitted. Thank you!

  2. Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Let’s remember that in the 1950’s, America WENT OUT OF ITS WAY to burn comics at the stake and develop the “Comics Code Authority” to make comics as kid-friendly and unoffensive to the moral authorities as possible. Before this, nobody tried to claim comics were “just” for kids, and plenty of pulp work came out that proved that.

    Without these events that crippled the industry, comics would’ve been allowed to develop naturally and branch out into more than just the Marvel / DC / Disney / Archie archetypes.

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