Article mentions Moped Army Graphic novel

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Article mentions Moped Army Graphic novel

Postby Micronaut » Mon Jul 04, 2005 8:10 pm ... 185510.xml

GRAPHIC NOVELS -- EMERGING MEDIUM A graphically novel idea They're part comic book, part regular novel, and they're winning over new readers
Sunday, June 12, 2005
By Justin Schneider -- 768-4967
Faster than a speeding bullet.

That's how one author describes the rising popularity of large-format comic books called graphic novels.

The books -- and their storylines -- are reaching beyond the traditional 13-year-old male demographic to appeal to young adults and even adults, including females.

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Sara Tackett, children's services coordinator at the Jackson District Library, said graphic novels are broadening the audience for illustrated literature.

"We met with a lot of graphic novelists from Michigan who described how we were reaching different readers," Tackett said. "Not just teens, but also people who like things presented visually."

Graphic novels come in two basic forms:

Compilations of well-known comics that cover one complete story arc (say Superman battling the latest Lex Luther plot over six regular issues).
Original novels and even nonfiction books that are illustrated comic-book style.
Graphic novels are also earning acceptance as legitimate learning materials.

Drawing students

Jackie Skene, media specialist at Jackson High School, said the school used a $500 matching grant to add graphic novels to the school's collection.

Selecting the titles proved the most difficult part, she said.

A few superhero books made it, but also some historical fiction dealing with the Holocaust (Art Spiegelman's "Maus") and the conflict in Sarajevo (Joe Kubert's "Fax from Sarajevo").

She said the presence of more than 100 graphic novels worked like a magnet for many students.

"I have kids in the library who never set foot in here before," Skene said. "Some of the materials are not really dumb, especially the historical books. I think it's a great way for kids who are reluctant readers to find something they enjoy."

Variety of formats

The graphic-novel phenomenon has been significant enough to inspire other authors to write about it.

In 2001, author Stephen Weiner separated the wheat from the chaff in writing "The 101 Best Graphic Novels." Another tome by him, "Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel," explored how a visually oriented generation set the stage for the novels' popularity.

Compilations of regular comics, known as trade paperbacks, allow new readers to dig into well-established titles such as "X-Men" and "Sin City." The books encompass story arcs to present a coherent tale with a beginning, middle and end.

For his first "Sin City" graphic novel, called "The Hard Goodbye," creator Frank Miller culled together 13 serialized chapters to forge a single story, much the way Charles Dickens' work appeared serially before unified publication.

Each fragment of "Goodbye" was originally published in the anthology "Dark Horse Presents," which brings readers a selection of stories from different creators.

Occasionally, a larger-format release will give readers something they can't get anywhere else, such as DC Comics' Justice League of America graphic novel "JLA Earth 2," which delivered an all-new crossover story.

"A lot of graphic novels are hardcover, they're printed on nice, shiny paper -- you feel good about leaving it out (for people to see)," said Joe Garner, business manager at the Collector's Zone, 1425 Wildwood Ave.

"Your friends come over and say, 'Wow, I didn't know you could get comics like this.' It's more like a novel now."

Going deeper

Jackson Community College student Ryan Kinsella said it was "Batman: The Dark Night Returns," also by Frank Miller, that convinced him graphic novels could take a reader deeper than most adults would care to admit.

"It takes place in the future, and Batman decides to come out of retirement," said Kinsella, 19.

"But the story has some different levels to it. There's this whole issue of whether Batman, who fights crime, also creates some of the crime in Gotham City. The whole thing of being a vigilante."

Since discovering "Dark Knight," Kinsella has also picked up several of Katsuhiro Otomo's "Akira" graphic novels, which inspired an animated film.

Graphic novelist Hector Trujillo of Jackson said the story he wants to tell can't be contained in a single volume. He and Bill Bates of Lost Word Bookstore developed the "Cry of Cthulu" series based on the work of science-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft for two years until Bates' recent death.

Trujillo plans to forge ahead and complete the story as both a standard (text-only) novel and a six-edition graphic novel.

"It takes some time to develop, it goes through so many stages: thumb-nailing it, final pencil drafts, then you have your inking, then you have your coloring, then lettering," he said.

He said three of the 48-page graphic novels are nearly completed.

Not just superheroes

Tackett of the District Library added graphic novels to the library's collection about three years ago.

She recently finished reading "Blankets," a graphic novel by Traverse City native Craig Thompson which has been lumped into the adult fiction section.

"It's huge," Tackett said. "It was intimidating for me, reading this thing. But I think it's definitely one that is targeted at adults. It's about a first love, but it also has religious content as a young man searches for religious identity.

"People think of comics in terms of superheroes and fun characters, not moral issues."

The library even stocks graphic adaptations of well-known authors, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe.

"We encourage parents to find what kids are interested in," Tackett said.

"Be it nonfiction if they only want to read about dinosaurs or whatever it may be. Graphic novels are also a way to focus them on different cultures. A lot of comics we see are international."

The whole story

Paul Sizer of Kalamazoo is a comic-book creator who produces two science-fiction titles. "Little White Mouse," which follows the intergalactic adventures of Loo, began as a 32-page comic in 1997 and was later collected into four trade paperback volumes.

Now Sizer is focusing his attention on his "Moped Army" line, which tells the story of a dystopian future of urban decay where gasoline is illegal. But instead of dealing in the standard newsstand size, his latest project is designed specifically as a graphic novel and will be self-published in September on his own Cafe Digital imprint.

For one, that approach is cheaper, he said. Plus, he said, graphic novels have a longer shelf-life than regular weekly, bi-weekly or monthly comics, which disappear as soon as the new issue arrives.

"I still collect comics and still enjoy getting monthly books for a fix, but I also like to see a graphic novel in one chunk, to see the story in finite terms," he said.

"My decision with the 'Moped Army' graphic novel was to make it available to a lot of markets -- libraries, Barnes and Noble, Borders -- to make it as universal as possible."

© 2005 Jackson Citizen Patriot. Used with permission
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