Did you know that BCPL has 4800 graphic novel titles? Since this year’s theme for Summer Reading is “What’s your Superpower?” I wanted to talk a little about our graphic novel collections and of course Batman.
What is a Graphic Novel?
Merriam -Webster defines graphic novels as “a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.” This is a good start for understanding what graphic novels are, but it’s not entirely accurate since there are many biographies, memoirs and nonfiction graphic novels now. It is more accurate to think of “graphic novel” as a format like a DVD or book or CD – how you are presented with the information – rather than what the information is like fiction, non-fiction, mystery …etc. Some graphic novels contain a story arc of a comic book series that was originally published as several issues, while others were written as one complete book-length piece but both are graphic novels.
Defining the “Graphic” in Graphic Novel
“Graphic” has become a term that is used in other media to mean violent or explicit content but that is not part of its definition here. Don’t get me wrong, there are graphic novels that have explicit content and a great deal of violence but they do not define the format as a whole. The “graphic” in graphic novel means that the story is depicted graphically – with pictures. It is not an indication of the content of those pictures or the story they tell. The Peanuts are graphic, Bone is graphic, and so are The Walking Dead, Maus and 300.
Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah …Batman!
Just like with books and movies, the graphic novel (GN), teen graphic novel (GN TEEN) and children’s graphic novel (GN J) collections are determined by the audience that they were written for and are located in the sections for that audience in our buildings. This is the primary reason that Batman is everywhere. The Caped Crusader (among a great many other characters) is popular among all age groups, and there are over 160 graphic novels featuring the Dark Knight in our three collections.
The children’s collection has the Batman Adventures and Batman: The Brave and the Bold which are artistically based on the two cartoon shows that share their names.
The teen collection has several of the mainstream Batman titles including the New 52 Batman and Batman and Robin.
The graphic novel collection has the darker Batman titles that have more mature content like Batman: Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
To put it in a scale most people are familiar with, a GN J graphic novel would have similar content to a G or PG movie, GN TEEN would be upper PG to PG-13, and GN would be upper PG-13 to R. Publishers, like DC Comics and Marvel, are eager to gain and maintain lifelong fans and they are developing content for all ages so that everyone can enjoy their characters.
Visual literacy -Why Graphic Novels are good for your brain
Graphic novels are an amazing tool to promote visual literacy, a 21st century skill defined by the Institute of Museum and library services as “Demonstrate the ability to interpret, recognize, appreciate, and understand information presented through visible actions, objects and symbols, natural or man-made.” Visual Literacy is a vital skill as advancing technology changes the way we are presented with information from traditional print to infographics and interactive sources. Graphic novels train your brain to merge both words and images to get the full story, building a skill set that can then be applied to other visual information sources.
With so many to choose from I hope you will give graphic novels a try, there is one out there that will match your interests. I’d be happy to recommend some to you (I promise they will not all be Batman) and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Main Library
Katie Widener, a Burlington native, attended U of L and UK before becoming a Reference Librarian at Main Library in 2011. She is the adult graphic novel collection selector for BCPL and is only slightly less obsessed with Batman than the Joker. In fact, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) being a librarian for Gotham City Public Library was one of the things that inspired her to become a librarian.