paul pope

Why Graphic Novels Are Good For You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/1/2015 As an English teacher, one of the most frequent requests I hear from parents is, “Can you get my son/daughter to stop reading so many comics and start reading real literature instead?”

Wait.

Can we re-examine that question?

Did you just ask me to tell your child to STOP READING something he or she likes?

That’s a firm “No.”

No, I will not.

There is a generational gap that leads to the misunderstanding of comics and manga and graphic novels. For many of our current parents, comics are those 3 or 4 panel gags that run in the newspaper. Or they’re the classic, simple superhero tales that they grew out of.

The problem is that if you shut kids out of comics/graphic novels/manga, you’re turning them away from one of our best learning tools out there. Comics are the marriage of image and word. They are expressive, they are detailed, and they are pieces of art.

Readers of comics learn to understand perspective, form, shape, and contrast. They can pick up a sense of motion, a skill for reading between the lines (or, in this case, “reading between the panels”). Most importantly, however, I argue that comics are a pure form of imagination boosting, which everyone needs.

I believe that adolescents who struggle with literature can benefit tremendously with comics. Part of what makes a strong reader is the ability to turn words into images. Comics bridge that gap. When you start building a mental library of how characters look when they deliver emotional speech, you can start carrying that over into literature. When you see a sweeping desert landscape that pulls the breath from your lungs, you have a template for when you come across it in a book.

I’m not saying that comics should only be there for struggling readers, though. There are plenty of works out there that rival the complexities of any novel you’ll ever pick up.

I can easily nominate the 27 volumes of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist as one of the greatest fantasy tales of our time: two brothers use alchemy in an attempt to bring their mother back to life. The experiment fails horrifically, forcing the older brother to sacrifice part of his body in order to keep his younger brother alive. The series follows their quest to find a way to restore their bodies, which forces them to examine their world’s military corruption, oppression of religious minorities, and the politics of a civil war.

If you want to learn how to take another look at comics, you should pick up Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It will teach you all about the inner workings of comics and how they’re good for us.

The bottom line is this: if you’re reading comics, you’re doing the right thing.

Seal of Approval - THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin Aurora-West-Paul-Pope-Main

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/7/2015

A few weeks ago I was awestruck by Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY graphic novel. I was searching for the sequel, which I thought I had found when I came across THE RISE OF AURORA WEST. But something was different about it. Unlike the original comic, this one was the size of a manga. And the art was all black and white. And it turned out to be a prequel.

That said, AURORA is another great graphic novel work seeking out. It builds upon the world that Pope set up in BATTLING BOY and gives far more time for us to learn about the daughter of hero Haggard West.

Needless to say, Aurora is shaping up to be a character with depth. We learn about her family history, an invisible friend, and her insanely busy education and physical training schedule.

The honest criticism: this is not as good as BATTLING BOY. The art seems slap-dash at times and the story has a weird moment in which Aurora turns to one of her classmates out of nowhere and says something along the lines of, “Hey, can I trust you and tell you everything?” Then she brings him along on all of her investigations.

That said, it’s still a fun read. Plus, I really wanted to know way more about the worlds and the people Pope will be working with as he expands his main story and this provided some very cool insights (and plot twists!)

SEAL OF APPROVAL: BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope

Seal of Approval: BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope Written by Grant Goodman, 12/24/2014

This is the first graphic novel I’ve reviewed for the site and, wow, this one is awesome.

Acropolis is under siege by monsters. Their only hero is Haggard West, who has used scientific research to design a way to fly AND (of course) to build himself a pretty sick gun that causes targets to burst into flame. Unfortunately, the Ghoul Gang (a cross between ninjas, mummies, and cobra commander) has a plan for Haggard West.

On a different plane of existence, Battling Boy is rounded up by his brute-force, monster-slaying god of a father and sent to Acropolis to battle its monsters and gangs. It is a coming of age process that all 12 year-olds go through.

I love the creativity at work here. There are spiders who weave armor. Cthulu can be found hanging out in the villains’ bar. The mayor has a PR team to manage Battling Boy’s image.

The artwork is explosive and brilliant. Pope’s linework is manic, his monsters are Ralph Steadman versions of nightmare kaiju. Battling Boy’s super-macho father is a hilarious spectacle of muscle and violence. The color symbolism is clear: the Ghoul Gang is dressed in dark clothes, Battling Boy wears all white.

There’s also the matter of Aurora West, daughter of Haggard. She doesn’t get much panel-time in this volume, but all of it is fascinating. The second volume of the story is titled THE RISE OF AURORA WEST and I suspect it will shine much more light on her and her life. I can’t wait to read it!