“Comics are not a genre; they’re a medium,” so says Douglas Wolk in his book, “Reading Comics”. They are instead, like prose, “…forms of expression that have few or no rules regarding their content other than the very broad ones imposed on them by their form”.
Sometimes, when I’m done with a really good comic, I feel the need to fall back on a line like that and defend the medium I so proudly read. Wolk admits that comics, or graphic novels, if you prefer to be fancy about it, have been given a bad reputation until recent years. Superheroes (not to say that that hasn’t been done right) and daily comics about giant dogs have all but spoilt a form that can express so much more. When reading a comic on break at work, my coworker kindly refers to my habit as quality time with “you and your cartoons”.
For an introduction to how comics can work, look no further than the works of the masters. Will Eisner, a genius vision, wrote three titles on how to draw and storyline. Stan Lee and Scott McCloud have also lent their minds to the art. Pretty much any comic by Spiegelman, Woodring, Barry, or Robinson is a call for readers to answer their creative calling.
I also highly recommend this anthology, or the annual collection of Best American Comics to peak an interest in the medium. And of course, the library is here to help, not only with the above mentioned artists and titles, but with the monthly comic group: “Out of the Gutter”. Find out what you may have been missing!