The reader is in the details

by Ahalya on September 29, 2010

JGW-2010-with-campfireI just realised that reading a graphic novel is actually very hard work. We live in a very visual society. Long gone are those 18th-19th century books, which had pages and pages of descriptions about entire houses, dresses, emotions, mountains, rivers etc. Most books these days, do not dwadle around the scenery. It is the reader who builds up the book, person by person, detail by detail.

In graphic novels, I tend to skim over pictures that have no text in boxes, I quickly eat up the thought bubbles and the speech bubbles and the narrator bubbles. And only when I reach the end, do I go back to each panel and ‘see’ the details. I know that this wrong. Each panel condenses paragraphs of description, pages of details that the illustrator codes into the image — the dresses, the furniture, the mountains, the children, and the faces.

I decided to behave myself this time, and ‘read’ a graphic novel slowly, bit by bit, panel by panel. I had to be the narrator, I had to realise the significance of the details in the pictures, all by myself, with no narrator to tell me which emotion I was looking at, which hand was raised, which sofa belonged to the 19th century. It was interesting, to imagine the paragraphs behind each image. I felt I was reading the books backwards!

My question for today’s graphic novel giveaway is: what do you like about graphic novels?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

krishna September 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm



admin September 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Krishna my dear friend, this is not an SMS :/ write more na!!! 😛


Vishal Devgon September 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

The characters come to life in graphic novels and not much is left to the imagination of the reader. The action sequences, the hit , the blow, the laughter, the expressions on the characters faces the details all make graphic novels worth the time.

Am waiting for a gud one from Campfire.


admin September 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Ah yes, the actions. Those are the USP of graphic novels, I think 🙂


Meethil September 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm


Krishna is right when she says “Graphics”. What but the Graphics can be more important in a Graphic Novel? But that is not all. The illustrator of a graphic novel must have a very good sense of space and balance. When illustrating he/she should be able to go justice to both, the character and the environment in which story unfolds. A graphic novel which fails in showing us the setting of the story will fail to appeal to the readers. The illustrator should give equal emphasis to the ‘background’ of the panels. If the novel had a majority of the panels containing the hero and/or the villain occupying more than 60% of the panel space its going to be no fun reading. Astrix and Obelix is one example which i would hold as a benchmark of good use of illustration. Graphic novel makers should not forget that a graphic novel is also a novel and therefore the story is very important. The limited use of text should definitely be made up by having informative illustrations. A book that perfects this balance is pleasure to own.


admin September 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Dear Meethil,
These are very valuable and well-articulated observations. I agree that each panel in Asterix and Obelix contains a wealth of stories. There’s often as much happening in the background as in the foreground. Thank you for pointing that out. Do you own any such ‘perfectly balanced’ book?


Snehal September 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Fast racy reads! Graphic Novels are fast reads that just want you to finish them. Its like the book version of a video game! I love the fact that i can pick one up and keep it down only when its done. I mean, i would totally hate a 300 page graphic novel!


admin September 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Well! A video game! that’s a refreshingly new analogy! A 300-page grpahic novel does sound like a bit much, but that really depends on the character and the plot na??? I think there are some stories which could be great as a more than 100-page graphic novel.


Vinod September 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Its a different format and thats what i like about it. I mean, in my college days, i have read the unabridged version of the Count of Monte Cristo but no matter how much i crave to re-read it again todays lifestyle does not permit me to re-read the unabridged one. In such instances i think a graphic novel saves the day and enables me to revisit those reading experiences with little time invested. Graphic novels are a great compliment to the original work. I think they should be sold together – the original work bundled with a graphic novel.


admin September 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Hey Vinod. I don’t know if readers would like to buy both the original and the graphic novel. It sounds like an interesting idea though 🙂


admin September 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

Hey Vinod! You just won yourself a graphic novel from Campfire India!!! An email is on its way 🙂
Do spread the word and keep participating!


Aditya October 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

hmm… yeah, that first paragraph… books are getting increasingly cinematic these days.
I like the way graphic novels play with the panes. The arrangement of the panes in a page and the way time progresses between them. Every time someone pulls a stunt in this department, I get impressed.


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