He said, 'Frankly, I didn't even expect to open it.' He was just going to buy it and have me sign it and put it on his shelf, but he happened to open it, and he just got really hooked and really, really liked it and called me, which is a call I don't usually get -- you know, I don't talk to him on the phone so it was, like, 'Glen is calling me. Why would that be?'
JM: You've opened a whole new world to me. So, I, of course have hit the internet, and I've hit the bookstore and I've tried to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can. I picked up a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel, and in it, Max Alan Collins talks about when he went to the premiere of Road to Perdition, and he's walking up the red carpet and a reporter screams out, 'What's a graphic novel?' And off the top of his head he says, 'It's a great big comic book.' But, certainly it's more than that. How do you answer that question if people ask you?
JA: Actually, it's not a lot more than that. It is a comic book and it's a term that's created to make the word 'comic' more palatable to the general public. I actually wrote a strip that you'd be interested in called What Is a Graphic Novel , which is on artbaum.net. In there I explain that it's a comic, basically.
And the thing that I say about comics is they have such a bad reputation, but it's totally historical. I mean, think about the word 'movie,' like, what a dumb word is that? You know, 'movie,' it moves. It's totally stupid.
We don't think about the derivation of the word. Same thing with the word 'novel.' Novel means new. I mean, how weird is that? So, I think that basically what we need is for people to get used to the term 'comics,' which refers to the art form, as opposed to any specific manifestation of the art form, because the word 'graphic novel' isn't flexible enough.
But my book is a graphic novel in the sense that it's novel. It's 250 pages long and it has one long story in it. But I have two other books, which are collections of short stories, that are bound with a spine and people call them 'graphic novels' too, because there's no other word for them, unless you want to call them comic books which they are. I mean, you aren't going to call it a 'graphic short story collection' or something.
JM: And when my peers hear the term 'graphic,' they immediately go to the other definition of the word.
JA: Right, right. Which is another reason why I think 'comics' is the way to go in the long run. But you know, because it still holds so many negative connotations for people, it's a difficult transition to make.
JM: So, this is a question you've probably been asked a lot, and it's one with a potentially long answer, so think about it and if you want to answer it later, go ahead. Let's say you were teaching a class for people like me, who have all of a sudden found something that they're really interested in and love but we have no experience whatsoever, what would be your required reading list for Graphic Novels and Comics 101? Where would you take us and why, to learn about them?
JA: People who were, adults who were out in the world and not college students?
JM: Or we are college students, but we've signed up for a class, to learn about comics and graphic novels because we know nothing, but kind of walk me through -- what are the big things I should read to learn more about this, the big comics?
JA: I think that the main thing to start out with is an understanding that the way that I would teach a course would be different than the way somebody else would teach a course, and my list is not the same as everybody else's. And probably what I would do is lean toward literary comics, you know, the kind of comics I make.
JM: Uh huh.
JA: And there is certainly an argument to be made for including a lot of genre work also, because that is a big part of what is in comics. But my list would include Maus by Art Speigelman, which you've probably heard of.
JM: Absolutely, I've got that one right over there on the shelf.
JA:Maus has this kind of mainstream crossover appeal, it's been something that people have read, but it also created controversial issues with the use of comics form for something serious. So, it's a good jumping off point in some cases, for a discussion about why comics, and what can this be as a comic that it couldn't be as a novel or whatever it is.
JA: And, you know in concert with that I might have people read Joe Sacco's Palestine, which is not a graphic novel, it's journalistic, but is of course, called a graphic novel also. And it's a book that he created in the '90s based on a series of interviews and a couple of months that he lived in the occupied territories.
So, this is a nonfiction current book that deals with some of the same kinds of issues, the sort of fall-out of some of the things that happened for Maus and is controversial and also not because of the comics so much, but because it takes a political stance and it provides an in-depth look into the issues as they stood in the '90s.
JA: Of Israel and the occupied territories. And, what else would I put on the list? I'd probably put Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes, a really wonderful complex book, of overlapping stories that take place in a fictional town called Ice Haven, and again, has references to comic history, it has references to the place that comics take in the world, and it's just a really wonderfully layered piece of literature. Let's see, what else would I put on the list?