What you’re reading that for? Class? What class? Are you serious? An ENGLISH class? This isn’t a novel. I didn’t know you guys had any fun! Back in my day, we read history books! Slacker!
All these were responses to my enthusiastic claim that I am reading a comic book about the Holocaust for my Honors English class. I could sympathize with these comments. I was thinking the same thing when I first found out that we were going to read comic books. I was perplexed. I had never read a comic book (I know, I know! Where have I been?!) because I tended to look down on them. I wasn’t going to bother with them, I said, since I could get a much better experience from a novel. I know comic books are always filled with pictures, but what are mere 2-D images when I have my own imagination working on a spectacular image—no, scene—that is partly inspired by the writer’s words and partly by the feelings invoked by the events of the story. I was a complete snob about it. When my sister asked to get a graphic novel once day, I looked at her with disdain. Go read a book I shouted, filled with scorn at her audacity to mention such a thing to me, an almost fanatic English major.
Until very recently, I continued on with this view of the inferiority of the comic book/graphic novel (a term which I simply hated. I thought it gave some sort of credibility to comic books by bestowing the scholarly term “novel”). My negative take on the whole comic book genre was reinforced repeatedly, as I complained, or sometimes bragged, about reading a comic book in an Honors class. Some straight out laughed at me, and really wondered about the course (Sorry Dr. Ellis, but rest assured. I gave them plenty of reasons to believe that our class was both fun and challenging). Some didn’t believe me, especially since I usually complained about the lengths of novels we are always forced to read. Others were envious, hoping that they, too, read and discuss a comic book for “legitimate” reasons. For my part, I was waiting. I knew I would be forced to pick it up and read it eventually, and until then, I wasn’t going to look at it and focus more on the more scholarly readings that I had to do. But now that I finally picked up Maus, I can’t seem to put it down! I had to force myself to, so I could write this blog before its deadline. As I am writing this, I keep looking at the book, at the intricate drawings that seem to be filled with details yet at the same time look sketchy; at the bold words on every page that seem to scream violence, pain, surprise, etc.
Now, to me, Maus II is a great introduction to the graphic novel genre. Even though I am still harboring some belittling thoughts about comic books (they’re sooo for kids!), my very positive first impression of Maus II is forcing me to think that comic books or graphic novels could be legitimate forms of reading. And now, when anybody wonders, “Are you seriously reading this book now?” I could response proudly with, “Yes, I am. You should too! It’s worth your time!”