I bet you thought you knew how to read a graphic novel, didn’t you? It’s easy – you open a page, read the contents and turn over the page when you’re done. It’s not as hard as trying to find out the square root of 597868 (773.21). Ah, if only life were that simple. An interesting article over at the Boston Globe argues that we might all be carrying out the simple task of reading a comic book the wrong way.
On the face of it this seems like one of those issues where you have to think “Is this really something a university should be bothered about?” It does seem quite pointless at first. But Kevin Hartnett, author of the Boston article, brings up a good point about the so-far limited use of graphic novels in schools – are teachers shunning comics in English Lit classes because they just don’t know how to read them properly?
According to a lecturer at the Boston University School of Education, the “expert” way to read a graphic novel is as follows:
1) Skim the comic to absorb the general ideas
2) Turn to page one
3) Read through again, paying attention to background and setting
4) Think about the characters
5) Examine the colours and think about how this affects the mood of the book
I don’t think there is ever a wrong way to read something, whether it be a comic book, novel or play. Some people are skim readers and like to get through a graphic novel quickly so that they can brag about how many books a year they read, whereas others like to comb through each panel of a comic with a magnifying glass looking at the creases in Superman’s tights.
So which way is correct? Whichever way does it for you, that’s the proper way. Whether you take a couple of hours to read a comic or you take a couple of days, it’s no one’s damn business but your own. And if the experts tell you that you’re doing it wrong and that you’re not absorbing the mood of the book, tell them to go get a cloth so they can absorb all the f**ks you give, except they won’t need that cloth, because you actually don’t give any. I’m not good at witty comebacks or insults.
Here’s how I read my graphic novels:
1) Make a cup of tea
2) Turn off the TV
3) Spread my legs over the couch
4) Read the first page
5) Read the first page again because I wasn’t concentrating properly the first time.
How do you read yours?