Tag Archives: Graphic Novels

Ten Graphics You Should Check Out

Real quick…there are tons of great comics out there and your library has quite a selection. We’ve got something for every age, rage, or cage, baby…believe that.

I’m not here to sell you anything, just sharing. Here are some works that I have enjoyed since the beginning of the year. Click on the links below and check the bibliography for more details (including a description of and – sometimes – reviews of the work).

Imagine if the Mothership Connection met Firefly…but funkier

Jonathan Hickman jump-starts the whole X-Men side of the Marvel Universe…which is X-cellent if you’ve never read them before and need a convenient place to dive in

Indigenous (?) rebellion against an American Empire gone amuck

Some of the most embarrassing autobiographical stories about the comic biz collected in one place

’70’s-into-’80’s sci-fi, sure, but it also is one of the early works that showed what a new wave of British artists were about to do to the comics industry…completely change it for the better

  • Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty
Currently, the longest running continuous pulp-detective series in comics form (outside of comics strips)

  • Satania – Fabien Vehlmann, Marie Pommepuy, & Sébastien Cosset
From the same creative team that brought you Beautiful Darkness, a phantasmagorical tale about adventurers discovering what really lies deep below the Earth’s surface

Amazing art, fantastic story. You have got to read this one just for the beauty of it


Another great edition to DC’s Graphic Novels for Young Adults series. This time, it’s a coming of age tale of a daughter who feels she has had to live in her mother’s shadow for all these years, only to find her own path
Just gorgeous. Toppi is an amazing artist and an inspiration for many who’ve come since. Sci-fi, fantasy, you name it, he can do it all

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system. You may have the item shipped to the library of your choice by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Our next meeting is this Saturday, September 11, 2021. We will be taking a look at The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.

– Review by Tony, Main Library

Types of Comics

(a small selection of different kinds of comics at the Louisville Free Public Library)

Comics are a medium, one that comes in an many formats. Below is a short guide to the rich variety of these publications.

Album – European comics with larger page size and higher number of pages than comics in the U.S. See Pamphlet

Anime – Animation, for TV or the movies, made in Japan, and for the Japanese market.  For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ

Animation  A form of film using drawings (and sometimes other techniques) to create the illusion of motion

Asian Comics  Comics are called manga in Japan, manhwa in Korea, or manhua in China. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ

Audio Comics – A form of audio narrative that is structured like a comic when created. Important elements such as action and setting are explained in detail. Sound cues are used to indicate shifts from panel to panel. For people who are not blind, it sounds something like an old-time radio serial

Bande Dessinée (or BD French term for Comic Books. They are usually published in the Album format

Bluesies – See Tijuana Bible

Caricature – a drawing style that exaggerates features, particularly of the face, to portray individuals in an easily recognizable manner. Often used in editorial Cartoons

Cartoons (when not animated)  Typically, these are single panel comics of an editorial nature

Chick Tracts – Short Pamphlet with Evangelical Christian themes. This type of comic gained its name from the most prolific publisher of the form, Jack Chick

Comic Art  A form of Sequential Art

Comic Books (or Comics The most generally used name for individual issues of comic art; often they are Soft-bound (Comics). See Pamphlet

Comics Strips – Short pieces of comic art to be published in a periodical (such as a newspaper or magazine), most often to be read horizontally

Comics with hand-sewn spines – Comics assembled like a scrapbook

Comics with tête-bêche binding  A rare format for comics wherein two different comics are bound together back to back, each reversed from the other so they share the same spine. Tête-bêche is French for, roughly translated, “head to tail.” These works are sometimes called double books or reversible books

Crossover – The placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, or because of unauthorized efforts by fans. Most of these comics are not part of the canon of any of the original works

Digest-sized (Comics) – Comics which are roughly the size of paperback books

Digital Comics  Comics that are released digitally. They may be Motion Comics or Webcomics

Film Comics – Sometimes known as Cine-Manga or Ani-Manga. Manga works which use illustrations directly found in an Anime rather than original art, and which utilize dialog from that anime

Flipbooks – Comics where each page’s art varies slightly and when flipped creates the illusion of motion

Floppies – See Soft-bound (Comics)

Foldable Comics  Comics that are shaped in some manner (like a work of origami) and are to be read as the shape is unfolded

Fumetti – Italian term for comic books as a whole.  Some use this term to designate a specific format using photographs and word balloons (which was very popular in Italy during the 1940’s and 1950’s). In the English speaking world, this specific format is known as the Photonovel

Graphic Adaptations – These are works that use a story from another medium (poetry, movies, or novels are most common) but translate them into a comic format. They may also be called Tie-Ins with relation to a particular current popular work (where they act primarily as advertising for that work)

Graphic Novels – In the purest form, a stand-alone comic of book length with a clear beginning, middle, and end to its story. However, the term is often used interchangeably with Trade Paperback

Hard-bound (Comics) – Publications with a stiff cover (like a book or graphic novel)

Hybrid Comics  Printed comics that are read in tandem with digital content

Illustrated Book – A book with words and pictures but where the story is coherent without the pictures. Contrast with Wordless Comics

Infinite Canvas – A format for comics on a computer wherein the monitor does not replicate the printed page. The screen is seen as a window to a story told in any direction, theoretically ever-expanding. Hyperlinking and touch options may add interactive elements to works

Japanimation – A non-Japanese term for Anime. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ

Light Novel – A Japanese publishing format of short stories, liberally interspersed with manga illustrations. Typically, the story is about what would be classified as a novella in the U.S.

Magazines  Serial pamphlets of a larger size than the average comic book in the U.S., often printed on higher quality paper. See Pamphlet

Manga – Comics made in Japan for the Japanese market. In Japan, titles are published first in magazine format as part of a larger anthology. If successful, an individual manga will be reprinted in a collected edition. There are many genres of manga, catering to a wide variety of audiences. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ

Metacomic –  In brief, a metacomic is a comic about a comic. The characters are able to take advantage of the comic’s structure to progress in the storyline. Or – if the characters remain unaware of their fictional status, the story itself comments on those structures, conventions of genre, or fan expectations

Mini-comics  Comics which are not professionally published, often having an unusual size. See Zines 

Motion Comics – Digital Comics that combine motion, sound, or interactive elements with pictures and words to tell a story. Some feel that Motion Comics are really just a kind of Animation

Pamphlet – A complete publication of generally less than 80 pages stitched or stapled together and usually having a paper cover. There is no particular size requirement, thus Albums or Comic Books or Magazines fit the category of pamphlet if they are not Hard-bound

Phonebook (Comics) – A term for a certain type of collection of previously published comics that is printed on pulp paper and is very thick (like old-fashioned phonebooks). The style was made popular in the 1980’s by Dave Sim when he collected story arcs of his comic, Cerebus

Photonovels – Comics which use photographs rather than drawings. See Fumetti

Picture Book – A book where words and pictures are used to tell a story but where the pictures are of equal value (or are more dominant) in doing so. Most often picture books are for children

Poetry Comics – Comics that use poetic structure rather than the more typical prose style. The term may also be used for Graphic Adaptations of poetic works

Sequential Art – A term defined by Will Eisner as, “an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information”

Soft-bound (Comics) – Single issues of comics with a floppy spine, often stapled in the middle. They are also sometimes called Floppies

Square-bound (Comics) – Publications printed on flexible cardstock that are bound on the side like a book. Known in the publishing industry as a Trade Paperback

Tankōbon  A Japanese term for a book length, stand-alone comic (similar to how Trade Paperback or Graphic Novel are used in English)

Tebeos  Spanish-language term for comic books. In Spain the term is more specific, used to denote a magazine that contains comics

Tie-Ins  See Graphic Adaptations

Tijuana Bible – Sometimes known as Bluesies. Small-sized pornographic comics, often parodies of mainstream comics, that were published from the 1930’s to the 1950’s

Topper – A smaller comic that runs across and/or around the borders of another comic. This was once a popular technique used in comic strips when the size of comic strips and the space allotted to them in the newspaper was much larger than today

Trade Paperback – A book of previously published issues that originally appeared as individual comics. In common parlance, this is often referred to as a Graphic Novel

Treasury-sized (Comics) – Oversized comic books, approximately the size of an unfolded newspaper page

Typography Comics – Comics which play on the graphic element of words to tell a story.  They often have pictures to accompany the words

Webcomics  Comics created for and published on the Internet. They may be limited to what is immediately on the screen, hyperlinked to other information, or use the Infinite Canvas format

Webtoons – A style of Digital Comics that originated in South Korea which takes advantage of the Infinite Canvas and which may include animated or audio elements. They are designed to be best consumed on a phone or tablet

Wordless Comics – Stories told using only pictures. Contrast with Illustrated Book

Zines  D.I.Y. Magazines that combine any number of art styles, particularly self-created comics

 – Article by Tony, Main Library

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows by Jeff Lemire and Max Fiumara

Recently this character’s name was changed to Doctor Andromeda for legal reasons. The series has been republished as Doctor Andromeda and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows but the library’s copy still has the original title.

Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Max Fiumara, is a spin-off of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer series. If you are not familiar with Black Hammer (one of my Top Ten Graphics of 2019), you seriously need to check it out. In that series, a group of superheroes saves the world from an alien threat only to disappear and then reappear in a small town somewhere in Middle America. A small town that they find themselves unable to leave! The mystery of why they cannot leave is slowly tearing them apart until…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you and it’s not what this review is about, other than as backstory.

Doctor Star takes a look at one of the other heroes of this world who finds his powers and starts adventuring during the World War II era. Dr. Jim Robinson is a brilliant astrophysicist whose research into the Para-Zone, a mysterious and dangerous dimension outside of the normal universe, is funded by the government looking for a way to weaponized it. Eventually, after throwing himself into the work, Dr. Robinson discovers a way to unlock the power of the Para-Zone. Using the tools that help him control it, Dr. Robinson creates his new superhero persona, Doctor Star.

This is how he connects to the rest of the Black Hammer universe, meeting Colonel Randall Weird, the only hero who can traverse the Para-Zone, as well as other heroes along the way. But don’t worry too much about those connections. This short spin-off is firmly anchored in its protagonist’s tragic journey.

Jeff Lemire is good telling at these kind of very human, painful stories. There are so many little character details he throws in that you very quickly feel for the characters. You feel for them even as you watch them damage or destroy what is precious to them.

Artist Max Fiumara is very capable of portraying these little details in a concise manner while still capturing the spirit of adventure the story beats demand. The line work alternates between sharp and quirky, almost fairy tale, style and a muted, grimmer style that feels like a fading memory. Fiumara is known mostly for artwork on Hellboy titles but here, it is more akin to classic pulp than urban horror.

Not only is this a loving tribute to comic author James Robinson’s classic Starman series (Doctor Star’s alter ego is named after him after all), it is also a meditation on how parents and children can become alienated from each other with no malice intended. Here we find a scientist turned superhero who sees the universe and has many adventures in his career but loses something irreplaceable. Something which he only realizes in the final, heartbreaking sequence.

– Review by Tony, Main Library

Top Ten Graphics of 2020

I am glad to say goodbye to 2020, no doubt, but I did get a lot of reading done along the way. Here are a few of my favorite comics from this year (listed in alphabetical order). A few have more than one volume and I have not designated a particular volume if I would recommend the whole series.

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Clayton Daniels

From the creator of Upgrade Soul comes a tale of body horror and gentrification with art-comics visuals and snappy dialogue…what’s not to like? Dare to visit…Chicago. The dark side.


The Case of the Missing Men: A Hobtown Mystery by Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes

Did you like teen detective stories when you were growing up? You know, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, that kind of tale? If so, now you can start another such series with a little Twin Peaks thrown in the mix. This first case involves men who go missing, a sinister conspiracy, and plucky teens trying to make sense of what is happening to their small town.


Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows by Jeff Lemire and Max Fiumara

Part of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe, Doctor Star is a loving tribute to James Robinson’s classic Starman series. Here we find a scientist turned superhero who sees the universe and has many adventures but loses something irreplaceable. A lengthier review can be found here.


Folklords by Matt Kindt and Matt Smith

Dos Matts (Kindt and Smith) weave a tale of a young man out of synch with his magic-based world who takes on a quest to discover its secrets. Plus, warrior librarians!


The Grand Abyss Hotel by Marcos Prior and David Rubin

Crazy story and amazing art from Marcos Prior and David Rubin about violence devastating modern civilization. Violence right out in the open but excused. What happens when excuses stop pacifying those who hear them?


Jazz Maynard by Raule and Roger

Cool, moody, and stylish, this comic series from Spanish creators Raule and Roger was originally published for the French market. Each volume is composed of a trilogy of the original comics to tell a coherent chapter in the life of this jazz musician-cum-master thief. The stories are seedy, violent, and sexy, just like the protagonist.


A hilarious take on Egyptian mythology. Hamish Steele regales us with a retelling of the Osiris myth that is by turns violent, insane, perverted, and funny. If you like the kind of literary humor found in Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, this is a must read.


Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag

I read Book Two this year but would recommend starting with Book One as this volume does build on the previous one. This is the tale of a former superheroine who has decided to try to live a normal life but keeps having to deal with the fallout from her previous life.


Jimmy Olsen is given the assignment of a lifetime, finding out who murdered him. Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber take all the wacky things they loved about those Silver Age Jimmy Olsen stories and go meta all over them. Step through the fourth wall and have a ball!


You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh

Part of DC’s Graphic Novels for Young Adults series, this is a short but affecting coming of age story about Jake Hyde, known in the regular continuity as Aqualad. Jake feels like an outsider until he discovers his powers and falls into a romance that will forever change his life.


All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system. You may have the item shipped to the library of your choice by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).


If you are interested in these titles or other works of sequential art, check out LFPL’s Comics and Manga webpage. And if you’d like to see top graphics from past years, click here.

Tonight @ 6:00 PM: An Evening with Danica Novgorodoff

Carmichael’s Kids and LFPL present a free Facebook Live event on Thursday, November 19, at 6:00 p.m.: An Evening with Danica Novgorodoff.

Danica, a Louisville native, is a graphic novelist, designer, and illustrator now living in New York City. During this free online event, Danica will discuss her creative process and her work with author Jason Reynolds on adapting his New York Times-bestselling book, Long Way Down, into a graphic novel.

Join us on Facebook @Louisville Free Public Library

Top Ten Graphics of 2019

Here are some of my favorite comics read in 2019. They may or may not have been published this year. Also, a few have more than one volume and I have not designated a particular volume if I would recommend the whole series.

My picks are listed in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.

The American Way by John Ridley and Georges Jeanty

Superheroes working for the government, a government that helps script their battles and other appearances in order to stoke patriotic pride, have been doing this for years. But now it’s the early 1960’s and change is in the air. What the country needs is a new hero, dubbed the New American by his government handlers, but little do they anticipate the chaos he will bring in his wake.

Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose

The blurb on the cover says it all, “Tales of Fear and Food from Around the World.” Bourdain, Rose, and a host of guest artists gather to bring us Japanese folk-inflected ghost stories, all told on an eerie night at the table of an eccentric nobleman.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

A deeply-moving meta-narrative about a singular artistic talent from Singapore. The tale begins in the aftermath of World War II and follows the titular artist to his later years in the 1980’s. If you are a lifelong fan of comics, you’ll be astounded by the homages to comic history, and if you are not, it’s still a great look at the life of an artist in his times. History buffs and political nerds will especially enjoy his exposition on the rise of modern Malaysia.

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston

A tale of the other side of some great cosmic event involving superheroes. What happens to these characters if they are whisked away in the blink of an eye? Where do they go? What if it’s to a seemingly perfect example of small-town America and they can’t escape?

Eternity Girl by Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew

Caroline Sharp – spy and superheroine – finds herself reincarnated as Eternity Girl but all she longs for is meaning in a meaningless world. Or death. Which will she choose? How will it affect the world at large?

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

Abused son of a god turned escape artist has to face his greatest trick, escaping death itself. But can he live with himself while he tries? Poignant domestic drama highlights the emotional impact that constant abuse can have on a person, their work, and their family.

Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution by Youssef Daoudi

The title says it all…but doesn’t tell you how great the art and the pacing are in this tale for die-hard music-lovers and acolytes alike. You will be able to almost hear the music as you turn pages. Better yet, check out some Thelonious Monk from the library so you can listen along!

Petrograd by Philip Gelatt and Tyler Crook

A historical drama centering on the British S.I.S. office in Russia during the First World War. In this tale, the station participates (imagined? real?) in the murder of Rasputin, called the “Mad Monk,” a powerful adviser to Tsarina Alexandra. The art is brisk as befits a spy story.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

A heartbreaking autobiography from George Takei about his family’s experience in the American prison camps of WWII. Thousands of Japanese-Americans and legal immigrants of Japanese descent were torn from their homes and sent far away from their livelihoods and their communities for years. It also looks at how those experiences colored Mr. Takei’s youth and his life-long commitment to civil rights.

Young Frances by Hartley Lin

This is the collected edition of Mr. Lin’s irregularly published indie comic, Pope Hats, issues 1-5. It centers on a brilliant young law clerk with low self-esteem and her wacky, successful actor friend. The art is of the ligne claire style (think Tintin) so there’s no confusion as to how the story unfolds. However, you will be surprised how much emotion can be wrung from such simplicity.

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system.

After taking a look, if your selection is not available at the branch you wish to go to, you may have the item shipped there by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 7:00 PM.

The next meeting is Monday, January 13, 2020. In honor of Korean-American Day (held every year on January 13th), we will be taking a look at Korean-American Comic Creators.

For more information, contact Tony at (502) 574-1611.

— Article by Tony, Main Library

Top Ten Graphics of 2018

Here are some of my favorite comics read in 2018. They may or may not have been published this year. Also, a few have more than one volume and I have not designated a particular volume if I would recommend the whole series.

My picks are listed in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss

Dig it, Stranger Things meets The Usual Supects! Four misfit kids try to help out one of their number’s father. He is being forced into pulling a bank heist with his recently released former partners in crime. The four plan to pull the heist off first so that he won’t have to do it…and then all hell breaks loose.

 

Anarchy Comics: The Complete Collection, edited by Jay Kinney

Exactly what it says, man…comics about Anarchy! Or rather Anarchism, both historical and speculative. This classic Underground Comix has finally been given the omnibus treatment it deserves.

 

Bat-manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan by Juro Kiwata

Best thing ever! The entire run of the 1960’s manga version of Batman, organized by graphic designer extraordinare Chip Kidd. Thrill to these far-out tales, especially as the Caped Crusader faces down the infamous Lord Death Man!

 

Bookhunter by Jason Shiga

Don’t try to steal that book or stiff the library on money you owe or else the intrepid Bookhunters squad will hunt you down! Set in Oakland, CA, in 1973, Shiga’s Library Police take us on a thrill a minute adventure.

 

The Don Rosa Archives, vol. 2: Captain Kentucky by Don Rosa

Meet Lance Pertwillaby as he he gains super-powers and embarks on crazy adventures, such as battling a Godzilla-sized J. Fred Frog threatening to destroy downtown Louisville. This volume collects local cartooning legend Don Rosa’s comic strips which ran in the Louisville Times back in the day.

 

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan

It’s 1953 and Snagglepuss is a renowned playwright who gets called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (H.U.A.C.). At the same time, long-term friend Huckleberry Hound has been found in a compromising situation that has ruined the fellow playwright’s career. Snagglepuss’ testimony will help make Huckleberry Hound’s problems go away but will he sacrifice his artistic integrity?

 

Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Loser tries to kill himself but manages to survive…thanks to a DEMON! All he has to do in exchange is kill one bad person a month.  Or could it be his mental illness manifesting now that he stopped taking his meds? Author Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips once again collaborate, this time on a psychological crime comic. You won’t be able to stop turning pages till the end!

 

Maximum Minimum Wage by Bob Fingerman

Classic Gen-X comic about the struggles of a cartoonist and his hothead girlfriend as they try to get by in New York. Will they find the job of their dreams? Will they even be able to pay rent? 

 

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? by Geof Darrow and Dave Stewart

One man’s fight to survive the revenge attempts of his undead and supernatural foes. Crazy awesome detailed art from Geof Darrow is worth the price of admission alone!

 

William B. DuBay’s The Rook by William B. Dubay, Budd Lewis, and Luis Bermejo

Restin Dane is the Master of Time. Follow him, his faithful android man-servant Manners, and his cranky outlaw grand-pappy Bishop Dane, as they travel through time battling the forces of evil.

 


 

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system.

After taking a look, if your selection is not available at the branch you wish to go to, you may have the item shipped there by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right hand side of the item’s catalog entry).

 


 

If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 6:00 PM.

Our next meeting is this upcoming Monday, December 10, 2018. We will be discussing DC’s Aquaman.

 

 

 

 

Digital Comic Books at LFPL

Do you like digital comic books (also known as e-comics)? Or would you like to give them a try but don’t want to have to pay for a subscription?

Well, true believer, LFPL is here for you!

Click on any of the following links to view the Library’s current selections:

Biblioboard‘s offerings are primarily comics of the Golden Age (1938-1954) and biographical works of artists and writers. There are also some interesting public domain works from before the Golden Age.

 

Overdrive‘s collection is primarily composed of modern, up to the minute comics from publishers such as BOOM! Studios, DC Comics, Image Comics, and Top Shelf Productions


RBdigital offers comics from Marvel Comics and IDW Publishing.

LFPL has over 1,200 comics you can browse on your home computer, tablet, or smartphone!

Keep checking in, too, as we continue to expand it’s digital comics collection.


If you are interested in learning how to make comics/graphic novels or other aspects of illustration and graphic design, check out these free classes you can take through Lynda.com.

(242 classes are available!)


To have access to all this great content, all you need is a valid library card number and to know your library card’s password. If you are not sure what your library card number or password are (or need a replacement), please stop by one of the 18 library locations and we’ll get you set up.

High Concept and Low Concept

Sometimes, if you’re discussing books that you read, games that you play, shows that you watch, music you listen to – basically any media you consume – you need some specialized ideas and terms to help you describe and discuss it. “It was great” or “It was bad” or “I thought it was OK” are all very well and good, but it’s so much more satisfying if you can also talk about WHY you liked/disliked something. If you want to win arguments and impress your friends, remember your ABCs – Always Backup Criticism.

Have examples, of course, of things you like or don’t and why. But, sometimes, you need some special vocabulary and ideas in order to help you with your critique. That means it’s time to add another idea to your toolbox: high vs. low concept. This is all about how much concept a work of art contains, not how good the concept is. Think of it as a matter of the amount the concept itself contributes to the total content of the work.

Jane Austen’s novels are generally low concept. The idea of the novels – that people in various economic circumstances need to get paired up (or not paired up, or not paired up the way they thought) – is nowhere near as important to the books as the interactions between the characters, which is why people read them. Here’s an example pie chart, based on a very precise and academic guesstimate:

There’s also works that split it pretty much right down the middle, generating interest in equal parts from the idea that drives them, as well as the execution of the plot and characters:

On the far end of the scale, there’s also works that are high concept – that get their interest mostly from the ideas that drive them. I can think of no better example than 18 Days (an adaptation of the Mahabharata), which breaks down about like this:

The library has the concept art book, if you want a look at the idea, but, sadly, they didn’t get full funding for the series as it was originally conceived. Instead, you can watch it in a few different languages on the Graphic India YouTube channel. Still pretty awesome, though.

Whatever the level of concept in your media, now you have a new way to talk about the things you love: is it high conceptlow concept, or a balance of the two?

Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown

Andy Kaufman skirted the line between nonsense and reality in his performances where during his comedy career; he brought many unique characters to life.  Two of the most recognizable are Latka Gravas, a lovable kook on the TV series Taxi, and Foreign Man, a character he created for Saturday Night Live. Kaufman and his work  were immortalized in a film called Man on the Moon, where Jim Carrey portrayed him.. Author Box Brown has now brought Kaufman’s life to another generation in a biographical graphic novel, Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman.  

The novel follows his life beginning as child and his appreciation of performing arts, music and wrestling.  He enjoyed wrestling so much that he created parodies of his favorite stars bit of humor to the violent world of pro-wrestling. For a time, he put his dream of becoming a wrestler on hold while honing his showman skills with improvisational comedy and television appearances.  However, he felt this was not the direction in which he wanted to go. He finally jumped into the wrestling ring, putting on amazing acts and stirring up trouble along the way. His most notable appearance was the controversial debacle with former wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Box Brown’s simplistic pencil drawings and limited color illustrations capture the story of a young man who was sensitive, thoughtful, and very funny. He uses traditional boxed-in scenes throughout the entire book which reads like an original comic strip. The nostalgic style draws (pun intended) you into the story, while moving swiftly through Kaufman’s short life.  Brown has made this book more than a biography of Kaufman by including footnotes about the world of professional wrestling without interrupting the flow of the story.  There is also an in-depth bibliography of references, websites, television episodes, and personal interviews, as well as a list of books by people in the wrestling industry.

If you enjoy this journey into the life of a comedian turned wrestler, check out Brown’s book about another famous wrestler, Andre the Giant.  

Format Available: Graphic Novel

Review by Micah, St Matthews Branch