16 May 2009

Wolverine Meets Wimpy Kid—Who Would Win?

A while back, Graphic Novel Reporter ran a preview of Wolverine: Worst Day Ever, written by Barry Lyga and illustrated by various Marvel Comics artists.

The website called the book a “graphic novel,” which prompted a visitor [okay, it was me] to comment:

I'm glad to see Barry Lyga getting work. But why is Wolverine: Worst Day Ever being described as a “a YA graphic novel”? It's an illustrated story which uses very little of the comics format. And are the illustrations original to this project or repurposed?
When GNR went back to review the book, it answered those questions:
Wolverine: Worst Day Ever is close to being a prose work itself. It uses the blog format to advance its story, combined with archive images of Wolverine that have appeared in comics throughout the years. So while not technically a graphic novel per se, it has several of the elements (not least of which is one of the most popular characters to ever appear in comics).
And the book was scheduled, I suspect, to appear alongside this spring's Wolverine movie.

Lyga, former employee of the Diamond comics distribution monopoly and award-winning YA novelist, seems like a good choice to bridge the worlds of superheroes and YA prose fiction. And he understands that Wolverine: Worst Day Ever isn't a graphic novel. In an interview at Comic Book Resources Lyga discussed how his text interacts with the artwork:
In the Wimpy Kid books [by Jeff Kinney], the artwork is sort of seamlessly integrated into the text as an essential part of the story. You can't remove the art and have a coherent story, really. In that sense, they are sort of prototype graphic novels, in a way, with the art conveying story points.

With Worst Day Ever, my original thought was that the artwork would stand alone, on separate pages, like a traditional illustrated novel. But a couple of things happened. First of all, some of the art just SCREAMED for snarky captions in [the narrator] Eric's voice, and I got carried away. Next thing you knew, I was writing captions for every piece of art, not just a few.

And then, secondly, Marvel's designer made the artwork blend with the text in a very natural way, not on separate pages, but actually with the text, so that the art sort of comments on the text. Which actually makes sense--the book is supposed to be a blog, and on blogs, art co-exists with text. So it's a very organic and sensible decision. Her name is Spring [Hoteling], and she's done a great job designing the book.

That said, unlike in Wimpy Kid, if you removed the art, you would still have a complete story. It might not be quite as funny, but it would still be a complete story. I'm not 100% sure that's the case with Wimpy Kid--I think you'd lose more than mood or atmosphere if you yanked the art.
I wasn't so sure; Wimpy Kid was first written with much less art. But at least everyone agrees that just because a book contains lots of pictures--even cartoons or drawings of superheroes--that doesn't make it a "graphic novel."

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I love the citing of yourself as a commenting visitor. Reminds me of something I overheard recently, as finals neared: "Look, just write it in a Wikipedia article and then cite it!"