Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America: Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

Comic books are just for kids, right? Or are they graphic novels that push the boundaries of illustrating and storytelling? Are we seeing the acceptance of the comics as an art form equal to Shakespeare or is it simply the flavor of the decade, so to speak? 

I saw the new Captain America film in theatres this weekend and it turned out to be a decently entertaining movie, but it got me thinking about the battle in the art world between those who write-off comic books as popular tripe versus those who consider them graphic novels worthy of literature. Originally, comic books sold for a few cents to children wanting to pass the weekend without feeling like they read a grownup book. Today, however, comic books are asserting their role as genuine works of art, styling them “graphic novels” that speak to both kids and adults. 

Oddly enough, sales in comic books are declining, whereas comic book movies keep turning into box office hits. Is calling a comic book a graphic novel just a horse of another color or are we seeing the emergence of a more sophisticated form of expression? Are characters like Captain America, Batman, and the Green Lantern epic archetypes or just Freudian boyhood fantasies on steroids?