Graphic novels offer a valuable escape

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published April 4, 2020

 “Monstrous Sunken Treachery,” by Greg Wright

“Monstrous Sunken Treachery,” by Greg Wright

Whether you want to learn something new, go on an adventure, or just escape reality, comics are a great place to start.

“Now more than ever, comic books provide a wonderful escape and release from all the things that we want to avoid about our day-to-day reality,” said Bay City comic book author Greg Wright. “I’m not saying that’s the only way to deal with reality — to escape from it. Come back and fight the good fight, but take some time off for your brain to enjoy some fun and exciting adventures.”

Wright, the author of the graphic novels “Monstrous” and “Wild Bullets,” has been writing comics for around five years. 

“One of the things that I try to do with the comics is, first and foremost, have a good, fun story that — in many ways — can’t be told through television and movies. With comics, there’s no limit on the budget, so I always try to make it as visually exciting as possible,” he said.

After an author writes a graphic novel, Wright said, an artist is hired to design the illustrations, colors and letters that accompany his script. 

Graphic novel illustrator and publisher Varian Grant, of Macomb Township, has been in the business since 2008 and said he has always loved comics.

“I live in my own head a lot, so my inspiration comes from that,” he said. “It’s just something that I am always thinking of and imagining, ‘What if?’” 

Comics and graphic novels are finally getting embraced within a wider culture, according to Wright.

“Formerly, comic books were sort of a medium and a genre — everything was superhero, or at least that was the public perception. But you’re able to get new stories, especially from voices that haven’t been heard before,” he said. “You’re getting a wider range of readership and a wider range of creatorship that really enhances the medium and the types of stories being told in ways that you see in literature more readily. It’s really exciting to be able to see characters who are representing populations that we haven’t seen before, as well as readers who didn’t realize they were comic book and graphic novel fans.”

Comics are incredibly popular right now with both children and adults, according to Betsy Raczkowski, the head of youth services for the Rochester Hills Public Library.

“They are just really fun. They are usually very well-designed, have great illustrations and bright colors,” she said.

Raczkowski said there is a misconception that comics are easy reads. In reality, she said, reading a graphic novel engages different parts of the brain because the combination of text and images communicates issues and emotions that words alone often cannot.

“It’s engaging a part of your brain that you are not normally engaging during reading, (and) kind of waking up a little more of that creativity and learning, because visual learning is becoming a larger component of day-to-day life,” she said.

Besides playing a valuable role in children’s development, graphic novels are great at engaging and inspiring readers of all ages.

“Comics will teach you how to deal with a lot of stuff,” Grant said. “I guarantee you right now I can go pick up a comic book and open it up and something in that book will relate to a situation that I’m handling right now, from wondering how I’m going to pay a bill next week or deal with a friendship that’s falling apart. Even though you are going to an escapist realm, you can identify with a character and their problem.”

Graphic novels also run the gamut of the genres, so there’s one for everyone. Grant loves the deep, multi-layered storytelling graphic novels provide. 

“I’ve always liked that about comic books, that you can tell almost any type of story. Not all comic books are superhero stories — some are  a slice of life, some are historical — there’s just so many different story styles you can put in a comic book,” Grant said.