The graphic novel has come of age. In little more than 25 years, these illustrated books have become the fastest growing sector of publishing, knocking traditional books from the shelves in bookstores and libraries. Teachers and librarians are using graphic novels to enhance literacy, and even The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker are filling As leading authors and artists express themselves more and more in sequential art, museums, too, are celebrating the form. LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel at the James A. Michener Art Museum, through January 10, 2011, examines the history and artistic identity of the graphic novel.
pages with panels of image and text.
LitGraphic features nearly 200 original works including paintings, drawings, storyboards, studies, books, photographs and a documentary film that delves into the lives of the artists and explores how they create their work.
Cave paintings, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel were among the earliest forms of sequential art. More recently, a 1960s underground movement, sparked by the likes of R. Crumb, paved the way for the contemporary graphic novel.
In the 1970s, legendary cartoonist Will Eisner pioneered the form with numerous volumes about New York’s immigrant community. Continuing the tradition, Art Spiegelman created Maus, recounting his parents’ survival of the holocaust. This was the beginning of critical acclaim for the graphic novel: Maus earned a Pulitzer Prize, and went on to become the subject of an exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Many movies, such as Sin City and Road to Perdition, started out as graphic novels, and publishers are beginning to convert classics, as well as the works of popular novelists such as Stephen King, to the sequential form.
“Our world is visually oriented because of computers, TV and video games,” says Scott Hanna, who has penned more than 100 graphic novels. A Bucks County resident, Mr. Hanna has taught sequential art at Bucks County Community College and presented two programs at the Michener on this new art form. “The graphic novel combines the best of the visual world and the written word. You get literature that is streamlined toward our fast-paced world, but with the meat and depth that novels can express.”
Graphic novelists explore the personal and the political, employing language, irony, fantasy, commentary and poetry to tell a story, focusing less on heroes and more on anti heroes. Artists featured in the exhibit include R. Crumb, Will Eisner, Jessica Abel, Sue Coe, Howard Cruse, Steve Ditko, Peter Kuper, Brian Fies, Gerhard, Harvey Kurtzman, Matt Madden, Frans Masereel, Frank Miller, Terry Moore, Milt Gross, Dave Sim, Niko Henrichon, Mark Wheatley, Lynd Ward and Marc Hempel.
Take a video tour of the exhibit here.