Graphic novels for Teens

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graphic novels: Suggestions for Librarians also available online: www.ncac.org/graphicnovels Prepared by: The National Coalition Against Censorship The American Library Association & the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund © 2006 introduction raphic novels are one of the fastest growing cat- Combining visual art (a sense of space, mass, motion, egories in publishing and bookselling. Today’s and color) with literary and cinematic techniques (plot, Ggraphic novels are far more sophisticated and point of view, character development, metaphor, allegory, varied in content than the comics that preceded them flashbacks and flashforwards, speeding and slowing time, and enjoy a level of respect previously denied to this form close-ups, long views, stream of consciousness, montage, of popular entertainment; they are the subject of reviews, etc.) graphic novels contain some of the most creative book-length surveys, museum exhibits and academic work in publishing today. They promote visual and verbal study, as well as recipients of prestigious literary awards literacy, as well as love of reading. A good collection of (Art Speigelman’s Maus, for instance, won the Pulitzer graphic novels appeals to young people who might oth- Prize in 1992). As the U.S. News and World report phrased erwise be reluctant to explore library resources. it, “The comic books of our youth have The immediacy of graphic nov- grown up.” els’ visual impact coupled with adult While comics are generally pub- themes and concerns, however, The comic lished as magazines, their “grown up” sometimes confuse library patrons “ version – the graphic novel – appears in used to thinking of comics as the books of book format. Sometimes graphic novels province solely of 10 or 12 year olds. bring together a series of comics much The explosive growth of the medium our youth like Dickens’ novels came out of serial- combined with the appearance of ized narrative; at other times they are more and more graphic novels for conceived as novels and exhibit novel- older teens and adults presents some have istic features such as character develop- unique issues for librarians. ment and multiple story lines. Although The diversity of graphic novels grown up. still mostly targeted at youth, graphic makes categorizing and shelving ” novels are increasingly of interest to an them a challenging task. Shelving all expanded audience, which includes many adults. graphic novels together, for instance, has occasionally led Narratives composed out of visual images or out of to parents complaining that their kids have mistakenly images and words have a very long history that stretches picked up an inappropriate book due to its proximity and back to the first cave paintings. Today’s graphic novels, visual similarity to books targeted at older teenagers or however, are a singular product of the 20th century. In adults. We hope the guidelines we offer here help librar- their combination of text and image they are closest to ians make the best decisions in serving the specific needs another major 20th century medium – film. Not surpris- of their patrons. ingly there is a rich interchange between the two – film The guidelines are intended to help in collection technique informs graphic novels and, in turn, many film- development, categorizing and shelving graphic novels, makers base their work on comics or graphic novels (not as well as handling complaints. only Batman and the X-men, but also Ghost World, Ameri- For regular updates, or to give us feedback to be can Splendor, A History of Violence, Art School Confidential, included in future editions, please visit: and many others). www.ncac.org/graphicnovels or www.ala.org/oif/ifissues/graphicnovels.htm 2brand of comics storytelling. Graphic Novels: a Brief History The late sixties brought the most immediate ante- The juxtaposition of words and pictures stretches back cedent to the content of today’s graphic novels, Under- into antiquity (think about ancient Egyptian wall paint- ground Comix, self-published or small press comic books, ings, which surround human figures with dense lines which disregarded the restrictions of the Comics Code. of hieroglyphs), though the current vocabulary of the Born from the era’s counterculture, Underground Co- form began to take shape with the rise of the comic strip. mix dealt unflinchingly with the social issues of the day, Popularized in newspapers at the start of the 20th cen- including attitudes about sex, race, war, and drugs. Its tury, the comic strip introduced the fundamentals of the greatest practitioners are today revered as some of the comics language such as the use of balloons for thoughts century’s most noteworthy artistic voices, most notably R. and dialogue, and panel to panel narrative progression Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, and Harvey Pekar. that persist to this day. The work of many visionaries of The creative freedom afforded by Underground that period, including Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Comix and changes in distribution that allowed material E.C. Segar, and Frank King is now preserved in popular without the Comics Code seal of approval to find an audi- archival editions. In a parallel development, the 1920s and ence, opened the door for the graphic novel to emerge. 1930s saw a revival in the woodcut narrative tradition in The term “graphic novel” was popularized by Will Eisner’s the work of Franz Masereel, Lynd Ward, and Milt Gross, 1978 short story collection, A Contract With God. Eisner’s whose “silent” 1930 comic He Done Her Wrong was recent- book, specifically designed to speak to adult readers, ly reissued to popular acclaim. provided an example of how the comics medium could Comic book traditions have many national variations. be used to serious literary effect. The American comic book took shape in the late 1930s More and more content was created and marketed as with the introduction of Superman and his successors graphic novels. The breakthrough year of 1986 marked Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and a plethora the publication of three critically acclaimed, bestselling of others. Arriving at the tail end of the Depression and books: Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize–winning during the first rumblings of World War II, comics pro- novel about the Holocaust; Watchmen, Alan Moore and vided cheap, thrilling entertainment that appealed to Dave Gibbons’ political deconstruction of the superhero youngsters and soldiers alike. Comic books became an genre; and The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s social integral part of the entertainment culture, with the popu- commentary on media and politics in the Reagan era lar heroes spinning off serials, radio programs, and movie (with Batman and Superman as allegorical touchstones). features. As the medium progressed, it encompassed a The late nineties brought the influx of manga, Japa- wide variety of genres including romance, horror, crime, nese comics which had been slowly coming over to the science fiction, war, humor, and adventure. United States since the late seventies. Ubiquitous in Comic book sales soared into the millions after World Japan since the end of the second World War, manga dif- War II. Will Eisner’s formally audacious The Spirit, for in- fers from American graphic novels in both the storytell- stance, circulated as a comic book supplement in national ing techniques it applies and in subject matter, with each newspapers aimed at a well educated readership. In the book closely targeted at a specific demographic. Publish- early 1950s, the success of EC Comics’ horror, science-fic- ers like TokyoPop and Viz have translated a vast array of tion, and war titles marked a high point in comics art and titles that speak directly to the concerns of young adult storytelling. readers, who have developed a voracious appetite for the However, by the mid fifties, the medium suffered a growing genre. setback: the anti-comic book hysteria whipped up by The breakthrough literary success of Chris Ware’s Frederic Wertham’s book, Seduction of the Innocent, culmi- Jimmy Corrigan (2000), and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis nated in Senate hearings on Comics and Juvenile Delin- (2003), coupled with the popular success of comics-based quency. Worried about the possibility of government reg- movies such as X-Men and Spider-Man on one hand, and ulation publishers toned down their content and formed Ghost World and American Splendor on the other, has a self-regulatory body, the Comics Code Authority. The resulted in an explosion in audience interest in all age CCA prohibited depictions of gore, sexuality, and exces- groups. sive violence, as well as scenes with vampires, werewolves, Today, like their counterparts in prose, graphic novels ghouls or zombies. It also mandated that authority figures cover every conceivable genre, including fiction, biogra- were never to be ridiculed or presented disrespectfully, phy, history, journalism, education, crime, horror, fantasy, and that good must always win. EC comics dropped most romance, adventure, memoir, humor, politics, and much of its comics. Comics rebounded by the early 1960s, how- more. After a century of growth, the comics that started ever, with DC Comics reinvigorating many of its classic as amusing ephemera in newspapers have matured into heroes for young audiences, and Marvel Comics captur- a diverse, insightful, and entertaining form that is begin- ing adolescent and college-age imaginations with a new ning to enjoy a permanent place in the literary world. 3developing a graphic novel collection collection development top 10 graphic novels The following books will help librarians develop a graphic A top 10 list is compiled by Booklist editors every spring in novels collection: the annual “Spotlight on Graphic Novels feature.” Beginning in 2006, all the Graphic Novel top 10 lists, Goldsmith, Francisca. Graphic Novels Now: Building, Man- as well as other graphic novel feature material (interviews, aging, And Marketing a Dynamic Collection. Chicago: etc.), will be published and archived for subscribers on American Library Association, 2005. Booklist Online (http://www.booklistonline.com). Lyga, Allyson W. and Lyga, Barry. Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide. Portsmouth, NH, Libraries bibliography Unlimited, 2004. Bussert, Leslie. “Comic Books and Graphic Novels: Digital Miller, Steve. Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Col- Resources for an Evolving Form of Art and Literature.” lections. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2005. C&RL News, vol. 66, no. 2, 2005. Rothschild, D. Aviva. Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide “Graphic Novel Issue.” Young Adult Library Services, vol. 3, to Book-Length Comics. Portsmouth, NH, Libraries Unlim- no. 4, Summer 2005. ited, 1995. “Graphic Novels.” LibraryJournal.com, November 15, 2005. Other helpful books and resources can be found below under “Bibliography.” Gravett, Paul. Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know. Another resource for collection development can be New York: Collins Design, 2005. found on the Graphic Novels in Libraries (GNLIB) Web site at http://www.angelfire.com/comics/gnlib/resources. Gravett, Paul. Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life. html. Also available there is an unmoderated e-list specif- New York: Collins Design, 2005. ically for young adult and adult services public librarians. Library suppliers have compiled core lists of graphic Jones, Patrick, Gorman, Michele, and Suellentrop, Tricia. novels (e.g., Brodart’s can be found at http://www.graph- Connecting Young Adults and Libraries: A How-To-Do-It icnovels.brodart.com/core_lists.htm). Manual. 3rd ed. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2005. Consult the Intellectual Freedom Manual, seventh edition (2005), for important collection development “Spotlight on Graphic Novels.” Booklist, vol. 101, no. 14, resources, such as the Diversity in Collection Development: March 15, 2005. An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Weiner, Stephen. 101 Best Graphic Novels. 2nd ed. New York: Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, 2006. Guides to graphic novels Libraries have created pages devoted to the graphic novel. These are two such sites: Columbia University’s Graphic Novels Page http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eguides/graphic_nov- els/ Mercer County (NJ) Library System’s Graphic Novel Page http://www.mcl.org/subj/grafnov.html 4where to shelve graphic novels? Libraries determine how to best serve their users’ needs • In a specially designated graphic novels area for and wants by providing a logical, intuitive path to desired easier browsing of all graphic works; for example: materials. They consider a range of factors, including classification system in use, format, building layout, age - Graphic materials—adult, YA, and children—can 1 2 category, and accessibility. be cataloged separately, for example, but their Graphic novels include both fiction and nonfiction, cataloging records indicate they are found in the may be directed at any age, and may be viewed as a dis- same “home” location; tinct genre (e.g., mysteries) or as a separate format (e.g., large print). Although shelving practices vary from library - Even in this example, adult graphic novels can to library, graphic novels are commonly shelved: be shelved separately from YA and children’s graphic novels; and • By age category (e.g., graphic novels for adults • Throughout the are shelved with other library on a book-by- adult books; graphic book basis. novels for young adults are shelved with other Most librarians will shelve YA books); graphic novels with sexual adult content in • Together under one an appropriately “adult” 3 classification number area. Nevertheless, (e.g., DDC 741.5, Car- shelving location must toons, caricatures, com- not be assumed to be a ics); predictor of who will read or borrow a particular • Combination of the graphic novel. above. 1 Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights states, “Library policies and procedures Li- that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the brary Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.” 2 Restricted Access to Library Material: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights states, “Because restricted materials often deal with controversial, unusual, or sensitive subjects, having to ask a librarian or circulation clerk for access to them may be embarrassing or inhibiting for patrons desiring the materials. Requiring a user to ask for materials may create a service barrier or pose a language-skills barrier. Even when a title is listed in the catalog with a reference to its restricted status, a barrier is placed between the patron and the publication. (See also Labels and Rating Systems: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.) Because restricted materials often feature information that some people consider objectionable, potential library users may be predisposed to think of the materials as objectionable and, therefore, be reluctant to ask for access to them. 3 Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” 5dealing with challenges In theory, dealing with challenges to graphic novels is no talking with the media different than dealing with challenges to print material. In practice, however, it is important to keep in mind that A challenge may attract media attention. How effectively many people consider an image to be far more powerful you work with the media may well determine how big the in its impact than any written description of that image. story becomes and will help to shape public opinion. That said, the following tips will help you prepare to cope 1 with challenges to graphic novels. • Designate a spokesperson or spokespeople for the library. Make sure that reporters, library staff and the members of the board know who has been designat- be prepared ed. Make it clear that no one other than a spokesper- son should express opinions on behalf of the library. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure all library staff and board members understand • Ask questions. What is the approach? Will there be the library’s policies and procedures for dealing with someone with an opposing view present? If you do challenges. Provide customer service and other human not feel qualified to address the question or are un- relations training that will help staff deal effectively with comfortable with the approach, say so. Suggest other sensitive matters. “Dealing with Concerns about Library angles (“The real issue is freedom of choice. . .”) Resources” (Intellectual Freedom Manual, 7th ed., 2005) is an excellent guide to handling complaints effectively. • Ask for the reporter’s deadline. Even if he or she needs it “right away,” you can call back in 15 minutes. key messages about libraries • Remember, nothing is “off the record.” Assume that anything you say could end up on the front page or If responding to a challenge, focus on four key points: leading the news broadcast. 1. Libraries provide ideas and information across the spec- • Prepare carefully for any contacts with the media. trum of social and political views. Know the most important message you want to deliver and be able to deliver it in 25 words or less. 2. Libraries provide choice for all people. You will want to review your library’s borrowing and 3. Parents are responsible for supervising their own collection development policies and the American children’s library use. Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. 4. Collection does not imply endorsement. • Practice answering difficult questions and answers out loud. You may wish to invest in a session with a professional media consultant or at least practice fielding complaints answering sample questions with someone else (see Sample Questions and Answers below). • Greet each person with a smile. Communicate your openness and show that you take them seriously. • Be prepared to tell stories or quote parents and chil- dren about how the library has helped them. • Listen more than you talk. Indeed, practice “active listening.” Take time to really listen and acknowledge • Be clear who you represent—yourself or your library. the individual’s concern. Stay calm and courteous. • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know. “I don’t • Relate the four key points listed above. know” is a legitimate answer. Reporters do not want incorrect information. Tell them you’ll get the infor- • Sharing personal opinions is not a good idea. Instead, mation and call back. be prepared to distribute facts, policy, and other back- ground materials in writing. • Never say “No comment.” A simple “I’m sorry I can’t answer that.” will suffice. • Be prepared to give a clear, non-intimidating ex- planation of the library’s procedure for registering a complaint, and say when a decision can be expected. 6An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure all library staff and board members understand the library’s policies and procedures for dealing with challenges. sample questions and answers The following questions provide sample language for answering questions from parents, the media, and others. You will want to personalize your remarks for your library and community. Remember, keep it simple. Keep it human. Why do libraries have to buy graphic novels? The library has a responsibility to serve its community—your neighbors—including those you may not agree with or who may not agree with you. Libraries purchase materials, such as graphic novels, because they have a mission statement that requires them to serve a broad range of community needs and wants. The material you find in your library was selected by librarians, who are taught as part of their professional education to determine the needs of their communities and to select materials based on library policies. Shouldn’t I be able to control what my kids are exposed to? You can control what your children are exposed to by going with them to visit the library or supervising what they bring home. If there are materials you don’t approve of, talk with your children about why you would rather they not read or view them. Most libraries provide suggested reading lists for various ages. And librarians are always glad to advise children and parents on selecting materials we think they would enjoy and find helpful. Ultimately, we believe parents know what’s best for their children, and each parent is responsible for supervising his or her child. Can a child check out graphic novels, even those intended for adults? The conviction that young persons are entitled to enjoy the same freedom to read as adults is not a belief that children should be given adult-themed materials. We believe in freedom of choice for all people but we also believe in common sense, and common sense will tell you that it is extremely unusual for a young child to check out adult material. Well, I can’t be at the library every time my child is there. Does this mean my child is on her own? No. The best library resource are the librarians. They provide assistance and guidance, such as suggested reading lists, to help young people make appropriate choices. Our goal is to provide the best possible service for all of our users, and we are very proud of what we offer. If you haven’t been to our library recently, we encourage you to come and see for yourself What should I do if I find a graphic novel I don’t approve of in the library? We want to know your concerns. If you have a concern, simply speak to a librarian. We take such concerns very seriously. First, we listen. We also have a formal review process in which we ask you to fill out a special form designed to help us understand your concerns more thoroughly. Anyone who makes a written complaint will receive a response in writing. We hope the other sections in these guidelines will help you address the importance and value of graphic novels in more detail if this is necessary in the individual case. 7appendix • “One of my most reliable Teen Advisory Board mem- graphic novel library survey bers began walking to our library after school to wait for her mom to get off work. I saw her a few times Survey conducted by the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Free- in the YA Dept. but didn’t really know her. One day I dom in March–April 2005; Total number of responses: 185 was being interviewed by a local reporter about our graphics and manga and he saw her reading ‘Lenore: What type of library do you work in? Noogies’. He asked if she read graphics regularly Public libraries and she said she had always hated reading until she spotted ‘Lenore: Wedgies’. She picked it up, read it in Do you include graphic novels in your collection? one sitting and was hooked. So hooked that she got Yes = 179 (97%) No = 6 (3%) a library card and began checking out all our graphics and manga. She has now progressed to Edgar Allan Have you experienced any problems with or chal- Poe and other literature.” lenges to the graphic novels in your collection? Yes = 35 (23%) No = 143 (77%) • “A big problem is finding reviews. Often the first two or three in a series title are OK, but the next several How are graphic novels catalogued and shelved? may deviate towards more violent or ‘graphic’ stories. It’s almost impossible to find reviews that agree on A high percentage of the responders shelve their graphic age recommendations.” novels in the Young Adult section of their library (either in YA Fiction or as 741’s). Those with larger collections were • “I would like a rating guide, specifically age-related.” able to devote entire sections to graphic novels, and even separate based on content into Juvenile, Young Adult, and • “I would love to see SLJ, Booklist, or LJ review graphics Adult sections. Libraries with small collections add the and manga every month” graphic novels into the YA or Teen Fiction sections of their library without separate designation. • “There is quite a bit of concern over the binding of graphic novels” Comments and Success Stories Tips (developed from survey) • “We have partnered with our local comic book store to celebrate Free Comic Book Day. Various comic • Partner with a local comic-book store to celebrate book writers and artists are at the store that day to Free Comic Book Day. promote their titles and to draw sketches. A portion of the proceeds from the sketches and the sales are - Invite comic-book writers and artists to promote donated to the library for the purchase of graphic their titles and to draw sketches. novels for both the YA and Adult collections.” - Donate a portion of the proceeds from the sketch- • “My daughter has had two graphic novellas published es and the sales to the library for the purchase of in anthologies that included several explicit lesbian graphic novels for both the YA and Adult collections. novellas. I donated a copy to my library and it circu- lated fairly well. Two other libraries in our system also • Form specific interest groups (graphic novels, anime, purchased copies. No complaints yet.” manga). • “We started an anime group in November and meet • Invite librarians and users to present panel discus- twice a month. We have 30 registered members and sions around graphic novel topics (e.g., the history of an average of twenty show up every meeting.” graphic novels and comics; how to find reviews and purchase books). • “We’ve put together a panel of librarians that has been successful at giving information on the history • Get Teen Friends/Teen Advisory Groups to recom- of graphic novels (and comics), as well as how to find mend titles and series, and actively seek patron input. reviews and purchase books.” Tips have been excerpted and modified from “Coping with Challenges: Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challeng- es to Library Materials” and “Libraries and the Internet Toolkit.” These guidelines are available on the ALA OIF Web site. 8The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), founded in 1974, is an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educa- tional, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups. United by a conviction that freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression must be defended, we work to educate our own members and the public at large about the dangers of censorship and how to oppose them. For more infor- mation, visit www.ncac.org. The American Library Association (ALA), founded in 1879, is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 64,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information ser- vices and public access to information. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s - basic policy on free access to libraries and library materi als. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the - general public about the nature and importance of intel www.ala.org. lectual freedom in libraries. Visit The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) was founded in 1986 to protect the First Amendment rights of the comic book field. Since the Fund’s establishment, the organization has defended dozens of retailers and artists in Free Expression cases, while promoting pro-active edu- cation to libraries, booksellers, and educators concerning challenges to comic books and graphic novels. For more information, visit www.cbldf.org. Artwork © 2006 Sergio Aragones 9

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