When I was young I devoured the Sunday funnies, particularly Calvin and Hobbes. I loved (still love!) Calvin and Hobbes, and over the course of my elementary and middle school years collected around twelve Calvin and Hobbes comic books (via the Book Fair). When the complete collection box set came out, my parents got it for me for Christmas.
Considering I have this deep burning love of a comic and that my parents encouraged it, it might seem odd that I never took the next step and got into "real" comics (i.e. superheroes, graphic novels, and basically anything not in the Sunday paper). And really...it is odd.
Another example of how odd it is, I really love Star Wars. Between fifth grade and the first half of seventh grade, the only books I read were Star Wars books. I read them completely out of order so it never surprised me that there were holes in my Extended Universe knowledge. I would just file the little comments or references characters made about unknown things away in my brain and look forward to having my questions answered in the other books.
I particularly loved the X-Wing series and had a huge crush on Wedge Antilles. The X-Wing series revealed a major hole in my knowledge, i.e. the whole Wedge/Baron Fel relationship. I was eager to fill said whole, but I could find no other books that dealt with the situation. I read every book that was out and couldn't figure out where this story took place. Did it happen in the movies and I missed it? No. Was there an entire series of books that I was missing? Not according to my bookstore. I owned every book they had ever sold in the Extended Universe. I eagerly picked up each new book, wondering if finally this was going to be the book that actually introduced Baron Fel as a person and explained how it was that Wedge Antilles came to marry his sister.
I never found that book because it didn't exist. At least, not in novel form. I learned in high school (when the internet was finally at my fingertips), that this entire story line took place in the X-Wing graphic novels, which I had never touched and never knew existed.
Star Wars comics? How could I have not known about this? You would think I would have seen them in the bookstore, right?
Well....that completely misses the reason why I never got into graphic novels as a kid. It wasn't because I hated the medium, as my love of Calvin and Hobbes disproves. It wasn't because I hated the content, as my love of Star Wars disproves. No, my dear readers, it was for one simple yet crazy reason:
Because they were called graphic novels.
I never walked down the Barnes and Noble aisles entitled "graphic novels". In the Waldenbooks where I used to by my Star Wars books in middle school, I averted my eyes if I had to pass that section. Why?
Well, you see, I thought graphic novels were porn.
Growing up whenever my parents were describing a movie I wasn't allowed to see, or a section I needed to hide my eyes during for a movie, they described it as "graphic". So I thought "graphic" meant "not appropriate for children", which meant sex or extreme violence. Both were things I wanted to avoid.
So like a good kid, of course I avoided the porn section of the bookstore.
It wasn't until late high school that I realized my interpretation of the words "graphic novel" was incorrect and that graphic novels were just comic books*. And in high school, I had gotten away from Star Wars roots and was reading more epic fantasy, so I didn't think to pick up graphic novels then.
(And of course college sucked the life out of me, and I'm lucky I maintained reading as much as I did. Graphic novels on top of that would have drowned me.)
So that is how a girl ends up being twenty-five years old and only just now starting to read graphic novels.
I'm eager to dive into this whole world of fiction that I missed, but man, it's hard. But more on that, on Wednesday.
*Granted, a lot of graphic novels do feature sex and violence, just like a lot of regular novels do. So not entirely wrong, I guess.