high soft lisp.jpgWe’ve mentioned book bloggers a few times lately, and contrasted their peaceful, herbivore ways with the violent, predatory jungle of comics blogging. Now here’s a VERY direct comparison — and also some interesting market research type stuff — via the Graphic Novels Challenge. This is a blogging program in which book bloggers try to read a bunch of graphic novels in a given period — one of a series of similar challenge for memoirs, history books or whatever. Most of the bloggers are not trained-from-birth comics experts and heir comments are illuminating. The list is also high on “litereary” and young adult comics — not very much Marvel or DC. They also check books to read out of the library, so they are not “Wednesday” Crowd” much.

Book bloggers tend not to go nuclear when they don’t like something. Blogger Tom picked HIGH SOFT LISP, a collection of comics by the great Gilbert Hernandez to read, and sadly he didn’t like it, but he didn’t froth at the mouth, either. We’ll take the liberty of quoting the entirety of his rather short remarks:

I picked HIGH SOFT LISP up to read because of the cover and the title. The woman on the front attracts the eye, but the color scheme plays with the mind on some sort of psychological level. The blurb on the back also was intriguing.

It’s by far, the most bizarre book I’ve read this year. If you like under ground or alternative comics, you might enjoy it. Teenage boys might get a kick out of it, too because there are moments in this TPB that verge on soft-core porn. Other than that, I’d just stay away. Your life will not be enriched if you do read it and it won’t be any less lively if you don’t.

Okay, so Jeet Heer these are not. But sometimes the books win over. Here’s blogger Nikki’s take on Seth’s IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN, about a cartoonist’s fictional search for a mystery cartoonist:

The simplicity of the images mirrors Seth’s longing for a simpler time and the color scheme winks at the bleak tone of the story. It didn’t bother me that there wasn’t a great deal of substance or that the story lacked a strong, clear resolution. That just added to the sense of realism and the honesty. It’s not a riveting story, nor is it life shaking, but it wasn’t intended to be. Its value is in its minimalism and its plainness. It has an unobtrusive quality that I find endearing.

And Alyce liked THE BURMA CHRONICLES, Guy DeLisle’s non-fiction account of life in a politically volatile country:

One thing I loved about Burma Chronicles was that the art has clean lines and is easy on the eyes. You don’t have to work hard at all to figure out what is going on in the drawings….I loved the cultural and political details in this book, but also appreciated that it was written in memoir form, so the story is not one of dry politics, but rather the daily life of a foreigner living in Burma. His reflections on his time there are written with wit and humor, and chocked full of information. Usually I can read a graphic novel or graphic memoir in about an hour, but I’m happy to say that Burma Chronicles took me at least twice that long because of the detailed content (and I was happy to prolong the reading experience). I liked that there was a substantial amount of information in the book, and that it held me attention completely.

Nicola, a Bookaholic, Conservative, Catholic, Aspie, who reads a lot. took on FOILED by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro, a YA fantasy romance, which older male comics bloggers didn’t like. Nicola had a more positive response:

I loved Foiled! The story within the book is completed and finalized by there are many hanging threads and an obvious ending to let the reader know there will be another book, perhaps even a series. Aliera is a great main character, one that is easy to relate to. She is somewhat shy (though I’d really just say she’s quiet). She stays out of everyone’s way but thinks a lot. She’s got some great comeback’s and oneliners in her thoughts. But push her too far and she’ll let loose like nobodies business and tell you exactly what she thinks. Aliera is not to be messed around with. She may be broody a good part of the time but she is also bold and brave and the one that can be counted on in an emergency. A delightful book, which more than met my expectations. Certainly looking forward to the next one! Recommended!

While we wouldn’t suggest that the book bloggers’ reactions are any more valid than the experts, it is a nice peek into what actual “readers”, as opposed to pundits, critics or fans, think about some of the new graphic novels.


  1. This kind of criticism is always helpful, regardless of the art form being reviewed.

    With movies especially (but books and comics, too) I almost always want to read informed criticism from an “expert” in the field, someone who can place the work in a larger context (or several contexts) within the art form, genre, creator’s body of work, etc. But it’s fun (and enlightening in a different way) to read criticism from people who are “just passing by” so to speak.

  2. Well, aside from not being invested emotionally in either the comics characters or the performance of the publishers, book readers/reviewers probably stop reading books they don’t find enjoyable. Spending hours reading a book that bores and/or infuriates you isn’t rational.

    Comics are short, and mediocre storytelling in one issue predicts a similarly mediocre story in the next — the premise of an arc certainly isn’t going to change — so angry reactions are easier to develop and to express. Seeing a potentially good character subjected to terrible stories, especially if he’s been written well in the past, creates ill will toward the creators that’s much different from reading a disappointing novel and deciding not to read anything that he writes again.


  3. this is good insight into what the general public is into. maybe we can find a way to start selling chocolate to others instead of chocolate lovers