Just to help illustrate, I was on a plane yesterday coming in from the Fan Expo convention in Toronto and sat next to a young woman who, after we’d started talking and I told her I was a comic book artist, asked me if comics weren’t a dying industry.

I don’t think it’s dying, but I do think that what’s keeping it alive is akin to an iron lung or an artificial respirator. Something needs to enable it to breathe on its own.

Artist Mike Choi

A few weeks into this project, I’m reading absolutely nothing but big fat comics with spines, and my inner Prose Guy is getting cranky. For one thing, they’re too darn short. I love being immersed in a narrative for days at a time, but even the fattest comics don’t take more than a few hours to read.

Please, please, can’t I take a break and dive into the new translation of “War and Peace” or, at the very least, curl up with the latest Venetian mystery by Donna Leon?

Nope. My stack of graphic novels keeps getting higher. And some are good enough to make my prose itch disappear.

By the end of “Blankets,” Craig Thompson’s lovely memoir of childhood and first love, I’ve forgotten its form and simply bought into the characters and the story. Cyril Pedrosa’s “Three Shadows” tugs at my parental heartstrings with every swirling image of a broad-shouldered father fighting to save a small, doomed child.

To my surprise, I find myself wondering if Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli’s version of Paul Auster’s “City of Glass” might be better than Auster’s original. To borrow the words of my smart brother-in-law, who lent me the adaptation, its “visual representations of intense states of mind” greatly magnify its emotional force.

And then there’s Gilbert Hernandez’s “Heartbreak Soup,” a collection of everyday stories set in a fictional Central American hamlet called Palomar. Hernandez’s work is part of a long-running Fantagraphics series called “Love and Rockets,” created with his brother Jaime. I like it for the same reason I got hooked on Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” when the San Francisco Chronicle first serialized it: It’s an addictive soap opera, replete with humor and heart.

WaPo’s Bob Thompson


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