Many readers embark on reading challenges to test themselves and see if they can push their reading capabilities from one level to another.
But let’s imagine you are doing a reading challenge? Can you include comics as books read? They would be easier to read than books.
This article is going to be arguing you cannot. Books are not comics, so reading them is not the same thing.
A book is a book. A comic is a comic. They are not synonymous and do not even highlight the same thing.
What is a book? According to a dictionary, it is a written or printed piece of work. Consisting of pages sewn, glued, or bound together. It is also a bound set of pages for writing in (think of a journal or diary). It is worth noting that no where does it explicitly say that a book cannot include pictures.
Children’s books are often filled with age appropriate illustrations, but they are not seen as real ‘books’.
What is a comic? A comic is defined as a medium used to convey imagery. Usually, but not all of the time they are accompanied by text and a storyline.
However, a comic does not need to include words and/or a storyline.
What is a graphic novel? A graphic novel refers to a book in comic strip format.
The one question that comes to my mind is, is reading comics as good as reading books.
Reading comics doesn’t give you the same benefits as reading books. Comics don’t contain too many words, and they don’t expand your imagination. You should choose books whenever it’s possible. However, comics have a couple of interesting benefits.
In this article we will focus on why reading comic books (including graphic novels) do not count as reading.
5 Reasons why comics do not count as reading.
1. Comics can go pages and pages without any words
Depending on the overall tone the writer and artists are going for. There may be no real words for pages on end. You may simply be viewing artwork of a scene playing out.
Sadly, I am thinking of the last installation of Watchmen. For most comic readers, they will be familiar with the scene which panes over New York city. Examining all the destruction Ozymandias has caused. It is supposed to fill you with fear.
This is all evoked with imagery, not much really needed to be written.
Artistically it is a great moment for the best-selling comic. Literary wise, it doesn’t actually provide you with much. You can’t really say you’re reading because well, you aren’t.
2. Comics don’t always use real language
For this point, I would like to focus on another popular comic series, which has only been rebooted due to its Netflix series popularity. The Umbrella Academy. The comics themselves are not very good but that is another story.
Gerald Way is a very talented man, and he wasn’t extremely involved in the initial comic book development due to his highly successful band, My Chemical Romance. He was signing off chapters however, and, calling for changes. But not many need to be made when much of the literature is
ZAPPPPPPP BANGGGG POWWWWW
Not saying these sounds won’t take your vocabulary to another language but it isn’t exactly real language so I would be skeptical as to whether comics are much beyond third-grade comprehension.
You can see why for development, people oftentimes shun comics.
3. Not all comic books even have words
Silent comic books are real. A silent comic book is one that contains no text. It is possible that when someone tells you they have read a comic book that they are referring to one which has no text in it.
That doesn’t really count as reading nor does it actually develop your reading capabilities.
To become a better reader, you’re going to actually have to read. And, that means struggling with texts you may have at one point felt were difficult. Sadly, some comics will not even provide you with the opportunity to struggle.
Recall childhood and how you struggled to read, if you hadn’t pushed through those difficult times you may never have reached where you are now.
Some refused to call these books and have made the move to call this silent sequential art. Example of silent comic: Shaun Tan – The Arrival
4. Comic books aren’t long enough
There isn’t supposed to be much literature to read within a comic book. Apparently, an ideal American comic should have 20-200 words a page. That is not very much.
Even if a comic book illustrator and writer were to push towards the far end to 200 words a page. They wouldn’t, as it probably wouldn’t be published.
That is still 100 words less than the average 300 words found per page in a book.
In a total novel, you can end up with between 60,000 to 90,000 words. That is a lot of vocabulary to engage with. Which is why when you read books, your thought processes change, you become more focused, and a better writer.
The same cannot be said for comics. There are no stats to find this out but since some of them have no words at all, we can presume it is much lower.
5. Comic books and books share storytelling not literature
Ultimately, what you get from books and comic books are alternative ways of storytelling. But they are not the same.
A book relies upon descriptions, worldbuilding, characters, and narratives. A writer relies upon their words to get the feel of the world across to the reader. Without it you would not understand.
The imagination is kicked into overdrive as a person attempts to imagine characters, locations, and other times.
Books oftentimes do not go on for 100’s of volumes as the author sadly, tends to die. Compare Harry Potter to Batman. Is it likely Harry Potter will continue being written prior to J.K Rowling’s death?
A comic book relies upon a good relationship between a writer and an illustrator. It may even rely upon a magazine for its publication and readership.
It may not have to use any words to convey how a character is feeling as the reader can look at the page and see. A reader does not have to imagine what the character would look like as they can see them.
But if you read comics, you spend your time better than 90%
But I do hope I haven’t gotten you down. With all of those things said about comics you might think I hate them. I do not.
There is still a certain stigma attached to reading comics, therefore people are still deterred from reading comics. If you are reading comics, and/or graphic novels then don’t be deterred. You are still using your time better than 90% of individuals out there. It is a great medium for art.
Comic books still confront important issues. V for Vendetta for example is a great fictional recreation of a Nazi like Britain. Persepolis, Maus, and Safe Area Gorazde. Are all amazing books. The same people who probably question comics, question manga, and anything they are not interested in.
If no one actually reads comic books then maybe people will stop making them and they will become a lost art.
If you look at France right now, their comic book artists are looking to boycott the industry due to dwindling incomes, so potentially. The situation is worse than it seems.
Also, reading comics is better than spending your time on social media or playing video games
Can comic books make you smarter?
Of course, no one is presuming that those who read comics are stupid or below level intelligence. You still need to be able to read to actually read them (if they have words). But just that books are a better alternative if being smart is your only preoccupation.
Joe Sacco and George Hakei have both written comics which explore history. Maus is extremely great at exploring human emotions, wealth, and war.
Embroideries is a short and fun comic which looks into the sex lives of upper class Iranian women. Without a doubt these books can make you more culturally aware. But it would be a mistake to use them as your only source. Other authors can compliment their work.
It is just realizing that whilst comic books are fun to read, and a great form of escapism. They do not always push you to the next academic level or place you need to be to truly succeed. Books make you smarter, wiser and more flexible over time. Comics will make you think big.
Throughout this article, I have put forth reasons as to why comics cannot be considered books. If you finish a comic, it is best just to say you finished a comic. But with that being said, there are still some amazing comic books out there which have better storylines than books.
They are an alternative artform in book format which shouldn’t be confused. You can learn lots about an historical event but still probably a lot less than a book.
But let us know in the comments section. Do you believe you can say you have read a book if you have read a comic? Have you actually done so in the past?
Also, don’t forget to keep us updated on any comics you’re thinking of reading.