Graphic Novels Should Be Considered Literature


Mary Allen

(Design by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Blume, Arts Writer


Since getting more into reading, I have discovered there is a lot of stigma surrounding the kind of things I like to read, be it from English professors or scholars. My favorite types of texts to read are genre works, like sci-fi, horror and graphic novels.

I have heard many stories of professors across the world talking down genre fiction, refusing to acknowledge it as literature. Graphic novels have long since had to deal with the same thing, but just as unrightfully so as genre fiction. Graphic novels are capable of telling incredibly powerful stories.


Comic books and graphic novels have been around for over a century. Subsequently, they have been helping younger people get into reading more complex narratives and parables. But alongside being good for children, comics and graphic novels have the capability to tell stories for adults.

Think of “Maus,” a graphic novel so important that it is one of the few to have transcended the barrier between graphic novels and literature. “Maus” is a harrowing depiction of the author’s father’s real-life experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. However, this powerful story has been banned from some school districts for seemingly no reason.

Banning books is a whole other discussion, but for “Maus” to be banned from schools is bizarre. The banning gives so much power to the story itself and to the credibility of graphic novels as a whole. By being banned, “Maus” has joined the ranks of books like “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“Maus” is a story that is undeniably deserving to be treated as literature, but I fail to understand why some stories can get an exception and others can’t. “Maus” is still a graphic novel at the end of the day, and if that is literature, then why isn’t “Watchmen” or “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth”?

Sophisticated Suspense

This all loops back to my original problem, with people arbitrarily deciding what is and isn’t literature purely based on genre or if it has pictures. I recently read Alan Moore’s incredible work on “Saga of the Swamp Thing.” About halfway through his issues, DC started putting the label “Sophisticated Suspense” on the front covers. Moore is famous for elevating the comics he writes to the level of literature, and is a great example of why I think they should be treated as such.


There are so many fantastic stories that have been told in comics. It is so sad to see them written off as unimportant just because they are comic books. Some of the best stories I have ever read have been graphic novels. There is so much promise in the medium. Dismissing them feeds into the unnecessary snobbism that comes from people turning their noses down on things without ever having given them a chance.

I highly recommend finding some comic books or graphic novels that interest you and reading them. There are so many great stories out there that are not getting the love they deserve.