Monday, June 5, 2023

Comics' Evolution into Graphic Novels - by Kathleen Cook

When I was a kid (and probably you too) comics were not a serious literary genre. Boy, are we old fashioned! Nowadays, comics/aka/graphic novels are the most popular genre for teens, but even adults are reading more graphic novels, such as George Takei's They Called Us Enemy, Marjane Satrapy's Persepolis, and Art Spiegelman's Maus.

Graphic novels represent one of the biggest surges in high school and college libraries across the nation. Some of them, such as Marbles by Ellen Forney, are used in psychology courses and as literary resources.

So, maybe it's time for you to get on the graphic novel bandwagon. But what do you do if you're an author like me, with virtually no artistic talent? Well, have you tried AI? Although I'm a complete novice at Stable Diffusion, one of the best "free" AI art programs available, I had some success with it over the course of a few minutes of playing around.

When I typed in "old woman at a well holding a bucket" it gave me an image. Not perfect, but heck, not bad. I'll have to fix her hand, which is obviously too long, but that's not as hard as generating a picture from scratch. Please note that this art has never been seen before anywhere, and is perfectly and totally copyright free. 

Here's another image I generated. I typed in "old man with two grandchildren" it gave me an image, which isn't a real grandpa and those aren't real kids. They're AI generated. 

Sure, I'll need to fix a couple things, but you're talking absolute neophyte here, not an artist. I can't even draw a straight line if you hand me a titanium ruler! For me, I'd say I'm going places with AI. 

If you want black and white sketches instead of color, I typed in "Elf in the style of Lord of the Rings." It gave me an acceptable image. Not bad! I could see myself creating a graphic novel with this! As you can see, even those with zero artistic talent can manage a graphic novel nowadays, with a little help from their digital friends at Stable Diffusion. There are other products out there as well, but this is the one I know the best. Check them all out!


So, is there a downside to writing graphic novels? There are two obvious ones. Firstly, many of "our" generation don't consider graphic novels to be "real" reading. That attitude is changing, and the number of parents and grandparents buying such reading material for their kids has risen from 31 percent in 2021 to 37 percent a year later. As perceptions change, you may find this “downside” has disappeared except for a few die-hard purists.

The second downside is that graphic novels are targeted by ultra-religious groups for book bans. Depending upon your graphics, you may find yourself banned in certain conservative districts. If you're careful not to offend them, you'll probably be fine. And if you aren't careful, you may find your book even more popular. It's funny how many unknown novels have become known because they were banned!

So consider this genre for your summer writing project. If you are an artist, this should be a great venue for you. And if you aren't, play with Stable Diffusion and see how easy it is to do a great job in this genre. Happy writing/drawing! 

Kathleen Cook is a retired editor and the author of more than twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project) in the internet’s early days. She is currently the Arizona Authors Association Editor as well as the Website Administrator. 

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