About Graphic novels

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Graphic novels are books that are categorized as this type of writing because they are comparable to comic books in terms of quality. Based on the story they tell, graphic novels may fall into other categories. Fiction and nonfiction are examples of those categories. These novels are notable not only for their plots but also for their character creation and use of a variety of literary forms to accomplish their graphic text aspect. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are both intriguing graphic novels that showcase a variety of literary forms, including visual texts. Persepolis is more of a memoir of a young girl living through the war and Islamic religion experience. On the other hand, Watchmen describe the world with superheroes. There have been arguments that the Watchmen, was a better book than the Persepolis. These arguments, however, focus on the fact that the Persepolis was a mainly in black and white graphic novel while, the Watchmen, was in color, a fact which allowed the authors of Watchmen to paint a better picture. While Watchmen does have the visual advantage due to its use of color, other aspects also need to be put into consideration to determine which of the two, is the best. This essay will attempt to do this by comparing and contrasting the use of different styles in these works such as; the interplay of texts and images, the effects of the widely differing artistic techniques and the use of juxtaposition to make points by the authors.


The Persepolis is an autobiographical story. The story's setting is in Iran and is primarily about how the author grew up in two different regimes. The first was under the rule of the shah and the second was under the rule of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the previous regime. Although the heavy use of the colors black and white has come into some criticism regarding its effectiveness, Satrapi has managed to use it as the background for the several contrasting themes in the book. The most prominent themes that are in contrast, in the book include religion and secularism. The book begins with the Islamic regime taking over and imposing strict rules such as having to wear a veil to school and segregation of the schools according to gender. She is bold and strong-willed and has a calling to social activism, due to her family and their participation in social protests, which lands her in trouble with the school and causes her to be expelled. Her parents see that she is better off moving to a more liberal country and send her off to Europe where she comes into close contact with a religiously liberated girl who lives with homosexuals, which is the exact opposite of what she is used. Other themes that come into contrast in the book are childhood and adulthood and good and evil. The author successfully shows juxtaposition when comparing the innocence of the children and the adults. Islam extremists stay devoted to their religious beliefs, and as such, they would occasionally whip themselves in public as children looked on, shocked and utterly confused (Satrapi 96).

The author sticks to the use of elementary forms to represent figures throughout the text. Features such as eyes, noses, and mouths are used to depict the faces that are made up of plain lines. The artwork is consistent within the entire graphic novel and is instrumental to the storytelling. Additionally, the author employs the use of emanata to show confusion. For example, the author uses “question marks above the heads of the children to their confusion” (Satrapi 96). Furthermore, she represents the noise made by the whip as the religious adults beat themselves using emanata. The use of veils also represents the loss of their freedom to the Islam regime. Throughout the book, the author also uses different styles of visual weight, such as shading even in black and white to bring the reader's attention to some key aspects. Even though the story focuses on some weighty themes such as religion and oppression the author manages to bring out the story in a comic nature. For example, Satrapi depicts a body that has been cut into pieces in a way that doesn't way slowly on the audience (Satrapi 52). In turn, this makes the book suitable for all audiences.


The second book the Watchmen is a fictional graphic novel set in an alternate-history. In this alternate-history superhero, in the USA were real and were on the brink of a nuclear war. The story also ties in a murder mystery with a political aspect. Unlike the Persepolis, the authors of the Watchmen deviate from the main story and characters, to focus on an object in the foreground. In this book, the authors use various cinematic tricks to capture and keep the attention of their audience. This is one of the most significant differences between the two books because Satrapi uses only emanate, black and white to capture her audience. For instance, two characters from the Watchmen, they are placed at the edge of the panel, and the audience sees their conversation through the mirror placed behind them in a scene between Silk Spectre and Nite-Owl. Another example of this is that although not all the pages of the book are nine grid panels, almost all of them are centered on it. This is a common trick used by cinematographers to work within the same page continuously. Another cinematic trick is the use of the more extensive panels throughout the book. The bigger panels in the novel are aligned with different emotional scenes, and therefore act like music in the background to make the scene stand out as much as possible. The authors use color to portray emotions; they use a flat gloomy town is represented by purple paint while anger and fear are portrayed by splashes of red too.

The graphic novels, Watchmen and Persepolis exhibit several thematic similarities and differences. The theme of identity is evident in both graphic novels. For instance, in Watchmen, Rorschach embodies the concept of individuality. The character is convinced that working alone is the only way of achieving results as it eliminates the inefficiencies of working as a group. Because of his loner demeanor, the results to a life of vigilantism, which, for the most part, he can keep under wraps. However, once he is discovered visiting Moloch, Rorschach is faced with a dilemma, whether or not he ought to stick with his previous identity or whether he should commit to his new identity as Rorschach. Rorschach's identity, in this regard, changed from Walter Kovacs to Rorschach. Struggling with identity is synonymous with the graphic novel Watchmen, and plays a central role in the explication of the narrative.

In Persepolis, the theme of identity is also evident. For instance, the citizens are seen struggling with their own identity, and whether or not they ought to confide in their moral compass or depend on the values set out by the Iranian state. Marjane is initially taught by her mother always to forgive others, since it is the right thing to do. She internalizes this ideology so much that it effectively becomes a part of her, and she would often proceed to recite it to herself in front of the mirror for reassurance. To a great extent, her mother's teaching regarding the world was positive, which in turn, made Marjane start to develop an optimistic outlook on life. However, this soon changes when Marjane is made aware of the various cruelties of the world, most notably, the use of torture on innocent civilians. Learning of torture greatly dismayed Marjane to the point that she feels she has to confront her mother regarding the issue. Consequently, Marjane's mother tells her that evil people are dangerous and forgiving them is even riskier. This stands in complete contradiction to her earlier statement, and in turn, this contradiction causes a fundamental identity crisis in Marjane. She is no longer sure of the goodness of men; neither was she completely sold on their evil tendencies. After this occurrence, Marjane feels lost, and in this regard, the author efficiently portrayed the theme of identity.

The two graphic novels are also similar in that they both use most of the essential features in graphic novels. These features include the use of panels in each of the two books, the use of the foreground, the middle ground and the background to enumerate not only what is closest to the viewer and the general, unique orientation of each scene. This is imperative for the flow of the story, and the chronological order of the story. Graphic novels engrain the audience into the world of the story, and by extension, enables them to better resonate with it. Along with these features, the two books make use of figures in different ways to convey different emotions, and the use of text in different speech balloons about what type of dialogue; external or internal is taking place. Whether dialogue is happening internally or externally is a critical element of the storytelling process, as each type furthers the plot in its way.


In conclusion, Satrapi has done a commendable job in bringing the central themes in the book to each of her audience's attention in a way that is easy to understand, without employing complex cinematic techniques and tricks and using only two colors; black and white. Although the authors of the Watchmen have also done a great job, I think that their use of color along with the cinematic tricks gives them the visual upper hand and therefore more of an appeal to people than does Persepolis. For instance, at times the authors of the Watchmen deviate from the main story and characters, to focus on an object in the foreground. The two graphic novels, however, do have some similarities. For instance, a thematic critique of both titles reveals that the theme of identity is present in both. In Watchmen, Rorschach is seen struggling to come to terms with whom he is after killing the kidnapping rapist, while in Persepolis, Marjane experiences an identity crisis when she discovers the perpetration of torture in Iran. The story in the Persepolis is also not very relatable to modern day Americans as it is more traditional, and though it is easy to read, it does not exhibit many synergies with our contemporary world. Thus, I feel that little credit is given where it is due. The real question here remains, is it possible to equally compare two books of different genres; fictional and non-fictional?

October 19, 2022
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Novel Graphic Development

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