Yes, I believe that comic books and graphic novels are legitimate reading materials. It’s fiction, but in another form. There’s a story, there’s art, there are character arcs, plots, beginnings, and endings.
About a year ago I discovered an anime titled, One-Punch Man, and was immediately drawn into the story. I’ve always been partial to superheroes, specifically the Marvel Comics Universe, and this character and his story felt somewhat reminiscent of those characters.
I later found out that One-Punch Man had originally started as a webcomic, then became a series of graphic novels, then an anime. A very cool progression.
The One-Punch Man graphic novels are written by ONE (a pseudonym, obviously), who created the original webcomic, and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. The story follows the adventures of Saitama, a young man who, after an encounter with a super-powered monster, decides to train himself to become a hero.
He eventually becomes so strong that, in addition to losing his hair, he’s invincible. He literally wins every monster battle with one punch. This, in turn, takes a toll on him and he struggles with depression because he can never be truly challenged by anyone. His dream of being a hero turns out to be boring.
Of course, there are other heroes introduced throughout the series, many of whom come to know and respect Saitama. However, in the first volume he’s basically unknown. He isn’t a member of the Hero Association because they don’t know he exists. The reason being that his fights are over so quickly that no one sees him.
The other characters and their stories intertwine with Saitama’s and build an interesting world. It’s not the Earth we live on, but one populated by huge monsters and mad scientists. The Hero Association sends out specific heroes to fight specific monsters, and oftentimes entire cities are destroyed. Yes, it’s over the top, but in a good way.
In addition to the great characters and storylines, the art is what really grabs me.
First, though, I have to tell you about Japanese comics, known as manga. While they aren’t that much different than Western comics, there is one very specific difference. Manga is read right-to-left. So I had to basically train myself to begin at what appears to be the end of the book, top-right corner, then to the left and down. It took a chapter or two before I got into the rhythm.
Back to the art: The thing I love most about the series – both the manga and the anime – is how the characters are portrayed visually. For example, most of the time Saitama is drawn as this smallish, bald guy wearing a baggy costume. Very unassuming. However, when it’s time for action he’s drawn with a filled-out physique, tight costume, and his face shows his determination and resolve. Once the fight is over, he goes back to looking like some guy wearing homemade cosplay.
The same thing goes with many of the other characters. For example, Terrible Tornado is a young woman who is often portrayed as almost a child…until she gets angry or is ready to fight. Then she’s Amazonian.
And yes, Terrible Tornado is a silly name, but most of the heroes and villains have them. There’s Child Emperor, Zombieman, Pig God, Flashy Flash, and Snakebite Snek. Like I mentioned above, there’s a certain amount of silliness to the series, which makes it all the more fun to read.
While I knew how the story went after having watched the anime, I still loved reading the graphic novel. There were some variances from the animation, and I liked being able to see how they adapted certain scenes and fights from the page to the screen. Sort of like reading a novel before or after watching the movie adaptation.
If you’re looking for something light and fun to read, check out One-Punch Man. It’s not like you don’t have three different options for enjoying it!
Personally, I have some catching up to do because the series is currently on volume 23.