hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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January 4, 2012

NECC professor says 'graphic novels' good reading — and entertaining

After Ginger Hurajt's brother loaned her his collection of "Elf Quest," a cult comic book series, she developed a new appreciation for the quiet genre of graphic novels.

The Northern Essex Community College professor and Haverhill resident is bringing her affection for the such novels into the classroom in January, when she offers a special topics English course titled "The Graphic Novel.''

The graphic novel, by definition, is a sequential narrative told in images and text. Some might even refer to it as a "long comic book" said Hurajt, but typically it is anything but the kind of light reading often associated with comics.

While the story may be told with the art and text of a comic-book-like style, the subject matter is often very serious in nature. Take, for example, Art Spiegelman's "Maus," which is a biography of his father, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.

Cave paintings, the tapestries of the Middle Ages, and even The Almanac can be viewed as precursors to today's graphic novels. While the graphic novel has roots in simple woodcut images published in the 1920s and 1930s, it was forced underground during the mid-1960s because of a growing social concern over the content of horror and crime comics aimed at children.

In 1978, Marvel Comics produced the first original mass-market trade paperback graphic novel, "The Silver Surfer" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In 1985, DC Comics' released "The Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. "The Watchmen" remains one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time, continuing to make top-10 sales lists more than 20 years later.

Eventually, the genre became mainstream. Today it is considered legitimate literature. Sometimes the author and the artist are the same. In other cases, the author collaborates with an artist.

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