Lutes at Forefront of Graphic Literature

Guess what's at the cutting edge of literature? Cartoons

NC Citizen-Times    |    Rob Neufeld    |    February 21, 2003

Why does the inclusion of illustrations in works of literature act as a dividing line between adult and juvenile readers? The question emerges as we see a rise in the quality and status of graphic novels - that is, general fiction told in the form of cartoon strips.

Cartoons - or simplified, narrative visuals - are old inventions, actually. Using pictures - in a serial way - to tell stories had been a sophisticated technique in preliterate societies. Witness Egyptian hieroglyphic murals, church stained glass windows and Plains Indian teepee narratives.

Yet, graphic novels suffer from a close connection to comic books - a reputation that has been mostly deserved as of late.

Now, with the growth of the field, we are in a position to cheer the development of an art form that, after all, mimics what we do when we tell stories orally - adds gestural cues. Whereas most graphic novelists are enmeshed either in superhero boy-dreams or in subculture raunch, there are a growing number who are fulfilling the "novel" part of "graphic novels."

Asheville's new resident graphic novelist, Jason Lutes, comes from an academic family. His latest work, "Berlin: City of Stones, Book One," is, not coincidentally, the closest thing to a literary novel in graphic novel form that I've ever seen.

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