While reading Persepolis last night (which I know I should have done long ago, please don’t judge me) I was reminded of precisely why I love graphic novels– really, comics in general– so very much.
Satrapi was going about, retelling her experience as a girl at the beginning of the Iran/Iraq war, and she had a scene of going to the store with her mother. Suddenly the perspective shifts from a closeup on Satrapi and her mother to a long shot of empty supermarket shelves, and on the opposite side of the frame, two women arguing in Farsi.
Keep in mind that up until now, all the dialog had been in English, though of course every character would have been speaking Farsi. By instantly shifting not only the perspective of the frame, but also the words, the language, the alphabet, the script, the very foundation of the novel, you are thrown out of sorts (if only for a moment). Of course, this visit to the store isn’t exactly critical to the plot, but with the juxtaposition a mundane event becomes emblematic of the entire Iranian exeriance in the time period.
A juxtaposition, mind you, that (almost) no traditional novelist could pull off. And if one did, it would have to solely be with words. The ability to tell a story not just in the descriptive terms of words, or even pictures but in paradigms– that’s why graphic novels deserve the literary respect of any novel.