Playing By Ear: The Lure of Comics

Cover art for Percy Carey's graphic novel, Sentences. [Source: NPR/D.C. Comics] Listening to a radio story about graphic novels seems like a stretch, but hey, it’s the age of new media. Such sensory shape-shifting is a boon to the blind flaneur’s soul. Screenwriter John Ridley, also a graphic novelist, approaches the challenge by talking with three other writers who are experimenting with the new form. His NPR story begins: “As comic books — or, in more highbrow parlance, graphic novelizations — nudge their way onto the shelves of bookstores and the pages of literary magazines, some well-known writers are trying their hand at the genre. Pop-culture icon Joss Whedon, best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult and rapper Percy Carey are among those feeling the lure of comics.”

Here’s a closer look at one of those writers:

For Percy Carey, who raps under the stage name MF Grimm, writing graphic novels meant not just learning to speak a new language, but also appreciating the value of the story he was telling. While Whedon and Picoult were dealing with the fantastic, Carey’s graphic novel, Sentences, is an autobiographical account of the shooting that left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

The idea that he could tell his story as a graphic novel came to him after he discovered American Splendor, a series of comics based on author Harvey Pekar’s life.

“Once I came across American Splendor, it convinced me that I wanted to take a chance and step in the medium of graphic novels. I just have a lot of respect for the form,” says Carey.

“I realized that if I tell my story appropriately, maybe I could save the lives of others that might feel that certain things are cool or there’s no repercussion behind certain actions.”

I didn’t hear the “confined to a wheelchair” cliché, one of my pushable linguistic buttons, in the radio piece. Maybe the NPR digital media editor should be confined to his mouse.

John Ridley blogs at Visible Man.

This entry was posted in books, NPR, Playing by Ear and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.