I started reading Persepolis two days ago. In it Marjane Satrapi gives us a memoir and bildungsroman—she grew up during the Iran-Iraq War. It is an incredibly interesting look into another culture with different fundamental perspectives. (Although, truth be told, most of the perspectives illustrated are uncontroversial in their Western secularism.) The author’s family are mostly communist, which brings them into conflict with the post-Islamic Revoltion government.
I am struggling to figure out comics as an art form. They differ greatly from prose, both fiction and non-fiction. It cannot present ever-closer detail to the point that one feels almost to be directly experiencing the emotions and events of the characters. In a possibly counter-intuitive way, the work has less visual potential than pure prose, in that the reader is primarily limited to the images given him. This limits the emotional immersiveness of the reading experience.
However, comics gives something else, a sort of non-intimidating, inherently non-stuffy immediacy. They make the brain tick differently. It is a different sort of pleasure. In a single, simple image, a whole range of actions and emotions are implied.
In prose, the author can layer details, almost endlessly, increasing intensity and heaviness. In comics, events are pared down to their absolute essence—a single image representing, taking the immediate place of all these details the prose author must build up. In a prose work, it is the image which the reader must supply. In the comic, it is the connecting action and the fine detail. Each image is just a symbol of what is happening.