Drawn to Each Other: Romance In Graphic Novels

You wouldn’t have to look very hard in any book store for the romance section, replete with half shirtless men and lovely ladies wilting against their chests. However, the concept of romantic graphic novels seems to be rather neglected and unexplored. One of the most popular romantic novels in the US is the graphic adaptation of Twilight, and recently there has been some buzz over the graphic adaptation of Infernal Devices.

(c) 2011 Young Kim
(c) 2011 Young Kim

While the term ‘romance novel’ may draw immediate assumptions about the content and be generally looked down upon, the term ‘graphic novel’ also knows this quick criticism. So the concept of romantic graphic novels seems to be a genre very few are willing to enter, with the exception of several manga series within Japan. Indeed one has to look abroad for the most prevalent publication of anything resembling romantic graphic novels with the sole purpose of telling a love story. Scott McCloud just recently published The Sculptor,¬†which while containing a love story, seems to focus more on the internal turmoil of the main character, David Smith, and the “Faust Legend” his story follows (Burt).¬†

(c) 2015 Scott McCloud
(c) 2015 Scott McCloud

That isn’t to imply that romantic novels cannot have more than one obvious story or plot, but the purpose of The Sculptor isn’t to follow the growing relationship between the characters, but more of a self-discovery centered novel.

While not technically a graphic novel, the webtoon Orange Marmalade garnered great success over much of Asia, even being made into a television adaptation this year in Korea. Though it would be presumptuous to assume that Orange Marmalade was directly influenced by the success of Twilight and meant to capitalize on that popularity, the two stories show remarkable similarities. Both feature teenage protagonists in high school, heterosexual relationships, angst, and of course, vampires. The success of adapting romance manhwas and mangas in Korea, Japan, and Tawain has been rising in recent years, as a quick trip through the foreign part of Netflix will quickly show.

It will be interesting to watch in the future how romance graphic novels are received, and by what audiences they are most capable of capturing. Jane Austen wrote primarily romances and is considered to be one of the greatest writers in history; why not so too with potential romantic graphic novelists?