Romance and Magical Realism in Graphic Literature
I – Introduction
Scholars have noticed a distinct upswing in works that can be categorized as Romance in the last few decades. Many attribute this to Romance’s easy translation to the formats of film and television, while others claim that it is a natural moment in a cycle or pendulum that alternates between Romance and Realism.
Romance, though, has never fallen completely out of fashion. Pulp fictions and penny dreadfuls have been popular amongst a literate middle class, ever since this middle class learned to read. Does this mean that a literature aimed at a low-brow audience is entirely devoid of contemplative nutrition? Not necessarily. If we take penny dreadfuls’ descendants, Graphic Novels, as an example, we find a genre that has grown and matured. Whereas the target audience for Graphic Literature forty or fifty years ago was the 7-13 age group, the modern target audience is the 18-35 age group. Because the genre’s readership has grown, so has much of its writing (though it is difficult to say which is the chicken and which the egg, here). This is no longer an industry of men who failed as artists and men who failed as writers.
Another category of literature unquestioningly aimed at adults is that of Magical Realism. Difficulties arise in defining this category, largely because of a propensity toward keeping a geographical component in the definition. Wendy Faris, however, offers an expanded and inclusive definition of Magical Realism, discarding the geographical element. This definition seems to overlap greatly with that of Romance, though.
The aims of this paper are twofold. The first aim is to analyze the similarities and differences between the categories “Romance” and “Magical Realism.” I call them “categories” here rather than “genres” because of an important question: “Is Magical Realism a genre on its own, or is it merely as subset of Romance?” I shall call upon the criticism of Northrop Frye and Wendy Faris in aid of this discussion.
The second aim of this paper is to illustrate the differences and similarities between these genres by applying them to a single work. Because I am interested in Graphic Literature, because I believe the medium worth analysis, and because of the difficulty in categorizing many Graphic Novels, I have chosen to analyze Marvel Comics’ Moon Knight, written by Charlie Huston. My focus will primarily look at the story arc The Bottom.