Blankets by Craig Thompson has been mentioned by Blogcritics a few times, usually as a recommendation, often with gushing:
Elegantly illustrated and stirringly told. Damn, it's good. And sweet. — Sean T. Collins, 2003
It's certainly literature and it's certainly art. — Michele Catalano, 2005
In a recent New York Times article, Charles McGrath remarked how Craig Thompson's Blankets "would be insufferably predictable in a prose narrative" but worked as a graphic novel. McGrath recognizes that each medium has different strengths and weaknesses.-- Paul De Angelis, 2005
It is one of the books often cited, along with Art Spiegelman's Maus and Alan Moore's Watchmen, as a key work of literature in defence of the graphic novel. I will admit, the story is wonderful and incredibly moving, and the illustrations are full of life. But this does not justify putting graphic novels on a pedestal.
The problem with canonizing, as pointed out by Allan Luke in his talk on Insiders and Outsiders, is that it only works when there is an authoritative body that can go through everything and decide what to include or exclude. So far we have Blogcritics and The Comics Journal, but we cannot forget that these places are run by people, and the only authority they can speak with on a medium is their experience (which will never be perfect).
So, given the inability to assign individuals the responsibility of defending quality, we need a framework with which we can critique the material. Scott McCloud's book Reinventing Comics supports the judgement of comics as art and as literature. This is a popular and commonsense approach to the medium, but fails to examine it on its own terms.
After 100 years of cinema, we now have a reasonable language and body of ideas with which we can interpret. Although this language is somewhat imperfect and in need of refinement, terms like “auteur”, “art cinema”, “neo-realism”, “road movie” and an assorted vocabulary of genres is what allows us to examine films. But there is an insufficient vocabulary for the understanding of comics and the graphic novel.
Interestingly, the quotes I have cited above all judge comics on narrative first, followed closely by a few quick comments on the artwork. However, this does not take into account the form with which we are dealing. Graphic novels are not literature, they are not where art meets literature for the positives of both, they are art objects and nothing more. To presume otherwise is to fall into the trap of not knowing enough about art.