Monday, December 17, 2007

You can pry "graphic novel" from my cold, dead hands

Just read about Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi's interview in the Wall Street Journal (via Blog@Newsarama):

The term "graphic novel" has taken off here in the States. How do you feel about your work being described that way?

I don't like "graphic novel." It's a word that publishers created for the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad. Comics is just a way of narrating -- it's just a media type. Chris Ware doesn't like it either -- he says it sounds like "Lady Chatterley's Lover."

Bourgeois Pigs!

Seriously, though—don't blame modern publishers. The problem is that the accurate and appropriate term—"comic books"—had already been appropriated and misapplied by the comics publishers decades earlier (to appeal to their own bourgeoisie). Charles Schulz used the appropriate (though now quite quaint-sounding) "comic magazines" in some of his Peanuts strips back in the ’50s. Let's face it: comic books are not books. They're saddle-stitched periodicals. Today's graphic novels are books. A vast number are even put out by book publishers, not monthly comic publishers. They're often a different beast, with a different audience, sales channel, production model, and profit model from "comic books."

If any "comic book" artist wants to boo-hoo over "graphic novel," they should rightly point their fingers back to their own childhoods in the 1950s and ’60s, when their generation abandoned an accurate term, leaving us today with yet another inaccurate term. Too bad.



Mac McCool said...

Fun post! I agree, our business has its share of goofy names! Graphic novels, sequential art, funnies, comic books -- all misnomers (which I often joke about!), but by now, most people understand them. And renaming comics "graphic novels" (as superficial as it may seem) has helped the industry reintroduce and reinvigorate a great art medium viewed not so long ago with contempt in the U.S.A. So, I'm with you: "up with graphic novels" (at least until we find a better term!).

Matt Holm said...

Ha! Yes—an even better idea. OK, everybody, what's the next-next-next-gen name for comics going to be?