Oh “Graphic Novel”, I hardly knew ye

I was in the kid’s section of a bookstore the other day looking for a stickerbook for the 5 year olds I teach, and I came across a book titled “How to draw Graphic Novels” (or something like that). Yet, when I opened up the book (clearly aimed at young kids) it was all superhero stuff. Like, egregiously superheroes. Relatedly, in a Wired Magazine article about Paul Pope’s upcoming Batman series, it says “DC Comics will release the first installment of his four-issue graphic novel.”

These took me by surprise because my conception of graphic novels is as book length (not serialized) works, while escaping the specter of the superhero genre. It looks like people have missed the point entirely of the “graphic novel” movement, and the term is succumbing altogether to becoming purely an upscale synonym of “comics.”

Quite frankly, I’m not surprised. This is what you get when you don’t invoke an entirely different frame-of-mind with your vocabulary. New term, same baggage.

Though, I’m not wholly resigned about it. The term may beat the rap if enough focus and works shift away from the stereotype in order for a new frame to really be reached. But, we’ll see how much weight the major comic companies throw around to prevent that from happening…


  • The Academy Award nominated film A History of Violence was also billed as “Based on the Graphic Novel…

    I have grown to extreme dislike of the term. It seems like trying to put makeup on the pig when the pig aint so bad lookin’ after all (if people would just pay some attention). It’s up there with “comix” and “novel-in-pictures” with grasping at the straw of respectability. I find these terms increasingly hard to swallow.

  • I dunno, I still think that the pig (er.. “comics” right?) isn’t all that good lookin’. Personally, I’d had some good hopes for “graphic novel,” as a viable alternative insinuating a whole new range of social contexts. But, it seems it’s just being adopted as a new term for a type of format.

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