Thursday, April 10, 2008

Graphic novel v. comic book

Marjane Satrapi, on the term 'graphic novel': "It's a word that publishers created for the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad."

I do, of course, sometimes wonder if my interest in pop culture - and comics, in particular - is (in part or largely) aimed at allowing me, and by extension those that read or listen to things that I may write or say, to read some admittedly silly comics or watch some unapologetically bad TV without feeling bad. That said, I'm totally with Satrapi on this one - I detest 'graphic novel', especially when it's deployed as a way of delineating good/bad or high/low art comic books. Which is how it's used more often than not, I think.

But maybe some people see a value in the distinction - thoughts?


Andrew said...

I've heard the terms "comic" and "graphic novel" as being separated by length and structure. An individual monthly issue would be a comic book, whole the collected issues of that series plotline into a thick trade paperback is a "graphic novel".

Largely, though, I definitely agree that the term was probably invented (and often used) to give the field a high brow Neoism art aura.

It may have something to do with the shift from Spiderman, Superman, Fantastic Four-esque movements into the Sin City style thick pop culture. Although, I think this may be because some people see gritty, plain human, street crime sagas as having more intellectual and relevant depth than superhero universes (which is a naive mistake to make).

The term now seems to have engulfed the industry completely. Though I don't think seeing one term (or one fictional universe) as having more implied weight, or narrative sophistication, as another is the right way to see it.

Paul C said...

My impression was that "graphic novel" was a marketing term, rather than an aesthetic judgment of some kind. I don't think anybody ever sat down and thought "I'm going to produce a graphic novel" (with a few possible exceptions), because there's no such thing as a "graphic novel". OTOH "comic book" doesn't really describe anything coherent either;I like "bandes dessinees", but that's because it's a foreign language...

Anonymous said...

i always thought it was a way for some people to not have to own up to reading a "comic book" cause that term is lowbrow.

the fact that Marijane calls persopolis a "comic" in the version I own (in french so im guessing its the original version) is just another helpful step towards trying to keep "comic" from being a dirty word

merzah the mystic

Anonymous said...

Marjane called her brilliant work a comic (at least in my french version). im glad the serious writers are vearing away from an invented marketing term and embracing the word "comic"

Merzah the mystic