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Graphic Novels Get New Respect

6 August 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Sabrina,” the first graphic novel to make the longlist for Britain’s prestigious Man Booker prize, is everywhere in book conversations this summer—and almost nowhere on shelves.

“Everything in our warehouse is now gone,” said Peggy Burns, publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, which released the graphic novel by Nick Drnaso in the U.S. and Canada in May. Following the July announcement that “Sabrina” was one of 13 titles in contention for the 2018 Man Booker, it sold out at many bookstores. It won’t be back in stock until mid-August.

The recognition for “Sabrina,” a chilling story of a murdered woman and a media campaign that denies her death—a work treated with reverence by members of the comics community—is one of several milestones graphic novels have reached in recent months.

The Adventure Zone,” a graphic novel based on a podcast that features a father and his grown sons playing Dungeons & Dragons, just debuted at the top of the New York Times paperback trade fiction bestseller list, a category driven by less expensive versions of hardcover books. Tillie Walden’s “Spinning,” a figure skating coming-out story from a Macmillan imprint, recently won the comics industry’s Eisner award for reality-based work—what some industry veterans consider an accomplishment for a nonfiction work with a strong literary bent.

“There’s more awareness for graphic novels than there ever has been before,” said Gina Gagliano, publishing director of Random House Graphic, a new graphic-novel imprint for children and teens founded this spring. She added that recent successes “really have the power to change the landscape for the adult literary graphic novel.”

. . . .

Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics, said the graphic-novel market is rearranging itself. “There was a point not too long ago when the market for graphic novels was split between superheroes and more-literary work, but there’s a great deal of space in between and we’re seeing more and more material that occupies that middle ground,” he said.

The demographics of the readers and writers are changing, said Karen Green, curator of comics and cartoons at Columbia University. “You’ve got more cartoonists coming up who are looking for things that are more challenging, I would say more literary,” she said, adding that the audience for superhero comics now often skews much older.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Graphic Novels/Comics

12 Comments to “Graphic Novels Get New Respect”

  1. I’m feeling fine, actually. Think I’ll go for a walk!

    Seriously, I don’t know what the Brits have against my name. The last time I visited Old Blighty a certain other Sabrina had got herself in the news for Vast Tracts of Land that apparently could be visited for a fee. The stifled giggles when I introduced myself were amusing the first hundred times but after that it got tiresome.

    • The only “Sabrina” that comes to my mind is the teenage witch. Not sure if that helps or not…

      • I was thinking of the movie with Julia Ormond; I don’t recall her having a lot of acreage, but it’s been years since I’ve seen her. I believe her movie was a remake of the one with Audrey Hepburn, who was rather lacking in the Vast Tracts of Land department.

        My dad has a cousin named Sabrina … who is a soft-spoken mom of three, and is built more like Audrey Hepburn. Otherwise, coming up blank. Your reputation is safe on this side of the pond!

  2. The demographics of the readers and writers are changing, said Karen Green, curator of comics and cartoons at Columbia University. “You’ve got more cartoonists coming up who are looking for things that are more challenging, I would say more literary,” she said, adding that the audience for superhero comics now often skews much older.

    Of course ‘the audience now often skews much older’. The comics business has priced its products out of the reach of children, and most of its audience now consists of aging fans who got involved as children themselves when comics were still affordable. The fact that distribution has virtually ceased except to a dwindling group of dedicated comic shops (which, in many cases, are not child-friendly environments at all, at all) further discourages young readers from becoming involved.

    It’s a dying artform, and the cause of death is suicide. Every dying artform goes through this demographic change once it loses the ability to appeal to new audiences.

    But hey, they are ‘getting new respect’ and being nominated for Prestigious Awards Given By the Self-Styled Literati to Books They Know the Unwashed Proles Won’t Read. I guess being embalmed is some kind of compensation for dying, I dunno. It seems to have done wonders for opera.

  3. “book conversations” ?

    Is that a thing over there? 😉

  4. Graphic novels are comics, yes? So if they’re getting a new respect, does that mean comics in themselves are also getting a new respect? Or is it strictly limited to when they’re in hardcover? I rarely take an interest in that medium — too soap opera-like on whether or not the character is Dead For Real This Time, We Swear.

    Mostly when I hear about comics these days, it involves a strange phenomena of publishers hiring artists who don’t know how to draw, thus resulting in ugly characters. Or when they do stupid things like turn Thor into a woman.

    Lots of bibliophiles say comics were their gateway drug to becoming bibliophiles. It would be a pity if that particular medium died off. Perhaps if there was a comics version of KDP…

    • Graphic novels are a subset of comics, but not the same thing as what people usually refer to as comics. They are more like the name suggests, novels or series of novels told through art and dialogue. Sometimes they are in print, but there is a large segment of the market that is free online, with print versions for sale.

      If you like epic fantasy and want to see what graphic novels are like, try Unsounded by Ashley Cope. The art is incredibly gorgeous and the story is fantastic. It isn’t complete yet, but it updates regularly online.

      Or, if you prefer Victorian era-esque fantasy with romance and want a graphic novel that is complete, Phoenix Requiem by Sarah Ellerton is incredible and gorgeous.

      • Try this one, folks:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Genius

        What happens when you replace standard fantasy tropes with Mad Scientist tropes? Lots of fun stuff.
        Available online, in print, and as straight prose fantasy.

        In many ways, comics are the cash-poor producer’s TV series and graphics novels are the movie equivalent. The soap opera elements follow naturally. 🙂

      • Ooh! These look interesting. I actually once did read web comics — Achewood, and a brief series about a murder mystery when a novelist goes on vacation (picture a young Jessica Fletcher).

        But I somehow forgot about the web comics medium entirely. I think because various series seem like one of these secret handshake things, where if no one links to them then I don’t know about them.

        In many ways, comics are the cash-poor producer’s TV series and graphics novels are the movie equivalent. The soap opera elements follow naturally.

        Okay, now that’s a good way to look at them. Bet these would be great content for my Fire …

        • Actually, webcomics are pretty much a word of mouth thing.

          They need a high-visibility way of promoting their very existence.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some central hub linking to dozens of them…
          …which is itself totally obscure. 😉

          Nonetheless there is a lot of good work being done there. Worth tracking down…
          …If you hear the right whispers.

  5. FWIW I recently caught Ghost in the Shell on cable. How did I miss this when it came out?

    I know the movie caught flak for whitewashing the lead with ScarJo, but I thought she did a credible job. Maybe Lucy prepped her for the role. Still, I wonder how hard Paramount looked for a Japanese actress for the part.

    Either way, I thought the graphics were mind-blowing.

    Anyway, now I want to get into the whole Ghost in the Shell manga, but I very much doubt that my Japanese would prove equal to the task. I did enjoy Akira though.

    Which is my way of saying that graphic novels have my respect. Have had since Frank Miller did The Dark Knight Returns.

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