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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Discovering Graphic Novels


Over the years I’ve read countless books, from huge dictionaries and encyclopedias to children’s books, short stories, trivia, essays, poetry, and novels.  But I never read a graphic novel, until now.

The comic-book format to adult stories is fascinating.  I can’t believe I waited this long to enter the world of illustrated stories.  As a kid I enjoyed comic strips and comic books, though I wasn’t deep into them.  I certainly appreciated how they conveyed concepts and action through few words and great imagery.  Now that concept has popularly transferred over to the adult world.

“Graphic novels” is a name that on one hand, sounds like what it is – novels that have graphics or artwork.  But it also sounds like novels that are very graphic in detail to violence.  I guess sometimes a graphic novel can be detailed with violence AND illustrated.

It’s a growing genre, for sure. What a nice idea it is to combine talented illustrators with great writers.  The cultural arts are so important for an evolving society.  There’s room in the book publishing industry for books in all genres and in all types of formats.  It seems logical that with many of us growing up reading comic books so that we continue into adulthood with the same format, just different subject matter.

A Publishers Weekly article from 2013 notes that graphic novels have exploded in the 21st century.  The article stated: “Acclaimed books like Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1991) and Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbon’s Watchman (1987) have spurred academic interest in comics, which opened many doors for the medium.  The 2000s brought a slew of new classics as traditional publishers put out much-lauded, award-winning titles like Marjane Satropis’s Persepolis (2000), Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006), Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (2010), and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (2000).”

Comic-Con is certainly a very happening event in the publishing industry, and graphic novels are a part of that.  Graphic novels are getting more shelf space in stores, too.

In 2014, the comic and graphic novel market hit a new 20-year high – sales to consumers in the US and Canada reached $935 million – a 7% hike over 2013 sales.  It’s on pace to rocket past a billion dollars this year.  In 2013, 85 million print unit sales happened for the top 30 comic books. It reflected its highest such number since 2007.  It seems to run opposite the digital reading trend. Still, comic sales remain lower than peaks in the 1950’s or early 90’s.

Comic book sales fuel big-screen adaptations. The movies then further people’s interest in reading the comic books.

Maybe we need a graphic novel or comic book that showcases a book-related theme or a writer-turned-superhero.  Could there be a movie deal, too?

My son loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a terrific graphic novel series for the 8-12 segment.  But graphic novels are also embraced by teens, young adults, and older people.  Perhaps as the younger generation that first embraced the format grows older, the genre will grow with them, both in content and market size.

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