Saturday, July 26, 2008

Did You Know...?

...that the term Graphic Novel was created as a marketing device?

It really irritates me to hear people say, "It's not a comic book. It's a graphic novel."


It's a comic book. That's like saying, the Season One DVD Box Set of The Sopranos isn't a television show. It's a box of moving portraits.

The term graphic novel rears its head every time a comic book movie gets some traction as anything other than pop entertainment. And that's a good thing. Comic books, as a medium, are capable of much more than the simple superhero genre that they are so widely known for.

Back in the day, when comic books were "pulp" magazines, it wasn't a big deal for anyone to plop down a nickel to thumb through a comic book. But in the late 80s and early 90s, comic books were becoming something of a fad.

Many out of print comic books were being reprinted in larger issues called Trade Paperbacks. Or TPBs for short. With the rise of Indie comics in the late 80s and early 90s (not unlike the rise of Indie films at the time), some smart well-minded indviduals, decided that their product was a little too dissimilar to the superhero pulp that was selling like hotcakes.

So they reprinted their books and decided to call them GRAPHIC NOVELS in the hopes that people would be fooled into thinking they weren't comic books. That maybe they were something more -- that they were literary pieces of work.

And apparently, it worked.

Now, my gripe isn't that it worked. It's not that I don't think comic books are literary works of art. Quite the contrary. I KNOW they are literary and visual pieces of art.

What I despise, is that it takes a gimmick to make people realize it.

I ripped this quote off Facebook, from someone, who probably shouldn't be quoted (ever)-- but, it proves my point about how ingrained the term graphic novel has become --

...the only reason I think we are saying that it raised standards is because we still identify batman as a comic book hero despite the fact that this story was taken from a graphic novel, which allows for an edgier film. There have already been a plenty of graphic novels made into films with a serious tone (V for Vendetta, 300, Sin City), so if we actually consider the film against these films (and not comic book films), I would say that it did as good a job as the other graphic novels while not setting any new standards.
So much misinformation.

The graphic novel he is referring to is Alan Moore's, THE KILLING JOKE.

  1. First off -- Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT -- is NOT!!! based on it. In fact, if any Batman holds any resemblance to that book, it is Tim Burton's original 1989 BATMAN.
  2. Second -- It is NOT!!! a graphic novel. Nor is it a Trade Paperback. It was a ONE-SHOT.

The term one-shot is used to denote a pilot comic or a stand-alone story created to last as one issue. It was later reprinted INSIDE a TPB. They don't normally shove "graphic novels" into other graphic novels.

It being a "graphic novel" doesn't allow for "edgier content." It being a comic book allows for edgier content.

It's the medium that houses the content. That "edgier content." Not the gimmick used to try and trick people into buying the product.

Comic books have always been on the fringes of pop culture as a form of entertainment. As Alan Moore has so eloquently put it:

The only place that you seem to find anything of any value is at the margins of any of these cultures, at the fringes of pop and of cinema and comics and books. That's where the real action's going on, not in the kind of Oscar-winning or Booker-prize winning enclave.


deepstructure said...

"Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT -- is NOT!!! based on it."

while perhaps literally true this hides the fact that it was definitely influenced by it as goyer admits in this article:

“I think that there are elements from The Dark Knight, elements from The Long Halloween, elements from The Killing Joke,” he says. “But it’s not like we were specifically adapting one specific comic book or comic book arc.”

and nolan admits in this one:

"MM: I take it will be less Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson than the Joker we saw portrayed in a comic like 'The Killing Joke'?

Nolan:Yes. I would certainly point to 'The Killing Joke' but I also would point very much to the first two appearances of the 'Joker' in the comic."

and then both goyer and jonathan nolan talk about here:

"MoviesOnline: Not a lot of Killing Joke in this one.

DAVID GOYER: There’s a little bit of that dynamic between the Joker and Batman.

JONATHAN NOLAN: I think there’s a ton of it if you look at it from a slightly different perspective. What is the Joker trying to do in The Killing Joke? He’s trying to drive one of Batman’s allies crazy.

DAVID GOYER: Yeah, I think we definitely called that relationship from the Killing Joke.

MoviesOnline: What other comic books did you reference?

JONATHAN NOLAN: It’s easier to say what didn’t we reference? It felt like we read all of them. I grew up a Batman fan and David did too. So, there’s a lot of that already in there and when you embark on these things, DC sends you everything.

DAVID GOYER: Obviously there’s some of the Long Halloween in there. There’s some Miller stuff. I think in this one there’s less though than the first one. Some of the Denny O’Neil stuff. But it’s like yeah, we were looking at stuff from the 80s."

so not based on, but certainly influnced by.

Kevin Lehane said...

Is it a cartoon or an animated movie? Is it a TV show or visual novel? (In the case of The Wire, it's both.)

Splitting hairs. I think the term Graphic Novel signals a different kind of comic book, but it is still a comic book. Just like an art house indie and a popcorn mainstream flick are both movies, but different. Graphic Novel to me is a genre of the comic book world.