Thursday, June 14, 2007

Graphic Comics vs. Comic Novels. Or something.

(this entry is cross-posted on pretty much every online journal I've got)

Quick note: Last night my neuroses grabbed me by the plums and got me worried that I was flip to the point of insulting when I mentioned Happy Harbor Comics' Shuster Award win for Outstanding Canadian Comic Retailer yesterday.

So, just in case that was how it sounded, I want to make it perfectly clear that, as far as I'm concerned, what Jay Bardyla and Shawna Roe have accomplished with Happy Harbor here in Edmonton is nothing short of amazing. They are an inspiration to me and, I suspect, dozens if not hundreds of other local comic fans and I've nothing but the deepest respect for either of them, even if Jay does Cry Like A Little Girl from time to time. Who doesn't? I still get a bit weepy at the end of the Bill Murray film "Scrooged", so I'm certainly not in a sound position to be throwing stones.

And, in the interest of full disclosure, I'd have said all that even if Jay and Shawna didn't let me hang out behind the counter for six hours a week and read floppy comics I can't afford to buy for free.


From the boards, some early-morning pontificating from me on the "Comics vs. Graphic Novel" issue, in response to a post by ATHENA VOLTAIRE writer Steve Bryant:

Anything that will potentially add to the audience of the medium is a Good Thing in my book, but I do have issues with the putting on of airs in an effort to gain cultural legitimacy.

That said, in my limited experience it's marketing folks that are putting on those airs. If calling a tulip a rose will sell more tulips, I say go for it. It's when a graphic novelist thinks his rose is automatically superior to my comic creator's tulip that there are going to be problems.

Fortunately, when the question of "What do you do?" is put bluntly, I can't recall a big name comic creator who self-identifies as someone who creates graphic novels. They all make comics, they all know they make comics, and in my experience, they all know that calling comics graphic novels is a marketing move that has little, if any, effect on their creative practice.

When someone asks me about the terminology these days, I explain that my only real problem with the term graphic novel is that to me it sounds more like porn than comic books. Then I do my best Bob Guccione impression and say "These books are graphic novels. Very graphic...and very novel..."

Given the fickle nature of North American pop culture, I don't think the term graphic novel has been completely cemented in the public consciousness--there's still a chance to re-position the term comic book as something other than shorthand for "immature kids' stuff".

Though hearing of anyone wanting to do a two-page graphic novel makes me think it's not a very good chance, at this point...

Full thread here:


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