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Friday, September 19, 2014

What is a Graphic Novel? Here's my take.

"What is a graphic novel, exactly?"

The first graphic novel I ever read
Hooked for life!
My friend asked me that this morning and I'll share with you what I told her:

"It's like a comic book, but not published a little bit at a time. The story is published all at once." 

The first GN memoir that I read.
I don't know if that is a complete definition. I'm sure we could expand on it. In fact, I was reading a Salon article just yesterday that touched on the definitions of "comics" and "graphic novels" (and talked about why they don't get taken seriously). But generally comic books are published one issue at a time, whereas graphic novels are published all bound together.

When I was looking at the schedule for the Decatur Book Festival I noticed that one of the speakers was vetted as a teacher of "Sequential Art" at a university -- which brought Scott McCloud's definition of comics rushing back to me; it's the first thing he talks about in Understanding Comics.

Love recommending this one to adults who
haven't read GN's before. 

Basically, McCloud defines comics as "art in sequence" (I'm using the quotation marks loosely here. I don't have a copy of Understanding Comics on hand.) Obviously not all "comics" are comical. But a broad definition like "sequential art" encompasses other forms than what I consider comics or graphic novels. Everything from comic strips, to picture books, movies, and well-done shop windows is art in sequence.

Anyway, basically, I consider it a graphic novel if it is "comics style" art (meaning it has panels) published in one volume that has a complete narrative arc. Of course there's another kind of physical element to it -- I do distinguish between a graphic novel and a wordless picture book, though the lines get blurry: it's totally legitimate for each page to be a panel of it's own. That's called a "full bleed."

This is the Graphic Novel I'm dying to read.
"So hot right now!"
I'm interested in exploring this more in depth. You? What questions should I ask? Leave me a comment, because I'm not yet capable of reading minds.
___________
The pictures above are affiliate links -- some to Amazon, some to Barnes and Noble. If you make a purchase through these links (and all of these titles are worth owning), I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Win-win. :D

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