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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:34pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I joined a book club two months ago. We meet up and discuss various books, themes, etc (rather than traditionally tackling one book). I am the only one who reads graphic novels there, and I was happy to discuss them.

But I've always had an issue with the terminology.

I think it can be a tad pretentious for starters. What's wrong with a term such as "Comic Book Novel" or "Comic Novel"?

It's used interchangeably with collected editions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but six collected issues of WEB OF SPIDER-MAN doesn't constitute a 'graphic novel'.

Two people in my life, who were "civilians", thought graphic pertained to something sexual. A Twitter pal, who only got into comics in 2016 when she watched some Marvel films, thought it was sexual. She assumed the "graphic" in novel meant adult themes. Although I've only known two people who have thought that, are there others?

I've never liked the term. For me, it's problematic. And involves getting tongue-tied. One person said to me, "So it's a novel, what does the graphic mean?" I explained about the visual aspects, the comic medium, etc. But I am of the belief that if you have to take long explaining something, maybe it doesn't work. Maybe I could explain "Comic Book Novel" easily; maybe a "civilian" would make a quick presumption and ask, "Ah, so a feature-length comic, then?" 

Maybe I'm wrong. If the term was different, I have zero evidence that "Comic Book Novel" would be more accessible a term or "civilians" would get it. I just find that I get the same questions from people who don't watch them. I lent a graphic novel to a friend years ago - and when she opened it, she said something like, "Oh, it's got pictures in, I didn't realise."

Maybe it's my social circle. Maybe it's me not being articulate. I just don't like the phrase. Never have. 

To summarize, I think it's pretentious ("Oh, my newspaper won't dare review those pesky comics, but we'll review graphic novels!"); it's used far too interchangeably with trade paperbacks; and I don't think it's an accessible phrase.

Thoughts?


Edited by Robbie Parry on 06 August 2018 at 12:34pm
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:43pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

What's wrong with a term such as "Comic Book Novel"

——

Same thing that’s wrong with PIN number and ATM machine.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:43pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

For my whole career I have been searching for a word that would make our product more accessible to civilians. Something that would reduce the number of instances of people wanting to tell me something funny I can use in my "comic books".

Ironically, I got turned completely around when phrases like "graphic novel" and "trade paperback" and (ARGH!!!) "floppies" started to make the rounds. "THEY'RE ALL COMIC BOOKS!" I lamented.

Voice crying in the wilderness....

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Olav Bakken
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:44pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

These days all comics with a hardcover and with enough pages are called graphic novels, even if they are just collecting several issues of an ongoing comic or a mini-series.

"I notice you are reading comics."

"Who me? Oh no, comics are for kids. I'm reading a graphic novel."

Will Eisner did some work that could probably be justified as graphic novels.

It would actually be interesting if more people did justice to the term. When you are writing a novel, you spend a lot of time describing how a character look, the clothes they are wearing, what car they are driving or the horse they are riding, the architecture of a building, what the wildlife on an extrasolar planet looks like, and other forms of information. If you instead added artwork on some pages, you could exclude a lot of the descriptions and focus more on the plot.

In my country a comic book is called a "tegneserie". Tegne (to draw) and serie, which has a similar meaning as in English. A string or series of drawings put together to tell a story.


Edited by Olav Bakken on 06 August 2018 at 12:51pm
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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:44pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I think maybe things got pretentious with the terminology somewhere in the '70s for some who thought comic book was limiting or even demeaning? Or not accurate for something that was aimed at adults anyway. Sequential graphic narratives, 'illustories' (that might go back to E.C.), contemporary pictorial literature (CPL), are terms I remember were floated and used however briefly.

Some people don't like the word cartooning or cartoonist either. :^(


Edited by Rebecca Jansen on 06 August 2018 at 12:45pm
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:48pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

For the record, I’m totally fine with graphic novel. It does irk me when some people say graphic novel to differentiate from those “low-class comic books”, but whatevs. I do think it gets incorrectly applied to trade collections of comic books with no discrete storyline.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 12:54pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

 Michael Roberts wrote:
Same thing that’s wrong with PIN number and ATM machine.

I know that. I was just testing you. ;-)

 Rebecca Jansen wrote:
Some people don't like the word cartooning or cartoonist either.

A UK cartoonist, many moons ago, mentioned how he'd been at a party. When asked what his profession was by someone, he told her. Her response was, "But what's your real job?" When he told her that was his full-time job, she replied, "What, you've never worked?"

People, eh?

I don't like change for the sake of it. I hate how "Personnel" became the absurd and dehumanizing "Human Resources". Or how a police force in the UK became a 'police service'. 

But I feel I could sell the concept better to "civilians" if I could use another term.

As for the interchangeable aspect, well it is pedantic of me. But if Valiant collect together 4 issues of that early 90s WWF comic, is that really gonna be called a 'graphic novel'?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 1:12pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Some fans have often gone beyond ballistic when I refer to myself as a cartoonist. F**k 'em! It was good enough for JOE KUBERT, it's good enought for me!
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 1:15pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Imagine if some other professions - all professions, in fact - tried to be pretentious or were embarrassed.

I'll call myself a Passenger Facilitator Operative, I think! 
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Matthew Wilkie
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 2:11pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

When was the term Graphic Novel first coined? Naively I imagined as a little that Marvel coined it for their deluxe series of the 80s.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 2:13pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Marvel claimed THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL as the first graphic novel, tho Will Eisner said the trade paperbacks hed done earlier had prior claim to the term.
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John Cole
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 3:32pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee did their Silver Sufer graphic novel a few years before Death Of Captain Marvel even though it wasn't published by Marvel.
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 4:50pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Pictome

Ah the heck with it , "graphic novel" does roll off the tongue rather easily but I still say "comic" most of the time.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 4:51pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Pictome? 

I think I'm gonna fall in love with you! :)

I can picture a "Pictome" section in my local bookstore. Doug, from now on, anything you do or say is okay by me! :D
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 6:50pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Important: the "new word" should not prompt anyone to ask "what's that?"
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 7:26pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Thanks Robbie!

I'll be extra careful what I say and do from now on. Don't want you to be guilty by association :-)
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Mario Ribeiro
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Posted: 06 August 2018 at 8:27pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

The Brazilian term is something like "Stories in Little Pictures" (or Stories in Panels). Can't get easier than that.

Of course, if any of you start using it, people will think you mean something different than Comic Books.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 1:33am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

I remember when THE DARK KNIGHT was first released that the format became known as 'The Dark Knight Format' for a while which led DC to scramble to try to find an alternative.

When you had comics printed on Baxter paper, that became known as the Baxter Format.

I agree that they are all Comics and when I talk about them I talk Comics. I do mention trade paperback as a 'format' to mean many comics collected in a single 'thing' but only to produce clarity of what format I am talking about. But if a see a collection of such things, that is a collection of Comics to me, and I would talk about them as such.

Graphic Novel is just a ridiculous, pretentious attempt to discredit the beauty that is a Comic.  
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Matthew Wilkie
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 1:50am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

I used to read Tin Tin and Asterix as a kid. I think I simply called them books.
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Olav Bakken
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 2:14am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Isn't Tintin and Asterix simply called albums because of the format?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 4:26am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Years ago, at a party, someone asked me if I'd ever done a graphic novel. I cited the She-Hulk book, producing a look of confusion. "No, I mean a graphic novel. Something serious."

Fortunately I understood the problem, and tried to explain that "graphic novel" described format, not content. But I realized I was trying to explain industry terms to someone who thought comic books were one thing, and graphic novels were something else. She'd read MAUS, but would never deign to read SHE-HULK.

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Christopher Frost
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 5:28am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

There was a period in the 90's when the term "graphic novel" was adopted by the more snobby type of comic reader. There was a subset of fans who would read "serious" books like Sandman, etc. and looked down on super hero books as being juvenile in comparison. That gave rise to the whole "I read graphic novels, not comic books!" attitude. As Mr. Byrne noted above, the term refers to format and not content, but the misconception about the terminology leaked through to the civilian population who viewed comics in general as something that would never approach "real" literature. Over time, being a comic reader has become somewhat acceptable but the attitude is often still there. You even see it i the credits of shows like The Walking Dead that state it's "based on the series of graphic novels" by Kirkman, etc. 
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Rod Collins
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 5:44am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

The term graphic novel seems to be more of a generic marketing term for bookstores, libraries and whatnot who think the word comic is too lowbrow. I have used it when teaching, as that is the term most students and other teaching staff understand. I guess this is because most kids only see comics as collections in school libraries these days and very few of them would know where to pick up a monthly title.

And count me in as someone who hates the term floppy. Comic is my preference, but I can also live with them being called periodicals, though that term is pretty non-specific and relates to most magazines. Floppy also suggests that comics are less important than collections/trades.

Edited by Rod Collins on 07 August 2018 at 5:46am
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Drew Spence
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 6:06am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Maybe it's also important to stores to make a distinction because graphic novels can sit on the shelf indefinitely where comic books are rotated.

But I do chuckle at how there is so much concern over high-brow terminology for different comic books and then this quote....

the misconception about the terminology leaked through to the civilian population

Civilian population...?
lol
Bring on the trekkie v treker wars

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Drew Spence
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Posted: 07 August 2018 at 6:09am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Oh, and I call my stuff(s) a 'graphic comic' and also, I do the opposite, I break my graphic novels down into individual 'floppies' which I call episodes.

comiXology STILL calls them a collection.
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