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September 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 9


Graphic Novels Give Comics a Good Name

The differences between graphic novels and comic books are quickly distinguishing graphic novels as the preferred form of media for sequential art. Enter a major bookstore such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, and its "Graphic Novel" section may be as large as its "Mystery" or "Science Fiction" counterparts.

In previous years, graphic novels were ignored and relegated to the Humor section, or often, not stocked at all in bookstores or libraries, despite their enormous popularity with children and young adults. Independent graphic novels edged onto the literary scene, with Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine grabbing attention and accolades from the mainstream press in the early nineties with stories of ordinary people coping with the rigors of everyday life or, in the case of Spiegelman, the horrors of the Holocaust retold using animal characters.

As the popularity of these independent, quirky works grew, so did the medium, which provided numerous advantages over the comic serial. According to Don Wynnewood, owner of Don´s Atomic Comics and Collectibles, the advantages include affordability (since a single book costs less than a stack of individual 32-page floppy comics), convenience and a lack of ads. Most important, he said, graphic novels “are excellent pieces of art and literature that are traded! Hugo Award winners, Pulitzer Prize recipients, Easers, Harvey´s, etc. There are some amazing pieces of work in the sequential art medium. You´ve just got to look."

The mainstream comics industry took note and began repackaging many of their titles in graphic novel form. Hollywood noticed, too: United Artists turned “Ghost World” by Daniel Clowes into a commercially and critically successful movie. “Sin City” by Frank Miller was a daring piece of work that showed off the cinematic quality of the graphic novel medium. Robert Rodriguez co-directed with Miller and was so faithful to Miller´s vision that images from the graphic novel were duplicated in the film.

With financial success, critical acclaim and popularity soaring, retailers and publishers are finding the demand for graphic novels hard to ignore. They are also harder to dismiss as "child´s play," when a large percentage of consumers are adults.

Graphic novels have a familiar appeal to the mainstream consumer. The graphic novel feels like a "real book." According to Jim Demonakos, public relations and marketing coordinator for Image Comics, "Graphic novels are much more acceptable to the mainstream buyer because they´re square-bound and are much more like novels."

Unlike single-issue newsprint comics, graphic novels are often of better paper quality and have additional features, such as artist interviews, star introductions and can be found in either paperback or hardcover format. Waiting for the publication of the graphic novel may also prove to be more cost-effective and less of a hassle than buying every single-issue newsprint of a beloved comic.

With the change in format came an expansion in the possibilities of the comic world. Lee Dawson, publicist for Dark Horse Comics, told TDmonthly, "The popularity of manga, especially for young women and girls, is connected with the success of the graphic novels being sold today."

Manga´s success has "bled over into the comics industry," and the comics world is finding that it can expand beyond superhero tropes to a wide range of possibilities. The added space gives comics artists more license to experiment with stories, format, and tell stories the way they envision it.

Demonakos went on to say that, "People want more variety from their comics, just like movies: The summer blockbuster is fun, but the drama, the foreign film, the horror flick — all have their place and audience."

Here are a few examples of graphic novels and comics to watch:

MSRP: $10.95
Age Range: 13 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books

Being a teenager can be a difficult job, something the adult world can never understand. While to her parents and teachers getting Adam Ant tickets is no big deal, to Bleu L. Finnegan it means everything. This could be the defining moment of her life, and there is no guarantee that she will ever achieve it. This 136-page book was written and illustrated by Chynna Clugston-Major.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4406      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $2.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Comics

The Fear Agents are no more. Once known throughout the universe for driving three invading alien races from Earth, they stood as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Now, Heath Huston drunkenly scuttles across the galaxy as an alien exterminator — the last of their ranks. Combining the aesthetic elements of all three of the genres that made EC comics the high water mark of sequential storytelling — science fiction, war, and horror — Heath´s adventures take readers on monthly jaunts to brave new worlds overrun by jellyfish brains, wild ape-men and rickety robots bent on intergalactic domination! This science-fiction extravaganza ships to stores in October. It’s 32 pages and was written by Rick Remender and illustrated by Tony Moore and Sean Parsons with cover art by Tony Moore and Rick Remender. Update: In 2007, Dark Horse Comics began publishing the "Fear Agent" series.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4405      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $23.90
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books

Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman´s Maus, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi´s wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah´s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran´s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Available in October, Marjane Satrapi both wrote and illustrated the novel.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4404      (added 8/31/2005)

MSRP: $4.99
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Books

New to town, Will quickly makes friends with three other girls. Together, they form their own little multiracial gang. Strangely enough, they all begin to experience magical powers that they don’t understand. Soon they team up to protect the Veil – the boundary that delineates good from evil. Their adventures have also been adapted to cartoon form. It was written and illustrated by Parke Goodwin.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4403      (added 8/31/2005)

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