Graphic novel

Graphic novel

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A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics
Comics
Comics denotes a hybrid medium having verbal side of its vocabulary tightly tied to its visual side in order to convey narrative or information only, the latter in case of non-fiction comics, seeking synergy by using both visual and verbal side in...

 format. The term is employed in a broad manner, encompassing non-fiction works and thematically linked short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 as well as fictional stories across a number of genres.

Graphic novels are typically bound
Bookbinding
Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching covers to the resulting text-block.-Origins of the book:...

 in longer and more durable formats than familiar comic magazine
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

s, using the same materials and methods as printed books, and they are generally sold in bookstores and specialty comic book shops rather than at newsstands. Such books have gained increasing acceptance as desirable materials for libraries which once ignored comic books.

Definition


The term is not strictly defined, though one broad dictionary definition is "a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and presented as a book." In the publishing
Publishing
Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature or information—the activity of making information available to the general public...

 trade, the term is sometimes extended to material that would not be considered a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 if produced in another medium. Collections of comic books that do not form a continuous story, anthologies
Anthology
An anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts...

 or collections of loosely related pieces, and even non-fiction
Non-fiction
Non-fiction is the form of any narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are understood to be fact...

 are stocked by libraries
Library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 and bookstores as "graphic novels" (similar to the manner in which dramatic stories are included in "comic" books). It is also sometimes used to create a distinction between works created as stand-alone stories, in contrast to collections or compilations of a story arc
Story arc
A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, boardgames, video games, and in some cases, films. On a television program, for example, the story would unfold over many episodes. In television, the use of the story...

 from a comic book series published in book form.

Whether manga
Manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

, which has had a much longer of both novel-like publishing and production of comics for adult audiences, should be included in the term is not always agreed upon. Likewise, in continental Europe, both original book-length stories such as La rivolta dei racchi (1967) by Guido Buzzelli
Guido Buzzelli
Guido Buzzelli was an Italian comic book artist, writer, illustrator and painter.-Biography:Buzzelli was born in Rome into a family in which his grandfather had been a decorator, his father a painter and his mother a model. He frequented the Academy of St. Luke and initially decided to follow his...

, and collections of comic strips have been commonly published in hardcover volumes, often called "albums", since the end of the 19th century (including Franco-Belgian comics
Franco-Belgian comics
Franco-Belgian comics are comics that are created in Belgium and France. These countries have a long tradition in comics and comic books, where they are known as BDs, an abbreviation of bande dessinée in French and stripverhalen in Dutch...

 series such as "The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin is a series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist , who wrote under the pen name of Hergé...

" and "Lieutenant Blueberry", and Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 series such as "Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese
Corto Maltese is a comics series featuring an eponymous character, a complex sailor-adventurer. It was created by Italian comic book creator Hugo Pratt in 1967...

").

History


As the exact definition of graphic novel is debatable, the origins of the artform itself are open to interpretation. Cave paintings may have told stories, and artists and artisans beginning in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 produced tapestries and illuminated manuscripts that told or helped to tell narratives.

The first Western artist who interlocked lengthy writing with specific images was most likely William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

 (1757–1826). Blake created several books in which the pictures and the "storyline" are inseparable, such as Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, the 1837 English translation of the 1833 Swiss publication Histoire de M. Vieux Bois
Histoire de M. Vieux Bois
Histoire de M. Vieux Bois, published in English as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, and also known as Les amours de Mr. Vieux Bois or simply Monsieur Vieuxbois, is a 19th-century publication written and illustrated by the Swiss caricaturist Rodolphe Töpffer. Published first in Europe as Histoire...

 by Swiss caricaturist Rodolphe Töpffer
Rodolphe Töpffer
Rodolphe Töpffer was a Swiss teacher, author, painter, cartoonist, and caricature artist. He is also considered to be the first modern comic creator.- Biography :...

, is the oldest recognized American example of comics used to this end. The United States has also had a long tradition of collecting comic strips into book form. While these collections and longer-form comic books are not considered graphic novels even by modern standards, they are early steps in the development of the graphic novel.

1920s to 1960s


The 1920s saw a revival of the medieval woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

 tradition, with Belgian Frans Masereel
Frans Masereel
Frans Masereel was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who worked mainly in France. He is known especially for his woodcuts. His greatest work is generally said to be the wordless graphic novel Mon Livre d'Heures . He completed over 20 other wordless novels in his career...

 cited as "the undisputed king" of this revival. Among Masereel's works were Passionate Journey (1926, reissued 1985 as Passionate Journey: A Novel in 165 Woodcuts ISBN 978-0-87286-174-9). American Lynd Ward
Lynd Ward
Lynd Kendall Ward was an American artist and storyteller, and son of Methodist minister and prominent political organizer Harry F. Ward. He illustrated some 200 juvenile and adult books...

 also worked in this tradition, publishing the first wordless, woodcut-picture novel, Gods' Man, in 1929 and going on to publish more during the 1930s.

Other prototypical examples from this period include American Milt Gross
Milt Gross
Milt Gross , was an American comic strip and comic book writer, illustrator and animator. He wrote his comics in a Yiddish-inflected English. He originated the non-sequitur "Banana Oil!" as a phrase deflating pomposity and posing. His character Count Screwloose's admonition, "Iggy, keep an eye on...

' He Done Her Wrong (1930), a wordless comic published as a hardcover book, and Une Semaine de Bonté
Une Semaine de Bonte
Une semaine de bonté is a graphic novel and artist's book by Max Ernst, first published in 1934. It comprises 182 images created by cutting up and re-organizing illustrations from Victorian encyclopedias and novels.-History:...

 (1934), a novel in sequential images composed of collage by the surrealist painter Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.-Early life:...

. In 1941, author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton
Virginia Lee Burton
Virginia Lee Burton was an American illustrator and children's book author. Burton wrote and illustrated seven self-illustrated children's books, including the Caldecott Medal winning The Little House. Also known by her married name Virginia Demetrios. She died in 1968 of lung cancer...

 published Calico the Wonder Horse, or the Saga of Stewy Slinker. Intrigued by her nine-year old son's fascination with comic books, she had tailored the book to his interest, creating an early graphic novel


The 1940s saw the launching of Classics Illustrated
Classics Illustrated
Classics Illustrated is a comic book series featuring adaptations of literary classics such as Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Iliad. Created by Albert Kanter, the series began publication in 1941 and finished its first run in 1971, producing 169 issues. Following the series' demise, various companies...

, a comic-book series that primarily adapted notable, public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

 novels into standalone comic books for young readers. The 1950s saw this format broadened, with popular movies being similarly adapted. By the 1960s, British publisher IPC
IPC Media
IPC Media , a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Inc., is a consumer magazine and digital publisher in the United Kingdom, with a large portfolio selling over 350 million copies each year.- Origins :...

 had started to produce a pocket-sized comic-book line, the "Super Library", that featured war and spy stories
Spy fiction
Spy fiction, literature concerning the forms of espionage, was a sub-genre derived from the novel during the nineteenth century, which then evolved into a discrete genre before the First World War , when governments established modern intelligence agencies in the early twentieth century...

 told over roughly 130 pages.

In 1950, St. John Publications
St. John Publications
St. John Publications was an American publisher of magazines and comic books. During its short existence , St. John's comic books established several industry firsts. Founded by Archer St. John , the firm was located in Manhattan at 545 Fifth Avenue. After the St...

 produced the digest-sized, adult-oriented "picture novel" It Rhymes with Lust
It Rhymes with Lust
It Rhymes with Lust is a book, originally published in 1950, considered one of the most notable precursors of the graphic novel. Called a "picture novel" on the cover and published by the comic book and magazine company St...

, a film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

-influenced slice of steeltown life starring a scheming, manipulative redhead named Rust. Touted as "an original full-length novel" on its cover, the 128-page digest by pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

ous writer "Drake Waller" (Arnold Drake
Arnold Drake
Arnold Drake was an American comic book writer and screenwriter best known for co-creating the DC Comics characters Deadman and the Doom Patrol, and the Marvel Comics characters the Guardians of the Galaxy, among others....

 and Leslie Waller
Leslie Waller
-Biography:He is a son of Ukrainian immigrants and was born in Chicago, Illinois. He suffered from amblyopia and poliomyelitis as a child, but graduated from Hyde Park High School by the age of 16...

), penciler Matt Baker and inker Ray Osrin
Ray Osrin
Raymond Harold Osrin was an American cartoonist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928, and studied at the High School of Industrial Arts and the Art Students League. He was a staff inker at Jerry Iger's comics shop from 1945 to 1949...

 proved successful enough to lead to an unrelated second picture novel, The Case of the Winking Buddha by pulp novelist
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

 Manning Lee Stokes and illustrator Charles Raab. In 1955, EC Comics
EC Comics
Entertaining Comics, more commonly known as EC Comics, was an American publisher of comic books specializing in horror fiction, crime fiction, satire, military fiction and science fiction from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notably the Tales from the Crypt series...

 devised the label "Picto-Fiction" when it attempted to graduate from the conventional comic book format to typeset graphic stories with a line of experimental magazines—Confessions Illustrated
Confessions Illustrated
Confessions Illustrated was a black-and-white magazine published by EC Comics in early 1956. Part of EC's Picto-Fiction line, each magazine featured three to five stories. The format alternated blocks of text with several illustrations per page....

, Terror Illustrated
Terror Illustrated
Terror Illustrated was a black-and-white magazine published by EC Comics in late 1955 and early 1956. Part of EC's Picto-Fiction line, each magazine featured three to five stories. The format alternated blocks of text with several illustrations per page....

, Shock Illustrated
Shock Illustrated
Shock Illustrated was a black and white magazine published by EC Comics from late 1955 to early 1956. Part of EC's Picto-Fiction line, each magazine featured three to five stories. The artists drew one to four panels per page with the text overlaid onto the artwork...

 and Crime Illustrated
Crime Illustrated
Crime Illustrated was a black-and-white magazine published by EC Comics in late 1955 and early 1956. Part of EC's Picto-Fiction line, each magazine featured three to five stories. The format alternated panels of typography with panels of illustrations...

.

By the late 1960s, American comic book creators were becoming more adventurous with the form. Gil Kane
Gil Kane
Eli Katz who worked under the name Gil Kane and in one instance Scott Edward, was a comic book artist whose career spanned the 1940s to 1990s and every major comics company and character.Kane co-created the modern-day versions of the superheroes Green Lantern and the Atom for DC Comics, and...

 and Archie Goodwin
Archie Goodwin (comics)
Archie Goodwin was an American comic book writer, editor, and artist. He worked on a number of comic strips in addition to comic books, and is best known for his Warren and Marvel Comics work...

 self-published a 40-page, magazine
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

-format comics novel, His Name is... Savage
His Name is... Savage
His Name Is... Savage is a 40-page, magazine-format comics novel released in 1968 as a precursor to the modern graphic novel. Created by the veteran American comic book artist Gil Kane, who conceived, plotted and illustrated the project, and writer Archie Goodwin, who scripted under the pseudonym...

 (Adventure House Press) in 1968 — the same year Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics
Marvel Worldwide, Inc., commonly referred to as Marvel Comics and formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, is an American company that publishes comic books and related media...

 published two issues of The Spectacular Spider-Man
The Spectacular Spider-Man
The Spectacular Spider-Man is the name of several comic books and one magazine series starring Marvel Comics' Spider-Man.The character's main series, The Amazing Spider-Man, was extremely successful, and Marvel felt the character could support more than one title. This led the company in 1968 to...

 in a similar format. Columnist and comic-book writer Steven Grant
Steven Grant
Steven Grant is an American comic-book writer best known for his 1985-1986 Marvel Comics mini-series Punisher, with artist Mike Zeck and for his creator-owned character Whisper.-Biography:...

 also argues that Stan Lee
Stan Lee
Stan Lee is an American comic book writer, editor, actor, producer, publisher, television personality, and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics....

 and Steve Ditko
Steve Ditko
Stephen J. "Steve" Ditko is an American comic book artist and writer best known as the artist co-creator, with Stan Lee, of the Marvel Comics heroes Spider-Man and Doctor Strange....

's Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange
Doctor Stephen Strange is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was co-created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 ....

 story in Strange Tales
Strange Tales
Strange Tales is the name of several comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics. It introduced the features "Doctor Strange" and "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.", and was a showcase for the science fiction/suspense stories of artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and for the...

 #130-146, although published serially from 1965–1966, is "the first American graphic novel".

Meanwhile, in continental Europe, the tradition of collecting serials of popular strips such as The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin is a series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist , who wrote under the pen name of Hergé...

 or Asterix
Asterix
Asterix or The Adventures of Asterix is a series of French comic books written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo . The series first appeared in French in the magazine Pilote on October 29, 1959...

 had allowed a system to develop which saw works developed as long form narratives but pre-published as serials; in the 1970s this move in turn allowed creators to become marketable in their own right, auteurs capable of sustaining sales on the strength of their name.

By 1969, the author John Updike
John Updike
John Hoyer Updike was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic....

, who had entertained ideas of becoming a cartoonist in his youth, addressed the Bristol Literary Society, on "the death of the novel". Updike offered examples of new areas of exploration for novelists, declaring "I see no intrinsic reason why a doubly talented artist might not arise and create a comic strip novel masterpiece".

Modern era



Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin's Blackmark
Blackmark
Blackmark is a Bantam Books paperback , published January 1971, that is one of the first American graphic novels, predating such seminal works as Richard Corben's Bloodstar , Jim Steranko's Chandler: Red Tide , Don McGregor & Paul Gulacy's Sabre , and Will Eisner's A Contract with God...

 (1971), a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

/sword-and-sorcery paperback published by Bantam Books
Bantam Books
Bantam Books is an American publishing house owned entirely by Random House, the German media corporation subsidiary of Bertelsmann; it is an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group. It was formed in 1945 by Walter B. Pitkin, Jr., Sidney B. Kramer, and Ian and Betty Ballantine...

, did not use the term originally; the back-cover blurb of the 30th-anniversary edition (ISBN 978-1-56097-456-7) calls it, retroactively, "the very first American graphic novel". The Academy of Comic Book Arts
Academy of Comic Book Arts
The Academy of Comic Book Arts is an American professional organization of the 1970s that was designed to be the comic book industry analog of such groups as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1970 and hosting its first awards ceremony in 1971 for work published in 1970,...

 presented Kane with a special 1971 Shazam Award for what it called "his paperback comics novel". Whatever the nomenclature, Blackmark is a 119-page story of comic-book art, with captions and word balloons, published in a traditional book format. It is also the first with an original heroic-adventure character conceived expressly for this form.

The first six issues of writer-artist Jack Katz
Jack Katz (artist)
Jack Katz is an American comic book artist and writer, painter and art teacherknown for his graphic novel, The First Kingdom.-Early life and career:...

's 1974 Comics and Comix Co. series The First Kingdom were collected as a trade paperback
Trade paperback (comics)
In comics, a trade paperback is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted in book format, usually capturing one story arc from a single title or a series of stories with a connected story arc or common theme from one or more titles...

 (Pocket Books
Pocket Books
Pocket Books is a division of Simon & Schuster that primarily publishes paperback books.- History :Pocket produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback books in America in early 1939 and revolutionized the publishing industry...

, March 1978, ISBN 978-0-671-79016-5), which described itself as "the first graphic novel". Issues of the comic had described themselves as "graphic prose", or simply as a novel.

European creators were also experimenting with the longer narrative in comics form. In the United Kingdom, Raymond Briggs
Raymond Briggs
Raymond Redvers Briggs is an English illustrator, cartoonist, graphic novelist, and author who has achieved critical and popular success among adults and children...

 was producing works such as Father Christmas
Father Christmas (graphic novel)
Father Christmas is not real is a British graphic novel written and drawn by Raymond Briggs, published in 1973.The book presents a dramatically different modern interpretation of the character. Far from being jolly, this Father Christmas is a brash man who works from a normal house with the...

 (1972) and The Snowman
The Snowman
The Snowman is a children's book by English author Raymond Briggs, published in 1978. In 1982, this book was turned into a 26-minute animated movie by Dianne Jackson for the fledgling Channel 4. It was first shown on Channel 4 late on Christmas Eve in 1982 and was an immediate success. The film was...

 (1978), which he himself described as being from the "bottomless abyss of strip cartooning", although they, along with such other Briggs works as the more mature When the Wind Blows (1982), have been re-marketed as graphic novels in the wake of the term's popularity. Briggs notes, however, "I don't know if I like that term too much".

Digital era


Graphic novels have been recently adopted in the form of digital versions for various tablet, reader and cell phones. These digitized versions have been taken up by the mainstream graphic novel publishers Marvel Comics and from 2011 have seen the digitized adaptation of classic texts such as Machiavelli's The Prince (SmarterComics 2011, ASIN: B005V1FYZY) and Sun Tzu's The Art of War by Shane Clester (Smartercomics 2011, ASIN: B005P2HQ5A) transferred into digital graphic novels.

First self-proclaimed graphic novels: 1976-1978



In 1976, the term "graphic novel" appeared in print to describe three separate works. Bloodstar
Bloodstar
Bloodstar is possibly the first graphic novel to call itself a “graphic novel” in print . Based on a short story by Robert E...

 by Richard Corben
Richard Corben
Richard Corben is an American illustrator and comic book artist best known for his comics featured in Heavy Metal magazine...

 (adapted from a story by Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Robert Ervin Howard was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. Best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, he is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre....

) used the term to define itself on its dust jacket and introduction. George Metzger's Beyond Time and Again, serialized in underground comics from 1967 to 1972, was subtitled "A Graphic Novel" on the inside title page when collected as a 48-page, black-and-white, hardcover book published by Kyle & Wheary.

The digest-sized Chandler: Red Tide
Chandler: Red Tide
Chandler: Red Tide is a 1976 illustrated novel, an early form of graphic novel, by writer-artist Jim Steranko.The digest-sized book combines typeset text with two same-sized illustrations per page, utilizing no word balloons or other traditional comics text conventions...

 (1976) by Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko
James F. Steranko is an American graphic artist, comic book writer-artist-historian, magician, publisher and film production illustrator....

, designed to be sold on newsstands, used the term "graphic novel" in its introduction and "a visual novel" on its cover, although Chandler is more commonly considered an illustrated novel
Illustrated fiction
Illustrated fiction is a hybrid narrative medium in which images and text work together to tell a story. It can take various forms, including fiction written for adults or children, magazine fiction, comic strips, and picture books....

 than a work of comics
Comics
Comics denotes a hybrid medium having verbal side of its vocabulary tightly tied to its visual side in order to convey narrative or information only, the latter in case of non-fiction comics, seeking synergy by using both visual and verbal side in...

.

The following year, Terry Nantier, who had spent his teenage years living in Paris, returned to the United States and formed Flying Buttress Publications, later to incorporate as NBM Publishing
NBM Publishing
NBM Publishing is an American publisher of graphic novels. The company specializes in non-superhero comic genres and has translated and published over 150 graphic novels from Europe and Canada, as well as several works by Americans...

 (Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine), and published Racket Rumba, a 50-page spoof of the noir
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

-detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 genre, written and drawn by the single-name French artist Loro. Nantier followed this with Enki Bilal's
Enki Bilal
Enes Bilal is a French comic book creator, comics artist and film director.-Biography:Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to a Slovak mother and a Bosnian father who had been Josip Broz Tito's tailor, he moved to Paris at the age of 9. At age 14, he met René Goscinny and with his encouragement applied...

 The Call of the Stars. The company marketed these works as "graphic albums".

Similarly, Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species
Sabre (graphic novel)
Sabre , published in August 1978, is one of the first modern graphic novels and the first to be distributed in comic book shops...

 by writer Don McGregor
Don McGregor
Donald Francis McGregor is an American comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Comics, and the author of one of the first graphic novels.-Early life and career:...

 and artist Paul Gulacy
Paul Gulacy
Paul Gulacy is an American comic book illustrator best known for his work for DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and for drawing one of the first graphic novels, Eclipse Enterprises' 1978 Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species, with writer Don McGregor.-Early life and career:Paul Gulacy began...

 (Eclipse Books
Eclipse Comics
Eclipse Comics was an American comic book publisher, one of several independent publishers during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1978, it published the first graphic novel intended for the newly created comic book specialty store market...

, August 1978) — the first graphic novel sold in the newly created "direct market
Direct market
The direct market is the dominant distribution and retail network for North American comic books. It consists of one dominant distributor and the majority of comics specialty stores, as well as other retailers of comic books and related merchandise...

" of United States comic-book shops — was called a "graphic album" by the author in interviews, though the publisher dubbed it a "comic novel" on its credits page. "Graphic album" was also the term used the following year by Gene Day
Gene Day
Howard Eugene Day was a Canadian comic book artist best known for Marvel Comics' Star Wars licensed series and Master of Kung Fu...

 for his hardcover short-story collection Future Day (Flying Buttress Press
NBM Publishing
NBM Publishing is an American publisher of graphic novels. The company specializes in non-superhero comic genres and has translated and published over 150 graphic novels from Europe and Canada, as well as several works by Americans...

).

Another early graphic novel, though it carried no self-description, was The Silver Surfer (Simon & Schuster/Fireside Books
Marvel Fireside Books
The Marvel Fireside Books Series was a series of full-color trade paperbacks featuring Marvel Comics stories and characters co-published by Marvel and the Simon & Schuster division Fireside Books from 1974 to 1979....

, August 1978), by Marvel Comics' Stan Lee
Stan Lee
Stan Lee is an American comic book writer, editor, actor, producer, publisher, television personality, and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics....

 and Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby
Jack Kirby , born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer and editor regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic book medium....

. Significantly, this was published by a traditional book publisher and distributed through bookstores, as was cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 Jules Feiffer
Jules Feiffer
Jules Ralph Feiffer is an American syndicated cartoonist, most notable for his long-run comic strip titled Feiffer. He has created more than 35 books, plays and screenplays...

's Tantrum (Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

, 1979) described on its dustjacket as a "novel-in-pictures".

Adoption of the term



Hyperbolic descriptions of longer comic books as "novels" appear on covers as early as the 1940s. Early issues of DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner...

' All-Flash Quarterly, for example, described their contents as "novel-length stories" and "full-length four chapter novels."

In its earliest known citation, Richard Kyle used the term "graphic novel" in CAPA-ALPHA #2 (November 1964), a newsletter published by the Comic Amateur Press Alliance, and again in Kyle's magazine Fantasy Illustrated #5 (Spring 1966). Kyle, inspired by European and Japanese graphic albums, used the label to designate comics of an artistically "serious" sort. Following this, Bill Spicer
Bill Spicer
Bill Spicer is an editor and publisher who spearheaded the 1960s movement away from commercial comics, opening the gateway to underground, alternative and independent comics, notably with his publication Graphic Story Magazine....

, with Kyle's acknowledgment, edited and published a periodical titled Graphic Story Magazine
Graphic Story Magazine
Graphic Story Magazine was an American magazine edited and published by Bill Spicer in the late 1960s and early 1970s.As writer and historian Steve Grant describes the magazine's roots,-Artists and writers:...

 in the fall of 1967. The Sinister House of Secret Love #2 (Jan. 1972), one of DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner...

' line of extra-length, 48-page comics, specifically used the phrase "a graphic novel of Gothic terror" on its cover.

The term "graphic novel" began to grow in popularity months after it appeared on the cover of the trade paperback
Trade paperback (comics)
In comics, a trade paperback is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted in book format, usually capturing one story arc from a single title or a series of stories with a connected story arc or common theme from one or more titles...

 edition (though not the hardcover
Hardcover
A hardcover, hardback or hardbound is a book bound with rigid protective covers...

 edition) of Will Eisner
Will Eisner
William Erwin "Will" Eisner was an American comics writer, artist and entrepreneur. He is considered one of the most important contributors to the development of the medium and is known for the cartooning studio he founded; for his highly influential series The Spirit; for his use of comics as an...

's A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories
A Contract with God
A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories is a graphic novel by Will Eisner that takes the form of several stories on a theme. Published by Baronet Books in October 1978 in simultaneous hardcover and trade paperback editions — the former limited to a signed-and-numbered print-run of 1,500 —...

 (October 1978). This collection of short stories
Short Stories
Short Stories may refer to:*A plural for Short story*Short Stories , an American pulp magazine published from 1890-1959*Short Stories, a 1954 collection by O. E...

 was a mature, complex work focusing on the lives of ordinary people in the real world, and the term "graphic novel" was intended to distinguish it from the traditional serialized nature of comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

s, with which it shared a storytelling medium. Eisner cited Lynd Ward's 1930s woodcuts (see above) as an inspiration.

The critical and commercial success of A Contract with God helped to establish the term "graphic novel" in common usage, and many sources have incorrectly credited Eisner with being the first to use it. These included the Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine website in 2003, which said in its correction, "Eisner acknowledges that the term 'graphic novel' had been coined prior to his book. But, he says, 'I had not known at the time that someone had used that term before.' Nor does he take credit for creating the first graphic book."

One of the earliest contemporaneous applications of the term post-Eisner came in 1979, when Blackmarks sequel — published a year after A Contract with God though written and drawn in the early 1970s — was labeled a "graphic novel" on the cover of Marvel Comics' black-and-white comics magazine Marvel Preview #17 (Winter 1979), where Blackmark: The Mind Demons premiered — its 117-page contents intact, but its panel-layout reconfigured to fit 62 pages.

Following this, Marvel from 1982 to 1988 published the Marvel Graphic Novel
Marvel Graphic Novel
Marvel Graphic Novel was a series of graphic novel trade paperbacks published from 1982 to 1993 by Marvel Comics. The books were published in oversized format, 8.5" x 11", similar to French albums...

 line of 10"x7" trade paperbacks — although numbering them like comic books, from #1 (Jim Starlin
Jim Starlin
James P. "Jim" Starlin is an American comic book writer and artist. With a career dating back to the early 1970s, he is best known for "cosmic" tales and space opera; for revamping the Marvel Comics characters Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock; and for creating or co-creating the Marvel characters...

's The Death of Captain Marvel
Mar-Vell
Captain Marvel is a fictional character owned by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and designed by artist Gene Colan and first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) is a fictional character owned by Marvel Comics. The character was created...

) to #35 (Dennis O'Neil
Dennis O'Neil
Dennis J. "Denny" O'Neil is an American comic book writer and editor, principally for Marvel Comics and DC Comics in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and Group Editor for the Batman family of books until his retirement....

, Mike Kaluta, and Russ Heath
Russ Heath
Russell Heath, Jr. is an American artist best known for his comic book work — particularly his DC Comics war stories for several decades and his 1960s art for Playboy magazine's Little Annie Fanny featurettes — and for his commercial art, two pieces of which, depicting Roman and...

's Hitler's Astrologer, starring the radio and pulp fiction
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

 character the Shadow
The Shadow
The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in pulp magazines, then on 1930s radio and then in a wide variety of media, that follow the exploits of the title character, a crime-fighting vigilante in the pulps, which carried over to the airwaves as a "wealthy, young man about town"...

, and released in hardcover). Marvel commissioned original graphic novels from such creators as John Byrne, J. M. DeMatteis
J. M. DeMatteis
John Marc DeMatteis is an American writer of comic books.-Early career:Born in Brooklyn, DeMatteis graduated from Midwood High School and Empire State College. He worked as a music critic before getting his start in comic books at DC Comics in the late 1970s...

, Steve Gerber
Steve Gerber
Stephen Ross "Steve" Gerber was an American comic book writer best known as co-creator of the satiric Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck....

, graphic-novel pioneer McGregor, Frank Miller
Frank Miller (comics)
Frank Miller is an American comic book artist, writer and film director best known for his dark, film noir-style comic book stories and graphic novels Ronin, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300...

, Bill Sienkiewicz
Bill Sienkiewicz
Boleslav Felix Robert "Bill" Sienkiewicz [pronounced sin-KEV-itch] is an Eisner Award-winning American artist and writer best known for his comic book work, primarily for Marvel Comics' The New Mutants and Elektra: Assassin...

, Walt Simonson
Walt Simonson
Walter "Walt" Simonson is an American comic book writer and artist. After studying geology at Amherst College, he transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1972. His thesis project there was The Star Slammers, which was published as a black and white promotional comic book...

, Charles Vess
Charles Vess
Charles Vess is an American fantasy artist and comic-book illustrator who has specialized in the illustration of myths and fairy tales. His illustrations are strongly influenced by the work of artists and illustrators such as Arthur Rackham and Alphonse Mucha...

, and Bernie Wrightson
Bernie Wrightson
Bernie "Berni" Wrightson is an American artist known for his horror illustrations and comic books.-Biography:...

. While most of these starred Marvel superhero
Superhero
A superhero is a type of stock character, possessing "extraordinary or superhuman powers", dedicated to protecting the public. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas —...

es, others, such as Rick Veitch
Rick Veitch
Richard "Rick" Veitch is an American comic book artist and writer who has worked in mainstream, underground, and alternative comics.-Early career:...

's Heartburst featured original SF/fantasy characters; others still, such as John J. Muth's Dracula
Dracula
Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor...

, featured adaptations of literary stories or characters; and one, Sam Glanzman
Sam Glanzman
Sam J. Glanzman is an American comic-book artist, best known for his Charlton Comics series Hercules, about the mythological Greek demigod; his biographical war stories about his service aboard the U.S.S...

's A Sailor's Story, was a true-life, World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 naval tale.
In the UK, Titan Books
Titan Books
Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981. It is based at offices in London, England's Bankside area. The Books Division has two main areas of publishing: film & TV tie-ins/cinema reference books; and graphic novels and comics reference/art titles. The...

 held the license to reprint strips from 2000 AD, including Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd
Judge Joseph Dredd is a comics character whose strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD is the magazine's longest running . Dredd is an American law enforcement officer in a violent city of the future where uniformed Judges combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner...

, beginning in 1981, and Robo-Hunter
Robo-Hunter
Robo-Hunter is a recurring strip in the British Comic 2000 AD, initially written by John Wagner and illustrated by Ian Gibson. The series starred Sam Slade, a laconic, ageing, cigar-smoking bounty hunter of robots that have gone renegade. Though action orientated, the series was noted for its...

, 1982. The company also published British collections of American graphic novels—including Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing, a fictional character, is a plant elemental in the created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson. He first appeared in House of Secrets #92 in a stand-alone horror story set in the early 20th century . The Swamp Thing then returned in his own series, set in the contemporary world and in...

, printed in black-and-white rather than in color as originally—and of British newspaper strips, including Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise is a British comic strip featuring a fictional character of the same name, created by Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway in 1963. The strip follows the adventures of Modesty Blaise, an exceptional young woman with many talents and a criminal past, and her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin...

 and Garth
Garth (comic strip)
Garth was a comic strip in the British newspaper Daily Mirror from July 24, 1943, to March 22, 1997. The strip belonged to the action-adventure genre and recounted the exploits of the title character, an immensely strong hero who battled various villains throughout the world and many different...

. Igor Goldkind
Igor Goldkind
Igor Goldkind was a marketing consultant who worked for a number of publishers, before moving into writing comics. He currently works in semantic web development and web-based marketing.-Biography:...

 was the marketing consultant who worked at Titan and moved to 2000 AD and by his own account helped to popularize the term "graphic novel" as a way to help sell the trade paperbacks they were publishing. He said he "stole the term outright from Will Eisner" and that his contribution was to "take the badge (today it's called a 'brand') and explain it, contextualise it and sell it convincingly enough so that bookshop keepers, book distributors and the book trade would accept a new category of 'spine-fiction' on their bookshelves".

DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner...

 likewise began collecting series and published them in book format. Two such collections garnered considerable media attention, and they, along with Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegelman is an American comics artist, editor, and advocate for the medium of comics, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book memoir, Maus. His works are published with his name in lowercase: art spiegelman.-Biography:Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, to Polish Jews...

's Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning Maus
Maus
Maus: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman, is a biography of the author's father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. It alternates between descriptions of Vladek's life in Poland before and during the Second World War and Vladek's later life in the Rego Park neighborhood of...

 (1986), helped establish both the term and the concept of graphic novels in the minds of the mainstream public.
These were Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a four-issue comic book limited series written and drawn by Frank Miller, originally published by DC Comics under the title Batman: The Dark Knight in 1986. When the issues were released in a collected edition later that year, the story title for the first issue...

 (1986), a collection of Frank Miller's four-part comic-book series featuring an older Batman faced with the problems of a dystopia
Dystopia
A dystopia is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four...

n future; and Watchmen
Watchmen
Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins. The series was published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, and has been subsequently reprinted in collected form...

 (1987), a collection of Alan Moore
Alan Moore
Alan Oswald Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell...

 and Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons
Dave Gibbons is an English comic book artist, writer and sometime letterer. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Alan Moore, which include the miniseries Watchmen and the Superman story "For the Man Who Has Everything"...

' 12-issue limited series
Limited series
A limited series is a comic book series with a set number of installments. A limited series differs from an ongoing series in that the number of issues is determined before production and it differs from a one shot in that it is composed of multiple issues....

 in which Moore notes he "set out to explore, amongst other things, the dynamics of power in a post-Hiroshima world".

These works and others were reviewed in newspapers and magazines, leading to increased coverage. Sales of graphic novels increased, with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, for example, lasting 40 weeks on a UK best-seller list.

Criticism of the term


Some in the comics community have objected to the term, "graphic novel" on the grounds that it is unnecessary, or that its usage has been corrupted by commercial interests. Writer Alan Moore
Alan Moore
Alan Oswald Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell...

 believes, "It's a marketing term... that I never had any sympathy with. The term 'comic' does just as well for me... The problem is that 'graphic novel' just came to mean 'expensive comic book' and so what you'd get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics—because 'graphic novels' were getting some attention, they'd stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk
She-Hulk
She-Hulk is a Marvel Comics superheroine. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist John Buscema, she first appeared in Savage She-Hulk #1 ....

 Graphic Novel...."

Author Daniel Raeburn wrote, "I snicker at the neologism first for its insecure pretension — the literary equivalent of calling a garbage man a 'sanitation engineer' — and second because a 'graphic novel' is in fact the very thing it is ashamed to admit: a comic book, rather than a comic pamphlet or comic magazine."

Writer Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman
Neil Richard Gaiman born 10 November 1960)is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book...

, responding to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, said the commenter "meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening." Responding to writer Douglas Wolk
Douglas Wolk
Douglas Wolk is a Portland, Oregon-based author and critic. He has written about comics and popular music for publications including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Nation, The New Republic, Salon.com, Pitchfork Media, and The Believer...

's quip that the difference is between a graphic novel and a comic book is "the binding", Bone creator Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith (cartoonist)
Jeff Smith is an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of the self-published comic book series Bone. His current series, RASL, focuses on an art thief who hops through dimensional barriers, hiding out on various parallel worlds.-Early life and education:Jeff Smith was born in McKees...

 said, "I kind of like that answer. Because 'graphic novel'... I don't like that name. It's trying too hard. It is a comic book. But there is a difference. And the difference is, a graphic novel is a novel in the sense that there is a beginning, a middle and an end."

Some alternative cartoonists have coined their own terms to describe extended comics narratives. The cover of Daniel Clowes
Daniel Clowes
Daniel Gillespie Clowes is an American author, screenwriter and cartoonist of alternative comic books....

' Ice Haven (2001) describes the book as "a comic-strip novel", with Clowes having noted that he "never saw anything wrong with the comic book". The cover of Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson
Craig Matthew Thompson is a graphic novelist best known for his books Good-Bye, Chunky Rice , Blankets , Carnet de Voyage and Habibi . Thompson has received four Harvey Awards, two Eisner Awards, and two Ignatz Awards...

's Blankets
Blankets (graphic novel)
Blankets is an autobiographical graphic novel by Craig Thompson, published in 2003 by Top Shelf Productions. As a coming-of-age autobiography, the book tells the story of Thompson's childhood in an Evangelical Christian family, his first love, and his early adulthood...

 calls it "an illustrated novel." When The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal, often abbreviated TCJ, is an American magazine of news and criticism pertaining to comic books, comic strips and graphic novels...

 asked the cartoonist Seth
Seth (cartoonist)
Seth is the pen name of Gregory Gallant , a Canadian comic book artist and writer. He is best known for comics such as Palookaville.Born in Clinton, Ontario, Seth attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto...

 why he added the subtitle "A Picture Novella" to his comic It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken
It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken
It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken is a graphic novel by Canadian cartoonistSeth, published in collected form by Drawn and Quarterly in 1996. It was originally serialized in issues four through nine of Seth's comic book series Palookaville from December 1993 to June 1996...

, he responded, "I could have just put 'a comic book'... It goes without saying that I didn't want to use the term graphic novel. I just don't like that term".

See also

  • Artist's book
  • Collage novel
    Collage novel
    A Collage novel is a form of artist's book approaching closely the Graphic novel. Images are selected from other publications and collaged together following a theme or narrative .-Surrealism:...

  • Comics studies
    Comics studies
    Comics studies is an academic field that focuses on comics and graphic novels. Although comics and graphic novels have been generally dismissed as less relevant pop culture texts, scholars in fields such as Semiotics and Composition Studies are now re-considering comics and graphic novels as...

  • Graphic nonfiction
    Graphic Nonfiction
    Non-fiction comics, also known as graphic non-fiction, is non-fiction in the comics medium, embracing a variety of formats from comic strips to trade paperbacks.-Comic strips and comic books:...

  • List of award-winning graphic novels
  • Tankōbon
    Tankobon
    , with a literal meaning close to "independently appearing book", is the Japanese term for a book that is complete in itself and is not part of a series , though the manga industry uses it for volumes which may be in a series...

  • Trade paperback (comics)
    Trade paperback (comics)
    In comics, a trade paperback is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted in book format, usually capturing one story arc from a single title or a series of stories with a connected story arc or common theme from one or more titles...

  • Underground comix
    Underground comix
    Underground comix are small press or self-published comic books which are often socially relevant or satirical in nature. They differ from mainstream comics in depicting content forbidden to mainstream publications by the Comics Code Authority, including explicit drug use, sexuality and violence...

  • Visual novel
    Visual novel
    A is an interactive fiction game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art, or occasionally live-action stills or video footage...


Further Reading

  • Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know by Paul Gravett
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

External links