Friday, January 18, 2013

They’re Comic Books, You Twat

I stated on my Facebook page that anybody who refers to comic books as graphic novels is a twat. I’m not saying that it is never appropriate to use the term “graphic novels”, but if you’re the sort of person who is uncomfortable saying “comic books” because of how you think other people are going to perceive you; well then you’re a twat. Anyway, I thought the conversation that followed was interesting enough to reproduce here, if only for the fact that Varis was right about something for once.

            Also, if you don’t know, I am “El Phantasmas” over on Facebook because they wouldn’t let me use “Phantom Troublemaker” as a profile name. I do have a PhantomTroublemaker page, but El Phantasmas is so established now that it isn’t worth trying to change.
"Stop calling comic books graphic novels. You don't sound more grown-up. You sound like a twat."
Sally As a bookseller I disagree. Comic books are single issues and graphic novels are the collected volumes. Different animals...sort of.
El Phantasmas But that's my point. They are two different things. And collections of single issues of comic books are not graphic novels, they are trade paperbacks or collected editions. Graphic novels are longer form stories that typically have higher production quality and were never offered in an episodic format. The Walking Dead is not a graphic novel. Batman: Earth One is.
El Phantasmas My problem is people who don't want to use the phrase "comic book" and say "graphic novel" because they are afraid they won't be taken seriously. Those are the twats.
Sally I have tons of Walking Dead graphic novels. Doorstop sized, even. If somebody is calling a single issue comic a graphic novel, he's definitely a twat. Dammit, I'm a GIRL and I'm not ashamed that I read comics!!!
El Phantasmas Popular opinion is on your side regarding referring to trades as graphic novels, but I don't agree. We need an expert. And while I should perhaps defer to your status as a bookseller, I don't. But I may know a comic book seller we could ask...
El Phantasmas Yes, or the lovely Mrs. Troublemaker. We might need a third.
Sally Although your wife is probably going to side with me just to spite you!
El Phantasmas Good point. We need a panel of at least twelve industry veterans. This could very well turn into a whole article.
Sally You really are taking this seriously, aren't you? Let's DO this!!!
El Phantasmas Not really, because you get my original point. But I am curious now, yes.
Sally Then there are the kids who call Manga comics. But that's a whole other argument that we don't need to get into, but gets on my nerves just as bad.
El Phantasmas I agree with you there. Manga is not comics. It's garbage.
Sally Jesus, we sound like a bunch of old codgers..."You kids get off my lawn and take your graphic novels with you.!
Greg I used to feel the same, but, honestly, "trade paperback" isn't sufficient since that only covers paperbacks, and not hardcovers. Nobody says "trade hardcover." In addition, I've honestly never even understood why the word "trade" is used in this instance. You don't trade them. You buy them and then read them and stick them on a shelf. It's mis-matched terminology. It's confusing, and only "makes sense" because it's what you're used to hearing, not because it actually makes sense.

Also, why should there be three different words to refer to things that, for all intents and purposes, are identical (aside from binding). It just confuses everyone but the most diehard, and that's not conducive to encouraging new people to get into the hobby. You want a clear term that makes some amount of sense to everyone. Graphic novel fits that. It's graphic because of the art. It's a novel because it has lots of pages. Yay, logic.

Given that 99% of single issue comics are written with the collections in mind--basically making them graphic novels that were broken apart for single issue sales--there's even less argument for keeping the term graphic novel from applying to them.
El Phantasmas Wow. That's the only good argument I've ever heard you make. You guys win. I won't ever argue with Capitalist logic.
Sally But we DO get what you're saying too. You have a great point, El Phantasmas!
Greg lol
El Phantasmas Yeah - those people are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
Greg trust me, a few years ago, I would've been 100% in your corner.
Greg you have no idea how many times I've said, "trade paperback," to a customer and gotten a glossy-eyed look back in my direction from them because they had zero idea wtf I just said. Then I say, "graphic novel," and we're good to go.
Sally Same here. I generally have to grab a visual aid.
Alicia what a fun conversation. I have no expertise, but I agree with the original point that pretentious people use the term graphic novel to sound more sophisticated. Stop being afraid of nerddom.
Greg I mean, I'd be happy to use a term other than Graphic Novel to refer to all non-floppy comics, but I have no idea what that term might be.
Scott I call them funny books...cause Archie makes me laugh...Uncle Scrooge too...
Scott Ok...it's really Jughead who makes me laugh...I confess...
Chris I think "trade" was originally industry speak for "sold in places besides comic shops", i.e. bookstores and such. And I would agree with your original definition that graphic novels were created with a single volume in mind - collected runs from ongoing series are trades. However, Greg makes a good point that everything has shifted and the borders are fuzzy now.
Chris I expect you to run a Dragon*Con panel on this. Maybe 8 nerds with 1 hour to burn can clear this up. While I snooze in the back row.
El Phantasmas If I do anything it's gonna be a toy panel. And I have been very firmly informed that I am not doing that.
Greg we should hold a protest until they let you do a toy panel! NERD RAGE!
El Phantasmas There is no "they", only a "she". And trust me, buddy - you don't want to go up against her.
Greg doh
Michael Gordon To be honest, I don't care what you call them, but please for the love of God, buy and read them!
Darren Sequential Graphic Serialized Fictions are the bestest.
Jennifer I would go with calling them mostly crap.
Jennifer Just kidding. Kinda. Way back in the good 'ol days of comic selling graphic novels were self contained stories that writers who thought they were too cool for single issues put out. Trades have always been collections of single issues. End of discussion. Do I win?!?
Greg What changed it was the movies. Specifically Watchmen. When they would advertise the movie, they would say it was, "based on the award-winning graphic novel by Alan Moore." That made the term mainstream. There really is no going back now.
Greg Might've actually been done with earlier movies as well, like V For Vendetta, but I only really remember it starting with Watchmen.
Jennifer Alan Moore can suck a dick. Watchmen was a crappy TRADE before the movie and is still a crappy TRADE now.
Greg Those are all valid comments that don't do a thing to counter my point
Jennifer I don't care enough about this topic to have valid points.
Jennifer What was your point?
Greg My point was that, whether we like it or not, the term Graphic Novel is likely forever going to be applied to any 3-digit-page-long comic (or thereabouts), whether it was originally released in that format or not, because the mainstream has taken hold of the term. Once the mainstream gets a hold of something, it pretty much sticks, for better or worse.
Greg In other words, bitching about the semantics of what the term used to mean vs what it means now is spitting in the wind.
Jennifer Bobby Nash and Michael Gordon- what are they referred to when you're creating or soliciting yours? NOT trying to drag either of you into this, but you are the experts!
Michael Gordon I've seen comic books referred to as graphic novels from a 22-pager to a 100+ page original content book. I've even seen digital comics called graphic novels. Makes no difference to me. If it makes y'all feel better, compare them to music. Folks still call collections of songs "albums" regardless whether they are a bunch of original tracks, a collection of "best of" songs, or even if it is a cd or group of mp3's. The only thing that annoys me is when comics are regarded as "collectibles" rather than entertainment, but that's another discussion.
Bobby Nash I personally call them comic books. Graphic novel generally means an original story large enough for the book to have a spine. Collecting several issues together is a trade paperback. Of course, like Mike said earlier, I'm just happy that people are reading them.
Jennifer Thanks guys! Now plug your own stuff! Show these people what real comics are all about! GO! You know El won't mind.
Bobby Nash Heh. You can see my work at www.bobbynash.com
Michael Gordon Thanks Jenn! You can see previews of all my comic work at www.newlegendproductions.com

Just to address a few points from above:
  • Yes, I actually did change my mind. It doesn’t happen often, but Greg made an excellent point that I couldn’t argue. I still feel that my definition should apply, but the American public is simply too stupid to be able to grasp and utilize such distinctions. So in the interest of commerce and the wide distribution of comic books; yes – they’re all graphic novels. Whatever.
  • I would totally do a toy panel at Dragon*Con. And it would be fucking good. But I have been expressly forbidden to do so. It would take one of the great and powerful Dragon*Con personnel suggesting it or offering it for me to be able to do it. And that isn’t going to happen.
  • If I were to do a panel and found anybody snoozing in the back row I would draw dicks on their face. Which is one reason why nobody will ever offer me a panel.
  • I know lots of people like Manga. I don’t. Feel free to say mean things about me in the comments.
Also feel free to add to the conversation here or over on Facebook. The original conversation took place on January 4th and will be a bitch to find, but if there’s one thing that seems to motivate people to spend excessive time on the internet, it’s arguing.
-Phantom

2 comments:

  1. To me, comics are single issues. The Walking Dead books that I have are "collected editions". Series' that come out weekly or monthly, in the format we have been used to for decades are comic books. A graphic novel should only be called that when it hasn't been printed in the comic format. Usually, a novel, is a story that has an ending(you know, like a book), where comic books will end when the story arc ends. I guess if the whole story was collected and put into a collected format, then it could be called a graphic novel.

    There is a reason that comic book stores and comic shops are called just that, because they specialize in comic books. You ever been to a graphic novel shop? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty much how I feel, but at this point bowing to the General Public - or Dumb Masses as some might call them - is likely in the best interest of the industry. As Mike and Bobby opined above, call them whatever you want, just buy them!

      Delete