It was a red letter day for The Beat when we finally got linked in Gawker in an item parsing Wil Moss’s report on the graphic novel symposium at the 92nd St. Y. Specifically…what to call those books of words and pictures.
La Perdida author Jessica Abel summed it up: “A graphic novel is a description, not a definition of an art form. We really need to repossess that word [comics] and make it something we can use.”
We totally support comic book nerds in their effort to take back this term, and we promise to use it every time we cover comic books, which is going to be . . . yeah, basically just this one time.
That’s fine. You just leave the comics to us. We know what we’re doing here. We are the deciders.
Actually, on one of the private mailing lists we’re on, people were discussing the same topic. We came up with an analogy we hadn’t thought of before, which, considering how much times we spend thinking about the comics, is highly surprising.
Why are comic books called comic books, anyway? Because somewhere in the mists of time they were named after “comic supplements” so called because they were…comic. I.E. funny. Like, for laughs. Thus the road to comic strips, and “the comics.”
So now we have “comics” which aren’t funny at all, and graphic “novels” which are actually based on true events. We’ve heard many people complain about the “novel” part of “graphic novel” for that very reason, including bibliographers, book shelvers and librarians…but it appears that “novel” will soon lose its original meaning in the neology, just as “comic” lost its.
As for us, comic book is downscale, graphic novel upscale. They will keep crossing over with ironic effect until some new genre buzzword comes along, like…”picto-rockets” or something.