Comics versus graphic novels: what’s the difference?
For fans of superheroes, cool detectives and science fiction who grew up in the 30s and 70s in the United States, it was the norm to ask store owners where they kept comics. And having met the same fan, they first found out which comics they buy every week. At least, this was until the 80s and before the popularity of such publications as The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and The Keepers of Alan Moore, when a new word entered the lexicon – a graphic novel. Readers used it to indicate that these comics are more meaningful than comic book lovers might have thought, while non-readers said the term with condescension, as if the comic book fans were just trying to call their hobby more refined and lofty words. Sometimes the term was used even with quotation marks, as people simply were not sure what to do with it. So what’s the real difference between comics and graphic novels? Perhaps these terms are simply synonyms and completely interchangeable, or does each have their own distinctive features? For comics, of course, periodicity is typical, as for ordinary periodicals, the peculiarity of which is precisely in the drawn plot, depicted sequentially. The earliest examples of American comics were published in the 1920s as a reprint of a collection of newspaper columns or sections such as Matt and Jeff or Joe Paluka. By the 30s, comics began to post completely new material, and it was they who became the progenitors of the new superhero genre for that time, and were already more similar to those publications that we see on shelves today. In 1964, comic book fan Richard Kyle used the terms “graphic story” and “graphic novel” in an article about the future of comics for fanzine (short for English self-published fan magazine), or a self-published magazine for comic book fans. Kyle and another fan, Bill Spicer, later released a similar fanzine called Graphic Story Magazine, which was an attempt to transform the comics and enable them to reach a new level of trust among readers. This was made even more difficult due to the television premiere in 1966 at the Batman ABC movie, in which all the DC characters are portrayed in a rather tasteless kitsch manner and perceived as something teenage and frivolous for a long time to come. The term “Graphic Novel” was used occasionally throughout the 70s and early 80s. In 1971, DC Comics called the 39-page second installment of “The Sinister House of Secret Love” (“The Sinister House of Mysterious Love”) a “graphic novel of Gothic horror.” In 1976, artist Richard Corben announced his book, a 104-page comic strip Bloodstar (Blood Star), based on the work of R.E. Howard, creator of Conan, has a graphic novel right on the cover. It was also named “Contract with God,” a creation of the legendary Will Eisner. Judging by this, a direct connection is observed between the size of the work and its attribution to a particular genre – more voluminous works are more likely to be noted precisely as graphic novels. In the early 80s, Marvel launched a series of graphic novels, such as The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, which were on average larger than regular comics and at the highest price of $ 4.95. Their headlines responded to the growing trend towards more thoughtful and artful comic book covers. In 1983, Mark Stevens, owner of a science fiction bookstore, called the 111-page Lightrunner a graphic novel. “A graphic novel is like a comic, only much more,” he wrote. “The format is larger, usually limited, and the plot has a definite ending.” The term was adopted by Mort Walker, creator of the comic book series “Beetle Bailey”, who in 1984 published two graphic novels about the suffering of a soldier in the army. The books Friends and Too Many Sergeants were completely new, continuing previous releases, and not just reprints of short thematic comics. Walker was inspired by European graphic novels, saying that comic book readers across the ocean suffer less from preconceived stereotypes than comic book fans in the United States. “Businessmen or passengers read graphic novels on the train on their way to work,” he wrote. Due to the fact that the history of graphic novels has a better reputation than comics, the name was picked up in the 80s when DC published the collection of paperbacks “Keepers” and “The Return of the Dark Knight”. Alan Moore, who wrote The Guardians, later remarked that the term graphic novel has gained popularity thanks to the marketing departments. “You could call Mouse or the Guardians a novel, in the sense of their tension, structure, size, scale, seriousness of topics and the like,” he writes. – The problem is that the “graphic novel” has acquired the meaning of “expensive comics”, and therefore we got what people like comics.