The term “graphic novel” did a good job. We don’t need him anymore
Hey Glen, did you hear? Last March, March: Book Three by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, written by Congressman John Lewis, co-authored with Andrew Aidin, is the final part of a graphic trilogy about the participation of young Lewis in civil rights movement – received the National Book Award in the category “Youth Literature”! I heard! This is unbelievable! And not only the fact of the gain itself, but also the comic book itself, which very touchingly and reliably shows us that era that required a lot of effort and hard work, but managed to change America. Lewis and his screenwriting colleague Aydin took the time to dig up quite a few small stories of people about the pain, suffering, doubts and fear that ordinary historical books usually bypass. And the artist Nate Powell managed to make it so that you can feel all these emotions – as well as moments of joy and final triumph. Ultimately, this work is more than just instructions for organizing civil disobedience. This is painful but hopeful evidence of the power of protest and the glorification of those young people who sacrificed their security in order to make their own country a little more fair. Yes, I thought you should like it. For I know what a lover of graphic novels you are. … This is not a graphic novel. What? This is the second time you have called it a graphic novel. Stop calling it a graphic novel. This is not a graphic novel. First of all, it’s non-fiction. … Oh. Right Sorry. And these are graphic memoirs. Well, now “graphic memoirs”, and this is even worse. Sounds like something obscene. Dude, it’s still not Anais Ning’s Diary. … “The art of sequences”? (The term refers to a classic textbook for specialists in the genre called “Comics and Sequential Art”, written by Will Eisner, considered the “father” of the modern comic book – approx. transl.) I beg you. I mean, I’m very glad that you read it at all, but it is not clear what exactly you are trying to prove here. In general, you are unlikely to be able to prove something here using the term “art of consistency”, which sounds somehow self-justifying, as if you are desperately trying to justify the environment itself. You don’t need to hide behind this miserable highbrow concept, drop it. Try to say just “comic book”. Comic book Comic book. Call it just a comic book. Wait a minute. I thought geeks like you want us to call it graphic novels. At least works like Mouse, Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan, and March. Go on. Such, you know … serious. The most important of them. Yeah. So this is how it is. He knew that we would come to this. The cover of the final part of the “March” trilogy I just mean … it’s useful, isn’t it? So that, you know, to separate them from, uh … No, let’s go ahead, agree, you can say it out loud. Everything is fine. … (whispering) From superheroes. Oh well. And from all the other more stupid and less significant things. Science fiction there or something. Even so. Okay. I have a lot to open your eyes to, and, frankly, this is our fault too. The fault of comic book readers and their creators. By the time the great artist Will Eisner had labeled the graphic novel on his 1978 book A Contract With God, this concept had already been wandering among comic book fans for many years. Eisner, however, became his indefatigable protector, and really wanted people to understand that comics are not just a genre, but a completely special material. In this environment, then, as now, stories about superheroes dominated, but nevertheless, it could be used to tell an infinite number of other stories in completely different directions. That’s why … Hm, okay. Looks like you sat on your favorite skate. And I … I do not mind taking a place among the audience. OK, then let’s move on. The reason Eisner got so fixated on the term “graphic novel” and began to promote it everywhere is because … you know, then it was 1978. He just had to do it. Comics have already become a recognized element of culture, but they were treated like rubbish. Tales for children, something frivolous that caused almost contempt. And in this setting, he published a book in which there were several intricately intertwined storylines about an apartment building in the Lower East Side and its unlucky inhabitants. He wanted to draw a clear line between what he was doing and the superhero massacre. The concept of “graphic novel” was well suited for its purposes, but even then, at the very beginning, it was far from ideal. In the end, the “Contract with God” was not something completely new, it was just a storybook.