Monday, 19 September 2016

Publication Format

It's a shame to dismiss Baetens and Frey so summarily: their conclusion that the graphic novel does not represent a clear break from comic books is even-handed, and recognises the weaknesses of their attempted definition. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia page provides a livelier discussion, including the historical evolution of the term and its format, as well as criticisms of the term from Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. 

These criticisms hit at the heart of Baetens and Frey's discussion: ultimately, the term is a pretentious cover for the true nature of the book, which is a comic within a specific history. Perhaps lumbered by a title that begs a definition, the two academics are forced to begin their study by defending their subject: the emphasis on quality as a characteristic drags them away from the accepted process of definition - which is on quantifiable elements, not the value of a form. They also get caught up in the genre wars (superhero is a genre, not a form), and draw comparisons between comic books and graphic novels which dissolve under cursory investigation. 

I'd like to say their conclusion is, at least, honest, but when Wikipedia shows more academic rigour...

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