Can we please stop calling them “Graphic Novels?”

I know I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy with school. I’m going into the last week of the quarter, which means lots of work on the final paper. I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled houliganism after the 13th.

silver-surferBut I am taking a break from all of that because I decided to see what the critics were saying about Watchmen, not that I really care. I have my tickets already, 12:30 tomorrow afternoon, and nothing anyone says will stop me from going. But everyone keeps calling it a graphic novel, and that is reeeeallly annoying. You see, a graphic novel is not a general name that the intelectual elite substitutes for comic books. It has a meaning. So allow me to wwhip a little knowledge on you.

A comic book is a magazine or tabloid-sized book that either publishes a serialized story or self-contained short stories. They’re flimsy and they smell good, and they’re usually published monthly. They are the backbone of sequential storytelling. A graphic novel, however, is a long-form story that is originally published as a large bound volume. Watchmen is not a graphic novel. In fact, very few books published by DC and Marvel, 2 of the Big Three publishers, counting Image as the third, would count as graphic novels.

What is Watchmen? Watchmen is a comic book. At least it was. When a monthly comic is collected into a bound volume, it is referred to as a trade paperback. Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, V for Vendetta, Ronin,  and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are all trade paperbacks, as is the entire Sandman series, sans Endless Nights. I would wager that Sandman is the first comic book that stopped being a trade paperback and started being a graphic novel.

So why are they called graphic novels today? Simple: there are intelectuals out there who want to read comic books but don’t want to call them comic books. Are we really this vain? I consider myself a smart guy, but I will gladly admit to reading comics. I love them. they’re entertaining.

So if you’re like me and you are going to see Watchmen, remember: it’s a comic book. And that’s okay.


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