What is a graphic novel?


Did you know that there are differences between comics and graphic novels? Today we tell you what aspects distinguish these two concepts that much use as synonyms but are not.

The concept of graphic novel is the subject of debate and controversy, because the differentiation between comics and graphic novels does not conform to objective concepts. And, sometimes, it even seems like a simple semantic trick to dignify the concept of comics.

However, some people see certain comics as elements of greater artistic value, even literary, that deserve a separate consideration. In any case, the distinction between both terms is a very controversial subject. From Akira Comics we are going to analyze some of the characteristics that, according to fans and always from a subjective point of view, a graphic novel has.

Graphic novel: concept, format and edition

The term graphic novel emerged during the 1970s with the aim of delimiting certain works within the artistic field and, in this way, differentiating them from what until then was a light means of popular entertainment. In such a way that it was sought that the graphic novel be a work of literary quality adapted to be embodied in the form of a comic.

One of its characteristics, the result of the time in which the term was forged, is that the comic was designed to be published in installments as the result of a periodic publication. However, the graphic novel covers an entire story, and if there is a sequel, it will still be a self-contained, self-contained story. Today this differentiation is not as effective, but there are those who still consider it as such.

In any case, this format gives authors the freedom to tell their story unmodified by editorial needs that may alter the course of the narrative due to issues related to its potential serialization. On many occasions, we can even find graphic novels published in the same format as a book, which brings us to the issue of their edition, which we will mention later.

Obviously, as it is a much more comprehensively conceived story than a popular comic book format would be, the editing format cannot be the same.

Let’s start from the basis that the length of the graphic novel tends to be longer than that of a regular comic. The American staple format tends to have about 30 pages, and the European format ranges between 42 and 50. That is, they are formats that allow the story to be read in a relatively short time, which is usually not more than half an hour, ideal to be enjoyed in short periods of free time.

However, in what is considered a graphic novel, there is no limit to the length of the work, and they are usually works that greatly exceed 50 pages, so the edition format must be different to ensure its correct reading and durability.

Many of them do not allow reading in one sitting, although they are the least common. In any case, they require a different reading rhythm and more time for their correct enjoyment.

They usually come in glued and sewn cardboard format, exactly like many books considered formal. Obviously, this difference in edition and presentation to the public also influences its price: an archetypal graphic novel usually has prices above €25, while comics range between €2.5 and €15.

Although this distinction is increasingly blurred, given that the market now offers us children’s graphic novels, initially and generally speaking, graphic novels are aimed at an adult audience.

And it usually deals with issues related to their world: the harshness of the history of humanity, frequent references to sex, an underlining of the gray tones of the character’s character… Topics not considered suitable for children and, sometimes, the juvenile.

In addition, another of its distinctive features is the introduction into the story of issues related to the prevailing social theme, either at the time of the comic’s edition, or in the historical and/or sociopolitical environment in which the action of the comic takes place cartoon.

When did the concept of graphic novel arise?

The origins of this term are still mysterious because of its vague definition.

The most purist tend to place it in the middle of the last century, in 1957, with the appearance of the work “El Eternauta”, by Hector German Oesterheld. Others, normally the defenders of the so-called American comic, place it with the edition of “Bloodstar”, by Richard Corben (1976).

However, the most popular and widely accepted origin of this new genre is considered to be the appearance of Will Eisner’s “Contract with God” (1978), which marked the baptism of this new narrative trend. From his hand, and through the 3 stories that make up this volume, the comic entered the adult world through more mature and profound comics.

Everything arose at a time when the author was strongly tormented by the death of his daughter Alice due to leukemia 8 years before the publication of the comic. At 61 years old, it was a fact that he did not finish accepting and he used artistic expression through what he knew how to do best to be able to do an exercise in catharsis. This led to the creation of a new genre, although what it really did was popularize and establish the graphic novel in the market.

This comic can be considered the archetype of the graphic novel: the 3 comics that make it up seek to show us a bitter side, full of frustration and violence, framed in the ethnic diversity of the Bronx. Everything takes place in an ornate environment, full of shadows, dirty… and desperate. A torrent of strong feelings that are precisely those that immerse us in the comic.


Happy Reading!!!!
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