YPG Tackles Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Cincopa video hosting solution for your website. Another great product from Cincopa Send Files.

Around 30 YPGers from a variety of AAP member publishing houses gathered at Penguin Group on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, to attend the latest BBL on the topic of graphic novels / comic books. The panelists lending their expertise to this topic were Calvin Reid, coeditor of Publishers Weekly Comics World; Terry Nantier, publisher at NBM Publishing and Papercutz; and Kurt Hassler, publishing director at Yen Press, Hachette Book Group.

Moderator Mark Doyle (associate editor at DC Comics and former YPG Planning Committee member) started the discussion with the million-dollar question surrounding this genre: What is the difference between a graphic novel and a comic?

Collectively all three panelists smiled and jumped into various definitions they have developed over their careers. They said format seems to be the largest difference, as a comic book is usually a monthly cycled issue, while graphic novels are a volume or collection of comics bound like a book or a book wholly amongst itself with graphic interpretation. Addressing another head-scratching piece of terminology within the genre, it was explained that the term “Manga” is actually just the Japanese word for comics, used to differentiate Eastern from Western comics. While the classic 22- to 32- page comic book seems to be fading, the industry and art form of the graphic novel seems to be picking up.

From periodical to book trade, Doyle asked the panelists if the term “graphic novel” has legitimized the industry in any way and steered it away from the children’s comic-collecting stigma and toward an attempt to gain female readership. Hassler said no, that it just meant the content was more readily available in traditional markets like bookstores and online shops where there are now specific buyers for graphic novels and comic books. He also verified that many of their readers are indeed female.

Today’s graphic novels can be artistic storytelling or a graphic retelling of formerly published trade novels. When asked what the creative process is like transforming a traditional book to a graphic novel, Hassler said it varies widely from project to project. “In traditional publishing there is a manuscript with a well-defined production process,” he said. “Comics are wildly different from the get-go.” As a publisher he typically asks the following questions: Is it original? Is it adaptive? Are you working with a writer and an illustrator? Overall, it is a hard process to define and is ever-changing. Nantier said, “The editorial process is different because it is so visual. It has to have a movie-like quality. Laying out the page and the panels for proper eye flow is one aspect of editing graphic novels that has nothing to do with prose editing. GN editing has its own set of skills.”

Speaking of differences, the dominating topic of this BBL was the electronic publishing of graphic novels. Doyle started this conversation by recognizing all of the possibilities of digital storytelling. Reid presented the YPG members with a digital graphic novel on his iPad, mentioning that the screen dimensions are close to comic dimensions. Hassler admitted that he started going digital when he saw the launch of a tablet that could do quality graphic representation, noting that cutting images down to fit on a tablet or providing them without color was “unjust” to the material. Reid went into the meaning of digital for the industry saying, “Digital imprints are in the future for sure.” Nantier was a little more reticent, playing devil’s advocate with regards to enhancing a graphic novel/comic into an e-book by asking how far you can go before you’ve crossed the line from comics to animation. Hassler agreed partially by stating story quality is first with graphic novels, and they can worry later about newer distractions young readers may be expecting. All three panelists agreed that worrying about content is more important than worrying about a video-game budget for now.

In regard to the European market for digital publishing, the panelists said initially they were getting push back. Nantier said European publishers and artists are somewhat hesitant, although certain upcoming releases are garnering much excitement. Hassler said Manga e-pub has seen difficulties due to rampant piracy in Japan, with consumers oftentimes obtaining material through illegal channels rather than traditional book publishers. That being said, he looks forward to pushing through this issue.

Looking to the future Nantier said he’d like to see graphic novels on the standard bestseller list. Hassler said he wants to reach a “critical openness” in this genre, and people today are now out of the 1960s Batman stigma in which there was a prejudice against this medium. Reid stated that superheroes are actually a very small part of the comic-book genre, and people often mistake them for the mainstream with regards to what is out there in the marketplace.

Suggestions from the panelists regarding your graphic novel reading list?

A Bride’s Story
Bubbles & Gondola
From Hell
Fun Home

Add those to your “To Read” pile, and join us for our next YPG BBL, Brand Me: From Debut Author to Household Name, set to take place on Wednesday, May 16, from 12:30-1:30pm at Random House (1745 Broadway).

Post to Twitter

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “ YPG Tackles Graphic Novels and Comic Books ”

  1. Diving into new territory… | rachelrmack on April 19, 2013 at 3:51 PM
    Cincopa video hosting solution for your website. Another great product from Cincopa Send Files.

    […] by Paige, I decided to do some googling on the topic of graphic novels. I found an interesting article by Alexandra Maurer about the difference between graphic novels and comics. I also found this cool […]