Welcome to “Comics Corner” a new column here at Nerd Nation, where popular independent comic book artist/writer Kevin McVicker explores various topics both in and around the realm of comic book fandom. In this second edition, Kevin will be exploring “Graphic Novels”… what they are, what they aren’t, and why it’s okay to JUST CALL THEM COMIC BOOKS!… But enough intro stuff… let’s get to it, shall we?
Graphic Novels: I hate this term. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate graphic novels, especially when used in the correct sense, but so often it is not used in the correct sense.
Graphic Novels, to clarify, are novel-sized books, which use sequential artwork. They are stories told in a one-shot that span many (usually more than 100) pages, not just the regular 24 page (or up to around 50 in the case of a giant sized issue). They generally use a long-form narrative, like a novel, and tell one complete story from beginning to end, as does (or at least, should) a novel.
Comic Books, on the other hand, are those serialized issues we pick up each week (or month) as either part of an on-going or limited series. Yes, limited series that tell one story (like “Watchmen” for example) are comic books because it was an issue-based release. And, to be clear, a collection of work is called a ‘Trade’ (‘TPB’ or ‘Trade Paperback’ if it’s in paperback). This is a collection based around one character, story, or theme that originally appeared in various comic book issues.
There are actually fewer graphic novels than people want to give graphic novel status to. Some of them are quite famous like “Maus” or “God Loves, Man Kills” or the first and most famous “Contract With God,” but they are not something put out all the time. People love to use ‘graphic novels’ when talking about ‘comic books’ because it makes them sound mature and serious. You know what? Screw that. They’re comic books. Don’t be ashamed of what you enjoy. Whether it’s “Adventure Time,” “Spider-Man,” “My Little Pony,” or “The Walking Dead,” you’re reading a comic book. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
I know you’re tired of people calling comics ‘kiddie.’ Most people like that still think comics are like the old Adam West “Batman” TV series, but comics, even during that time period, weren’t that campy. That series ran from 1966 to 1968, and in May of 1971 was when Stan Lee now ran the famous storyline dealing with drug abuse in “Spider-Man” that was published without the “comic code” of approval.
And do you know why the “comic code” of approval was put into place? It was because individuals felt, thanks to the ignorant psychology of Fredric Wertham via Seduction of the Innocent, that comics were “not appropriate for kids.” This was from many of the crime and horror comics published by various companies in the late 1940s to the late 1950s. And some of those were pretty heavy and probably not kid appropriate, but they didn’t cause the kids that Wertham studied to be in juvenile detention halls. His logic is the same as noticing ice cream sales and drowning both increased in the summer and drawing the correlation that ice cream causes people to drown. – Yes, it’s that ridiculous. Kind of like the precursor to video games making kids violent, same radical stupidity, different scapegoat.
Jump forward almost twenty years and in 1986 and 1987 respectively we had “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Watchmen” published by DC. And since then, with the Vertigo line at DC, Darkhorse Comics, and Marvel’s MAX line there have been many mainstream comics that do not follow a campy storyline for kids, but rather create deep often violent and sexual postmodern tales of morality. And these were all comic books! And most of them are extremely well-known. If you have picked up even the latest issues of “New Avengers” by Hickman or “Justice League” by Johns you know those are heavy books that, though they aren’t laden with sex and violence, are not something that little kids should read if they were even interested by the deep storylines.
So when someone says ‘graphic novels,’ unless they are actually talking about a novel that uses sequential art work to help tell the story, call them out on their pretentiousness. Even Alan Moore doesn’t say he writes graphic novels. He writes comic books. He has said on graphic novels, “It’s a marketing term… that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me.”
See? It’s okay! There is nothing wrong with comic books. Stop pretending like that’s a bad word… Let’s just be honest here! We read comic books! We love comic books! …
And there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!
Note: the views and opinions expressed by Mr. McVicker are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Nerd Nation Magazine, or anyone else for that matter. So don’t be a d-bag and try to sue anyone over the stuff he writes. K? Thanks! =)