Category talk:Graphic novels

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The Graphic Novel Format, The Category, & Its Creators[edit]

After debate on Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Comics, it has been suggested we start afresh and widen out the debate to attract further comment. It is considered that this format could still be too loosely defined within the comics field to warrant a category for the work, and also one for its creators. The following questions are therefore offered up for comment, in the hope a consensus will form.

  • N.B. The Category:Graphic novelist is currently listed for deletion so votes and comment on that area of discussion are best placed there. All other comments should be placed in the discussion section below. Thank you. * Category deleted.


Seems to me that Graphic novel does not give a sufficient definition of the term to distinguish it from comic. I believe it's mainly used as a marketing tool, since it sounds better. I'd say merge & combine the two here on Wikipedia. Radiant_* 08:35, May 26, 2005 (UTC)

  • The problem here is that comic is a UK definition. In the US you have comic book, so which one would it fold back into, the term being a global one? Hiding 09:28, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I think a "graphic novelist" category is redundant with the comic-book-creators categories, because they're all "people who tell stories through pages of seqential art", and while questions such as length or serial/complete publication enter into it, they're exercising fundamentally the same craft - doing the same thing - regardless of whether it's Uncanny X-Men #137 or Stuck Rubber Baby. But the "graphic novel" itself is still a notable and describable example of this medium we call "comics", and warrants an article about its history and characteristics. (The article does needs a stronger opening paragraph, however.) The fuzzy definition means there may be some debate about what to include, but a category for those items people agree to be "graphic novels" makes sense. I just don't see the people who make them as a genuine class unto themselves, based solely on the format in which their work is published, which is what a "graphic novelists" category implies to me. Tverbeek 11:30, 26 May 2005 (UTC)

I would be wary of using comic book creator categories as a catch all for practitioners of sequential art as we wouldn't dream of placing woodcut novelists or tapestry weavers there. Just to clarify another point, do people believe any collection of comic books published in a book format to be a graphic novel, or is there a difference between an X-Men collection and Stuck Rubber Baby? Hiding 12:39, 26 May 2005 (UTC)

  • Of course we wouldn't call the weaver of the Bayeux tapestry a "comic book artist". But many people (maybe not you, but many nonetheless) do use that term for someone who draws a 200-page OGN, because they see an OGN as just a kind of comic book. And I really don't see an objective basis for differentiating between an X-Men collection and SRB. Oliver Twist was serialised before it came out in hardcover, yet we still call it a "novel". Tverbeek 16:13, 26 May 2005 (UTC)

Like I said @ WP:CMC, I think a "graphic novel" is purely a question of format (it must be a long, squarebound comic) and length (I'll set the arbitary minimum at 96 pages to keep "prestige format" comics out). Beyond this, the contents are irrelevant - it's a marketing category so that bookshops don't have to call their trade paperback (= reprint) and original graphic novels (= not previously serialised) section "comics", and you're more likely to find Essential X-Men vol. 1 there than some obscure OGN. - SoM 14:53, 26 May 2005 (UTC)

    • Why 96 pages? Seems arbitrary, and rules out many concrete examples of a graphic novel.
      • I flat-out said it was an arbitary number. My main concern was seperating out prestige format comics (squarebound miniseries) from actual books. Although you could probably argue that anything shorter would be too short to be a "novel" anyway, since a novel is a long-form book. - SoM 17:12, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
        • I apologize for missing your word "arbitrary" when I was skimming. To respond to your valid point about length, it seems relevant to note that a graphic novel of, let's say, 48 pages could contrain the story equivalent of a short novel, depending on how many words it would take to describe the things, setting, etc. being pictures. So let's see :-) -- if a picture is worth 1000 words, and you have an average of 4 panels a page.... (Just a little joke to keep the mood light) 1:46PM EST 9 June 2005
  • I have yet to see any 48-page comics story come anywhere near to the "story equivalent" of a novel, even a short one. Prose - which rarely bothers to paint the level of setting detail that a comic book does - can be much more dense in terms of storytelling than comics. After all, a page of typeset prose dialog is going to require at least a couple pages of lettered balloons with some talking heads, and it takes far less space to write, "Jack ran breathlessly through the jungle with a horde of angry sloths in hot pursuit," than it does to show it. I've adapted a few O. Henry short stories into comics and (with some paring down) got a page of prose into one page of comics, so let's be generous and say it's a 1:1 ratio. Seen many 48-page novels? Frankly, I think that even calling a 96-page comics story a "novel" is being rather generous, but that's what people call them. On the other hand, I don't hear many people arguing that the equivalent of two issues of Batman is a "graphic novel". Tverbeek 18:36, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • Well, Henry James would certainly paint a level of setting detail that would rival Jack Kirby! From my perspective, Sabre has as much plot, dialog and sheer story as your average pulp novel, and Eisner's graphic novels pack as much meaning and story as an Issac Bashevis Singer work. This is a relatively new medium, the graphic novel, so I'm not sure judging it by weight or volume is necessarily valid. It ain't the length, it's how you use it. 5:15PM EST 9 June 2005
  • You're not talking about "what's a graphic novel"; you're talking about "what's good". That's a fine discussion topic and I'm sure you have some interesting opinions about it, but it's not really useful for an encyclopedia. Tverbeek 22:11, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Considering that Mark Twain and Danielle Steel are both placed in Category:American novelists, I don't think we have any basis for distinguishing Eddie Campbell from John Byrne with categories. We may eventually get things to a point where we can categorize members of certain "movements" in comics history - Adrian Tomine, Jeffrey Brown, and Chester Brown, for example - but that's a different matter, based on real criteria like chronology and style. The only difference between being called a "comics creator" and a "graphic novelist" is that the latter carries connotations of maturity and sophistication, and it's not our place to segregate the mature and sophisticated from the im- and the un-. -leigh (φθόγγος) 16:29, May 26, 2005 (UTC)

As for the question of graphic novel, this whole debate proves that Wikipedia certainly needs an article about the term - much like nigger (word). The term is very common, and readers will be looking to WP to find out what it is - they'll need to know about its various meanings. -leigh (φθόγγος) 16:37, May 26, 2005 (UTC)

I think that this category is pretty much redundant with Category:Comic books. "Graphic novel" is too vague a term to merit its own distinct category, since a number of modern long-form comics get called "graphic novels" have been called "serialized graphic novels" even while remaining uncollected in full or even in part. -Sean Curtin 04:53, May 29, 2005 (UTC)

  • As someone who reads comics reguarly, i would like to say that there is a HUGE difference between Graphic Novels and ordinary comics. Any one who has picked up Watchmen or V for Vendetta knows this. I think it is perfectly warranted to have a separate category for it. There are very few graphic novels and their quality and distinction really merit a different category. This is not sorting it into "Good comics" and "Bad comics", it is actually completly different arts, different ways of writing. Saying that they should all be labeled comics books is like saying Category:Cubism and Category:Renaissance art should both be deleted and put into Category:Painting. gkhan 12:58, Jun 2, 2005 (UTC)
  • Um, Watchmen and V for Vendetta were "ordinary comics" (before being reprinted in collected editions). Your analogy to different schools of art is flawed; the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book is not creative style. It's length. Even the "finite" vs. "ongoing" distinction is debatable. Sandman was an ongoing monthly series, after all. The only reason it has an ending is that Gaiman decided to write one. Ditto regarding Cerebus. Heck, these days when a new "ongoing series" is launched, the writer usually has an ending planned, anticipating that it'll be canceled before long but wanting provide some closure to his readers when that happens. As for a "completely different way of writing", I'm in the middle of writing something that could go either way (series or GN), and that open question has little impact on how I'm writing it. I'm trying to keep the chapters about 24 pages each, so they'll serialise easily if that's the route I take, but that's about it. You can make an "I know it when I see it" distinction (which is probably good enough for a category), but not the complete dichotomy you imagine. Tverbeek 16:31, 2 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • I'm broadly agreeing with Todd here. I'd even go so far as to point out that there aren't very few graphic novels, at least not when defining by format. However, I'm also agreeing with Sean on the point that one usage of the term is to reflect works that have not been collected in the graphic novel format, but rather serialised. And I think the graphic novel format isn't really well defined within the industry. DO the old, what were they called, the 100 page books DC used to put out, they meet SoM's definition of square bound and over 96 pages, don't they? I know DC have used the term to describe prestige format, Mercy by De Matteis from Vertogo was described a graphic novel. I think the consensus within the industry is that its a marketing term, rather than a format one. I think the categorisation of it is also a tricky one, if the best definition we have is a marketing one. Isn't know it when you see it POV? Not that I disagree, but I just think it might also be an idea to fold the category back into comic books. Either way, is it worth working out a definition for categorising, so that we have a reference point in the future? Or is there a point behind folding the cat back to comic book? Hiding 09:28, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Just found this discussion by the dewey decimal classification people. Haven't had time to fully digest it, but it looks like they're having the same debate as here. As far as I can see so far, they haven't categorised between GN and comic book as yet. Pretty germane to this discussion, I'd say. Hiding 09:28, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I generally agree with Tverbeek above -- a collected reprint of comic books, whether Watchmen or the latest half-dozen Spider-Man issues, does seem to beg the question of what is a graphic novel. I wonder if it would be useful to consider original intent, in that Watchmen was intended as a novelistic, limited story with however many issues analagous to chapters? While an argument could be made that a six-issue Spider-Man arc might be collected and considered the same way, it seems to me there's a ready distinction -- that this arc appears within the middle of a much longer (400+ issue) storyline, and that the characters, situations, etc. are already in the middle of a story, usually with subplots already begun earlier and weaving through. A soap opera arc, in other words, isn't a TV miniseries. 1:15PM EST 9 June 2005

  • Granted, a mini series isn't an ongoing comic book, but how fine is the distinction between a story arc in an ongoing series and a mini series? How do we define Morrison's Animal Man run? His Doom Patrol run? And then his X-Men run? What about the two recent Love & Rockets collections? Each individual Cerebus volume? It seems to be a point of view distinction. It's also not one that's being made anywhere else at present, so it would be wrong for wikipeddia to do so. Wikipedia isn't a standard setting tool, rather a standard reflecting one. Hiding 18:28, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • I see your point, though I'm not sure anyone should speak for Wikipedia; I've searched high and low for a place on the site where the founders say that (starting at -- anyone have any URLs to point me to Wikipedia's announced goal/intentions, other than the aforementioned page? Seriously). Definitions set a standard by, well, definition, and definition is what we're all striving for. It's an elusive target, obviously: Just when we think we know what a "sitcom" is, we've suddenly got "dramedies" and hybrids like the hour-long (standard TV-drama format) comedy Ally McBeal (which most of us didn't consider a comedy till it won an Emmy in that category!) Y'know, it's fun having these discussions with smart people who care about the topic. Time-consuming, but fun! 5:30PM EST 9 June 2005
      • Have a look at Wikipedia:Neutral point of view which to my eye points out what the founders say on the issue. I'm amused you think I'm speaking for wikipedia, I'm still pretty new here myself. Also see Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not especially Wikipedia is not a soapbox: Primary (original) research such as proposing theories and solutions, original ideas, defining terms, coining new words, etc. I think what we're discussing here with graphic novel is bordering on defining terms. Hiding 21:56, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
        • Thanks!! Will do!! Those are useful links.

It's hard to tell from the huge "History" list, but it looks as if the Graphic Novel "Definitions" section was established way before either of us got here; don't know if that's good or bad, but it's there and hasn't been deleted after all this time. What that means, I sure don't know.

Thanks again. The whole Wikipedia world of contributors is doing something absolutely amazing here. 9:13PM EST 9 June 2005

  • Actually, the definitions section is quite a recent addition, been there barely a month, but that's beside the point as you are misunderstanding me. Having a definitions section isn't striving for a definition. It offers up various competing definitions, plural. The point I am trying to make is that we can't create a definition from new, and since consensus on this page seems to be that no definition of the term graphic novel currently has consensus outside of wikipedia, beyond it being a marketing term, then wikipedia can not define the term graphic novel beyond stating it is a marketing term and then offering up the different definitions in use today. What you appear to my eye to be doing is trying to formulate one distinct definition of the graphic novel, especially with your sabre edits which cite it as setting the standard. I am troubled by this since there is no standard, as can be seen by the fact that the term graphic novel can refer to: uncollected works; to the entirety of a collected work and yet also to volumes of that collected work; to short story collections; to prestige format comics; to European albums; to woodcut novels; to work originally published in the format; to illustrated novels; to works of art. In fact it seems as if current creators are reacting against the term. It will be a long time before the dust settles and any standard is set. Hiding 10:34, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • Not exactly what was I was stating, but not a prob. Notion of "regular book format" has been excised from Sabre mention. 2:13PM EST 13 June 2005

I've been away from wikipedia for some time, so I haven't been able to comment on this issue. Since I last where here, however, the discussion seems to have changed a bit. When I was last here the issue where "should we have a Category:Graphic novels at all?". Now it seems to be that the discussion is about how do we distinguish a graphic novel from a non-graphic novel. Personally I think the distiction is clear, it is a matter of style of the comment. Saying it is about length is absurd, assuming that it isn't a graphic novel if it's less than 96 pages long is absurd (Mr Punch anyone?) and saying it is one if it's more equally so (there are mountains of manga to prove this point). That being said, there are cases where it is doubtful. Most of us will agree that nearly all manga cannot possibly be considered a graphic novel, but what about, say, Lone Wolf and Cub? I would certainly call that a graphic novel, not because of it's format, but because of it's style even though it is 9000 pages long. Akira then? Well that is alot harder, but my instincts tell me no. Anyway, my point is that yes, it is not 100% certain all the time, and it's a matter of style, not format. Anyway, this is what I propose: We keep the category and if there is doubts about a certain work, we add them to both. How does this sound to people? gkhan 13:21, Jun 18, 2005 (UTC)

  • Welcome back to Wikipedia. But I'm afraid you forgot to check your assumptions at the door. "Most of us will agree that nearly all manga cannot possibly be considered a graphic novel," for example. I disagree, strongly. So will the managers of countless North American bookstores that stock them all in the "graphic novel" section, and the publishers who put that phrase on the covers. The fact that they don't fit your idea of what a graphic novel should be doesn't "prove" anything to the contrary. You're welcome to your opinion; I don't care whether you personally consider manga volumes to be graphic novels or not. But your statement is far from a NPOV and should not serve as a guideline for this project. However, I've added your POV to the Graphic novel article, because it apparently represents a minority usage. Tverbeek 16:26, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • I certainly meant no offense to manga, or anyone. And as it happends you seem to be right, I just looked at a copy of Hikaro no Go (of which, btw, I am a huge fan) and realised that it was labeled a graphic novel. Here (which is Sweden, where I live) it is not categorised as a graphic novel, manga is, well.... manga. It's a separate kind of comic. I gre up with, and has always used the term to refer to the "vertigo" style, Will Eisner, Frank Miller and Alan Moore adult-style comic books as graphic novels. The term was invented so that there would be a distinction between those types of comics and juvenile-child style comics. It felt stupid to call A Contract with God (yes, I realise that it wasn't strictly the first graphic novel, but it is commonly refered to as such and it was it that popularized the term) a "comic-book", since "comic-book" means something like "funny-book". I.e implied non-seriousness. The Graphic novel article says as much. This is why I meant that nearly all manga is not graphic novels since it is made for children. But, as I said, it is labeled Graphic Novel, so I guess I would have to accede that point (I still don't really accept it as such, these books arn't "novels" in the sense that From Hell is a novel, they're pulp really). If this is the definition we want to use that a graphic novel is a graphic novel as soon as the publisher says so, then yes I agree, throw out the category. But if we use it as it was intended, to make a distinction between Tintin and 300, between The Mighty Thor and Preacher, between the original Daredevil and Elektr:Assasin, then it is enourmously useful. Am I the only one to think that to distinguish a Graphic novel from other sorts of comics one has to apply elements of style? If not, I am going start to call my bound copies of Donald Duck-issues graphic novels (square-bound >96 pages). gkhan 23:00, Jun 18, 2005 (UTC)
I think you touch on a point here, gkhan, in that the usage of these terms is different in English speaking nations around the world, although that's a problem wikipedia as a whole is facing. At the minute I'm trying to work out if Blue Monday is a comic book series or a graphic novel series, or if its just not that important. I certainly seem to be coming to the opinion that a graphic novel category is unworkable beyond categorising anything published with a spine. And therefore redundant. As for your Donald Ducks, yes, there are people out there who will call them graphic novels. Hiding 23:41, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)