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17 October, 2007

Semantics of stripping

[Now there's a misleading title.]

It's generally considered a bit pretentious to say 'graphic novels' when referring to what others call 'comics', as if being overly defensive.  The medium has achieved widespread recognition within the last 15-20 years as 'acceptable' for adults – it's no longer considered only for children and disfunctional obsessives.  It doesn't need to style itself as literature, because it just is.

Even within the last week, I've read comments by Alan Moore (link forgotten...) and Neil Gaiman critical of the phrase.

However, there's one simple, overwhelming reason I prefer 'graphic novel': the ones I choose to read aren't remotely comic. I suppose there's a macabre humour in parts of 'Maus', 'Gemma Bovary' or 'The Sandman', but they're not laugh-out-loud funny, and probably wouldn't interest me if they were.

That's no criticism of comics which are comedic – I object as much as anyone to the suggestion that there are 'comics' for the proles and 'graphic novels' for the intelligentsia, and 'serious' doesn't equate to 'better' – but I simply don't seek that type of amusement.

Stated simply, presenting stories as pictures with speech balloons is a medium, not a genre – the form and content don't determine one another. I feel that distinction is clear under the title 'graphic novel', whereas a non-comedic 'comic' is counter-intuitive.

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