What even are graphic novels!?

The only thing that distinguishes a comic and a graphic novel is that a comic is a serialised medium. The distinction has nothing to do with how grownup it is or how much artistic merit it has.
This right here, regardless of how embarrassing the art may be, is a graphic novel. Watchmen, on the other hand, however much people insist on referring to as a graphic novel, is and will always be a comic.
People being technically wrong about it doesn’t bother me, hell even book shops and publishers sometimes refer to a it as a graphic novel when a comic series is republished as a single collected volume. But the continued prevalence of the idea that it’s a graphic novel when it’s proper art and a comic when it’s trash bugs the hell out of me. It’s like insisting a TV show must be a movie if it’s of high enough quality.


… so why should we believe you and not them :confused:


Well, what do book shops and publishers know! /s


Well for starters, when a bookshop or a publisher refers to it as a graphic novel when several issues of a comic book are republished in a single volume (the correct term is actually trade paperback) they’re calling it that based entirely on the form factor, not on the style, content, artistic merit or maturity.
Which is my entire point. The difference between a comic and a graphic novel is a difference of medium, not message.
Secondly, you don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is go and see if you can find a single instance of Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons referring to Watchmen as a graphic novel. Or Alan Moore referring to any of his work as graphic novels, with the exception of stuff like Lost Girls, which actually is a graphic novel. Or really any of the British invasion writers and artists who revolutionised the artform in the 80s, defied the comics code and made comics something that adults could enjoy. Or any of the writers and artists that followed in their wake and now create for publishers like Image and Aftershock which deal almost exclusively in comics for a mature audience. They all proudly refer to the art they create as comic books, because that’s what they are.


Wait, it is?

… or, it is but you think it shouldn’t be?

… or, it isn’t but you think it should be?

What :confused:


It’s no harder to grasp than the difference between a TV show and a film.
If it’s serialised, it’s a comic. If it’s not serialised, it’s a graphic novel. That’s it. All there is to it.
A TV show does not become a film just because you binge watch it back to back on Netflix. Even if you remove the credits, it’s still an episodic medium, it’s still written so as each episode has it’s own start, middle and end.
It may have the production values of a film, it might even be directed by a film director, the whole story might be self contained in 5 episodes with no second season. It still isn’t a film. It’s a TV show.
Like I said, all you have to do is look at what the writers and artists themselves call their work. You go ahead and find me one example of Alan Moore referring to Watchmen as a graphic novel, and I’ll happily eat my words.
If the writers call them comics, and the artists call them comics, and they’re published by comic publishers and sold in comic shops, then why the hell would anyone say “well actually this is sophisticated enough for me, an intellectual, therefore it must be something other than a lowly comic book”


Except buying 5 single issues of a series will cost you more than waiting for them to be republished as a “graphic novel”

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All there is to it for you. Which is fine, for you.

For others, sometimes what becomes a graphic novel was initially serialized. :person_shrugging:

(And they’re both “comics.”)


So you agree that the difference is nothing to do with the quality, maturity, style or artistic merit of the content?

The term is not nearly as stable as you seem to be suggesting here. And originally, yes, this terminology emerged with an attempt to create a more adult-oriented literary genre that just happened to be in graphic form…




Words have meaning. Marketing terms not so much :man_shrugging:


Even then, marketing terms do have meaning. It’s a set of jargon for industries that have internal consistency at any given time.

Graphic novels have been used to both describe a particular format, as well as an approach to writing a story in graphic form. But the history tells us that it was originally the artistic considerations that many people were focused on. The term (like many others) was and is not stable over time, but changes meaning, based both on how the industry deploys it and how consumers use it… :woman_shrugging:



In this particular example in the modern book and comic industry perfect bound and hardcover reprints of runs of comics and “one shot, full story” books (I don’t know how else to say it without using the GN word - which highlights the issue) are both called Graphic novels, while a a perfect bound copy of either could also be called a trade paperback and a hard bound copy a Hardback. If the book is a small perfect volume that is strippable it’s suddenly a mass market paperback. Staplebound, it’s probably a comic, but YMMV.

So I don’t worry about it and call them whatever I please unless I am ordering for a bookstore…which I am not anymore


You’re just barely on topic here.


OK, at a point in time where writers and artists felt a need to distinguish themselves from the limitations of the comic book form, sure, I will accept that graphic novel was a term they wished to be applied to their work, even when it was serialised.
The writers and artists of the 80s onwards, the ones who continued pushing the boundaries after Karen Berger at DC stuck her neck out and fought to allow Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing to be freed from the restrictions of the comics code, they never expressed any such desire. They were comic writers and comic artists, who cut their teeth at British anthology comics like 2000AD, Warrior, Action etc, were handed the reigns of long running comic characters, and revolutionised what could be done WITHIN the comic form. They revolutionised the artform with comics that mostly existed within the same fictional universe as the Justice League. Even Watchmen was originally intended to feature characters from the old Charleston comics universe. Again, if the writers and artists themselves refer to their art as comics, then why call it something else? Comic book shouldn’t be a dirty word in 2023.

No. Graphic means that they’re X-Rated.


We should bring back the term, “Smut!”


Where do you get that we think it’s a dirty word? I’d suggest to you that most people here read both serialized comics, of a variety of genres, as well as graphic novels (whether from serialized comics or published as graphic novels). You seem to be making some assumptions about the folks here that just does not track with the conversation we’re having about this work or about the genre in general. You’re coming off like we’re all shitting all over serialized comics as somehow inferior, which couldn’t be further from the truth. :woman_shrugging: No one said that. It seems like your projecting what you expect the argument to be on others here, many of whom seem to be life-long comic fans who know a bit of the history too.


Ooo, a categorization discussion! This will be productive. We may even end up with a bingo card out of it.


Example: “Lady Chatterley’s Lover was, in its day, considered a very graphic novel.”