Do Graphic Novels Have to be so Graphic

One thing that has always bothered my about comics in general is the really good PR we have among our ourselves, but not much good with those outside the community. Even with our attempt to get into bookstores we have only isolated ourselves even more. Barnes and Nobles and many other stores have a GRAPHIC NOVEL section.

You go over there to get a GRAPHIC NOVEL. Other people stay away from there, because those are GRAPHIC NOVELS.

Wil Eisner coined the phrase back in the 70s and I think it was the best he could have come up with at the time. Graphic refers to an image, a picture. And a novel refers to a Book. Thus the  Graphic Novel is essentially a picture book.

The connotation that has come across through the years has become a lot darker than picture books. Imagine conversations around the word picture for “graphic”.

“Don’t look at that, it is too graphic.”
“We don’t allow pornographic images here.”

The word “graphic” has been associated with so much malcontent describing nudity or sexual activity in graphic detail. murdering, bloody, graphic images.

The word “graphics” with just one letter seems to evoke the kind of imagery Mr. Eisner meant — evoking lifelike images in the mind, pattern of designs, computer generated images, drawing and photographs in the layout of a book or published material.

My belief is that this word, isolates too much of the main stream market who are not ingrained in comic book culture. Don’t you think we would be able to get much greater traction out a word like “narrative art”.

It seems classier to me, and I think people would not have any question in picking up a narrative art novel. While they may have second thoughts about grabbing a graphic novel.

I was listening to an interview on a local radio station about a person promoting his book at one of the local comic cons. It was a “graphic novel” about Osama Bin Laden’s capture. The radio announcer asked if it was graphic. Because it is a typically conservative radio station. The artist had to do 2 or 3 minutes explaining this to the listeners that isn’t wasn’t graphic even though the medium said it was. Can you imagine spening 2-3 minutes with every person who you need to convince to pick up a graphic novel after a 30 years of us telling them that it is graphic.

This is time that could be spent producing! Let’s use the term “narrative art.”