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mygif

Thanks for the word ‘stature’, but a couple of notes, or nits. For the record, I have always believed arguing about names and terms is a waste of time. I wrote the ‘manifesto’ in an attempt to solve a problem. Specifically, the big article in The NY Times Sunday mag had just appeared and there was a long debate in the Comics Journal forum about why journalists always get it wrong. I proposed that they get it wrong because we feed it to them wrong. Especially we feed it to them as a confused muddle. As a humorous solution I suggested everybody get together and agree on basic principles. I suggested a list of them. Others suggested changes, and I made the changes in a spirit of collaboration. Where it was requested for reuse or reprint I asked that the context be explained. But inevitably it got lifted out of context and came to look like an actual manifesto. It was never meant to be that. I regard it as a work of humour. I removed it from the wikipedia page on the subject of me on the grounds that it reproduced an entire copyrighted work.

I can see several places in your article where I feel you would be adding to the kind of confusion I was railing against. There are four completely separate and mutually exclusive notions as to what a ‘graphic novel’ is; to side with one of these and give all your reasons does not help to clarify a muddled situation; you’re are just upping the overall noise. I would also say you are unaware of the kinds of marketing difficulties that Eisner had to deal with and that I still have to deal with, and to insist that it’s ‘all just comics’ is regressive thinking.

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mygif

There’s a place for the comic book/graphic novel distinction, similar to the distinction between a short story and a novel.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get used that way.

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mygif

I attempt to distinguish between comic books and graphic novels by identifying “graphic novel” as a self-contained storyline, separate or mostly so from a larger continuity. There are series of novels, let’s say the Bernie Rhodenbarr series from Lawrence Block, that have their own continuities, but each is a standalone tale.

Stuff like, oh, “Countdown to Final Crisis” is not a graphic novel. “Transmetropolitan” is.

But I try to stay away from the whole conversation. My main plan is to tell people whose opinions I actually care about that “hey! Comics are goddamn cool. Read this.” And that has worked out fine for me.

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mygif

I get into this argument all the time. I have a friend who insists on calling them funny books because of this. Among a lot of the English major suite the it term is serialized literature. Which I find pretentious as well. I read an interview with Gaiman one time where he mentioned a party he was at. A man asked him what he did and he said he wrote comic books, when he said who he was, the man said oh you write graphic novels where Gaiman insisted that he wrote comic books.

I dislike the term.

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mygif

Mr. Campbell:

Sorry for misconstruing and misrepresenting your intent with the manifesto. I’ve added a note to the body of the post that will hopefully clarify things, as well as an apology for presenting the manifesto as something other than it was.

As for adding to the confusion–certainly not my intent, but you may be right. Especially if someone happens to read the post and then come upon the three kinds of graphic novel that are mutually exclusive from what I would prefer to think of as a comic. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one work I’ve personally encountered that was presented to me as a graphic novel that I wouldn’t be comfortable referring to as a comic book (Pascal Blanchet’s WHITE RAPIDS). I’m sure that speaks more to my ignorance of artistic endeavours that I don’t perceive as being to my personal taste and/or simply haven’t yet encountered (and my memory, which is spotty at best.) In an ideal world, having everyone call what could be defined as comics “comics” and leaving the other three types of graphic novel to vie for ownership of the term could theoretically alleviate some confusion on the wider public’s part, at least. Of course, that would require the same kind of wide agreement between invested parties that isn’t likely to be had any time soon.

Marketing a work is one venue in which I absolutely wouldn’t insist “it’s all comics,” on the grounds that bringing as many readers as possible into whatever the medium’s called is a good thing. I find it unfortunate that some people are seemingly only willing to read comics if they’re called something else, but a reader’s a reader and the more, the better.

Out of curiosity, when you speak of marketing difficulties you and Eisner face(d), are you referring to difficulties marketing to publishers, a potential audience, or both?

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mygif

Comics at the time carried the stigma of being throw-away entertainment for kids.

In retrospect, this is better than it currently carrying the stigma of being entertainment for kidults… which makes me sad because it really is a fine medium that doesn’t seem to be able to reach it’s potential as he creative art for the masses.

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mygif

Andrew,
Okay, here’s a marketing problem. My local Border’s here in Australia files all the ‘graphic novels’ (so designated) A-Z by character. My Alec will probably get file under ‘A” because there is an identifiable character. My Leotard will be elsewhere in the section. Somebody like Speigelman has made himself enough of a character to get filed under ‘S’, and he doesn’t have so many books that it might be a problem. If Campbell had made himself enough of a celebrity, he could hope to find himself between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Captain America. Is the explanation to simply say ‘well it’s all comics’?
Under the marketing question there is obviously a deeper issue. But let’s start by recognizing that there’s something cockeyed in the system. There are clearly two different kinds of things getting mixed up here. After thirty years making the same kinds of books, why isn’t Campbell a recognized author? It’s not a difference in size, between short story and novel, or between TPB and OGN. Two different kinds of animals have been shoved in the same cage. It may add up to just an argument about words to you, but I’ve got books out there whose potential readers cannot find them. One of the last things Eisner did was to switch all his books from DC to Norton. Why do you think he did that?

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mygif

ps. EMPHASIS. The problem is not about FILING or naming terms. these are symptoms of a deeper problem.

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mygif

pps oops, RE Eisner. I said ‘all’ his books, what I meant was: The Spirit, being a comic book, remains with the comic book company (DC), while the graphic novels are now with a literary publisher (Norton).

In other words, he saw them as two separate things.

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mygif

Re: the bookstore problem. No, I don’t think the solution is to say “it’s all comics” but rather that “it’s all comic books” with the emphasis on the book portion of the phrase. I agree wholeheartedly that a system which sees Alec shelved next to Astonishing X-Men is messed up (in fact an earlier draft of my post went on a fairly significant tangent about my quixotic efforts to get my local Chapters/Indigo {the major Canadian book chain} to recognize that graphic novels, comics, and manga aren’t genres unto themselves and shouldn’t be shelved in a manner I can only compare to audiobooks.)

As with novels, movies–pretty much every narrative form–all creators in a given medium won’t be working towards the same goals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still working in the same medium. If anything it means they’re working in different genres, and I’d hope (in vain, for the moment) they’d be filed appropriately according to genre/subject matter, under the name of the creator of the work in question (something that does get complicated in the case of collaborations.)

As for Eisner’s actions, as I met him once for all of three minutes, you surely knew him better than I did. If you say he saw The Spirit and his other work as being in different media, I’ll believe you. However, in the absence of a figure of authority making that claim, I don’t know that I’d ever have considered his decision in those matters to possibly be based on artistic sensibility rather than a business one. DC is better-suited to exploit a franchisable character who wears a mask, Norton can do more with finite, slice-of-life fiction. Both were made with different artistic intents, in different formats and genres, but at the end of the day, again, I look at them and see them as being of a piece, the same way I see Great Expectations and a random Star Wars novelization as being novels. Are they works of equal merit? No. But they are still works of the same medium. Darth Maul: Saboteur doesn’t invalidate or lessen Great Expectations, and in a rational world Captain America shouldn’t have any appreciable effect on sales of, say, HOW TO BE AN ARTIST.

That this isn’t the case is certainly evidence of a system that isn’t functioning properly. I firmly believe that the perception of comics/graphic novels as a genre is a huge problem, one that does a disservice to anyone working in the medium, whatever it’s called, and moreso for creators whose livelihoods are based on work that for whatever reason isn’t supported by the stereotypical direct market retailer. But with all due respect, I’m not convinced the way to fix the problem is to describe From Hell as a graphic novel rather than an historical drama or a horror story. Especially not when Marvel and DC and whoever are just going to come along and claim that The Death of Superman and Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt are graphic novels, too.

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mygif

“As with novels, movies–pretty much every narrative form–all creators in a given medium won’t be working towards the same goals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still working in the same medium.”
yes, but we virtually have two separate media (but let’s not draw a rigid straight line). One is character driven. If i draw a batman book i know I’m contributing to the huge mythos of batman, which is owned by a company. it’s not really an eddie campbell book (but let’s not rule a sharply defined line… there are many things within the grey area). The other is author driven. It belongs TO the author. Forget about the term ‘graphic novel’ (i’ve been saying that for years now, but everybody, including yourself, still quotes my 2004 ‘manifesto’) it is no longer salvageable. It means a different thing to the comic book companies from what it means to the book companies who are doing comics, such as First Second.

As long as this is not recognized, there will be problems.

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mygif

actually, I don’t know what I’m arguing about. It’s all shit.
enjoy yer comic books.
Eddie

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mygif

“It means a different thing to the comic book companies from what it means to the book companies who are doing comics, such as First Second.

As long as this is not recognized, there will be problems.”

If we’re not drawing too rigid or sharply defined a line between the virtually separate media, I can agree with that.

I certainly see a difference between the approaches of comic companies who deal in the acquisition of intellectual property, and traditional book publishers expanding into the medium, though I’m not sure it’s a distinction that would mean much to a casual reader (for creators, absolutely, and for retailers, ideally.) Then again, I’m not sure how many casual readers there are these days to begin with.

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mygif

“actually, I don’t know what I’m arguing about. It’s all shit.
enjoy yer comic books.”

Damn. That is not the note I wanted this exchange to end on.

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mygif
Lindy Smith said on September 7th, 2009 at 11:38 am

I quite enjoyed the conversation you two were having! :)

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HammerHeart said on September 7th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I agree that it was a nice conversation, even if Mr. Campbell’s understandable frustration with the subject got the best of him. This debate is necessary, and reconsidering the terminology that involves this genre is an ongoing process.

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John Pontoon said on September 7th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Isn’t “Kill or CURE” the one where Harold Smith gets oustered by some dude and he has to go to ground and spy his way back to the usurper, who Harold kills by throwing a pen through the guy’s eye into his brain?

That used to be my favorite one.

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