Friday, May 7, 2010

Ultimate "Comics" Definitions and Great Australian Press Coverage

Sydney Morning Herald recently published two articles on comics and graphic novels. "Readers Drawn to Art" which publicised the Wheeler Centre Spotlight on Graphic Novels weekend (covered in recent a blog post), but still asks the perpetual question of people grappling with the definition of comics and graphic novels:
"Whichever definition you prefer, the graphic novel is a genre - or is it a format? - no longer seen as outsider, or of interest only to fanboys and geeks."
Okay ... let's clear this issue up on definitions. This is the advice we've been filtering to the Australian Society of Authors, the Australia Council, the Australian Cartoonists' Association, through articles and to workshop audiences ... these definitions are based on the work of the wonderful Scott McLeod, as well as ICv2 which holds an annual graphic novel conference in New York City (we were fortunate to attend in 2007).

"Comics" (with an 's') is the umbrella term.
"Comics" is the medium (the artform).
"Comics" is NOT a genre or style.
“Comics” can be defined as sequential art (juxtaposed images) intended to convey information to the viewer and/or to tell a story.
"Comics" can be produced in multiple genres ranging from romance to superhero to fantasy and science-fiction to memoir to crime to underground and many more. These can have a commercial or literary orientation or even both.

There are five comics "formats":

(1) Comic books (periodicals)
(2) Graphic novels
(3) Comic/cartoon strips (containing two or more panels of sequential art)
(4) Web comics (including web comic/cartoon strips containing two or more panels of sequential art), and
(5) Zines (provided they include sequential art content).

There are four graphic novels "categories", which are essentially comics bound in book form:

(1) Original graphic novels including adaptations and anthologies:
(2) Collections of work first published in comic book (periodical) format;
(3) Collections of web (digital) comics: and
(4) Editions originally produced for overseas markets.

Please note that collections of comic/cartoon strips originally published in print or on the web are NOT considered to be graphic novels if published in print format.

On another note, the Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum section ran a double page article called "Comic Catharsis: War, cancer, middle age, maths ... cartoons get serious" . The word "cartoons" is incorrectly used as the word usually applies to "cartoon (or comic) strips" or "animated cartoons". However, this excellent article is serious about examining the US and Australian comics publishing landscape. It discusses various issues and trends including the up-swell of "autographics" (trauma stories in graphic novel format) and also provides interesting perspectives about how graphic novels are viewed by the literati and the mainstream publishing world.

For example,
[Says Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham] ... "I've been on judging panels where graphic novels have been in contention for prizes and [the view has been] they shouldn't count as it can't be as much work"...
This brings back a memory of something that happened to me several years ago. I was going out with an architect who asked to look at some of my published comics work. He checked out a few pages and then asked me how much I was paid per page for writing. I said "US$100" (which was the going rate for that particular comic book series at the time). He exclaimed "100 BUCKS A PAGE for 50 words! I'm in the wrong profession!" Indeed he was right. The pages he was looking at contained approximately 50 words in the various word balloons or captions. I then sat him down and explained to him that prior to writing the dialogue, I had written the story arc/synopsis for the entire series (plus the three series after that), then completed a page breakdown, and then the script which features panel description plus the captions, SFX, word and thought balloons. He went silent for a few moment then said "Oh!"

Just to put things into perspective, the story arc/synopsis for the first Elf~Fin series is 13,000 words. And that's before we get to the page breakdown and the script for each 44-page issue! Don't let anybody ever convince you there isn't much work in a comic book or graphic novel!

If you don't accept that position from us then take it from someone with more credibility in the Australian publishing scene than anyone else we know – Shaun Tan once acknowledged that the most intense and time-consuming work he has ever done in his literary career was for The Arrival.

Anyway ... we acknowledge and appreciate the major press coverage and the voices of Australian journalists giving comics a fair go!

[NOTE: Don't know why Blogger has decided to change our house style half way through this blog post but there you have it...]

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