Recently I was re-watching Lost Boys: The Thirst. There’s a scene where Edgar goes into a comic shop to try and sell a comic to Zoe, the woman who works there. A character walks into the store asking in a snide way where the Graphic Novels are. Zoe says comic books and the guy scoffs saying “No, I mean Graphic Novels. I don’t read comics” The scene is tongue in cheek, but it got me thinking about the term “Graphic Novel” and the good and bad that comes with it.
There was a time I didn’t like the term. Watchmen is a good example because it kind of encapsulates why I wasn’t a fan of “Graphic Novel” being thrown around. When you went to the movie, it was “based on the Graphic Novel”, when a professor would teach it in a course it wasn’t based on the mini-series published by DC, it was based on the “Graphic Novel” and when you went into Barnes and Noble, you weren’t going to the comic section , you were going to the “Graphic Novel” section.
The reason it used to bother me was because it felt like a buzzword created by someone who was ashamed to say “comic book” It reminds me of professional wrestling where the term is now “Sports Entertainment” according to WWE because they don’t want their product to be referred to as “Wrestling”. It felt like people who wanted all the good that comes from the product but didn’t want to call the product what it was.
As I got older, I gained an appreciation for the term in that if it brings in people from the movie theatre or a college course to come into a comic shop or even stop by a Barnes and Noble and flip through a trade, exposing them to something they might enjoy, then by all means! There’s nothing wrong with new fans and if they want to call them something other than a trade, mini-series or single issue, that’s good enough for me. And one could argue that Watchmen’s issues are really just chapters of one long story. And while I was aware of Original Graphic Novels beforehand, getting into the Earth One books, I can see how the "novel’ part of it applies.
These days I’m not one or the other when it comes to the term. When I hear it, I don’t get annoyed as I used to, but I also don’t acknowledge it as the default term, either. I guess I’m writing this to see what you all think. Do you have a preference? If so, which one?