Of Comics and Graphic Novels

Elif Batuman in the LRB:

The term ‘graphic novel’ is dismissed by most of its practitioners as either an empty euphemism or a marketing ploy. As Marjane Satrapi puts it, graphic novels simply enable ‘the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad’; according to Alan Moore, they allow publishers to ‘stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel’. Moore and Satrapi, in common with many others, want their work to be known as ‘comics’. But ‘graphic novel’ can usefully designate a certain type of comic: a single-author, book-length work, meant for a grown-up reader, with a memoiristic or novelistic narrative, usually devoid of superheroes. By contrast, the older and more capacious term ‘comic book’ recalls the thinner, serialised, multi-authored or ghost-written publications rife with Supermen and She-Hulks. Some comics, of course, straddle (or elude) both categories; but in broad terms ‘comic book’ and ‘graphic novel’ serve to distinguish two trends in the history and form of comics.