Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pardon me a moment while I point and laugh.

Venerable newspaper The New York Times is introducing a new best sellers lists focused on comics/graphic novels.

They've decided to eschew the obvious name for such a list, "Graphic Novels Best Sellers," or the more accurate "Comics Best Sellers," for their own made-up term, "Graphic Books Best Sellers."

Look, I know neither "graphic novels" nor "comics" are perfect words with which to describe the medium they're used to describe, but that ship sailed over a decade ago: They're "graphic novels." The people who make them, the publishers who publish them, the writers and critics who write about and criticize them, the librarians who order them and make them available to communities to borrow, all call them "graphic novels."

Are there significant differences between Starman Omnibus Vol. 2 (a collection of originally serially published comic books republished between two covers as if it were a single work), Complete Terry and the Pirates Vol. 6 (a collection of comic strips republished between two covers as if it were a single work), Watchmen (which was originally serially published as comic books 20 years ago, but was never an ongoing and has existed primarily as a single, complete work since) and, let's say, The Joker (an original graphic novel published originally as a graphic novel)?

Yes, of course there are, but the differences are fewer and less significant than the similarities, and, for convenience's sake, the word "graphic novel" has become the umbrella term.

So get out of here with this "graphic book" junk. (I should note that I spend a lot of time talking to librarians, and I do hear them using the word "graphics" more and more, which makes a bit more sense, as it doesn't alter the word "graphic novel" so much as shorten it, similar to the way "comics" evolved from "comic books." So I will accept the NYT having a "Graphics Best Seller List" before a "Graphic Books Best Seller" list).

I have a feeling the NYT will eventually change that from "books" to "novels" shortly; even if "books" is more accurate and inclusive than "novels," momentum alone would dictate sticking with "graphic novels." Unless the New York Times is a far more powerful force in the world of book publishing than I think, in which case perhaps they can get everybody else to abandon the term "graphic novels" in favor of "graphic books," in which case good for them.

But wait! That's not even the lamest part of their announcement!

Check this shit out, from George Gene Gustines'* piece on the new list:

Comics have finally joined the mainstream. Anticipation for the live-action film version of “Watchmen,” the dark and violent superhero opus that saw its birth in comic books and arrives in theaters on Friday, has built to a nationwide boil. And today The Times introduces three separate lists of the best-selling graphic books in the country: hardcover, softcover, and manga. We’ll update those lists weekly in this space, and offer a few observations along the way.

To which I say: AHH Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, really? Comics have finally joined the mainstream? Just now? Not, like, in the 1940s, when they sold in the millions? Not twenty goddam years ago when the plague of "Bam! Biff! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!" and "Holy Christallmighty, Batman!" headlines were unleashed by newspapers upon the world? Not 17 years ago, when Maus won a Pulitzer? Not ten years ago, when manga imports went from a steady stream into a Biblical flood? Or when Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man ushered in a decade of Hollywood comic book adaptations? Not about five years ago when the publishing industry exploded the number of graphic novels they began publishing, competing with the traditional comics publishers for talent? But just now?


And what are the reasons for that? The one-two punch of Watchmen being made into a movie and The New York Times fucking saying so?


Anyway, after that dumb-ass paragraph, it's actually a pretty interesting read.

I was quite pleased to see Beanworld included among all the genre stuff in the hardcover category, because it is such a unique work. And because it's probably the best thing I've read so far this year. Also, it was nice to see Marvel's latest Incredible Hercules collection there, as it doesn't sell gangbusters in the Direct Market, so hopefully this means it's selling like hotcakes elsewhere, and will continue to be published for a while yet.

The "Graphic Books Best Seller List (Softcover)" includes the latest Showcase: Superman Family volume, which I'm happy to see, as I love the Showcase Presents program and hope it's making enough money that DC will keep it up indefinitely. I've often wondered how these (and the Essentials did outside the Direct Market).

I suppose one could argue about the need to separate the manga "graphic books" from the non-manga "graphic books," but perhaps that's just so the "graphic books" aren't 60% Naruto every month.

*George Gene Gustines is an awesome name.


grifter said...

is it too early to cue in the inevitable mainstream backlash?

Sleemo said...

the best are their copy/paste comments for the Naruto volumes.

Siskoid said...

They can probably keep calling them graphic books longer with the manga mixed in there.

At least some of the ones I've seen were pretty graphic.

SallyP said...

Well, I suppose that comics have just now entered the mainstream, because the writer of the article just woke up and noticed them. All that other stuff, is just boring old history anyway.


Leigh Walton said...

It's because SWALLOW ME WHOLE was nominated for the LA Times Book Prize, of course.

EDP said...

Comics have FINALLY joined the mainstream? Oh, my God. That is the dumbest shit ever. But I used to work for newspapers, and some things become "trends" only once a writer/editor notices: "So, what is this hip-hop that's sweeping the nation?"