Comic or Graphic Novel? A Brief Primer on Terms

“It’s a marketing term. . . . The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book.’ Because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, [publishers would] 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, you know?”

–Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and other acclaimed long-form comics, in a 2000 interview on

A lot of people ask me what the difference is between a comic and a graphic novel. In simple terms, a graphic novel is a comic with more “literary” goals than most serial comics. In the same interview cited above, Moore also lists “density, structure, size, scale, [and] seriousness of theme” as some of the qualities that might lead someone to classify a comic as a graphic novel instead. Continue reading “Comic or Graphic Novel? A Brief Primer on Terms”

Biff! Bam! Pow! Color Dukes It Out with Black and White

Originally published on November 11, 2013

Last post’s review of “Marble Season” by Gilbert Hernandez was my first write-up of a black and white comic—which made me realize how little I’ve been representing this seminal and diverse world.

Black and white comics are the foundation on which the genre has been built. What most of us define as comics were first published in newspapers before the age of color printing—as well as later, when color printing was expensive and rationed to pages more important than the Sunday “funnies.”

Printing in color has become much more affordable for small presses, a shift in production crucial to the current comics zeitgeist. Many recent comics bestsellers push color to the limits of its possibilities, creating rich, bright and complicated scenes. Here are images from three works I reviewed in earlier posts, Marguerite Abouet’s “Aya” series, illustrated by Clement Oubrerie; Chris Ware’s “Building Stories”; and Lucy Knisley’s “Relish”:




Continue reading “Biff! Bam! Pow! Color Dukes It Out with Black and White”

Visceral Comics, Part 2

Originally published on September 16, 2013

Last post I focused on the spaces in Chris Ware’s book-in-a-box called “Building Stories,” and the way that those spaces bring the reader into the story. I could write about Ware for the next few months, but for now, since I’ve already made the case that Ware’s work is as significant as literature like “Infinite Jest” and “Remembrance of Things Past,” I’ll discuss his significance within North American visual history, mainly by analyzing his work alongside the landscape paintings of Grant Wood.

Fuzzy on who Grant Wood is? Here’s his best-known piece, “American Gothic,” from 1930.


Continue reading “Visceral Comics, Part 2”