Sunday, August 22, 2010

Call them Comic... What?

In one of his recent posts, Matt Blind outlines the problem the New York Times has trying to categorize Comic Books. They simply can’t distinguish the subtle differences between Graphic Books, Graphic Novels, Newspaper comic collections, Manga, and to a lesser extent, Children’s books. (Books with a few illustrations in them don’t suffer from this distinction)

He laid down the origin of the term, laying down how it could be possibly misunderstood, and how everybody who isn’t a devoted reader of said comics can misconstrue the terminology. In the end, the form is the same - it’s just how it’s named that’s constantly mangled.

I then posted the following comment, which I think is good enough to be repeated here:

With all the hyperbole attached to the usage of Graphic Novels, I wonder why no one’s ever tried to coin the phrase “Comic Paperback”. It fits the same dimensions that “Comic book” popularized, without having to contend for the same field. After all, most Manga trades could fall under the term “Comic Paperback” without losing their meaning.

More serious books could be categorized under “Comic Hardcover”, though those would be more likely to be more expensive, not to mention larger. It’s also annoying that Marvel & DC keep trying to pentrate the bookstore market by releasing Hardcover versions of their trades, then only releasing the softcover long after the hype has passed. If they put out softcovers in tandem with their competitor’s works, there could be a common ground to work with, even if the subject material is different. As long as the form is similar enough, categorizing them under a new heading should be sufficient.

Of course, it may take awhile for the term “Comic Paperback” to catch on. Just look at how long it took for the clunky “Graphic Novel” nomier to grab hold. However, if more people start using it, it can become part of the languagescape, even as die-hards rally against it for demaning “their” work with inconsistent terminology (such as when comic books were commonly called pamphlets or floppies), but surely wiser heads shall prevail.

In addition to the above, there’s the counterargument that people might confuse “Comic Paperback” with Humour novels. But truthfully told, can you think of any “Comic Novels” that’s been released recently that would fit that category? Although there’s a humour section in the bookstore, other than Newspaper comics, they’re more likely to be filled with humourous ancedotes and jokes than tell a humourous narative for a sustained amount of time. With the possible exception of Douglas Adams, one goes out to create the Great American Novel without having it belong to a well-respected genre.

Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, Pulp, Crime, Romance, Horror, War, Suspense, Drama, Autobiography. All of these genres have been respectable and looked down at one point. The more creative writers will find a way to combine two or more of these into their stories. But there’s never just a singular Humour book. If there’s nothing in it but jokes without a point, it defeats the purpose of writing a humour novel in the first place. If you’re just going to tell funny stories without a purpose (other than having fun), you won’t be respected in the publishing world. More than anything, humour is light poking at truth in a way that makes sense. No one is going to confuse a humour book with a 100 joke book.

I vote to make it a task to put the term “Comic Paperback” into the general populace. I’ll repeat the terminology as often as chance allows in the hope of it catching on. Is there anybody else who thinks the same?

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