Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary















December 7, 2010


Go, Read: Will Eisner And The Provenance Of His Use Of The Descriptive Term "Graphic Novel"

imageDr. Andy Kunka talks about Will Eisner and Jack Katz discussing in a lengthy letters-exchange the term "graphic novel" in a lengthy post followed by some interesting comments at his site. It's a fascinating issue because there are levels of myth surrounding Eisner and the graphic novel: that he created the form, that he created from thin air the term, that he popularized a term that really didn't have much currency before he used it to describe his anthology of short stories A Contract With God. I think the first two are clearly nuke-able in almost casual fashion when they come up in conversation or at a comics convention panel, while the third is more something that's fun to discuss than I think something actually historically important.

My usual crack is that Eisner invented the graphic novel like Christopher Columbus discovered America -- that is to say not at all but the credit he's sometimes given holds within it all sorts of springboards to fascinating conversation about the broad sprawl of how things get innovated in the arts -- although admittedly that's more be trying to be funny than pushing forward some sort of piercing historical insight. Another crack I've heard that made me laugh is someone once saying on a SDCC panel, "Actually, I think the term 'graphic novel' was invented by Ted in Marketing."
 
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