When I think of graphic novels I think of beautifully complex graphic illustrations, intricately designed artwork full of exuberating colour and detail that takes the reader into a world of vivid adventure. The storyline is just as important, there is no point having amazing visuals and a terrible plot line, these two factors must be succinct in order to be successful.
A graphic novel is similar to comic book, narrated through a sequence of images directing the reader on a journey through actions, dialogue and much needed exposition yet is significantly longer and should be read as a novel with graphic visuals rather than in short episodic segments as one would with a comic book. To read a graphic novel is an experience in itself.
So what makes graphic novels so great?
As a graphic novel enthusiast I regularly visit my local Forbidden Planet in Croydon, wide-eyed and mesmerised by the plethora of graphic literature; like a child in a sweetie shop. Although I am easily amused by the aesthetics of a graphic novel, the storylines are often equipped with witty repartee, catchy phrases and slogans, and usually has an underlining message that reflects the current issues in today’s contemporary society.
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Art Spiegelman’s Maus are just two examples of how a graphic novel can examine societal issues through visual interpretations. The great thing about graphic novels is the emotive response and connection between the reader and the novel. You no longer have to use your imagination to create an idea of the mise-en-scene and character profile as a graphic novel illustrates every emotion, struggle and physical changes in the characters.
Yet it is the superhero and supernatural theme of science fiction genre that most readers would identify with graphic novels. The Superhero theme is a class all on its own and bodes well in comic books and graphic novels as artists can really take full advantage of the action, magic and supernatural elements that become lifelike. DC and Marvel have had huge successes turning comic books into films franchises, with requests for graphic novel special editions and even encyclopaedias. Even film franchises such as Star Wars have converted into graphic novels at the request of popular demand.
I personally prefer Image Comics, Dark Horse and Titan Books as they specialize in publishing graphic novels that aren’t your typical cliché Superhero-Ville storylines and many of the titles published incorporate neo-noir artwork such as Sin City, The Walking Dead and Watchmen.
My latest graphic novel read is Saga published by Image Comics, written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples. Saga is graphic in more ways than one and should be cautioned as an 18 as there are some exceedingly gruesome scenes that may make the weak squeamish. But I guess that is another great thing about graphic novels, the ability to experiment a storyline with artwork.
Unfortunately, many publishers are reluctant to entertain the demand of the graphic novel form, which I believe is a missed opportunity. The cost of creating a graphic novel is a risky investment, managing the quality of paper, colour, print and the use of illustrators, graphic designers and typographers.
Comic Con events are proliferating across the UK, reflecting the increased interest in graphic novels, comic books, manga and anime. One only needs to follow the trending topics on Twitter to see just how influential the graphic novel experience can be.
Here’s a list of the Forbidden Planet’s top 50 graphic novel titles.
India Hosten-Hughes is a MA Publishing student at Kingston University. She’s also a blogger, and graphic novel, manga and anime enthusiast.
For many, design can be seen as a luxury – particularly for publishers who are finding it hard to maintain profit margins. Design for us is our passion. Making books more beautiful is of fundamental importance. However, design (and its processes) has many other functions, and we believe these really matter.
Returning from the Christmas holidays it seemed as if the whole of twitter and his dog had a shiny new adult colouring-in book except for me. With the help of Huck & Pucker, we quickly put that right, and by 5th January, there I was: sat on my sofa on a Friday night colouring away in ‘Keep Calm and Colour for Mums’ – a hobby which will apparently help relaxation, combat stress and improve concentration.
It’s not just the twitterati who were gifted these therapeutic books, the adult colouring book craze has swept across the world. Toronto charity Story Planet charge customers $10 to colour, chat, and mingle in their shop for an evening. The events are selling out fast.
Even IKEA has jumped on the bandwagon. You can now colour-in minimalist Swedish furniture from the comfort of your sofa. The images include everything from kitchenware to sofas, from potted plants to light fixtures. For those of you who find DIY quite stressful, this might be the perfect antidote after an afternoon of wedging screws into holes that don’t seem quite big enough.
Publishers and booksellers have benefited from the craze, with demand driving up book sales by 2% at WHSmith this Christmas for the first time in over 12 years. Business isn’t limited to the physical book space, with Touch Press releasing a colouring-in app from author Millie Marotta, just two weeks ago. There are even young bloggers reviewing colouring-in books, in order to raise awareness of mental illness.
Despite all of this, some question the supposed stress relieving qualities of colouring-in books. In Canada, a recent clinical study run over the course of three days, found that participants’ stress levels actually increased by 40 per cent while they were colouring. Levels of adrenaline, cortisol and noreprinephrine, the three major stress hormones, increased during the study.
Dr. Renne Lynch, the leading researcher for the study, said that the stress increases she saw in the participants of the study were unhealthy. “When the body releases these hormones, it can be harmful, especially when you’re trying to relax”.
Another study, led by Newcastle University, showed quite the opposite. It found that art therapy has greater benefits than puzzles and exercises when it comes to improving memory function. Engaging the brain in new and creative ways may be the key to a sharper ‘younger’ mind. With this in mind, Orion has published: ‘Draw your way to a younger brain’. It contains 30 intricate line drawings of safari animals, with space on the opposite page for copying. On completion, there’s even the opportunity to colour them in.
Dr. Who fans will know that there’s no full series this year – there is a colouring-in book though, and a Doctor Who-themed dot-to-dot book. Not quite the novel experience fans are accustomed to. Is the colouring-in book here to stay? The verdict remains unclear.
Norah Myers works on the editorial side of marketing. She sources narrative non-fiction for an independent publisher and interviews lovely publishing folk for BookMachine. Here, she shares the guide she would follow if she was just setting up a blog for the first time.
When The Bookseller magazine asked me to prognosticate on what 2016 would hold for the publishing industry, I was only too happy to vent my spleen. “The usual deluge of bad novels, cynical tie-ins and instant books,” I replied, “as well as new hordes of publishers jumping on the colouring-book bandwagon.” To the question: “What types of trends in books will it be dominated by?” I offered, through gritted teeth: “Genre fiction, colouring books, erotica, Star Wars-related waffle.” And when the interviewer moved on to YouTubers, I raised my hand and said: “Sorry, I have no idea what YouTubers are.”
As JK Rowling once told a class of Harvard University students, it is impossible to live “without failing at something”. The now hyper-successful author was recounting her early personal (and “epic”) failure, but her message could just as easily be applied to organisations and businesses. The only way to avoid failure, says Rowling, is to live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. Who wants to live, work or publish that way?
Some weeks ago, I was explaining the returns system and how integral it had become to the industry to a friend.
“I get it,” he smiled, “publishing’s built on its broken bits.”
The comment was said without malice, but it gnawed at me. Is publishing really that ‘broken’? I don’t believe it for a minute, but is that naïve idealism, or do we have a real reason to hold out hope for the future?
Are you familiar with the ‘smiling curve’ phenomenon? The details are provided here, but the short explanation is that a smiling curve depicts the value-add potential for each stage of an industry. For example, in the publishing space, you have three stages of content: creation, delivery and discovery. Those three stages are illustrated with a smiling curve here as part of a terrific article from Ben Thompson of Stratechery.
On Saturday, Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist, Nasser Amin challenged the law stating the Egyptian authorities are allowed to imprison writers who publish works that are in ‘violation of the public morals’. The statement was made during the court trial of Ahmed Naji, who had an excerpt of his novel The Use of Life, published in Akhbar al-Adab magazine in August 2014. The piece contained explicit sex acts and made reference to the hashish that was used by the main characters. Under the current law, this is enough for the authorities to jail him.
Publishing is an unusual industry in many ways, yet perhaps the most bizarre of its kinks is the returns system. Under this system, provided certain criteria are met, booksellers of all kinds are able to return unsold books back to their original publisher. The publisher then has to refund their value and either house the overstock or pulp it.
But has the system become more damaging than it is profitable? And where, when no other industry conducts this practice, did it originate?