‘Picture Books’ Aren’t Just for Kids

We’ve already experienced the Golden Age of movies and TVs—are we now in the Golden Age of Graphic Novels? In 2008, a tough year for the book industry, graphic novel (just “comics” or “picture books” to many people) sales went up 5% while most other book sales were going in the opposite direction.

Appearing more often in bookstores than niche comic stores, the Graphic Novel genre is gaining a footing with book lovers around the world. In France, graphic novels are considered to be the 9th major art genre, and in Japan a majority of the people are fans. While the United States is slower to catch on, our attitudes are moving in that direction, too.

Graphic novels are unique in that they’re almost impossible to define. Not just fiction, heart-wrenching and true stories can be told in this mix of words and text, like the award winning Maus ( memoir about surviving the Holocaust.

Self-proclaimed graphic novel addict (yes, the books are her “drugs”) Betsy Mitchell has found her niche in publishing as the Editor-in-Chief at Del Rey Books. Mitchell believes graphic novels do influence culture and in this “Golden Age” are being seen everywhere from the checkout counter to the silver screen. From Superman to Watchmen to The Road to Perdition, all films can also be viewed on the page in the form of graphic novels.

While graphic novels are a distinct category in publishing, they’re facing many of the same issues as other genres. The graphic novel audience is largely online and wants content available on the screen. E-readers aren’t an issue at this point, since there is no color option and poor image capabilities, but piracy is a problem. Also, while trendy and increasing in sales, the titles are still expensive to produce, with high creative and content costs of up to $600 per page. In Japan, graphic novels have been successful on cell phones, with images being sent to a cell phone one at a time. This model is something that may happen in the United States as the genre continues to gain popularity here.

While the future is uncertain, graphic novels are currently a healthy genre. Librarians, often gatekeepers to content, love the genre, as it appeals to an audience that isn’t always very literate. This genre allows children that don’t necessarily like reading a traditional book to escape into the realm of make-believe through pictures combined with text.

Mitchell believes that everyone should give the graphic novels a try, even if you’re not a traditional comic book reader. The three key titles that Mitchell believes will whet your appetite are Watchmen, Persepolis, and Maus.

Next time you find yourself wandering a bookstore waiting for something to strike you, look around for some often highly colored, unique-sized graphic novels to take home with you. Not only will you be ‘on trend,’ but you may be surprised at how much you enjoy “picture books,” aka comics or graphic novels.

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