Comic Book or Graphic Novel?
In the past few years, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of film and television projects that are based on Comic Books or Graphic Novels. So what’s the difference between the two?
Let’s start with physical differences. Comic Books are generally 25-40 pages in length, and are printed on fairly inexpensive paper stock with thin, glossy paper covers and traditionally using only four colors. Graphic Novels are larger, being anywhere from 50 to 150 pages or more. They are usually printed on higher quality glossy paper with covers that are about the thickness of poster board with an expanded color palette.
Comic Books are most commonly published as either ongoing or finite (mini) series. Graphic Novels, however, are generally a self contained story, thus the use of the word novel. Here’s where things get a little fuzzy.
Comic Book series are very often collected into what are called Trade Paperbacks, or Trades. Trades contain 4-6 issues of an ongoing Comic Book series and are printed using the same high quality paper and cover stock as Graphic Novels. Trades can be a great way to read an ongoing series as they are usually a better bargain per page than buying the individual issues.
There’s a trend in Hollywood to say that a project is “Based on the Graphic Novel” when in fact the source material is a Comic Book that may have been collected in a Trade, but was never a Graphic Novel. I wrote about The Walking Dead and it’s a perfect example, many of the TV ads call it a Graphic Novel which it’s not. It is in fact an ongoing Comic Book series that’s currently around issue 77. It has been collected in Trades and it’s probably more popular in that format.
My guess is that Hollywood feels there’s some negative or immature connotation that the Comic Book label may carry, and that they are sidestepping it by using the term Graphic Novel. It’s one of those things that really doesn’t matter all that much, but tends to irk the geek in me. Call it what it is, there’s no shame to be had as long as it’s a well made film project.