Giving the Graphic Novel a Step Up
I would often wonder why the graphic novel hasn't really made any great strides of late. Sure, many say that the form has reached "legit art" status, but how does that translate to the real world? I'm still waiting for news on a graphic novel that has captured the fancy of a sizeable portion of the populace, not because the work is "important," but because it is vastly meaningful as well as entertaining. The kind of book that people can't help but talk about. The book that mysteriously goads people into telling their friends, "You have GOT to get this book!"
Now I've only read a few non-superhero graphic novels (Blankets, Stuck Rubber Baby, Maus, Midnight Nation), so my views may not hold a lot of water, but the one possibly irrefutable issue against the graphic novel is the price. Graphic novels are expensive! They're more expensive than a movie and a snack combined. A lot of them are more expensive than hardcover novels.
What exacerbates this issue is content, and I refer to the complexity of plot, richness of the writing, and the appeal of the art. I'm also referring to the re-read and pass-on value. In short, how many graphic novels out there are actually worth the price they ask for? Even if I were an enthusiast, I would be hard-pressed to shell out over $15 for a book I could potentially read and absorb in less than an hour. Though the financial aspects of producing a graphic novel would really jack up the retail price, I'd still like to get enough bang for my hard-earned buck.
The best comparison I can think of right now is the novel-turned-film. And we've heard countless times how movie adaptations can't hold a candle against the original material. Movies don't have the luxury of time to cram a 300-page novel into less than two hours of screentime. It is, however, easier to adapt a 100-page graphic novel. Worse, it's easier to add plot and character elements, even enrich the script, that can give the movie adaptation greater depth than the original 100-pager can hope to have.
The worst part would be when people say the movie is richer than the original book. And watching the resulting movie is even cheaper. Ouch.
So the graphic novelist has to work extra hard to deliver a story that won't just satisfy the artistic palate, especially if he intends to pursue this as a career. The product has to feel like a novel, story-wise. It has to have the ingredients, depth, scope, intricacy, and intensity of the common novel. The art and story have to be able to connect viscerally, as well as provide entertainment, to the average reader. It has to be able to stand on its own two--ummm--covers. It has to justify the price tag.
Now if there's a graphic novel out there that satisfies the above criteria, do tell me. I'd really would like to read it, sarcasm not intended.