As earlier reported The July 11th 2004 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured an in-depth cover story on the graphic novel medium by former New York Times Book Review Editor Charles McGrath. Titled How Cool Is Comics Lit?, McGrath notes that the movement of “literary graphic novels” has much better distribution “thanks in part to two enterprising publishers, Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal and Fantagraphics in Seattle.”
At New York Times online, audio interviews with Joe Sacco, Chester Brown, Seth and Chris Ware are available accompanied by a slide show of samples of some of their work a photos.
Chester Brown provided a great cover for the issue that continues inside [it’s a comic strip of course]. It’s also garnished with a full-page photo of Seth, Tomine, Brown and Sacco, along with Art Spiegelman taken on his roof top patio. And a page from Seth’s new graphic novel Clyde Fans is also reprinted. D+Q publisher Chris Oliveros as well as D+Q cartoonists Seth, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown, Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, Julie Doucet, Debbie Drechsler, and Joe Matt are all included in the long and extensive piece.
“…perhaps the most seminal piece of journalism ever devoted to graphic novels.” – Peggy Burns, D&Q publicity.
Overstating? I’m still reading it right now but so far maybe not. Judge for yourself, the entire article with artwork and audio interviews can all be found online right now on the Nytimes site here…
Update: Ok, having read this now My two cents on it: Good spotlight on the medium, though skewed to a perception of the field that only really looks at work of a drafted liner nature, mostly using rigged page designs and older established conventions of comics syntax. It favours work that falls under some vaguely suggested parameters of ‘literary’ and suggests to exclude the work of artist who tell more fantasy/adventure driven plots, do not use line and caricature exclusively or otherwise more strictly constrained work and whom think outside of the box in regards to layout and page design. Hence, in part i think, this at the end…
“…Sacco’s example notwithstanding, this is a medium probably not well suited to lyricism or strong emotion…”
I could not disagree more. But I understand why he might think this, given the previously mentioned skew. Many many people will probably and already have disagreed with this quite strongly. Proof of a statement of taste rather than of form.
And The group style represented for the most part by this article is hardly the only group worthy of note as liturature. Not that the work talked about is unworthy of any of the praise given.
There are other skews to this article, such as the downplaying/deminishing of the roll of women in the field, though this is at least acknowledged in part, self excused by sighting the lack of acclaim for them as a group. But This is used to highlight a personality profile for “the typical graphic novelist” which great hay is made of. Male, troubled child hood, sexual issues and frustration, parental problems, antisocial, obsessive & etc. Good Grief!
My final reservation is that ultimately, it’s unspoken summery is still “comics? They’re not just for kids you know”
Unavoidable for now I suppose in the mainstream media. It’ll be sometime before they are just talked about as something that IS, rather than insisted upon as something other than what you may think they are.
But even with all that, on the whole a good article if for no other reason than that it is what it is where it is when it is. Regardless of it’s flaws it can only help for the most part bring more attention to the medium. This is a good thing.
Not unexpectedly, the article has resulted in a quite a lot of thinking about comics outside the comix community, and inside it a lot of general debate about it’s merits and broader benefit or detriment to the medium.
To begin, one of the bigger the coffee klatch’s of the literary/indy/alt/art comics world, TCJ message boards has sprouted a lengthy thread on the topic. From wringing hands to manifestos many different points of view have been posted there. The Beat has an editorial on the subject – one with which I musty agree. The fields own self effacing tendencies is often it’s biggest enemy. Publisher Jamie S. Rich [oni] posts his very well put two cents on his blog here, fellow publisher Jennifer de Guzman contemplates the flaws in McGrath’s logic here and the evolution of the medium here. Writer Roscarik Rikki Simons takes em’ out back for his dismissal of Manga, and there’s more considered discussion can be found here at barbelith.com, and extensively at Slash dot here
And finally, if you really want to get into it, go to ATFAQ where Sean has been tracking the thing in more depth than anyone I think, as part of a project tilted Toward a philosophy of the funnybook.
And etc: Spending entirely to much time with other cartoonists i think it’s safe to say that to some degree or another a lot of the traits of the profile suggested do show up….but then, they show up in all the people I meet regardless if their field.
It’s annoying and belittling I find. In order to legitimize the “literary” comics world he felt the need to make such an issue of their personality. Obviously the literary world is as distracted by the cult of the persona as the rest of the world, no great surprise. But still we await the day when an article talks JUST about the work. And with the choice conditionals added to this article, I’m not so sure he’s really acclaiming the medium, so much as a ‘few flowers he’s found in a patch of weeds.’
A happy reasonably well adjusted graphic novelist.