Origins and History of Graphic Novel
While the tradition of binding comic strips into hard or soft cover books goes back to the 18th century, the first graphic novels as we know them appeared in the 1930s, although at the time they were not referred to by that name. In the 1940s a series of softcover books that used illustrations and “speech bubbles” to adapt classic literary works appeared and by the forties and fifties famous comic book superheroes along with freestanding noir stories marketed to adults were introduced in “novel” format, meaning that a cohesive tale with a beginning, middle and end was told within one volume.
In Japan, its country of origin, “manga” refers to illustrated comic books, newspaper cartoons, cut sheets and graphic novels. Manga is different than anime, which by definition is always animated. In the classic style manga characters display certain characteristics instantly recognizable to fans or casual viewers, including large eyes, reduced facial features and line-drawn mouths. While many manga books are designed and marketed with children in mind, several titles include adult themes including death, destruction, murder and mayhem. Parental discretion is advised.
Graphic Novels Today
Recent years have seen an upsurge in the creation and sale of graphic novels. While the form may have originated with the creators of comic strips, today’s talented writers and illustrators are crafting books with themes that range from memoir to science fiction and fantasy books. Educators have extolled the virtues of kid-friendly graphic novels as implements that encourage children to read. Critics agree that the best graphic novels are those that employ sophisticated story lines, original artwork and often daring premises while illuminating important themes.