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Graphic Novels in the Baylor University Libraries: Home

Definition of Graphic Novel

According to the The Oxford English Dictionary online [A.] 7. graphic novel, a full-length (esp. science fiction or fantasy) story published as a book in comic-strip format.

1978 W. EISNER (title) A contract with God: and other tenement stories... A graphic novel. 1983 N.Y. Times 5 Aug. C20/3 The second will focus on ‘graphic novels’, such as ‘Tintin’ and ‘Asterix’, which are selling up a storm throughout the world. 1986 Chicago Tribune 28 Aug. V. 1/5 One-shot ‘graphic novels’, printed on high-quality paper and retailing for, in some cases, upwards of $10. 1990 Rolling Stone 22 Mar. 76/4 Catalogs from America's finest comics publishers, featuring stunning European graphic novels.

More definitions

Snowball, C. (2006). "Graphic novels: telling tales visually" Synergy, 4(2), 18-22.

What are graphic novels?

There is much discussion on the exact definition of a graphic novel and the differences between graphic novels, comics and comic books. Joe Sacco, author and illustrator of a number of non-fiction graphic novels, prefers the term comic book to graphic novel (Reynolds, 2005), probably because non-fiction graphic novel is an oxymoron.

For my research, I am using the definition of librarian Steve Raiteri. A graphic novel is ‘any trade paperback or hardcover book consisting of work in comic-book form’ (Raiteri, 2002, p.148). This includes book-length stories, collections of stories and works of non-fiction. This does not include collections of comic strips such as Garfield or Peanuts.

Graphics novels are a format, rather than a genre (Kan, 2003). They include many different genres and are thus accessible to a wide range of readers (Goldsmith, 2005).


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