May Contain Graphic Content

Paul Gravett, a comic historian who has worked with comics for over twenty years led the discussion on graphic novels. The term graphic novel was first used in 1964 to distance the genre from the connotations of the term ‘comic’: a form considered to be for children and those with a lesser intelligence, a stigma which has evidently been reducing as the graphic novel has been accepted into the Royal Society of Literature. Paul Gravett used examples of well known novels such as When the Wind blows and Jimmy Corrigan to demonstrate the impact and importance that the graphic novel can have due to its subject and style.


The first speaker from the panel on graphic novels was Dave McKean who has produced many well known graphic novels such as Cages and Mr Punch. Dave discussed the relationship between the words and pictures and the effect a new panel structure and style can have on the story. He believed that in essence graphic novels are “the development of ideas or stories told with visuals”, therefore there are many different styles and signatures possible to the writer and artist.


The next speaker from the panel was Posy Simmonds, a writer for the Guardian who is renowned for novels such as Gemma Bovery. She discussed the way that different shapes or panels affect the story, how gaps in panels or the end of a page create breaks where a finite event can happen. Simmonds also believed that narrative acts as a break so that the reader does not cheat and jump to the ending if there are lots of pictures.


The final speaker was Dan Franklin of Jonathan Cape who had published several works in this medium, including Black Hole and Jimmy Corrigan. Dan Franklin discussed non-fiction graphic novels such as memoirs, highlighting the absence of a suitable term for such novels in a typically fictional genre.


The talk ended with a questions and answers session. This was brought to a close by a question concerning the type of subject matter the panel felt was appropriate for mainstream content, considering the recent Dutch cartoon controversy? Was this appropriate as a subject for cartoons or comics? The panellists attempted to address such issues, alongside the problems involved in subject matter and style in Graphic novels and further discussed what they felt constituted a graphic novel. Many thanks to Posy, Dave, Dan and Paul for a fascinating and detailed discussion.


Report by Hollie Mitchell

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