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Author Topic:   The history of the term "graphic novel" . . .
Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 20, 2003 12:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Does anyone here know what work, if any, has been done to trace the history of the term "graphic novel"? The earliest appearance of the term "graphic novel" in print that I've seen is on the inside front dustcover of Bloodstar (1976) by Richard Corben and Robert E. Howard:
quote:
BLOODSTAR

A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY ADVENTURE IN WORDS AND PICTURES

ILLUSTRATED AND ADAPTED BY RICHARD CORBEN
ORIGINAL STORY BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

BLOODSTAR is a new, revolutionary concept--a graphic novel, which combines all the imagination and visual power of comic strip art with the richness of the traditional novel. Master of fantasy literature, Robert E. Howard, creates a mythic land of fantastic thrills and high adventure which comes to life through the dazzling illustrations of world renoun [sic] comic strip artist, Richard Corben. Together they bring you one of the greatest science fiction-fantasies of all times. [....]



Although I seriously doubt the people at Morningstar Press (the original publishers of BLOODSTAR) coined the term "graphic novel," I'm interested to know who did. But let me be clear: what I'm looking for here is not oral history but nominations for the earliest printed reference to "graphic novels."

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 20, 2003 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
Martin Vaughn-James' "The Cage" (1975) is subtitled "a visual novel." Not quite the same thing, but close.

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 20, 2003 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
Oh damn, I forgot to make a snotty remark.

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 20, 2003 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Yes, "visual novel" is close, but I say, no cigar.

Here's the main reason why I'm curious. In a recent article entitled "The Graphic Novel Diamond Jubilee" (Friday, Nov. 14, 2003), columnist Andrew D. Arnold tells the following story:

quote:
Will Eisner's "A Contract with God," published in 1978, gets the credit for being the first graphic novel. "It was intended as a departure from the standard, what we call 'comic book format,'" Will Eisner recently told TIME.comix. "I sat down and tried to do a book that would physically look like a 'legitimate' book and at the same time write about a subject matter that would never have been addressed in comic form, which is man's relationship with God." There wasn't even a name for such a thing at the time so Eisner had to come up with his own, spontaneous sleight-of-hand marketing. "[The phrase] 'graphic novel' was kind of accidental," Eisner said. While pitching the book to an important trade-book editor in New York, says Eisner, "a little voice inside me said, 'Hey stupid, don't tell him it’s a comic or he'll hang up on you.' So I said, 'It's a graphic novel.'" Though that particular editor wasn't swayed by the semantics, dismissing the book as "comics," a small publisher eventually took the project and put the phrase "A Graphic Novel" prominently on the jacket, thereby cementing the term permanently into the lexicon.

Now, if Eisner really coined the term "graphic novel" in reference to a book that was published in 1978, what was the term doing on the dust jacket of Bloodstar, published two years earlier, in 1976. And anyway, Arnold's claim is that A Contract with God gets the nod as the first graphic novel, so labelled, which is clearly not the case.

It interesting to note that Eisner was, at the time, actually a self-professed fan and follower of Corben's work,* which means it is not out of the realm of possibility that he picked up the term from reading the Morningstar Bloodstar hardcover! Given the actual publication history, this makes more sense to me than Eisner's story, but maybe there's an explanation of how the term jumped from Eisner's meeting with a trade-book editor in New York to the cover of Bloodstar. Anyone?

-----

* See the introduction to The Odd Comic World of Richard Corben (Warren, 1977), wherein the author, Will Eisner, states: "I have watched Corben's work for some time now, awed by his enormous imaginatin, composition, capacity for story telling, draftsmanship and technical virtuosity."

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 20, 2003 02:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Hey, if I'm not mistaken, this topic has just inspired a entirely separate and self-contained parody topic. I feel so proud!

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 21, 2003 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
According to the Web Page Graphic novels in the Merril Collection, "[t]he term 'graphic novel' was probably invented by Milt Gross (1895-1953)."

"Probably"? Why "probably"? More anecdotal oral history, I guess. No evidence required.

In "The Publication and Formats of Comics, Graphic Novels, and Tankobon," an article published in Image [&] Narrative, Chris Couch repeats the same old story: "The term 'graphic novel' was coined by Will Eisner with the publication of A Contract with God in 1978."

And Neil Adams "is, simply put, one of the greatest draftsmen this country has ever produced."

And NBM was "First to publish fully painted graphic novels with the sell-out launch of 'The Mercenary' by Spaniard Vicente Segrelles (1985)."

And so on.

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R. Fiore
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posted November 21, 2003 01:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for R. Fiore   Click Here to Email R. Fiore      Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Benjamin D. Brucke:
"Probably"? Why "probably"? More anecdotal oral history, I guess. No evidence required.

Probably because it was the earliest citation they could find, but this didn't rule out the possibility that there might be an earlier one they didn't find. The citation and its date are the evidence.

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 21, 2003 02:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
quote:
The citation and its date are the evidence.

Exactly so. Now all we need is the Milt Gross citation and its date, and Milt Gross will get the tentative nod as the originator of the term "graphic novel." But until then . . .

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 22, 2003 10:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
quote:
Here's Andrew Arnold's latest (scroll down to the "Readers Respond" section):
The First What?
A few readers, none of whom wished to be identified, sought issue with the 25th anniversary concept of the article, pegged to the use of the term "A Graphic Novel" on the cover of Will Eisner's "A Contract with God." Some dissenters pointed out that long-form graphic books such as Osamu Tezuka's "Metropolis" pre-date Eisner's work. Another reader took issue with the term's first appearance, citing a Richard Corben book published two years before Eisner's that uses the phrase "graphic novel" on the inside dust jacket. Without doubt both the etymology of the term "graphic novel" and the origins of the form are debatable. Art Spiegelman spoke of first seeing the term in the early 1960s among fanzines. "There was a man named Bill Spicer who did a thing called 'Graphic Story Magazine'," Spiegelman says, "And one of the things being discussed in those books was the possibility of a comic book story that could partake of the qualities of a novel. So the phrase sort of was kicking around." For the record, Eisner admits, "graphic novel" had been coined prior to his book but that, "I had not known at the time that someone had used that term before." Nor does he take credit for creating the first graphic book. Citing the silent picture stories of Lynd Ward, Eisner admits that, "I can't claim to have invented the wheel, but I felt I was in a position to change the direction of comics." My argument is that Eisner's book, published outside the comic book system and pretty clearly the first comix work deliberately aspiring to literary status, by having the term on the front cover, crystallized the concept of a "graphic novel."


So I guess we're all gonna stop repeating the story that Eisner coined the term "graphic novel" now, right?

(See, for instance, the article I cited earlier by Chris Couch, as well as the following glossary entry in The Comic Book by Paul Sassienie:

quote:
graphic nove Coined by Will Eisner in the late 1970s, it describes a hard- or soft-back comic book of high quality reproduction. It has come to mean new work rather than reprints. See 'trade paperback'.

)

ANYway, what about Arnold's argument that A Contract with God "crystallized" or "defined" the term "graphic novel"? Before I'm misinterpreted, let me say right now that, yes, A Contract with God was an important and influential book, and did in fact do a great deal to "crystallize" or "define" the term "graphic novel." It's interesting to note, however, that like A Contract with God, Bloodstar was published outside the comic book system (by a company based in Kansas City), it was explictly promoted on the dustjacket as a "graphic novel," and it "deliberately" aspired to "literary status" ("BLOODSTAR is a new, revolutionary concept--a graphic novel, which combines all the imagination and visual power of comic strip art with the richness of the traditional novel."). Furthermore, Bloodstar was one long story (not a series of short stories), it was originally published in hardcover (in an edition of 5000 copies), and it was successful enough to be printed in softcover in 1979 by a mainstream publisher, Arial Books.

"Crystallized" . . . "defined the term" . . . okay, maybe . . . but notice how Bloodstar--despite its ambition, clear labelling as a "graphic novel," and success in the marketplace--doesn't rate even a mention in the official history of "graphic novels." Why? If I had to venture a guess, I'd say because Corben's book doesn't quite fit the story these people--Arnold, Couch, and others--want to tell about how "graphic novels" were and are serious stories for serious people. The first graphic-novel-to-be identified-as-a-graphic-novel a fantasy by Richard Corben and Robert E. Howard? Well, dammit all anyway, that's just embarassing . . .

Regarding the coinage question, Spiegelman's point about Bill Spicer's Graphic Story Magazine is a good one. Maybe Bill Spicer's the man! "Graphic Story" is pretty damn close . . .

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 22, 2003 10:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Before someone else has a chance to point it out, here's the corrected quotation:
quote:
graphic novel Coined by Will Eisner in the late 1970s, it describes a hard- or soft-back comic book of high quality reproduction. It has come to mean new work rather than reprints. See 'trade paperback'.

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 22, 2003 12:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Another (possible) link in the chain of usage: according to this page, something or other (probably an illustration*) by Richard Corben appeared in issue #15 of Spicer's Graphic Story Magazine (Summer 1973)--which (if it's true) would mean that Corben definitely was familiar with the term "graphic story" before the term "graphic novel" was used (for the first time ever in print? for the first time ever on/in a comics album?) on the cover of Bloodstar (1976).

-----
* Fat Cat Books - What's New:

quote:
Graphic Story Magazine #15 Summer 1973 - Gahan Wilson feature and Harry Harrison interview. Slick, lots of illustrations. $6.00

-----

I didn't realize this, but the term "graphic story" seems to have been pretty popular in the late '60s and early '70s. For instance, in addition to a partial run of Bill Spicer's Graphic Story Magazine, the Inge Collection of Comic Art reference Journals has the following:

quote:
Graphic Story World

Newsletter published quarterly covering comics books, comix, animated film, and international interests. Features editors from France, Australia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Sweden in mostly column format. Expands into a magazine format by issue #5.

Issues: Vol. 1 #1, 2, 4 Vol. 2 #1 - 4

Dates: May 1971 - December 1972

[and]

Wonder World: The World of the Graphic Story

Magazine dedicated to publishing graphic stories focused at adults. It features comics, articles, commentary, news and advertisements.

Issue: Vol. 3 #2 (November 1973)



So, the term "graphic novel" was derived from "graphic story," which in turn was derived from "graphic art"?

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Domingos
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posted November 23, 2003 01:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Domingos   Click Here to Email Domingos      Reply w/Quote
What can I add, but say: thanks for a fascinating thread. No one seems to know shit about this subject though. I'm going to quote you from now on.

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Domingos
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posted November 23, 2003 01:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Domingos   Click Here to Email Domingos      Reply w/Quote
The next question is: who coined "graphic story". He he, it never ends...

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 23, 2003 02:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
According to Jones & Jacobs, "The Comic Book Heroes," p. 116, "Richard Kyle... invented the terms 'graphic story' and 'graphic novel' for works that deserved better than 'comics'." The time is unspecified, but clearly before 1967, as the next sentence refers to "Bill Spicer, whose subsequent Graphic Story Magazine (1967)..."

Then there's Steranko's take:
http://newsarama.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=4576

Discussing his "Red Tide" (1976), he says:

"The words "Visual Novel" appear on Red Tide's cover; the term "Graphic Novel" appears inside the book. I'm not even suggesting I created it, but it was used in the book and in promotional material before publication."

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 23, 2003 02:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
And remember that Rodolphe Topffer (add an umlaut there) called his comics "litterature en estampes" or "histoires en estampes," which basically means "graphic stories," and this back in the 1830's.

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Jaz Williams
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posted November 23, 2003 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jaz Williams   Click Here to Email Jaz Williams      Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Andrei Molotiu:
According to Jones & Jacobs, "The Comic Book Heroes," p. 116, "Richard Kyle... invented the terms 'graphic story' and 'graphic novel' for works that deserved better than 'comics'."

I was wondering who to blame for the self-conscious attitude toward the term "comic book"... I HATE the phrase "graphic novel"!

Having spent years working in a large bookstore that gets plenty of comics-buying activity, I've learned how much even the non-comics-enthusiast public has latched onto the term... Some parent will ask on behalf of their five-year-old for any YU GI OH or DRAGON BALL Z books, and I tell them there's plenty of "comic book" versions of such, take them to the section, and the reply is, "Oh, these aren't comic books, they're graphic novels! I've heard these aren't appropriate for younger readers--is that true?" Yow!

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PatrickRosenkranz
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posted November 23, 2003 12:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for PatrickRosenkranz   Click Here to Email PatrickRosenkranz      Reply w/Quote
Don't forget Beyond Time and Again by George Metzger (1976) and Comanche Moon by Jaxon, which was begun in comic book form in 1977 and collected in a paperback edition in in 1979. Only Jaxon says, it's not a novel, it's non fiction.

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Domingos
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posted November 23, 2003 12:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Domingos   Click Here to Email Domingos      Reply w/Quote
This thread is about the history of the term "graphic novel", not about what's the first graphic novel.

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JackieEstrada
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posted November 23, 2003 06:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JackieEstrada      Reply w/Quote
Metzger's "Beyond Time and Again" is subtitled "A Graphic Novel" and was published by Richard Kyle, who has often claimed to have coined the term.

Jackie Estrada

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 23, 2003 07:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Domingos, for the positive comments, and thanks, Andrei, Patrick, and Jackie for the additional information. Might be a good idea at this point to provide a quick summary of where we're at:

First Graphic Novel (so labelled):

  • Bloodstar (1976) by Richard Corben and Robert E. Howard (see inside front dust-cover of book) and/or
  • Red Tide (1976) by James Steranko (see "inside the book"; see also "promotional material" for the book)
  • Beyond Time and Again (1976) by George Metzger (see cover [the book is subtitled "a graphic novel"]; published by Richard Kyle, "who has often claimed to have coined the term")
(Turns out 1976 was some kinda big year for "graphic novels"! It's a wonder nobody has noticed before now. Or maybe somebody has . . . )

Originator of the term "graphic novel":

  • Richard Kyle (nominated by Jones & Jacobs, "The Comic Book Heroes"; also nominated by Kyle himself, who published George Metzger's Beyond Time and Again, which is subtitled "a graphic novel")
  • Someone involved in the production and promotion of Bloodstar and/or Red Tide (this doesn't seem likely; or is it? LOL!)
  • Bill Spicer (nominated by Art Spiegelman; no citation available)
  • Milt Gross (nominated by whoever wrote this page; no citation available, but I have written to the owners of the site to request the citation, so watch this topic for breaking news! LOL!)

Originator of the term "graphic story":
  • Bill Spicer (nominated by Art Spiegelman (?); see any issue of "Graphic Story Magazine"; doesn't seem likely)
  • Rodolphe Topffer ("graphic story" was a translation of "litterature en estampes" or "histoires en estampes"; see next category)

Originator of the term "litterature en estampes" or "histoires en estampes"
  • Rodolphe Topffer (add an umlaut there; nominated by Andrei Molotiu; no specific citation available, but Molotiu claims Topffer's usage of the term dates back to the 1830s)

Hope I haven't forgotten anything. I'll probably see the mistakes right after I post the message. Don't it always seem to go . . .
quote:
Posted November 23, 2003 10:22 AM by Jaz Williams
I was wondering who to blame for the self-conscious attitude toward the term "comic book"... I HATE the phrase "graphic novel"!


Yeah, lots of people feel your pain. Alan Moore has argued that "graphic novel" is nothing more than a marketing term, and it's difficult to disagree. (If I remember correctly, Moore prefers "graphic story.") Trouble is, as you say, lots of people are using "graphic novel," and making claims about who coined the term "graphic novel," and who published the first book labelled "a graphic novel," etc., etc.
quote:
Posted November 23, 2003 12:28 PM by Domingos:
This thread is about the history of the term "graphic novel", not about what's the first graphic novel.


I certainly don't want to discourage people from participating in this little hunt--in fact, the more people who participate, the better chance we have of pinning a few of these things down--but Domingos is right, this thread is not about the definition of "graphic novel" or about what might be the "first" graphic novel. It's about tracing the career of the term "graphic novel."

More later.

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 23, 2003 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
To be more specific: Topffer wrote in his "Essai de physiognomonie [sic]" of 1845 (my translation):

"One can write stories with chapters, lines, and words: that is literature, proper. One can write stories with successions of scenes represented graphically (successions de scenes representees graphiquement): that is literature in prints (litterature en estampes). One can also do neither one nor the other, which is sometimes the best thing."

Writing in 1837 about his book "M. Jabot," Topffer discusses how it is a mixture of words and images working together, then says: "The whole ensemble forms a kind of novel (roman), that much more original since it doesn't anymore ressemble a novel than anything else." (Both citations from 1996 Slatkine edition of Topffer's complete graphic works, first page of introduction, which is otherwise unpaginated). In the intro, Francois Caradec also claims that Topffer called them "histoires en estampes," but does not give a specific quote.

BTW, I should point out that it was David Kunzle who, at the 2003 ICAF, claimed that "histoire en estampes" can basically be translated as "graphic novel." That's what I was thinking of in my previous post, but I just remembered the Kunzle reference today.

In any case, already in the 1830's, Topffer was calling his works "novels," said they were "represented graphically," and called them "stories in prints."

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 23, 2003 08:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
Oh, also, I found an 1867 biography of Topffer which calls his graphic works "albums" (in French), maybe the first use of that term as applied to comics...

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 24, 2003 07:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
More good info, Andrei! But one bit you posted raises a couple of questions for me. You wrote:
quote:
BTW, I should point out that it was David Kunzle who, at the 2003 ICAF, claimed that "histoire en estampes" can basically be translated as "graphic novel."

Now, if the translation of "histoire en estampes" (Google translation: "history in prints" ) as "graphic novel" has only recently been suggested (in 2003!), then the English term couldn't have derived from the French term, could it? To begin to make the case, wouldn't one have to find at least one example of an English translation of "histoire en estampes" as "graphic novel" that predates the appearance of "graphic novel" as an independent term in English? (So far as I can tell, the earliest verified citations we have for "graphic novel" are from 1976.)

Just wondering . . .

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JackieEstrada
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posted November 24, 2003 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for JackieEstrada      Reply w/Quote
If I recall correctly, it was in Bill Spicer's "Graphic Story Magazine" that Richard Kyle wrote about graphic novels. So that reference to Bill Spicer is actually to Kyle.

Jackie Estrada

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 24, 2003 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
quote:
If I recall correctly, it was in Bill Spicer's "Graphic Story Magazine" that Richard Kyle wrote about graphic novels. So that reference to Bill Spicer is actually to Kyle.

That's a great lead, Jackie. Now it's Google to the rescue. In his column "Master of the Obvious" (Wednesday August 13, 2003, Issue #100), Steven Grant writes:
quote:
Whether or not you accept or dismiss the idea that Will [Eisner] created the first "graphic novel," REINVENTING COMICS clearly suggests Will coined the term, which, as far as I know, was coined in the late '60s by one of Bill Spicer's FANTASY ILLUSTRATED crew (Richard Kyle, I think) as demonstrated in an interview with Alex Toth from the Spring 1969 issue of GRAPHIC STORY MAGAZINE:
[quote]INTERVIEWER: Someday graphic novels will take up where comic books are leaving off, but what about the artist who has to sit down and drawn them? If someone came to you with a 200 page pictorial novel to illustrate, and if the money was okay, do you think you'd be interested?

[b]TOTH:[\b] I'd probably blow my brains out. It could be done, and there are plenty of guys around who could and would do it. But I'd rather have twenty 10 page stories than one 200 page story... this graphic novel concept frightens me... If they would reach into new subject areas, maybe graphic novels will happen as dollar or two dollar softcovers in black & white or color. The medium deserves a better shake than it's gotten from its practitioners who're making it go on the way it's been going down...


[/quote]
If Richard Kyle is indeed the "INTERVIEWER," then he's clearly got the best claim yet to the "Who coined the term 'graphic novel'?" no-prize.

And good on ya, Steven "I do my homework" Grant! Maybe we'll all have to quote you from now on!

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 24, 2003 11:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
And it looks like Milt Gross is out of the running. According to a Reference Librarian with the Merril Collection of SF, the Web page on which the claim that Milt Gross probably coined the term "graphic novel" appeared was written by a former staff member and seems to have been misquoted from the source material. The reference to Milt Gross came from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls (New York : St. Martin's Press, 1995, c1993), in the article on GRAPHIC NOVELS, pp. 515-516. Here's the relevant paragraph:
quote:
Though comic-derived tales - like He Done Her Wrong: The Great American Novel: And Not a Word in it - No Music, Too (1930) by Milt Gross (1895-1953) - were not uncommon from an early date, the term "graphic novel" was coined, possibly by the author himself, to describe what was itself in fact a collection of linked stories, A Contract with God (graph. 1978) by Will Eisner (1917- ), but it did not become a widely used label until the release of a strangely ill matched trio -- Maus (1980-1985 RAW, graph. 1987) by Art Spiegelman (1948- ), WATCHMEN (1986-7; graph. 1987) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986; graph. 1986) by Frank Miller - raised the profile of the serious narrative comic book and, in large part because of the low prestige of the comic-book medium, instigated a commercial need for a distinguishing term ("Adult Comic" had already been taken by comics with explicit sexual content).

Of course, we now know that even if the person who wrote the Web page on the Merril Collection site had been faithful to this source material and credited Will Eisner, he or she would have been wrong.

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 24, 2003 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Benjamin D. Brucke:

Now, if the translation of "histoire en estampes" (Google translation: "history in prints" ) as "graphic novel" has only recently been suggested (in 2003!), then the English term couldn't have derived from the French term, could it? To begin to make the case, wouldn't one have to find at least one example of an English translation of "histoire en estampes" as "graphic novel" that predates the appearance of "graphic novel" as an independent term in English? (So far as I can tell, the earliest verified citations we have for "graphic novel" are from 1976.)

Just wondering . . .



I didn't say Kunzle in 2003 was the first to make that connection, just that that was the instance I personally remembered. Since some of Topffer's pieces were translated into English in the 19th c., it would be interesting to see what those were referred to as. Nevertheless, there probably isn't any continuity from Topffer to Richard Kyle and 1976. I guess there's a difference between "first instance," period (not that Topffer is that, but he does approach it), "first instance in English," and "first instance in English as part of a continuing tradition that leads in a straight line to the present-day usage of the term."

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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 24, 2003 11:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
from Andrew Arnold's current column at Time.com--a letter from R.C. Harvey responding to Arnold's previous column, on the supposed "25th anniversary of the graphic novel":
quote:
I have no. 909 of the 1,500 copies of the first edition of Eisner's "A Contract with God." It is a handsome hardback book. No dust jacket. And nowhere on the cover or title page or, even, in Will's introductory remarks does the term "graphic novel" appear. Since the publication of this seminal work, the term "graphic novel" has come into more widespread use than it enjoyed then in 1978, and in subsequent editions of the book, apparently insinuated itself onto the cover. But it wasn't there on the first edition; so the first appearance of "A Contract with God" did not, ipso facto, inaugurate the use of the term "graphic novel." The term "graphic novel," as it applies to the "long form comic book," was originally coined in November 1964 by Richard Kyle in a newsletter circulated to all members of the Amateur Press Association. The term was subsequently modified and used by Bill Spicer in his "Graphic Story Magazine" (a usage Spicer gained Kyle's approval for in advance). The first time a "long form comic book" was identified as a "graphic novel" was the 1976 publication of "Beyond Time and Again," by George Metzger, where the term "graphic novel" appears on the title page and on the dust jacket flaps. There had been other efforts at "graphic storytelling" before. Eisner mentions the work of Lynd Ward [creator of the wordless novel "Gods' Man" in 1929] in his introduction, for instance. Milt Gross did an entire narrative in pictures with no words: "He Done Her Wrong" in 1930. Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin produced "His Name Is? Savage," [a book-length comic,] in 1968. "A Contract with God" gathered all of these narrative strategies together between the covers of a single publication ? and set the pace for those who would follow. Will Eisner has, without question, done more to advance the medium of comics than just about anyone. But he didn't invent the graphic novel form; nor did he coin the term (as he would be among the first to acknowledge).
R.C. Harvey
Champaign, IL

TIME.comix responds: For the record, Will Eisner confirmed with TIME.comix that the words "A Graphic Novel" appeared on the cover of the paperback edition of "A Contract with God," but not the hardcover, which had no dust jacket. The paperback was published in 1978 simultaneously with the hardcover, says Eisner, with a larger print run. In fact Eisner acknowledges that the term "graphic novel" had been coined prior to his book. But, he says, "I had not known at the time that someone had used that term before." Nor does he take credit for creating the first graphic book. Eisner admits that, "I can't claim to have invented the wheel, but I felt I was in a position to change the direction of comics." TIME.comix' argument is that Eisner's book, published outside the comic book system and pretty clearly the first comix work deliberately aspiring to literary status, by having the term on the front cover, crystallized the concept of a "graphic novel." But the matter is clearly open to debate.


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Andrei Molotiu
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posted November 25, 2003 12:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrei Molotiu   Click Here to Email Andrei Molotiu      Reply w/Quote
Oh, I see that Benjamin had already linked to this column, but for some reason missed R.C.'s mention that the term "was originally coined in November 1964 by Richard Kyle in a newsletter circulated to all members of the Amateur Press Association."

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted November 25, 2003 05:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
No, I didn't miss it. I quoted exactly what was there. Arnold obviously received RC's letter and edited that section of the page. Here's the original post:
quote:
The First What?
A few readers, none of whom wished to be identified, sought issue with the 25th anniversary concept of the article, pegged to the use of the term "A Graphic Novel" on the cover of Will Eisner's "A Contract with God." Some dissenters pointed out that long-form graphic books such as Osamu Tezuka's "Metropolis" pre-date Eisner's work. Another reader took issue with the term's first appearance, citing a Richard Corben book published two years before Eisner's that uses the phrase "graphic novel" on the inside dust jacket. Without doubt both the etymology of the term "graphic novel" and the origins of the form are debatable. Art Spiegelman spoke of first seeing the term in the early 1960s among fanzines. "There was a man named Bill Spicer who did a thing called 'Graphic Story Magazine'," Spiegelman says, "And one of the things being discussed in those books was the possibility of a comic book story that could partake of the qualities of a novel. So the phrase sort of was kicking around." For the record, Eisner admits, "graphic novel" had been coined prior to his book but that, "I had not known at the time that someone had used that term before." Nor does he take credit for creating the first graphic book. Citing the silent picture stories of Lynd Ward, Eisner admits that, "I can't claim to have invented the wheel, but I felt I was in a position to change the direction of comics." My argument is that Eisner's book, published outside the comic book system and pretty clearly the first comix work deliberately aspiring to literary status, by having the term on the front cover, crystallized the concept of a "graphic novel."


And here's the new version, with RC replacing the "few readers, none of whom wished to be identified":
quote:
The First What?
There were, predictably, some objections to the anniversary concept of the article, pegged to the use of the term "A Graphic Novel" on the cover of Will Eisner's "A Contract with God." Here is one such example: I have no. 909 of the 1,500 copies of the first edition of Eisner's "A Contract with God." It is a handsome hardback book. No dust jacket. And nowhere on the cover or title page or, even, in Will's introductory remarks does the term "graphic novel" appear. Since the publication of this seminal work, the term "graphic novel" has come into more widespread use than it enjoyed then in 1978, and in subsequent editions of the book, apparently insinuated itself onto the cover. But it wasn't there on the first edition; so the first appearance of "A Contract with God" did not, ipso facto, inaugurate the use of the term "graphic novel." The term "graphic novel," as it applies to the "long form comic book," was originally coined in November 1964 by Richard Kyle in a newsletter circulated to all members of the Amateur Press Association. The term was subsequently modified and used by Bill Spicer in his "Graphic Story Magazine" (a usage Spicer gained Kyle's approval for in advance). The first time a "long form comic book" was identified as a "graphic novel" was the 1976 publication of "Beyond Time and Again," by George Metzger, where the term "graphic novel" appears on the title page and on the dust jacket flaps. There had been other efforts at "graphic storytelling" before. Eisner mentions the work of Lynd Ward [creator of the wordless novel "Gods' Man" in 1929] in his introduction, for instance. Milt Gross did an entire narrative in pictures with no words: "He Done Her Wrong" in 1930. Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin produced "His Name Is… Savage," [a book-length comic,] in 1968. "A Contract with God" gathered all of these narrative strategies together between the covers of a single publication — and set the pace for those who would follow. Will Eisner has, without question, done more to advance the medium of comics than just about anyone. But he didn't invent the graphic novel form; nor did he coin the term (as he would be among the first to acknowledge).
R.C. Harvey
Champaign, IL

TIME.comix responds: For the record, Will Eisner confirmed with TIME.comix that the words "A Graphic Novel" appeared on the cover of the paperback edition of "A Contract with God," but not the hardcover, which had no dust jacket. The paperback was published in 1978 simultaneously with the hardcover, says Eisner, with a larger print run. In fact Eisner acknowledges that the term "graphic novel" had been coined prior to his book. But, he says, "I had not known at the time that someone had used that term before." Nor does he take credit for creating the first graphic book. Eisner admits that, "I can't claim to have invented the wheel, but I felt I was in a position to change the direction of comics." TIME.comix' argument is that Eisner's book, published outside the comic book system and pretty clearly the first comix work deliberately aspiring to literary status, by having the term on the front cover, crystallized the concept of a "graphic novel." But the matter is clearly open to debate.



I'm delighted to have a person of RC's stature weigh in on the issue of who coined the term "graphic novel." Richard Kyle, November 1964, Amateur Press Association newsletter.

I see that RC also mentions "The first time a 'long form comic book' was identified as a 'graphic novel' was the 1976 publication of 'Beyond Time and Again,' by George Metzger, where the term 'graphic novel' appears on the title page and on the dust jacket flaps." I assume good ol' RC knows about the other two contenders for that title . . . yeah, I'm sure he doess . . .

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted December 31, 2003 06:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Since Andrei is still interested in this topic, I would just like to add that a buddy of mine contacted R.C. Harvey by email, and it turns out that although he was aware that Steranko's "Red Tide" was published in 1976, he was *not* aware that "Bloodstar" was published the same year. Although R.C. disqualifies "Red Tide" because he does not consider it a graphic novel (even though it is referred to as such in a text pice in the book itself), "Bloodstar" is still in contention, along with Metzger's "Beyond Time and Again," for the first *graphic novel* to be identified as a "graphic novel." Now if one of R.C.'s friends or relations would loan him a copy of the first edition of "Bloodstar" for research purposes . . .

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Jesse Hamm
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posted December 31, 2003 10:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jesse Hamm   Click Here to Email Jesse Hamm      Reply w/Quote
Though this thread is about nomenclature per se, I can't resist making a point about the origins of the graphic novel as a form.

I keep seeing Lynd Ward cited as the first graphic novelist (e.g., "Gods' Man" in 1929), yet Wilhelm Busch's "Die Fromme Helene," a fictional biography in comic form, came out in the late 19th Century and weighs in at well over 100 pages. Is there any better contender for first place?

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted December 31, 2003 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Is this it, Jesse?

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Benjamin D. Brucke
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posted December 31, 2003 08:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Benjamin D. Brucke   Click Here to Email Benjamin D. Brucke      Reply w/Quote
Jesse, you ask if there is any better contender for first place. Well . . . Andrei has already mentioned the work of Rodolph Töpffer. In fact, according to the Lambiek Comiclopedia, "Töpffer's picture-stories have been an influence on many of the early 'comic' artists, such as Christophe, Wilhelm Busch and Cham" (bold added). In May 1999, Bob of "Bob's Comics Reviews" provided a short overview of Töpffer's production, and includes this very interesting quotation from the man himself:
quote:
This little book has a mixed nature. It is composed of a series of autographed pictures. Each picture is accompanied by one or two lines of text. The pictures, without this text, would have only an obscure meaning; the text, without the pictures, would mean nothing. Together they form a sort of novel, all the more original in that it does not resemble a novel more than any other thing. The author of this little oblong volume [Töpffer is being coy here] is not known. If he is an artist, he draws badly, but he has some skill in writing; if he is a writer, he writes only moderately well, but in recompense he has a good amateur's drawing skills.

Check it out!

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Jesse Hamm
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posted January 01, 2004 01:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jesse Hamm   Click Here to Email Jesse Hamm      Reply w/Quote
Benjamin,

That is indeed Die fromme Helene -- thanks for the link! Unfortunately, the pictures at that site are reproduced so small that their resolution is mediocre, and they appear to be secondary to the text. (In print, they are much larger, dominating the pages.)

I was aware of Topffer, but I figured he only did short booklets, not novels. However, the Topffer page you linked says he did a book of 92 pages, which I suppose could be considered a novel.

Since my previous post, Andrei has posted a link (on the other "graphic novel" thread) to a 160 panel comic from the 1700s that seems to qualify as a graphic novel. Perhaps that was the first, then?

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