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The Good, The Bad, & This Kid: ďGlorified CĒ

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The past several years have seen a major increase in the production and distribution of the tricky little beast known only as: ďThe Graphic Novel.Ē The GN, for the purpose of this article, has been met with standing ovations by comic book fans worldwide. Itís being called the messiah of the comic industry, the savior of our sinking ship. I ask you loyal reader, can this so-called savior actually be trusted, or is it a faÁade looking for itís fifteen minutes? Itís a strange question I realize, how can the sole bright spot on the dark world of comics be bad? To be honest, Iím still on the fence. I love the GN, itís great, itís wonderful, but thereís a dark underbelly that Iím determined to expose.

The biz (I told you I was hip) pushes the GN as their means into the mainstream. By producing Graphic Novels and collections of minis and ongoings, comics can reach a wider audience and bring home bigger bank, so itís a big YAY in that department. The GN is distributed in not only specialty shops, i.e. comic shops, but also at bookstores and libraries. For the past three years, sales of graphic novels have been on an upward scale, with no looking back. That is largely due to the fact that bookstores carry them, making them more available to the average reader of literature. Lately, bookstores have even started promoting their GN collection. I was in a Waldenís Bookstore just a few weeks ago, and in the GN section they had little signs promoting certain smaller-press books, along with posters of the Hulk and such. Still, for the most part, the ads have been geared towards the manga titles, but itís a start.

The main reason the GN is being hailed and praised, is the bookstores. Not only have they increased the sales numbers, but they are exposing comics to a wider audience. Before the traditional bookstores acknowledged the existence of comics, the only outlet for comics were drug stores and comic shops, two of the scariest places known to man. And, if you were lucky enough to live near a bookstore that did sell comics, they hid them. Okay, they didnít really hide them, they just shoved them in a corner near the magazines on a little spinning rack that always seemed to be broken. So, like I was trying to get at, comics werenít that easy to come across before. I remember when I was a kid, we lived down the street from a Woolworthís drug store, and whenever my mom had to run down there, Iíd always get a pack of comic trading cards and a comic book. Now that I think about it, Woolworthís was a bad ass store, they sold video games too. As cool as Woolworthís was, they only had a very limited selection of comics, which meant me and my mother had to journey into: The Comic Shop. All that leads me to the fact that, since bookstores have been selling collections, comics have been easier to come by for many kids today. Now, even the monthly comics are being pushed in bookstores, and on racks that donít spin.

As great as all that is, Iím still not ready to buy the hype of the GN. I canít argue with numbers, and hot damn are there a lot of Ďem, but I can speak out of experience. The main reason I donít believe that the GN is the be-all end-all of comics, is that they are expensive. I donít buy many trades, and when I do itís for one of two reasons: I have a good lot of extra money, or the elements of the book have sucked me in and I have no choice but to buy it. So, itís hard for me to comprehend the increase of GN sales by people just trying out comics. I do agree that putting GNs in the bookstore is a great advancement in our industry, but I donít think itís drawing in that many new customers. I hear a lot of talk of how the GN is going to replace the monthly comic, but I just donít believe that, it seems insanely unreasonable. Itís much easier to expose people new to comics with the monthly format, rather than with the GNs for one simple reason: cost. Even as a rabid comic reader, Iím still hard pressed to try anything new in a Graphic Novel format, Iíd much prefer to pick up an issue and see where that takes me. I canít imagine that Iím the only person out there like that. Thatís why I donít buy many novels, itís a lot of money to dish out on the hunch that I may like it (luckily I work at a library, so my novel needs are pretty much met).

I donít want any of that coming off like I want bookstores to stop carrying GNs, cause I donít. Like I said, bookstores are doing wonders for the comic industry, but if we were going to change something, Iíd say we incorporate more monthly titles to the bookstores. Instead of the main bookstores only carrying a small number of the big titles, they should dedicate more room to comics and sell small-press monthly comics as well. That way, after someone sips some kind of Double Mocha Latte while reading an issue of Queen & Country, they can go buy the trade of the book. Or, normal people who canít stand the Double Mocha Latte can buy the single issue for a couple bucks and see what they think, then if they like it they can go buy the trade. Itís a win-win situation; the monthly format stays alive, the GNs continue to sell, and the bookstores can still push hip coffee drinks down the throats of beatniks everywhere.

Thatíll do it for me this week. I hope everyone enjoyed themselves, get out there and buy some comics! If you donít, who will? ĎTil next timeÖ

-J. Sto


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