Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Rise of the Graphic Novel in Hollywood

And now back to our regularly scheduled post...

I’m guessing that most of you reading this either have no idea what a Graphic Novel is or why The Blot would be writing about them, but the term itself really rubs me the wrong way. Therefore, it’s time for The Blot’s first official rant. Do any of you know when the term Comic Book became a four letter word in Hollywood? I do, I peg it happening sometime around the year 2006. In fact, the term Comic Book seems to be fading from the lexicon of Hollywood almost as fast as the movie industry is raking in the dough from Comic Book based movies.

Spider-Man 3With two months left in 2007, do you know what the highest domestic grossing movie of the year is? If you thought Spider-Man 3 give yourself a gold star. As it stands now there are 5 Comic Book based films ranked among the top 35 grossing films of 2007 (Spider-Man 3, 300, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, and TMNT). This isn’t a new trend either; in 2006 two of the top ten highest grossing films in the United States were Comic Book movies, X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns. In 2005 there were four more movies in the top 35 which included Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, Constantine and Sin City. Then in 2004 there was another 5 Comic Book based films in the top 100 grossing films of the year…I could go on and on. The point is that Comic Book movies, their heroes, villains and amazing special effects have taken over summer box office and they don’t seem to be going anywhere with Iron Man and Batman: The Dark Knight hitting screens next summer. So at this point you might be asking yourself what’s the problem? The Blot’s problem is that sometime last year, around the time 300 was released the term Comic Book seems to have been replaced with the term Graphic Novel even when most of the time the term does not really apply.

300You see, a Graphic Novel is, in its most simplistic form, a Comic Book. The original Graphic Novels were always short book length stories with a defined beginning and end. This is very different than your modern day comic book’s story line that, similar to a soap opera, could go on for months and years. They were called “Novels” because they were published in a format similar to books with a thicker spine and higher page count while a comic book’s format resembles a standard newsstand magazine. It used to be that Graphic Novels often dealt with a more mature subject matter than your typical comic book, but that’s really no longer the case. In fact the term Graphic Novel is really not even used in its proper context. Somehow due to the marketing geniuses in Hollywood the term Graphic Novel is now applied to any basic trade paperback, a term that means a reprinted collection of either a comic book mini-series or the collection of a specific storyline from an ongoing comic book into one book.

30 Days of Night The most glaring abuse of the term Graphic Novel can be seen in the movie posters for the #1 film in America 30 Days of Night which proclaims “Based on the Hit Graphic Novel.” The only problem I see is that 30 Days of Night was not originally a Graphic Novel! I even have the comic books to prove it. 30 Days of Night was a three issue comic book that became so popular the publisher eventually reprinted it in trade paperback form which included all three issues in one book. And that is what’s bothering me about the term Graphic Novel. It seems like Hollywood has arbitrarily decided that when it needs a film based on a Comic Book to be considered more mature content or the studio doesn’t want the film to be lumped in with other super hero movies they tag the film with “Based on the popular Graphic Novel” instead of “Based on the popular Comic Book.”

PersepolisWhat’s scariest about this whole topic to The Blot is that instead of the two main Comic Book companies DC and Marvel fighting Hollywood’s marketing departments on how they brand the industry, they’ve chosen to embrace it. Now almost every popular comic published is, at some point, repackaged into a trade paperback and labeled a graphic novel. Obviously these two things are not the same thing but with all the free publicity movie studios are giving the Graphic Novel, the industry figures it is worth following the trend in the hopes of bringing in new readers. Plus your regular chain book stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are willing to carry the trade paperback/Graphic Novel style books over the traditional comic book, which opens the comic book industry to mIron Manore stores and more readers. I guess you have to follow the money and I can’t completely fault them for that. But if this trend continues, the Comic Book industry might find itself in quite the predicament. By going for the quick buck and giving in to the movie industry’s marketing plan, the Comic Book industry loses its brand identity it has built up over the past 80 years and quite possibly the fan base that supports it. Like all trends in movies the super hero genre will eventually fade away and then where does that leave DC and Marvel? I for one am not so sure I am willing to stick around to find out.
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