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What Are Graphic Novels and Why Should I Care?

So let's start out with a confession. I don't really like graphic novels. I flip the pages so fast I give myself paper cuts. I find them childish and, relative to novels, expensive.

Clearly however, I am in the minority. There has been a year-on-year rise of paper sales of graphic novels. Between 2020 and 2021, paper sales rose 171%. Yes, you read that correctly. Penguin Random House, the single largest publishing house by a long shot, has just opened a new imprint dedicated solely to graphic novels — much to the chagrin of the small indie presses who've toiled away in obscurity. It's THE growth sector in an industry that has remained relatively flat for a decade.

Further to that, people I really admire read graphic novels and have recommended them. When I was a postgraduate student at uni, my professor of political philosophy recommended the Maus series by Art Spiegelman. The Maus books were the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. I not only read Maus but have bought them for friends and have in turn recommended them on. And this was before they were banned by counties in the state of Tennessee in 2022 over the books' nudity, bad language and violence. This propelled the Maus books into a bestseller position. This is no mean feat given that they were published in the 1980s.

So I'm not weirdly against about graphic novels. I totally get that they're a distinct art form and like any art form, sometimes the art transcends the medium.

I feel like I'm turning into an old fart. You know the kind I mean. The grumpy uncle who, at Sunday dinner, drinks a little too much, gets red-faced and thumps his fist on the table about (fill in as appropriate) feminists, environmentalists, the internet, poor manners, educational standards, migrants, etc. It's just not a club I want to belong to.

So I am going to take them seriously. I'm going to engage with this new form of storytelling and I hope that you'll join. I'm having an entire zoom event on Monday April 3, 2023 about the hottest graphic novel out there right now and its TV show written by Neil Gaiman, cowriter with Terry Pratchett of Good Omens, and sole writer of Coraline, Neverwhere and American Gods. The graphic novel is Sandman. The TV series on Netflix is called the same. Our guest, Madi Simcock Brown, in an ardent graphic novel Sandman fan, who also got a distinction in her Masters in EngLit degree. We'll discuss the mashup of mythologies and the classic tropes of good and evil, hope and despair, destiny and free choice, that the Sandman grapples with, and whether they are better in a graphic novel format, a TV series or (dare I suggest) a novel. Register above. If you can't make it on the night, register anyway because the recording will be sent to you for viewing at your convenience.

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