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morlock with a day pass
06-10-2005, 03:25 AM
hooray for mainstream coverage! from yahoo home page today. headline news section---


Comics and graphic novels, not just men in tights By Claudia Parsons
Wed Jun 8, 8:40 AM ET



NEW YORK (Reuters) - Who would win a fight between Batman and Balzac, Superman and Steinbeck?

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The answer may be obvious in literary terms, but comic books are breaking down the stereotype of lightweight entertainment for teenage boys more interested in superheroes than Shakespeare's men in tights.

Graphic novels are one of the fastest growing sectors in U.S. publishing, and are becoming increasingly respectable both as an art form and as a way to promote literacy.

Graphic novel sales grew around 25 percent in 2004 to more than $205 million, according to trade news Web site ISV2.com, which said the fastest growing sector was manga -- Japanese comic books similar to the popular anime cartoons that are now a major part of children's programming on U.S. television.

According to Viz Media, one of the largest U.S. manga publishers, total sales of manga in the United States jumped to around $140 million in 2004 from $100 million in 2003.

"There's such a stigma against comics but we're endorsed by Reading is Fundamental," said Liza Coppola, vice president for sales at Viz Media, referring to the organization that promotes children's literacy in the United States.

"They picked up this category because they found that they can get the kids with Dr Seuss, but at a certain point they lose them to video games. But this is such a visual medium, it draws them in," she said in an interview at Book Expo America, the country's largest book trade fair, which ended on Sunday.

DC Comics, part of Warner Bros. Entertainment and the publisher of "Batman" and "Superman," launched a new imprint called CMX a year ago to tap the fast-growing manga market.

Manga has long been a huge phenomenon in its native Japan, where a major subdivision of the genre, shojo, is aimed at girls with such story lines as high-school romances, girls with magical powers and aspiring dancers.

Doug Whiteman, president of the Penguin Young Readers Group, said graphic novels have been around for more than 20 years but only in the last five years had librarians and booksellers started to take them seriously.

"Before, they weren't convinced it was a legitimate delivery mechanism," Whiteman said. Studies showing literacy in decline, particularly among boys, changed that, prompting educators to do whatever it takes to attract young readers.

For Penguin, that means publishing graphic novel versions of classics such as Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

"We're talking about something that's a bridge," Whiteman said. "It's hard to make a classic sound fresh and exciting and like something that a kid really wants to read as opposed to has to read. That's what the graphic novel does."

HIGHBROW ADULT COMICS

It's not just kids who are getting more out of comics these days. Ever since Will Eisner launched the concept of the graphic novel in 1978 with "A Contract With God," the boundaries of what can be done in a comic have been stretched.

Eisner's final work, "The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," was published this year just after his death. It tells the story of a notorious piece of anti-Semitic propaganda that purported to be a blueprint written by Jewish leaders for taking over the world.

Comics are also spawning more and more films, from this year's "Sin City," to 2003's "American Splendor," based on the autobiographical comic books written by Harvey Pekar and starring Paul Giamatti as the curmudgeonly comic book reader.

"When I was a kid and reading comics in the forties and I read all the superhero stuff, after a while it got pretty stale to me," Pekar said in an interview. "I'm not into escapism, I'm into trying to face up to things."

His next book "The Quitter," a gritty tale of his childhood, is due out in October from DC's Vertigo imprint that specializes in so-called literary graphic novels.

Another title due this year is NPR commentator and social critic Douglas Rushkoff's "The Testament," described as a modern-day retelling of biblical stories and inspired by his book "Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism."

"There's a real audience for something that you can really sink your brain into in the graphic story-telling format," said Jonathan Rankin, an editor at Vertigo. "This is a book that's going to be highly entertaining and is a great adventure story but it's also a book you can read again and again."

"Sin City" creator Frank Miller, one of the biggest names in the industry and the star of a packed panel discussion on graphic novels at Book Expo, played down the critical obsession with the "literary" merits of comics.

"I find myself getting jumpy when I hear the term literary novel, it's like the term motion picture movie," he said.

But Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger had no such scruples, describing her target audience as "smart, hip, literate, into pop culture, into reading, into film, people who are just into cool contemporary fiction."

And she is enjoying the newfound respect for the genre, which was given a prime spot at this year's Book Expo.

"Last time we were ... in the basement," Berger said.

Patton
06-10-2005, 04:54 AM
so I'm going on a limb here--does AOL Time Warner maybe own Yahoo?