segunda-feira, março 20, 2006

Graphic novels a literary phenomenon

Sales triple to $245 million US last year

Nick Lewis, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, March 20, 2006

CALGARY -- Once the shy and quiet cousin of the comic book, graphic novel sales have soared past those of comic books to become a full-blown literary phenomenon.
With film adaptations of V For Vendetta, Sin City and A History of Violence (and North Vancouver's Budget Monks Productions' online graphic novel Broken Saints sold to Fox for a DVD box set) having been big on the cultural radar, sales of the source material have been soaring. Graphic novels were a $75-million US industry in 2001; they more than tripled to $245 million last year.
"They've risen dramatically to the point where they've doubled our comic book sales," says Martin Rouse, owner of Phoenix Comics in Calgary.
"Some weeks we'll sell 2,000 new issue comics and 3,000 graphic novels. Some weeks, 4,000 graphic novels. It's 50 to 100 per cent more, on any given week. And I don't see that changing; if anything, it'll get higher."
Unlike a comic book, which, like a soap opera, carries its storyline through several issues, a graphic novel is a stand-alone story in comic book style -- hence the term "novel".
Which is why fans such as Calgarian Erin Collins, who estimates he spent nearly $10,000 on comics and graphic novels in the '80s, say they're the perfect medium to transfer to film.
"It's easier to make a movie out of a graphic novel than a comic book, because it's a self-contained, 100-page screenplay with all the storyboards," he says. "It's easier to extract a Sin City story than a Spider-Man one, which is spread over thousands of comics. That's the logical reason why they're making so many film adaptations."
The relationship is working out well for movies, too.
The first two Alan Moore graphic novels that were made into films (From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) combined for near $100 million at the box office. His V For Vendetta and the upcoming The Watchmen could easily eclipse that figure.
Stephen Weiner is the author of Faster than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel, and The 101 Best Graphic Novels. He says Hollywood is but one small factor in this explosion.
"For Hollywood, I think it has less to with it being a graphic novel and more about it just being another source of material," he says. "And because graphic novels have a rebel, an outlaw status to them, it offers the sort of excitement that you don't get from a standard story. A movie like American Splendor, I knew people who had no idea that was a graphic novel, they figure he was just some weird guy."
But there are other, more significant reasons, Weiner says.
"Another reason is these days there are more 'literary' graphic novels being written that reach a far bigger audience," he says. "There's also a very large public library movement to get graphic novels in collections. And another reason is the Japanese manga market, which is so big that it's brought in this whole energy into the American comic book market.
"And all of these reasons just feed off one another."
Some graphic novels have been recognized as serious literature and works of art.