08 February 2010

Taking Liberty with the Label “Graphic Fiction”

This weekend Boston 1775 posted a dissatisfied analysis of Timothy Decker’s For Liberty: The Story of the Boston Massacre, starting here.

Leaving the historical issues behind, I note here that Calkins Creek Books lists For Liberty as the sole title in the “Graphic Fiction” section of its catalogue. Which makes no sense because For Liberty is:

  • nonfiction, or at least claims to be.
  • a perfectly traditional picture book, with most page spreads containing one or two large illustrations accompanied by narrative text.
There are no word balloons, motion lines, or other graphic techniques for “showing the invisible” that I argue have become a hallmark of the comics style. (Okay, on one spread artist-writer Decker uses radiating lines to isolate our attention on a soldier firing his gun.)

I have to read this as a sign that “graphic novels” are so popular now that publishers are slapping such a label on any title they can. Curiously, Decker’s previous book, Run Far, Run Fast, which does use the basic comics element of multiple panels on a page, is still classified by the same company as a “Picture Book.”

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