The Rise of the Graphic Novel

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Not many more than ten years ago was the graphic novel an emerging genre, following in the footsteps of the comic book it was a genre deemed to be of not much literary worth; marketed mainly at young boys, with stories of flying superhero and vigilante antiheroes. Now however, mainly with thanks to the publishing of the historical inspired Maus by Art Spiegelman the interest, investment and the market is growing for the graphic novel.

Not only are graphic novels in larger circulation, they are being increasingly discussed, recognised, valued and rewarded. For where the stereotypical novel lacks in largely broadening its themes current to society, the graphic novel has been succeeding. With more diverse characters, we as readers get to not only follow the characters across the page but watch them do so through the visual and rather beautiful art. A key refreshing diverse protagonist is in the form of Kamala Khan from the Ms Marvel comics published by Marvel, in which Kamala is a Muslim American. A second stand out diverse character is Clementine, the main character of the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Colour, in which she is beginning to explore her sexuality and break the expectations of her.

From this also comes the graphic memoir, not limited just to adults. One graphic memoir that remains fresh to memory is Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow in which she reveals, through her own drawings, is her battle and recovery with an eating disorder. The brilliance of this I feel is that not only is her highly relatable story to a lot of young girls and boys, it is being done so at a level that is extremely universal.

Although the financial investment is at its highest point yet than ever before, when compared to the black and white pages of a book, the graphic novel receives hugely less financial investment due to the expense of printing illustrations with colour ink. However despite this setback it has still become a celebrated form of literature and art through dedicated award ceremonies such as the recently established British Comic Awards (in association with Page 45), the Glyph Comic Awards, and the International Manga Awards, plus many more.

The Comics Literacy Awareness (CLaw) national organisation is a further demonstration of the astounding developments that the graphic novel has inspired. CLaw is a registered charity (under British Law) which aspires to improve the literacy and levels of children through the United Kingdom with the promotion of the comic and graphic novel creative medium. Although only founded last year in 2014, the organisation has set its ultimate target high, and a target of which I feel is achievable in modern society, which has become fascinated and enthralled by the sequential picture genre.

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