The Death of the Graphic Novel

The above graphic novel from Drawn and Quarterly "Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea" can be bought at 6.99 with an original price tag of 24.99.

The death of the graphic novel? Have you noticed as of late the sheer volume of new graphic novels and reprints of old newspaper strips collected in book form. Seems anybody who can get a hold of a printer can put out any old reprint property out there. Alternative comics are one thing, but some of the sluggish stories or lack of stories just don’t cut it lately. Some alternative companies are gambling with some real bad choices of reprinted material. There was a time when there very little to pick from when graphic novels came out.  Sure they are making oodles of money on them right now. For every good book coming out, there will be another four that will gather dust on the shelves and the numbers will grow. Bargain bin anybody?

Manga, don’t get me going about that, there is so much rubbish out there and nobody says anything. Why should they these books have replaced Harlequin books for young girls and many parents are not even aware of the content inside. Why ring the death knell?  This fast growing part in the book industry has shades of the comic boom in the 90’s. Case example, many collectors pay top buck for the Peanuts anthologies from Fantagraphics and a few months later they end up at Costco at bargain prices. Now everybody is flooding the market and these publishers don’t have a clue what’s going on. I am scared for the graphic novel, it is starting to lose luster in my opinion. It will peak in two years and from there the numbers will dwindle. How many anthologies will commit to all the volumes they promise to print?

The graphic novel has saved the alternative imprints and exposed their stable of talent to the masses and given them new venues for their artists for freelance work. I see the signs already, there are books in the graphic novel section that are not moving. Many of these volumes start at a price of 20.00 and over 100.00, that is a fair chunk of change. Recession, that word will frighten many people from buying books such as these. It remains to be seen, but there are already graphic novels in bargain bins at the big box stores already. A rare site in the past. The more that end up there, the less stores will order in the future.

There many naysayers out there in the net who disagree on my opinion. I truly believe that within two years the flood gates will open with a whole new group of fly by night publishers who want to cash on the graphic novel sector and justly so because they want to make money. Two years is enough time to do damage to the industry. I do not take credit away from Fantagraphics, they have done a great job out there and practically the whole publishing industry has copied their blueprint. The graphic novel is doing wonders right now in sales. It’s quality and not quantity that counts. Who is to judge quality? Me and you. At the end of the day when books are not sold then they have to liquidate them and they show up at discount prices.


When I see discounted graphic novels are rock bottom prices, and really discounted at Costco, I feel a little cheated because I paid top buck when that book came out. The graphic novel saved many small imprints and it is them I worry about. The big players have bigger pockets and can absorb bigger losses. The proclamation of the death of the graphic novel is presumptuous to some but to me I see the signs that something is not right somewhere. Will it completely die, of course not. This is an opinion and I don’t have the figures for the next two years, but I feel there is a shift and if not corrected the small publishers are the ones I worry about. Ten years ago, you were lucky if you could find one graphic novel in a major book store. They were nestled in the sci-fi section. They now proudly have their own section and with good reason. There are many quality books but also many horrible ones. The graphic novel is something special to me, and the flooding of the market will hurt everybody. They are all vying for your dollar.

" There are too many books on the market, and separating the wheat from the chaff is probably going to be one of 2008’s biggest challenges." -Brian Hibbs