Re. Adult comics vs. graphic novels

Subject: Re. Adult comics vs. graphic novels
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 09:15:09 LCL

Someone deep in an earlier thread suggested that the distinction
between a "graphic novel" and a comic book was pretension, not fact.
In some cases, I'd have to agree, but there is an important functional
distinction: traditional comic books rely on 23 pages of poor quality
newsprint, typically about enough length to cover the plot of what
creative writers call a "short story". If you've got a longer plot to
deal with, you spread it over several issues until you get the correct
amount of panels to cover the plot.

Graphic novels, on the other hand, are really graphic novellas (in
creative-writer speak): much longer than short stories (comic books),
but probably not as long as even a short novel. In many cases, the
quality of writing and illustration is also much better.

What does this have to do with techwhirling? Well, the fact remains
that comics are a tremndously useful writing tool. Consider a
five-panel comic showing how to install a toner cartridge in a laser
printer, for example. I shudder to contemplate doing this purely in
text: "Insert the top edge of the cartridge (that's the one with the
"this side up sticker") at a 37-degree angle facing downwards into the
printer; there are two guides to help you get the angle right. I can't
describe these, other than to say that you can't miss them." <grin>

Other techwhirlers have begged off, claiming graphical illiteracy, but
that doesn't wash. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, and only
learned which end of the pencil to sharpen late last week, but I do
have a graphic artist in-house who can do all this and more. (Of
course, if I run out of pencils, there's always "Adobe Illustrator".
There I can draw a straight line!) When we need an illustration for
some report, we sit down together and discuss what we need, like a
police artist constructing a sketch of a criminal from a verbal
description of the perp. We then refine the graphic as needed. If
you're truly graphically illiterate, take some time to become
literate: William Horton's columns in Technical Communication are a
good start, and Scott McCloud's _Understanding Comics: the invisible
art_ are two excellent starting points.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} <--oh what a tangled thread we weave...
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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