Read more about Tezuka’s inspirations from Western pop culture at http://futoiyatsu.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/vieraita-lannesta/
Right, I think I’m getting into the routine of blogging, but that may be premature. I’m really just forcing myself to type up whatever comes to mind, hoping vainly that it will have some meaning to my readers.
So what say you we try and introduce some purpose to it? A bit ambitious, you say?
I’m not sure if I’m reading Dirk Deppey’s ¡Journalista! right, maybe there’s a layer of apprehension that’s not coming across in print. On Jan 26th he writes in a brief note:
[Publishing] BookScan’s top-20 graphic novels of 2008
Three weren’t manga, eleven weren’t Naruto.
See, to my mind the term “graphic novel” signifies a story, not a book (or “retail unit”). Naruto is one story (graphic novel or not) spread across some fourty books. Speaking from that perspective, Naruto should figure once on a list like that. Same for any other serialized narrative; floppy comic, hardbound, European, Japanese, American …
And maybe that’s exactly what Deppey is getting at.
But that’s not the point, is it? The mere presence of Naruto (nine times!) on a list like that shows that it is entirely sales-based; there is no attempt at qualitative judgment. The point is that my definition of “graphic novel” is hopelessly outdated – a puritan, connoisseur distinction that lost any meaning about five minutes after Will Eisner popularized it.
The precise moment would be when the phrase was thrown across the advertising department of a larger comics publisher (I don’t know if the culprit is Marvel or DC but, since DC at least has the better track history in terms of targeting a matureR audience, my money is on the Whorehouse That Stan Built). From then onward, it became a tag to be hung on any old comic, or collection of comics, with a cardboard cover and a flat spine.
It doesn’t matter about the term, really. It was bound to be diluted at some point, and the purist definition actually made a comeback for a while just when media interest peaked, can’t moan about that (much as I’d like to). But the term is/was a heading for some kind of artistic vision, a willingness to align oneself with regular novelists, and I find that part missing in the “non-floppy” sense of “graphic novel”.
I’m not saying that comic book professionals, or “graphic novelists”, aren’t aware of the implication of etymology here. But the potential readers are more likely to hear Marvel’s hype than, say, Eddie Campbell’s, and think that graphic novels as such are just their daddy’s comics in a prettier package. Potential readers, and potential budding creators, then lost to superhero drivel.
But before I pitch my doomsayer tone too highly, I’d like to jump in the defence of Naruto. Sure, it’s no novel-like epic, more like a graphic martial-arts soap opera, but from my experience a) engaging and funny as hell and b) on a whole other artistic level than most of the shônen manga around. I am judging from the part of the Naruto I’ve read, the first ten volumes or so. For all I know the story may have made a nosedive since then.
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