Will Meyer, Butcher and Evanovich Save Graphic Novels?

On Thursday at the Book Expo of America, graphic novel experts gathred for the panel "Big Name Authors with Graphic Novels: How Will This Change the Market?" Read on for part of their discussion.

Top Row: Rich Johnson, Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald Bottom Row: Michael Martens, Carol Fitzgerald and Judy Hanson

To start the panel, moderator Rich Johnson from BleedingCool.com gave a short history of the slow rise of fiction writers publishing graphic novels. He started with the 1980s when DC and Marvel began signing popular sci fi and fantasy authors like Michael Moorcock and Ray Bradbury. Unfortunately, these ‘big name’ authors had disappointing receptions to their graphic novel work, a trend that continued throughout the 1990s even with the adaptation of Anne Rice’s vampire novels.

However, despite this slow start, Johnson pointed out the increasing number of bestselling authors that are all getting ready to “play in the playground” of graphic novels and comics. Steven King, James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and even the unlikely candidate of Janet Evanovich all have upcoming graphic novel releases.

Why the sudden interest in this medium? Calvin Reid, co-editor of PW Comics Week, says that a lot of these authors are indie comic fans themselves, but also it shows business savvy. He explains how this medium can expand an author’s reach to a younger audience and it can also give the author a “cool factor.”

Then Carol Fitzgerald, president of Bookreporter.com, pointed out that no research has been done on which books make sense to be adapted into graphic novels. The publishing industry really has no idea how to segue between prose and graphic formats. Since is all a bit of a mystery, this is where big name authors come in with their preexisting fan base. But Fitzgerald warns these authors that they can’t just expect to put out a book and it will be great. “When we ask [readers] to take a risk, the author needs to deliver.”

  Heidi MacDonald, co-editor of PW Comics Week, agrees that oftentimes choosing which books to publish as comics is like “shooting in the dark.” But success often comes with focus on serious topics as this is the way an author and illustrator can create a “lasting work.” When asked an example, she cited Maus by Art Spiegelman as the quintessential “message” graphic novel as it recounts the story of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust told from the POV of a mouse.


Michael Martens, VP of New Business Development for Dark Horse, agreed that Maus is special, but he also wanted to point out the double standard for graphic novels. He says that it seems like it is required that these mediums must have a  “socially redeeming theme” to make it on a top 10 list. He says that it is difficult because graphic novels are expected to have “messages” as opposed to just being a good book with entertainment value.


So what you think? Do you enjoy reading comic books, graphic novels and manga? Do you look for messages in these mediums or pure entertainment?