Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Graphic Novel vs Trade Paperback

Over at the Comicon messageboards, we are discussing the semantics between the comic book terms GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK. I and some of the other posters always sort of considered the graphic novel to be a presentation of original material and a trade paperback a collection of previously published stuff.

But then a poster mentioned the serialized works of Dickens. That also immediately made me think of the serialized stuff of Dumas and even Stephen King's The Green Mile.

I wrote this as a response:
Most of the actual definitions for NOVEL includes wording like: "Strikingly new, unusual, or different" or in adjectivial form: "of a kind not seen before". Only one definition calls it what we know of novel as: "A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters" (all from

This site: says that Dickens worked serially as well, only writing new chapters as stuff was being published. "He not only published serially but wrote serially too, planning each installment carefully."

We have to also remember that serials were popular because the cost was prohibitive to be a new novel rather than a series of installments. I have balked at paying for full-priced graphic novels over individual comics, haven't you?

Does it become a novel when the story is collected? I think ultimate length names the piece.

In college, I studied English. I was always given these general guidelines:
Short story: less than 50 pages (very rough here)
Novella: about 50-100 pages in length (HUGO and NEBULA awards classify this as 17,500-40,000 words)
Novel: anything longer

Not to be outdone, also lists this definition for GRAPHIC NOVEL:
"A novel whose narrative is related through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form."

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