Graphic novels are a great pastime for many people, others are not so amused with them. However you may feel, how much do you actually know about them? When did they start? How did they become popular? These are all questions that will be answered in this article – as well as to encourage you to pick up a graphic novel.

Graphic novels are easy to read; a mix of text and visual content that is preferable for readers with limited attention spans. Due to the rise of the smartphone, people’s attention spans have decreased and people no longer want to read a long novel, but may rather spend their time on graphic novels or short stories. Graphic novels are also often digital content, which is easily consumed. Adults seem to find more depth in the graphic novels of today rather than the comics of their days. It is no longer just comic strips in newspapers, or Archie, Tin Tin, or Asterix. Adults find the content of these graphic novels to be similar to the content and themes of literary non-fiction. It has the complexity and depth of traditional novels.


Graphic novels are easy to read; a mix of text and visual content that is preferable for readers with limited attention spans.


So when did graphic novels start? The first comic series was seen as being The First Kingdom by Jack Katz that was collected as trade paperbacks in 1974. This was seen as the “first graphic novel” as it was considered as graphic prose. The graphic novel was alive in the 1950s but was considered to be poor literature. Graphic novels are no longer considered to be poor literature as they are amongst the most circulated categories in libraries around the world. The term “graphic novel” was first coined in 1964, by Richard Kyle.

How did this format of the novel become popular? The term “graphic novel” gained popularity after the publication of A Contract with God by Will Eisner in 1978, and Marvel’s graphic novel line in 1982. The graphic novel and the comic became familiar to the public in the late 1980s. This was solidified as a type of novel after the publication of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which is a graphic novel about World War 2 in Poland. The audience of children, teens, and adults is growing. These graphic novels are now considered new modern classics. The real boom of the graphic novel began with the popularity of Japanese comics (manga) amongst young readers and continues with contemporary additions to the genre.

Graphic novels have evolved over the decades, and it is now no longer considered solely for children, but rather suitable for all age groups, and fans of any genre. The graphic novel is continuously used as an experimental form of exploring a genre, and offers an engaging read for literary fans.


Image: Cletus Mulaudi

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