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Comics and graphic novels: More popular than traditional books?

October 14, 2009

dogdaysAs other segments of publishing fade, comics and their close kin, graphic novels, grow ever more popular–with kids, adults, critics and even teachers. Example: Dog Days, the new Wimpy Kid book, shoulders aside Dan Brown, Glenn Beck, to become Amazon’s top seller.

And notice is being taken. Publisher’s Weekly announces a “children’s comics review page.” Last weekend’s Baltimore Comic-con was bigger than ever, despite competition from the Baltimore Marathan and a nearby Ravens’ NFL game. The University Press of Mississippi, while no one was looking, has become the leader in comics scholarship.

At Miami Book Fair International (Nov. 8-15), the significance of comics has been recognized and celebrated for years with the popular Comics Galaxy slate of appearances, readings and demonstrations.

This year, top creators for all age categories and genres will be on hand, including Harry Bliss (Luke on the Loose), Alex Simmons (Archie Comics), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!), Tim Hamilton (Fahrenheit 451), Sid Jacobson (The 9/11 Report), Marisa Acocella Marchetto (Cancer Vixen) and many more.

Back to today’s news: Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series chronicles the misadventures of an ordinary middle-school student named Greg. Readers 8-12 are wild about it, reports The New York Times, leaving parents to scratch their heads. Storylines are mundane, centering on “slapstick, laziness and ethical lapses,” and the artwork consists of stick-figure drawings.

But it’s all deceptively sophisticated and irresistible says NPR‘s Maureen Corrigan, seeking the secret to the Wimpy Kid popularity. As with the Harry Potter series, she says, Kinney’s books translate well to older readers. And they’re funny — “the kind of funny where you have to stop reading every so often because you’re laughing so hard that tears and snot are running down your face.”

Abrams expected Dog Days, number four in the Wimpy Kid series, to be popular, but early demand caused the publisher to increase its initial print run from three million to four million copies.

The Wimpy Kid series is just one example of the apparently endless range of expression possible in comics and graphic novels. Another, far different example is The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb. Yes, R. Crumb, the pioneering underground comix icon better known for salacious and subversive work. No mockery or reinvention here, says The Los Angeles Times, in a rave review, just a faithful interpretation of scripture.

“Indeed, the power of The Book of Genesis Illustrated resides in Crumb’s decision to play it straight, to frame this ancient creation myth on its own enduring terms,” observes Times book editor David Ulin.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    October 14, 2009 1:03 pm

    “The kind of funny where you have to stop reading every so often because you’re laughing so hard tears and snot are running down your face”–that’s my kind of funny. And my kind of book.

  2. rachel permalink
    October 14, 2009 3:17 pm

    I can attest to the popularity of the Whimpy Kid books, before working at BooksandBooks I had never heard of them. And within working there for 10 minutes I already had three people ask me where they were located.

    It never looked all that interesting to me, and it’s sheer popularity made me snub them so I never actually opened one up to see if I would end up with snot running down my face. (but give me a break there were hundreds of books just begging to be opened).

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