The popularity of graphic novels has increased worldwide in recent years, and a growing number of writers are choosing to publish books in this genre, according to experts in the publishing sector.
France publishes about 5,000 comic books per year, which is about seven times as many as 20 years ago.
One reason for the increase is the rise of graphic novels in the 1990s, when people began to realize that comics were not only for children, Angouleme International Comics Festival art director Stephane Beaujean said.
Graphic novels are generally fictional stories told using a comic format and presented in book form.
Representative works include Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, which portrays the author’s childhood and early adulthood in Iran, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which depicts the author interviewing his father about his Holocaust experience.
Graphic novels allowed artists to express emotion more freely than traditional comics because at the time of their emergence, traditional comics in France had already settled into a certain format, Beaujean said during a recent graphic novel forum at the Taipei International Book Exhibition.
German publisher Avant-Verlag founder and director Johann Ulrich said graphic novels are also gaining more recognition in Germany, even though, as in Taiwan, they do not occupy as big a market share as in Japan or France.
More German graphic novelists are having their work published, Ulrich said. His company, for example, publishes about 15 new works per year, compared with 10 works two years ago, he said.
Graphic novels are a more literary form than comic books and often address historical, biographical, political, social and cultural topics, he said.
“Economics-wise it is interesting to see that the graphic novel is one of the few areas of the bookshop market that has been growing in the last few years. So I am quite optimistic about the future of graphic novels,” he said.
In nations like Germany and Taiwan, which do not have a big comic book tradition, the best way to develop the popularity of the genre is to bring more local authors onto the market and offer more graphic novels that deal with social and political topics which people care about, Ulrich said.
He said that several German art schools are now offering courses in the genre and many of the graduates are women.
“I think it’s quite revolutionary because in my childhood, nearly all of the comics I read were by men,” Ulrich said. “So I think we will see a different kind of comic coming up in the next 10 years.”
Ulrich is optimistic about the German market, but Beaujean said it would depend on how the creative form is received in each nation.
However, whether it is in comics or graphic novels, the important thing is for artists to continue to express their emotions through their work and to be creative with their topics, he said.
Dala Publishing Co editor-in-chief Aho Huang (黃健和) said it remains to be seen if graphic novels take off in Taiwan, which is still heavily influenced by Japanese manga.
However, more and more young people are asking: “Can we have something different?” he said.
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