In the past decade, comics and graphic novels have transitioned from a niche market to a key component of many publishers’ business models. Previously pigeonholed as the exclusive province of adolescents (even if that was never true), comics have not only seen a resurgence in the children’s market but also won praise across adult genres from memoir to horror. To mark ten years of extraordinary growth, Publishers Weekly recently spoke with a panel of experts — including CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein — about changes in the industry and what the future may hold.
Apart from Brownstein, the interview brings together voices from comics publishing for both children and adults, retail, distribution, and the library world. CBLDF friend, contributor, and frequent conference collaborator Eva Volin, supervising children’s librarian at Alameda Free Library, points out that graphic novels have made extraordinary inroads just this year, landing on shortlists for American Library Association awards including the Newbery (El Deafo by Cece Bell), Caldecott (This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki), Printz (This One Summer again), and Batchelder (Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier and Marc Lizano). The award criteria have not changed, but her colleagues’ view of comics has, Volin says:
[L]ibrarians now respect comics as art and as literature. Committees are interpreting award criteria in ways that embrace rather than exclude the format. I think it’s evolution. In the past ten years, graphic novels have found a level of respect among librarians that is gratifying. Graphic novels are now widely recognized as being wonderful tools for both reluctant and advanced readers. It’s acknowledged that readers don’t necessarily ‘grow out of’ the format simply because they are now out of high school. It’s acknowledged that graphic novels matter.
Other interviewees cite the rise of manga in the U.S., the increasing diversity in comics, and the industry’s agile adaptation to digital formats as components that help to make it a rare growth sector in publishing. Along with this welcome expansion come both challenges and opportunities for CBLDF says Brownstein:
Comics are ubiquitous now in a way that creates a new opportunity to engage with broader audiences. That ubiquity has led to more awareness, more censorship, and more conversation in a much broader range of channels about the medium and its suitability for a variety of audiences.
What with the increasingly crowded field of worthy charitable causes, Brownstein says, CBLDF appreciates its supporters now more than ever! Read the full interview here at Publishers Weekly.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.