Visual Storytelling Now Mainstream

What was once deemed as “adult comic books,” graphic novels are gobbling up shelf space alongside “serious literature” these days in bookstores. Over the past decade, the graphic novel industry has reported double-digit growth according to Joe Field, president of ComicsPro, a trade organization for independent comic retailers. “Ten to 12 years ago, I had to pay attention to 12 to 20 publishers,” Field said. “Now, literally every publishing house has a graphic novel imprint ... Graphic novels are the only segment of publishing that has consistently gone up in the last five to six years.” Publishing giant Hachette Book Group set records for first-week sales with the first volume of a graphic novel adaptation for Twilight.

In order to meet this rising tide, the University of Houston has begun a Graphic Novel Workshop to help budding writers craft their narratives. Mat Johnson, who teaches at The University of Houston Creative Writing Program and author of the graphic novel, Incognegro, leads the Workshop.


“In graphic writing, I'm reaching about five times as many as my novels,” Johnson said. “I love the novel, and it's my first love, but graphic novels just fit the culture today.” Johnson was named the first USA James Baldwin Fellow by the United States Artists Foundation.

Graphic novels popularity has extended into huge box office successes, too, with adaptations of 300, X-Men, Batman Begins, A History of Violence, Sin City, “V” For Vendetta, The Road To Perdition, and others. Disney bought Marvel Comics for $4 billion in 2009. According to The Numbers’ Box Office History for Based on Comic/Graphic Novel Movies, the total worldwide box office gross is a whopping $10,213,804,362! The worldwide average for each film is $124,558,590.

Not a bad return on investment.

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