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… and says, “Hang on a minute….”

Dirk Deppey sez, in attempting to refute John Byrne’s arguments against original graphic novels (a noble, if not difficult, endeavor):

Moreover, consider the notion that no one will pay for a $20 book without having read it in pamphlet form first. Can anyone who’s given the bookstore market even a cursory examination do anything but laugh? How does Byrne think hardcover prose novels sell? The argument’s equally idiotic where graphic novels are concerned. Picture Craig Thompson, Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi smacking their foreheads and crying, “Why, God, why didn’t I listen to John Byrne when I had the chance!?!” Mind you, Thompson, Sacco and Satrapi produce works that the average person in the street might actually want to read

While I understand the argument he’s making, that people choose what to read largely based on reviews and recommendations rather than just wanting extra copies in different formats of books they’ve already read, it might have been a bit stronger if more than one out of the three examples worked primarily in original graphic novels. Maybe 1.5, if we count making two volumes of French Persepolis into one book for the anglophone market as still dealing in graphic novels. It’s a story told in segments, of which the version I read is one, but so are its constituent books and the other parts of the series. Maybe the issue is that 80 pages in French b/w does not a pamphlet make? I don’t know how anyone could claim Sacco was saving is work for his graphic novels, though, since Safe Area Gorazde (and I apologize to any linguistic purists that html doesn’t seem to allow me to use the proper “z”) had the preceding comics journalism he had published in various venues during the war serving as a teaser for discerning readers and Notes from a Defeatist is a collection of previously published works. I don’t follow Deppey closely, though, and I’m not sure how limiting his definition of a graphic novel is. Is Persepolis a limited series? Is Notes from a Defeatist not a graphic novel in that it’s not a novel by standard criteria, whatever those are? I really don’t know and it’s not a question that interests me.

Anyway, yes, it’s good that people read works that are interesting and getting a lot of critical attention, like the books of all three cited writers. I also believe it’s bad to take John Byrne seriously, but perhaps someone’s gotta do it. The truly horrifying thing is that people do, and concur.

And on a last and unrelated note, Deppey says Byrne “stands athwart history and says ‘Stop!’” a quick search shows that perhaps Byrne should have been yelling, but maybe he just doesn’t have as much energy as the young William F. Buckley, Jr. I’m frightened I caught the reference and want to know whether it was supposed to have political implications about Deppey’s already uncloaked opinions about John Byrne or whether it’s a throwaway line. Both, probably.