Tråd: Var "A Contract With God" den første graphic novel?

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Will Eisner's "A Contract with God," published in 1978, gets the credit for being the first graphic novel, though it was not actually the first long-form graphic story nor the first use of the phrase. It was, however, the first marriage of the term, which appeared on the cover, and the intent of "serious" comix in book form. "It was intended as a departure from the standard, what we call 'comic book format,'" Will Eisner recently told TIME.comix. "I sat down and tried to do a book that would physically look like a 'legitimate' book and at the same time write about a subject matter that would never have been addressed in comic form, which is man's relationship with God." Though the concept of a "graphic novel" had been brought up among comix fans during the 1960s, Eisner claims to have to come up with it independently, as a form of spontaneous sleight-of-hand marketing. "[The phrase] 'graphic novel' was kind of accidental," Eisner said. While pitching the book to an important trade-book editor in New York, says Eisner, "a little voice inside me said, 'Hey stupid, don't tell him it's a comic or he'll hang up on you.' So I said, 'It's a graphic novel.'" Though that particular editor wasn't swayed by the semantics, dismissing the book as "comics," a small publisher eventually took the project and put the phrase "A Graphic Novel" on the cover, thereby permanently cementing the term into the lexicon.

Even then the terminology didn't really fit. "A Contract with God," was actually four short stories and not like a traditional novel at all. Art Spiegelman, author of the comix Holocaust memoir "Maus," recalled when "Contract" first came out. "I liked one of the stories very much but it didn't register with me as having anything to do with what I had already climbed on my isolated tower to try to make, which was a long comic book that would need a bookmark." In the past 25 years the meaning of the phrase has only gotten hazier and less satisfying. Japanese manga, superhero collections, non-fiction, autobiography — all of these are "graphic novels," a term that now applies to any square-bound book with a story told in comics format. "The problem with the word 'graphic novel' is that it is an arguably misguided bid for respectability where graphics are respectable and novels are respectable so you get double respectability," Spiegelman says. Eisner himself dislikes the phrase, calling it a "limited term," and prefers "graphic literature or graphic story."

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