Monday, December 06, 2004

Picture books get graphic

Publishers Weekly (subscription required) notes that more children's picture books are utilizing the tools of comic books -- namely, panels, word balloons, sound effects and "meanwhile ..." transitions:
"Comic books were kind of polar opposites from trade books," says Roaring Brook editor Neal Porter. "But now picture books and books for older readers are embracing techniques that comic books have used, and by the same token, comics are turning to the picture book format."
Of course, that approach has been popular in Europe and Asia for years. Designer and illustrator Mark Siegel, who will head a new graphic novel imprint for Roaring Brook, cautions, "It's important to not think of plunking the European model into the American market. The format has to find its own voice in America."
French graphic novelist Joann Sfar, author of the Little Vampire books (S&S), puts it more bluntly: "American perception of comic books is still trapped in the awful superhero stuff. American publishers [confuse] the medium and the genre. In France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany and Holland, comic books are seen as a cultural device. American comics writers seem more famous and more respected in Europe."
PW also points out that a lot of comics artists are making the move to picture books for a greater sense of financial security:
"Look at Ian Falconer," says Michael Russo, manager of New York's St. Mark's Bookshop. "A lot of comics artists lust after the position he's found himself in, where he's an author and on call at the New Yorker." Russo sees comics artists seeking stability "instead of having just two choices: either you work for a big company like DC or Marvel and always do someone else's project, or you do it for love and live hand-to-mouth."