Faster Than a Speeding Bullet:
The Rise of the Graphic Novel

by Stephen Weiner
(NBM, 2003)

1) What is a graphic novel?

2) If "NBM became America's first graphic novel publisher" in 1976, how can Will Eisner's A Contract With God (1978/Baronet) be the first graphic novel? If you are interested in answers, you won't find them in Faster Than a Speeding Bullet: The Rise of the Graphic Novel.

The Rise of the Graphic Novel is an essay on the short history of the graphic novel and the relatively long history of comic strips and books, the grandparent and parent of author Stephen Weiner's subject.

1a) One would think that Weiner would define the subject of his essay. But, in his defense, the definitions of the much older short story, novel, comic strip and comic book were only recently codified. Graphic novels are very young.

2b) The discrepancy in who was the first publisher and first graphic novel is impossible for this reviewer to resolve.

There are other discrepancies. For example, it's difficult to understand why books about comics are included in an essay about graphic novels. Other discrepancies do abound in The Rise of the Graphic Novel.

Will Eisner is a comics genius and deserves inclusion. Jules Feiffer (Tantrum), Wendy and Richard Pini (Elfquest), Alan Moore and Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing), Art Spiegelman (Maus), Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and others also played roles in the increasing popularity of the graphic novel.

It's equally true that a single story told in a single volume adds nuances to comics that are difficult or impossible to achieve in a daily comic strip. But there the praise ends.

Drum roll. Announcing an editorial comment that has nothing to do with The Rise of the Graphic Novel: Graphic novels are not better than comic strips or books. They are simply different. They should be welcomed into the comics family, but should replace no family member.

The Rise of the Graphic Novel is recommended for those curious about, well, graphic novels.

- Rambles
written by Michael Vance
published 28 August 2004

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