What made Graphic Novels Break Through?

Comics historians can point to the antecedents of the graphic novel when looking for clues as to how the breakthrough to the mainstream happened. They can point back as far the early 1960s when Little Brown brought Tintin to these shores, and early graphic novels published by NBM in the 1970s, Gil Kane’s books His Name is Savage & Blackmark, and Will Eisner’s, A Contract with God to name a few. These were all critical. However, 1986 was the year that the real transformation began, with Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen & Maus. Dark Knight & Watchmen made a lot of noise & promoted the idea that comics were changing, but Maus did more than that. Maus was such powerful reading that general readers didn’t look at it as a comic book or a graphic novel (the term hadn’t stuck yet) but as a new kind of reading experience. Maus almost single handedly showed the world outside comics that graphic novels could relate trans formative reading experiences. Maus actually became a staple of high school curriculum.

Unfortunately, no books of the magnitude of Maus followed for several years, but by the late 1990s, a handful of graphic novels had surfaced in the mainstream, including, Dan Clowes’ Ghost World, Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series. All these books showed that mainstream readers had more in common with comic book readers than they might have thought, & the rest, as they say, is history.

To learn more about the history of the graphic novel, read my book, Faster than a Speeding Bullet: the Rise of the Graphic Novel, available now.

NBM on Cyber Monday: 20% OFF

Heck, let’s give this a try: we’re joining the stampede out there giving you 20% off all orders of at least $20 worth of books and magazines.
Just make sure to enter code 112 into the coupon field to see your savings!
Also, if using MC, Visa or Amex, make sure to enter the security code,as instructed, into the comment box, as no orders can be fulfilled without this.
And this is good for 24 hours from… now!
On your mark…
Get set…

NBM in January: wine-making and comics

That is the theme of what we consider to be one of our best books of the season, take a look at what is being solicited for by us at your favorite comics shop now:

A Comic Artist And a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs
Etienne Davodeau

Etienne Davodeau is a comic artist. He doesn’t know much about the world of wine-making.

Richard Leroy is a wine-maker. He‘s rarely even read comics.

But these two are full of good will and curiosity. Why do we choose to spend one’s life writing and creating comics or producing wine? How and for whom do we do them? To answer these questions, for more than a year, Etienne went to work in Richard’s vineyards and cellar. Richard, in return, leapt into the world of comics. They opened a lot of bottles and read many comics. They traveled around, meeting authors and wine-makers sharing their passion for their jobs. The first time a book explores the nature of a man’s vocation with a true life representation of it from two very different perspectives. They get to realize they both have that precious and necessary power to bring people together.

With guest appearances by Trondheim (Dungeon, Little Nothings), Emmanuel Guibert (The Photographer) and Marc-Antoine Matthieu (Museum Vaults).

8×11, 272pp., B&W hardcover $29.99, ISBN 9781561637034

See the previews.










Atilio Gambedotti

3 guys get together regularly to compare notes on their latest adventures with chicks. One just adds conquests like a fighter pilot, one is more romantic, the third somewhere in between. All get plenty to talk about in smoldering detail. By the bestselling author of 4 Girlfriends and Room-Mates.

8 ½ x 11, 48pp, full color trade pb., $11.99 ISBN 9781561637164

See previews in Eurotica.





Canto Ostinato

Last weekend, my father took me to a concert. I’m not a particular concert-goer, but this was special: it was the performance of Canto Ostinato, a piano piece that has been the soundtrack of my life since I was about thirteen years old. Only later I learned it is a great example of fundamentalist minimalistic music, tonal and harmonious. It was written in the late 1970s by Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt and you can click here if you want to read more about him and the many facets of this fantastic piece.

But the best thing is just to listen it.

It has been performed in numerous settings and with various instruments, of which the four-piano version is one of the most impressive and entrancing. Here’s a great rendition, with images of symmetries in Dutch landscapes as an added bonus:

Click here for the YouTube video of Canto Ostinato with four pianos

The version my dad and I saw was for two pianos. We sat in first row, so the sound was really close and enveloping. Plus, I got a good view of the subtle footwork of one of the pianists, Polo de Haas. I brought a small leather notebook and drew this:


I find this music evokes a lot of imagery for me – mostly abstract but also natural – like the rhythm of breathing, or breaking waves.

So I drew this:


Then I realized I had drawn this before, and a lot better.

In 2006, on a holiday in Ireland, I found the CD of Canto Ostinato in the house I was staying in, and I listened to it in one long session and drew and drank port the whole time, trying to capture every shift in the music. It became a very long illustration. The picture beneath is part of it. If you click on it, you get the full version. Best viewed with the music from the video above playing in the background.


By the way, the translation of Canto Ostinato is ‘stubborn song’. Isn’t that great?

NBM Sells Out

As we head into the Holiday season, we’re proud to announce that we’ve sold out of our initial run  of Stan Mack’s Taxes, The Tea Party and Those Those Revolting Rebels and are running low of Margreet de Here’s Psychology: A Discovery in Comics and Hirohiko Araki’s Rohan at the Louvre (which means if you want to give/receive either of those titles, I suggest placing an order soon)

Our latest title, Abelard by Renaud Dillies and Regis Hautier also belongs on your Holiday gift list.

Publisher’s Weekly has listed the book on their Graphic Novel Gift Guide and reviewed the title, saying, “What eventually reveals itself amid the cute animals and dry humor is a poignant tale echoing the plight of early European immigrants, who abandoned everything they knew in search of a better life and nurtured hope even in the worst of situations.”

NBM Review Round-Up!

With such a wide variety of titles, we’re pretty fortunate to get a pretty amazing cross section of reviewers.

Here are a few kind words about several of our titles:
Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics

“Margreet, with help from her husband/colorist Yiri, does exactly what I’d hoped she’d do. I got an overview of philosophy with difficult concepts explained in a variety of ways. I got an introduction to the basics that left me with a desire to learn more. I love a book where, just when I think, “I need an example to understand that,” I turn the page and Yiri is telling Margreet, “It’s getting a bit abstract now…Can you give a concrete example here?” And she does.”

– The Unshelved Book Club

“In short, colorful, humorously self-reflective chapters, de Heer takes us on a tour of the biggest questions and the most famous names of philosophy, ending with the personal philosophies of some surprisingly interesting people rarely thought of as philosophers.  The characters and arguments of philosophy come brilliantly to life through a series of quirky, memorable conversations.”

– Teacher Librarian

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde:  The Happy Prince

“It might seem odd to think of Wilde’s classic tale of the statue that loved his city and the swallow that loved the statue as a tale of horror. But there’s something profoundly horrific in the way the statue can only give the precious and finite parts of his body to save the city he loves.  Russell’s illustrations slip delicately between the terrific pain the prince sees and the fragile joy the bird helps him deliver.”

– Teacher Librarian

And finally, check out this great piece looking at the work of Lewis Trondheim’s funny animal comics including NBM’s Dungeon series.

How Graphic Novel got into Libraries

As the graphic novel form took off in the 1990s, one of the first places it landed was public libraries. The respectability of MAUS as well as the initial buzz generated by the publicity generated by DARK KNIGHT & WATCHMEN raised the visibility of the comics medium. Lots of people in the library were more curious than biased against comics, so they started small graphic novel collections, steeled themselves, & waited for the complaints.

Complaints did occasionally come their way, but mostly librarians saw that they’d stumbled onto something. Patrons, particularly boys, loved comics. These books were read, borrowed, & stolen. The word was out—libraries were not dead places, they were even a bit hip.
Even better, books were coming out like UNDERSTANDING COMICS, STRANGERS IN PARADISE, & ELFQUEST, more in line with library collection policies. As librarians learned how to best collect comics they had to read them, making them become fans or at least educated skeptics.

There were barriers aside from content that made collecting graphic novels difficult. Vendors who sold to libraries didn’t carry them, &, for the most part, they weren’t reviewed (librarians generally bought books after they were reviewed) so librarians began holding conferences about graphic novels in an effort to educate each other & work out problems collecting comics. Throughout the 90s these issues were thoroughly examined, but the real breakthrough occurred when publishers saw the benefits of libraries collecting graphic novels. Initially, the big publishers saw libraries as competition, that one library sale negated multiple individual sales. However, over time the publishers saw public library collections as a way to promote the changing comics field, & a partnership was formed between the comics industry public libraries. Interestingly enough, throughout most of the 1990s, the two most popular graphic novels in public libraries were MAUS & UNDERSTANDING COMICS.

For more information about the history of the graphic novel, read my book, Faster than a Speeding Bullet: the Rise of the Graphic Novel, available now.



What is creativity? Where does it come from? Is it something you have inside, or something you can tap in to?

I personally lean towards the latter. My most creative moments are when I’m in the bath tub, where I get the distinct sensation of “windows” opening in my mind, through which ideas are flowing…