Graphic Novels by Cathy Malkasian

What exactly is a graphic novel?

Opinions will vary, of course. Some people don't care for the term at all, claiming it's high and mighty and flies too close to the blazing sun of literary prose. Others say it's a simple matter of page count and binding. Still others will throw genres such as memoir or anthology into the classification, muddying the waters even further.

Perhaps the definition has something to do with the amount of suffering involved. Many cartoonists are moody, irritable people who work much too hard only to complain about it later. According to the author of the above books:

"How would I know what a graphic novel is? All I can do is explain my somewhat miserable process of making one. It begins with writing and re-writing a lengthy script in great detail, with many drafts and a seemingly infinite amount of frustration. At some point I design characters and places that I think will best express the ideas. This is also the time when I start deciding what will be said versus what will be shown. Using the written draft as a guide I write the whole thing over again in pictures. Again, there are many drafts.

"Much of the detailed character motivations and subtext from the written draft get subsumed by the drawings. Dialogue is boiled down to the essentials. I might change the story structure, and add or consolidate characters. Every character decision, reaction and emotion becomes a plot point as characters themselves become the events that drive the story. Very specific acting choices are worked out in expressions and body language. All the unifying connections and themes finally permeate everything.

"The work days are average to long, six days a week. The nights often bring on obsessive edits and additions that flood the mind and notebook. The whole process takes at least a couple of years, and inevitably I feel like an idiot for taking on the task, but by then I'm too far into it to give up.

"It's a strange vocation and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Now go away and stop asking me questions I can't answer."