The Making of a Graphic Novel

This panel aimed to interrogate the existence of the graphic novel at a time of great change in the media and literary world. 

Ope Adedeji started the panel by asking the panelists if they think the graphic novel, with all its eccentricities, is literature or an art form of its own. 

Sylvia Ofili opined that it is impossible for one to categorise the graphic novel as just one thing or one art form because it is a product of multiple aesthetics and forms.

Giving a quick background on the graphic novel, Johann Ulrich claimed that it borrows copiously from the comic and strip-magazine traditions, which have been around for the past 120 years. He went further to define the graphic novel as a text made of images. 

Speaking on why she went into writing graphic novels, Sylvia Ofili stated that she was interested in exploring literary art outside the world of texts. She also said that prior to the publication of her first book, she had many vivid imaginations, and so she wanted the physical images in her head down on paper, not just the words expressing those images.

Ope asked the panel who they think graphic novels are for. In answering this question, Johann Ulrich said that one of the appeals of the graphic novel is that it is a democratic art form, open to everyone. Sylvia Ofili added to Johann Ulrich’s point by saying that the graphic novel faces a certain type of stereotype because many kids start with picture books and comic strips, and so the graphic novel is mostly regarded as juvenile because it is closely related to these materials. However, she feels that anyone can pick a graphic novel and find something profound inside. 

When asked how one can make the graphic novel mainstream, Johann Ulrich said that he was more interested in making people engage with the novel, and not making it mainstream. He feels one could do this not by going digital, like publishers do nowadays, but by investing in better paper, better ideas and better finishing, and turning the graphic novel into an irresistible object of art and beauty. 

When talking on why the graphic novel is not so popular in Nigeria, Sylvia Ofili said that Nigerians like many people world over, are mostly interested in what they know and what is available. She believes that discussing the graphic novel on platforms like Aké Arts and Book Festival is important for promoting it.

During the Q/A session, Johann Ulrich recommended that publishers have good connections with their authors. In addition, Sylvia Ofili advised that graphic novelists create connections with those who illustrate their works because she believes this creative dependence is very rewarding.