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Over the past decade, the comic market has cooled, but interest has grown in long-form comics called graphic novels - beautiful, thoughtful work from Chris Ware ("Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth"), Daniel Clowes ("Ghost World,") and others.
Juan Segarra at Funny Papers in the Dobie Mall has seen a 40-percent increase in sales.
"People are coming in who refer to them as graphic novels," Segarra says. "They're more accepted ... as actual literature."
Widely available in independent and chain bookstores, the UT-Austin libraries also has a solid collection of work.
"Any time there's a new genre that enters the field of publication ... we're interested in looking to see if that's something that the library should acquire," explains Lindsey Schell, bibliographer for English literature.
There's no single reason why graphic novels have gained in popularity. Increased media attention, high-quality work and better availability have all contributed.
"I think, culturally, there's been a buildup of things that have let it into the eyes of people in the media," observes artist Seth ("Palookaville"). "The Crumb documentary, 'Ghost World,' 'American Splendor' - there's a cultural awareness ... that there's something hot going on."
Comic artists have worked for years illustrating outside their own publications. Now, their working worlds are merging.
"The people I worked for weren't really aware of my comics work," says Seth, "They just knew me as an illustrator. In the last couple years, more and more I'm getting hired because of the comics work. People are aware of the work and so they're hiring me for jobs that are more appropriate for what I do."
Chief among those is The New Yorker magazine. It's a natural match for a magazine that's held cartoonists in high regard for at least half a century.
"We're always looking for new artists," explains illustration editor Owen Phillips. "Comic book artists [are people] who can imagine their way around a space in a room. I know that they can build on the reference and make it their own while adding atmosphere to it."
Tonight, The New Yorker is highlighting the work of graphic novelists through "Ray Guns and Moping," a panel featuring Seth, Adrian Tomine ("Optic Nerve") and Gary Panter ("Jimbo").
Working for The New Yorker carries a certain prestige.
"The New Yorker has a lot of cache to it," Seth observes, "You can be working for years, and if [you] do the cover of The New Yorker, it makes a big difference on the way people perceive your work after that. It does have a stamp of approval to it."
Phillips is glad to help.
"If we're helping them pay their bills a little bit and their true love is their comic books, then they go hand and hand."
The New Yorker College Tour: "Ray Guns and Moping," with Gary Panter, Seth, and Adrian Tomine, hosted by New Yorker illustration editor Owen Phillips. La Zona Rosa, $10/$5 student discount
Daily Texan Spotlights Panter, Tomine & Seth
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