March 28, 2018
The New York Times Book Review will cover graphic novels and comics in a monthly column
by Stephanie DeLuca
The New York Times Book Review announced this week that they will be adding a monthly comics and graphic novels column to their pages, to be written by Hillary Chute and Ed Park.
According to a press release from editor Pamela Paul, deputy editor David Kelley, and editor Gal Beckerman, the NYTBR is “thrilled to announce” a column dedicated to what they call a “dynamic and important format.” The column will cover graphic novels for both adults and children, with Chute and Park writing in alternating months.
Both Chute and Park are more than qualified for the job. Chute, a professor of English as well as art and design at Northeastern University, has written multiple books about comics and graphic novels including Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere and Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics. She’s covered the subject in multiple publications, including Bookforum, the New York Review Daily, Poetry, and the Village Voice.
Park was most recently an executive editor at Penguin Press, is the author of the novel Personal Days, and is a founding editor of The Believer. He’s written about the genre for the Los Angeles Times and the Village Voice, founded the “Poem as Comic Strip” feature at the blog of the Poetry Foundation, and judged the graphic novel category for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Although the Times discontinued their graphic novel bestseller list last year, and have never officially commented on their decision to do so, this monthly column is clearly a positive development, maybe even an improvement. With coverage curated by two of the leading writers who closely study the genre, it has the potential to highlight titles overlooked elsewhere and take a deeper dive into evaluating the novels’ content more than a bestseller list ever could.
Literary agent Charlie Olsen, who last month made an impassioned plea that the Times reinstate the bestseller list, told Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid that he is “delighted to hear that they’re actually increasing their coverage. I would love to see them reinstate the bestseller list, but hiring two dedicated comics staff is a step in the right direction.” Others in the industry expressed their satisfaction with the decision as well. Kevin Hamric, director of sales and marketing at Viz Media, told Reid that Chute and Parks are “two very well known and recognizable names in the industry,” who “will give comics, graphic novels, and manga the attention and recognition they deserve.”
As Beckerman says in the press release, comics and graphic novels are “some of the most creative and richly rewarding books being published today.” Graphic novels are special for so many reasons — their unique capability to tell a story through images; their power to tackle difficult topics in ways that are accessible; their ability to turn kids into lifelong readers at an early age. Hooray for the NYTBR’s decision to give the medium a regular column and the recognition it deserves.
Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.