Graphic novels are essentially comic books that combine various forms of graphic art with story lines, or sequential art that is both longer and more complex than the artwork in serialized comic books. However, the term is used so loosely that it is difficult to define. Neverthless, two fundamental types of graphic novels can be distinguished. The first type is the so-called original graphic novel, or OGN; these are lengthy, ambitious works that appear in single volumes. The second variety comprises previously released material, such as limited series or story arcs of ongoing series.
The term “graphic novel” is used almost solely for American publications. Similar graphic text forms are called “albums” in Europe and “tankobons” in Japan. The term itself was coined by comic legend Will Eisner (1917-2005), who applied it to A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories, which he published in 1978. However, earlier books compete for the claim of having been the first graphic novel. By the the mid-1980’s, graphic novels were firmly established in the publishing market, and they eventually became standard features of most major trade publishers, with dozens of original and collected graphic novels appearing every month. Crime stories and mystery and detective fiction make up a large part of the graphic novel market, just as they did in comic books published long before the advent of graphic novels.