etragedy's Blackmark #1 - Blackmark review

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The First Graphic Novel

Gil Kane is fondly remembered by just about no one. There are probably a thousand other comics creators who are better known. But there's one thing he deserves credit for (and rarely gets), and that is creator of the graphic novel medium.

Way back in 1971, a full 7 years before Will Eisner's A Contract with God, which is usually cited as the first graphic novel, Gil Kane convinced Bantam Books to publish a paperback novel combining comic art and text. And while it differs a bit from modern graphic novels in that the story is told more in text than in art, it is pretty clearly a descendant of both comics and novels.

The story may not be the most stellar piece of genre fiction to launch a medium - it's an adult fantasy, largely derivative of Burroughs and Howard that tells the tale of an immaculate conception to a poor tinker's wife (who bears a special black mark), and the son she bears who will grow up to become a Christ-like redeemer, the titular hero, Blackmark. It has all the usual tropes, enslaved as a child, fighting skills honed in the gladiatorial arena, etc., but it's still enjoyable in it's naive 70s post-apocalyptic way.

Sadly, the trilogy that Blackmark was supposed to spawn would never materialize. Following 'good but not good enough' sales, Blackmark was canceled after the first book, though some of the rest of the tale would later see print in the pages of Savage Sword of Conan.

A little bit of comics history worth checking out.

7 Comments
Edited by DonFelipe

There had already been graphic novels back in the 18th and 19th century -- usually showing one image per page with one or two lines of text below it and telling some kind of drama and/or love story. Of course these "works" weren't called Graphic Novels back then which is exactly why A Contract with God is commonly cited as the first one because it had the term Graphic Novel written on the front cover and it was advertised as such.

Posted by etragedy

@donfelipe: Sure, illustrated novels like that go back probably even a century earlier than that.

What makes this different is it actually has all the conventions of comic books - word ballons, etc. And was published as a novel for the novel market.

Posted by Queso6p4

Very nicely written. I learned a lot from this so thanks for that. Also, kudos for always posting reviews, even (read especially) when they pertain to older books. :-)

Posted by etragedy
Posted by Queso6p4
Posted by ShadowSwordmaster

Nice review and I learned something out of this too.

Edited by CrazyScarecrow

Interesting. Never knew Gil Kane created the first graphic novel.

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