The definition of a graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. However, the term is not strictly defined, though Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition is “a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book”, while its simplest definition is given as “cartoon drawings that tell a story and are published as a book”
Obviously, some will say these are not ‘novels’ in the traditional sense at all. One such author, Alan Moore believed: “It’s a marketing term…that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me…The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics – because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, they’d stick six issues under a glossy cover and called it graphic novel under the action hero’s name.
However, the term ‘graphic novel’ is broadly applied to include non-fiction, anthologized and fiction works and is distinguished from the term ‘comic book’, as this refers to comic periodicals.
Richard Kyle, a fan historian coined the term ‘graphic novel’ in 1964 and the term gained popularity in the comic community from 1978 and especially with the start of the Marvel graphic novel line in 1982. The book industry began using ‘graphic novel’ as a book shelf category in 2001. Most comics historians agree that the first real ‘graphic novel’ was Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories published in 1978. Decidedly adult in its images, themes, and language, Eisner’s book spoke to the generation that had first grown up with superhero comics in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
I found a fascinating link regarding the history of graphic novels. Take a look: http://libguides.marymede.vic.edu.au/graphic_novels/history