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The Film Photonovel

The Film Photonovel
A Cultural History of Forgotten Adaptations

The first book devoted to the hybrid genre of the film photonovel, applying a comparative textual media framework to a previously overlooked aspect of the history of film and literary adaptation.

Series: World Comics and Graphic Nonfiction Series

April 2019
Active (available)
200 pages | 6 x 9 | 33 b&w photos |

Discarded by archivists and disregarded by scholars despite its cultural impact on post–World War II Europe, the film photonovel represents a unique crossroads. This hybrid medium presented popular films in a magazine format that joined film stills or set pictures with captions and dialogue balloons to re-create a cinematic story, producing a tremendously popular blend of cinema and text that supported more than two dozen weekly or monthly publications.

Illuminating a long-overlooked ‘lowbrow’ medium with a significant social impact, The Film Photonovel studies the history of the format as a hybrid of film novelizations, drawn novels, and nonfilm photonovels. While the field of adaptation studies has tended to focus on literary adaptations, this book explores how the juxtaposition of words and pictures functioned in this format and how page layout and photo cropping could affect reading. Finally, the book follows the film photonovel's brief history in Latin America and the United States. Adding an important dimension to the interactions between filmmakers and their audiences, this work fills a gap in the study of transnational movie culture.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Excavating the Film Photonovel
  • 2. A Brief History of the Film Photonovel
  • 3. Word and Image, Telling and Showing
  • 4. Clear Grids, Blurred Lines
  • 5. Action? Stop! Pose and Movement
  • 6. Globalizing the Film Photonovel?
  • Appendix. Publishers and Magazines
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

Jan Baetens
Leuven, Belgium

Baetens is a professor of cultural studies at the University of Leuven. He is also the author or editor of numerous books, including Novelization: From Film to Novel, The Graphic Novel: An Introduction, and The Cambridge History of the Graphic Novel.


“Jan Baetens makes the case that the film photonovel is an important literary/visual genre and gives excellent reasons for its formerly high place in the popular culture of several countries. This book will be a valuable addition to the literature on this genre for both students and scholars. The reader will gain knowledge not only about the film photonovel and the photonovel but also about comics and film. I certainly did.”
Stephen E. Tabachnick, University of Memphis, editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel

“This is a much needed book on a topic that has been widely neglected thus far. It adds an important element to previous discussions on film, comics, photonovels, glamour or celebrity photography, film novelization, and other related genres.”
Fabrice Leroy, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, author of Sfar So Far: Identity, History, Fantasy, and Mimesis in Joann Sfar's Graphic Novels