Today was the second to last RDA training session at Portland State University, using the RIMMF training tool (see this post for details).
One point we discussed was the difference between the Artist and Illustrator relator terms ($e in access points, e.g. the 1xx and 7xx fields). The example we used was a children’s picture book, but I (having cataloged a great many Dark Horse comic books at PSU) am more interested in how this applies to comics.
RDA Appendix I defines the terms:
artist: A person, family, or corporate body responsible for creating a work by conceiving, and often implementing, an original graphic design, drawing, painting, etc. (I.2.1 Relationship Designators for Creators)
illustrator: A person, family, or corporate body contributing to an expression of a work by supplementing the primary content with drawings, diagrams, photographs, etc. If the work is primarily the artistic content created by this entity, see artist and photographer at I.2.1. (I.3.1 Relationship Designators for Contributors)
So the difference between artist and illustrator in RDA, speaking practically, is the degree of importance or primacy of the art. In a children’s picture book like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, where the art is the most important part of the book, Carle is considered the artist. In a textbook with photographs and diagrams, on the other hand, the art is not as important. The text can stand on its own, but the art cannot. Therefore the creator of the photographs would be considered an illustrator.
One important point to note is that catalogers can’t put relationship designators for contributors in the 1xx field, only relationship designators for creators. This makes sense, since creators are the ones primarily responsible for coming up with the bulk of the work, while contributors only contribute a part of the work – and whatever RDA may say, the 1xx field is called the main entry for a reason. So we can have
100 1_ $a Carle, Eric, $e artist
100 1_ $a Carle, Eric, $e creator
(if we wanted to add a relationship designator at all, which is probably not necessary), but not
100 1_ $a Carle, Eric, $e author, $illustrator
This seems to be fairly clear in the case of works like heavily illustrated children’s books or lightly illustrated textbooks, but what about comic books?
In most comics (there are a few graphic novels with few or no words), the story is just as important as the art. It would not be a comic book or graphic novel if one or the other were taken away. At PSU, I followed the example of the cataloger who had worked on the Dark Horse collection before me; he always used the author of the text as the main entry/primary access point. But what if, using cataloger’s judgment, one decided that the primary access point should bring out the artist? Comic book art is frequently created by a group of people, including a penciller, an inker, a colorist, and a letterer. Which one of those is most important?
It’s certainly easier to just keep using the author of the text as the primary access point for comic books, but I’m not completely certain that it’s the right thing to do in every single case. A question to consider…