I'd like to start by saying that I largely agree with your position that comics as a whole are (and probably should) move more towards the graphic novel format over the magazine... one of the things I'm curious about is how it changes the rules for how the business of producing content for comics, both for writers and for illustrators.
Some of the deals I've heard about, with Tokyopop for instance, involves something similar to what I believe prose novelists receive... an advance in order to keep the lights on, and then regular disbursements based on periodic content updates, with a final bulk payment upon completion of the work, and subsequently a royalty percentage based on future sales that (presumably) carries on into perpetuity.
Unfortunately, the numbers I've heard from a few Tokyopop contracts are nearly untenable... at one point, I heard $500 disbursed for every 20 pages that the artist sends in, up to the end of a 160-page book. This sounded ridiculous to me, but the person I was hearing this from said that Tokyopop seemed to feel that most of their artists were either working as part-timers with a "real" job for their main support, or had the support of parents or other means to keep themselves in house and home.
By a similar rote, I've heard of other deals in which the artist or writer is expected to produce the book in its entirety (or at least nearly so) prior to being published, with returns based entirely on percentage of sales after publishing expenses. Needless to say, this makes for a difficult proposition for any full-time illustrator to stomach... if it's your own work, it may seem more feasible to impart the time and investment as a "labour of love", but what about for those artists who produce as work-for-hire illustrators?
How should production of a graphic novel work in terms of contracted obligations, returns and so forth? I have a basic understanding of how it works for the 22-page format, but the 160+ page format is presumably a different beast. What standards are in place currently for graphic novel production, and what standards might be put in place? Is it reasonable to expect the artist to dedicate 6 months or more of steady production without the investment of an advance, or regular disbursements? What numbers seem reasonable, and where do we begin establishing a regular baseline that this newer form of production can stand upon?