The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term graphic novel as:
“A full-length (esp. science fiction or fantasy) story published as a book in comic-strip format”.
20 years ago you might have been hard pressed to find a library that stocked graphic novels but the genre is now mainstream with institutions like the British Library and the Book Trust giving them recognition as an important literary form.
In 2009 “Time” Magazine picked its top 10 Graphic Novels many of which you can borrow from our libraries. Deeply moving, captivating, funny, philosophical – these titles explore all human life. If you’ve never read a graphic novel, you’re in for a treat.
1. Watchmen – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
The story of the Watchmen as they race against time to find a killer, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial bestseller, Watchmen has only grown in stature since its original publication.
2. Sandman – Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s multi-award winning Sandman saga is the extraordinary story of the world of Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming.
3. Jimmy Corrigan: the smartest kid on earth – Chris Wave
For years Chris Ware has been drawing amazingly innovative ‘comic strips’ about a character called Jimmy Corrigan – a boy with the face of a disappointed old man. Jimmy Corrigan has rightly been hailed as the greatest comic/graphic novel ever to be published.
4. Maus – Art Spiegelman
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story.
“The first masterpiece in comic book history” – The New Yorker.
5. The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Black Island – written and illustrated by Belgian artist Herge
Investigating a mysterious plane crash, Tintin discovers he’s onto something big! The case leads Tintin to Scotland, where he learns of a monster that stalks a lonely island.
6. Micracleman: The Golden Age – Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham
Building on Alan Moore’s Miracleman, Gaiman provides a series of sketches and short stories set in Miracleman’s utopian world.
7. Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
One of the most eagerly anticipated graphic memoirs in recent years, Fun Home is a darkly funny family tale, pitch-perfectly illustrated with Alison Bechdel’s sweetly gothic drawings.
8. Ghost world – Daniel Clowes
Ghost World tells of the adventures of Enid Coleslaw and Beck Doppelmeyer, two bored, supremely ironic teenage girls. They pass the time complaining about the guys they know and fantasising about strange men they see in the local diner. Clowes captures them with uncanny skill, raising the comic book to new heights.
9. The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller
Written by Frank Miller; art and cover by Miller and Klaus Janson. It is ten years after an aging Batman has retired and Gotham City has sunk deeper into decadence and lawlessness. Now as his city needs him most, the Dark Knight returns in a blaze of glory.
10. The Greatest of Marlys – Lynda Barry
Over 200 stories of 8 year old Marlys and her truly indomitable spirit. She is both funny and endearing, reflecting both the joy and humiliation in Marlys’ fantasy and real lives.
By Nick Baker