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message 1: by Ang (last edited Aug 09, 2018 11:22AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments A thread dedicated to Graphic Novels


message 2: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Thanks!!!

Here are some classics of the genre

Will Eisner - The Contract With God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue

Art Spiegelman - The Complete Maus

Marjane Satrapi - The Complete Persepolis

Alison Bechdel - Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Chris Ware - Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

Craig Thompson - Blankets

Alan Moore - Watchmen

Guy Delisle - Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Joe Sacco - Palestine

Kim Deitch - The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Dave Sim - High Society


message 3: by David (new)

David Good to see this thread. I like the starter list there, Robert. Since you already mentioned Watchmen and High Society I just want to add one more that I personally love. Moonshadow with text by J. M. DeMatteis and illustrated mostly by Jon J. Muth but with additional work by Kent Williams and George Pratt. The story is a strange, coming of age story with a lot of elements of fantasy, but beautifully told. The art work is quite unusual, as it is almost entirely painting. The result is visually stunning as well.


message 4: by David (last edited Aug 09, 2018 03:08PM) (new)

David One discussion comment I have is this: When considering whether or not to read a graphic novel I usually start with the story. I want to know something about what it's about, as I would with a text story. But then I also will always leaf through the pages to get a general impression of the art work. No matter how interesting the writing might sound, if the artwork does not appeal to me as well I usually will skip it. This factor marks a significant difference between graphic novels and text-only novels, but also is a reason why graphic novels might be a harder sell. A potential reader / viewer has to decide they like two different aspects of the work before they will pick it up.

With graphic novels I don't read because of the art, the most common complaint I have is when the pictures just look boring. Sometimes it seems like a minimal effort is made to really have much complexity in the illustrations. Maybe that's because that would take much longer or maybe because when the illustrator did not write the text simpler is easier to co-ordinate. I'm not really sure.


message 5: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
On Robert's list I've read only four: The Complete Maus, The Complete Persepolis, Blankets, and Watchmen. I think each is brilliant. I'll check out more!

Another I like but that I don't think has ever really been given its due is David Small's Stitches .


message 6: by Sara G (last edited Aug 09, 2018 05:44PM) (new)

Sara G | 166 comments I have a ton of recs but I'm on my phone so I'll just throw out the one that everyone needs to read right away: My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, #1) by Emil Ferris


message 7: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments Thanks for starting this thread, And!

Have read and enjoyed the first 7 on Robert's list. Also second Trevor's (Stitches) and Sara's (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1).

A few more recs:
- City of Glass: The Graphic Novel (based on Paul Auster's novel; stark black & white art; wonderful, although I can't comment on how it measures up against Auster's novel)
- Black Hole by Charles Burns (wonderful look at teenage alienation amidst the spreading of a bizarre, sexually-transmitted disease; more luscious black & white art)
- Big Questions and Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen (simplistic art, but quite philosophical and thought-provoking)
- Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (architect in search of meaning and love; aren't they all? just kidding.)
- From Hell by Alan Moore (incredibly intricate look at Jack the Ripper)


message 8: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments Great question, David. I almost never consider the story when choosing either a graphic novel or straight prose fiction. I tend to pick both formats by writer, publisher, friend/critic recs, etc. I will frequently get pulled in by the cover art when it comes to graphic novels. The time investment is not the same for graphic novels, so I'm probably more willing to take a chance on unknowns or newer writers than I am with text-only fiction, especially if we're talking about a library book.


message 9: by David (new)

David Another discussion question: I have not done any proper research on this, but it seems to me that graphic novels that have had success breaking through for recognition by a wider audience are more likely to be non-fiction than for text-only books. My theory here is that people who are dismissive of comic books as being silly stories for children can't so easily dismiss something like Maus or Persepolis or Blankets or Palestine or Pyongyang in that way. The combination of a subject that is clearly serious and often personal (most of these are autobiographical books) with a form people often think of as un-serious and juvenile makes people take a second look and actually consider the work on its merits.


message 10: by carissa (new)

carissa | 98 comments I only recently started including GN in my regular reading. I'm a painter, so the visual aspect interests me...but, usually the story is lame. A man who teaches about them started working at the bookstore I work at, so I became more curious about them because of his passion for them.

2 of the best I've read are some of my favorite reads from the past year- Becoming Unbecoming and Pretending is Lying.


message 11: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments David wrote: "Another discussion question: I have not done any proper research on this, but it seems to me that graphic novels that have had success breaking through for recognition by a wider audience are more ..."

Good point! In fact when I recommend GN to first timers, my go to one is Maus as it does change perceptions.


message 12: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments David wrote: "One discussion comment I have is this: When considering whether or not to read a graphic novel I usually start with the story. I want to know something about what it's about, as I would with a text..."

Hmmm in my case, the coloration plays an important part - It took me ages to get into V for Vendetta because of the grainy dull coloring, same with The Amazing Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt for the same reason


message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Wow - I've got some new ones! I have to check out big questions
Some other recs :

Frank Miller - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Dash Shaw - Bottomless Belly Button

Jeff Smith - Bone: The Complete Edition

Daniel Clowes - Ghost World

Alex Robinson - Box Office Poison

David B - Epileptic

Jim Woodring - The Frank Book

Yoshihiro Tatsumi - The Push Man and Other Stories


message 14: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I just wanted to share this link to an excellent TLS article which was posted on the Sabrina thread.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/pu...

The story about Chris Ware and the BBC's reaction on the review show makes me feel sad. It explains very well Nick Dsarno's "self preservation" comment.


message 15: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1647 comments I'm not fond of the term graphic novel and think it more of a term that gained popularity when used to increase comics' legitimacy and sales. So here are some interesting publications in the comic medium.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
This comic is more a primer on techniques of the medium, often used as a textbook.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The comic that was the inspiration for the movie, Hugo.

March: Book One
Award-winning trilogy that uses the comic form to tell the story of the American civil rights movement through the eyes of John Lewis, U.S. congressman. I've linked the first volume. The third book won a National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

I'd also recommend, depending on your toleration of genres, the work of Fantagraphics' Hernandez brothers, D.C. Vertigo's, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and Alejandro Jodorowsky's books for Humanoid's Publishing..


message 16: by David (new)

David Sam, you are right about the promotion of the term "graphic novel" being to distance the form from the connotations of "comic book". In the early days, Dave Sim, author and main illustrator for the Cerebus books liked to make fun of things that were being called "graphic novels" because they were often books that could be read in the same time it takes to read a text short story (incuding time to look carefully at the images). He was amused by the irony that his bound collections of Cerebus were so thick that people called them "phone books", when in fact, based on length, they were more in line with how long something should be to be called a "novel".

Also, I read Understanding Comics when it first came out. It's a great read and quite good at explaining the techniques and appeal of the illustrated story.


message 17: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Sam wrote: "I'm not fond of the term graphic novel and think it more of a term that gained popularity when used to increase comics' legitimacy and sales. So here are some interesting publications in the comic ..."

I agree as well. I'm with Scott McCloud on the term.


message 18: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1647 comments I have to confess that more than a few classic books i have read were first introduced to me by Classics Illustrated. I thought those a nice stepping stone to fine literature.


message 19: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments Thanks for that TLS article, Ang! It mentions a couple more awards for the medium (the Harveys in the U.S. and a couple UK awards that sounds like they might no longer be active). This Wikipedia page has probably the most comprehensive list I've seen: List of comics awards. I forget all about the Ignatz awards, despite the Small Press Expo (SPX) being held reasonably close to me every year (I've been twice and got to meet Emil Ferris last year).

That Scott McCloud book is wonderful. So many great recs on this thread. I'm almost done working my way through Neil Gaiman's Sandman series which borrows from and modernizes so many different cross-cultural myths and tales. Saga (Image Comics) is another series I've been really impressed with lately.

Alas, I had hoped some of you might have graphic novel/comic book shelves here on GR so I could more easily peruse your top picks!


message 20: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments Sam wrote: "I have to confess that more than a few classic books i have read were first introduced to me by Classics Illustrated. I thought those a nice stepping stone to fine literature."

That's kind of wonderful, Sam!


message 21: by Sara G (new)

Sara G | 166 comments David wrote: " A potential reader / viewer has to decide they like two different aspects of the work before they will pick it up."

That's the case with text-only novels as well. There's the content and the form of the work. Someone might be willing to read a story about a divorced woman traveling to Greece if it's written as a travelogue but wouldn't enjoy the work of Rachel Cusk, or vice versa. The interplay of content and form is a part of all art.


message 22: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Sam wrote: "I have to confess that more than a few classic books i have read were first introduced to me by Classics Illustrated. I thought those a nice stepping stone to fine literature."

Same here. I read The Invisible Man and Frankenstein as Illustrated classics - books I then read in my late teens. The illustrated classics gave me a good background when approaching the original novel


message 23: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Marc wrote: "Thanks for that TLS article, Ang! It mentions a couple more awards for the medium (the Harveys in the U.S. and a couple UK awards that sounds like they might no longer be active). This Wikipedia pa..."

Sandman is AMAZING.


message 24: by David (new)

David Sara wrote: "That's the case with text-only novels as well. There's the content and the form of the work. Someone might be willing to read a story about a divorced woman traveling to Greece if it's written as a travelogue but wouldn't enjoy the work of Rachel Cusk, or vice versa. The interplay of content and form is a part of all art. "

But it's still not the same, because the graphic novel always has one more variable - the illustrations. To take your example, the travelogue about Greece could be a text-only book or it could be a graphic novel, a travelogue with illustrations. Alternatively, Rachel Cusk could write a text-only book or she could write one that is for a graphic novel. However many variable you think are involved in deciding whether or not you will enjoy a text-only book, there is always one more for the graphic novel. Actually, if you are going to break things down, there could be many more variables as artistic style as well as whether or not you like the pictures would make it a more complex thing. But just to keep it simple, there are only text-based considerations for the pictureless book while there are both text-based and picture-based considerations for the graphic novel. So it's twice as many.


message 25: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments One of the amazing things about literature is that it allows the reader to get inside the head of a character in a way that one can never achieve in real life (you can't read another person's thoughts or vicariously become them through your own imagination). The thing graphic novels do is put you inside the head of an author because you are literally seeing the way they think, how they visualize and process the world (not so much the case when the author and artist are separate in a graphic novel). There's a significant amount of our thinking that is purely visual (well, those with viable vision), so the graphic novel removes a layer of translation to some extent. It's almost like you're experiencing the story much more closely to the way the artist does. It has the potential to tighten the gap between signifier and signified. It also leverages the type of processing that actually occurs within the visual system (I'm butchering here Rudolph Arnheim's excellent visual perception theory research, mainly as I've understood it through Visual Thinking). Would it be fair to say that the medium uses less imagination in the reader but a broader type of mental processing (since it is engaging both visual and textual brain functions)? Not meaning this to be a value judgement per se--just a significantly different way of experiencing a story.

Apologies for rambling at such length!


message 26: by David (last edited Aug 11, 2018 12:52PM) (new)

David Less imagination? No. It uses the imagination differently, though.

Think about films. They provide not only visuals to go with words, but they provide people playing the roles and sets to show us the locations and actions. Now you can just sit back and take it all in without engaging imaginatively, especially for a film that is light entertainment, but for the best films it actually just gives you something different to engage with. As you look at the expression on an actor's face or the manner in which she moves you might wonder what that tells us about her, how she feels, and what she is thinking. Imagination is still required.

Now think of plays. Like film, they provide the visual element, but they are much more limited in what they can show. As Shakespeare tells us at the start of Henry V,

Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance.
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' th' receiving earth,
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, jumping o'er times,


The presence of the visual does not preclude the need for the imagination. In fact, it might require a bit more as you must imagine things that are even contrary to what you actually see.

Now consider the graphic novel. You have pictures, which provides a visual element, but they are mere moments. They do not move. The imagination is needed to bring these pictures to life and let them perform. What happens in between the frames? What information is subtly conveyed in the images given? Can you use your imagination to take simplified drawings of faces and objects and see them as fully real?

You might think that the pictures limit your imagination, but when a writer tells you that a character has long blonde hair, is 5'7'', and overweight, you already get constraints on what you can (or should) imagine. The pictures in a graphic novel provide some of that descriptive information, yet leaves room for the reader / viewer to add more.


message 27: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 257 comments I think of that is "less" in terms of quantity, but since that's subjective and one can't really measure how much imagination is required for something, "different" is a better qualifier. Certainly, I didn't mean to imply that graphic novels don't still require imagination. Maybe it's a shift in imagination as you are frequently not imagining what a character looks like in a graphic novel, but you are imagining what their posture/facial expression means, filling in the gaps between panels, etc. as you said.

Would be interested to hear what others think in terms of the differences in imagination required between straight text and graphic novels for those who read both.

I do think of all those formats (film, theatre, graphic novels) as requiring "less" imagination than straight prose, but perhaps less visualization is what I'm thinking, or simply different.


message 28: by Sara G (new)

Sara G | 166 comments Scott McCloud has a chapter in Understanding Comics about "blood in the gutter," his metaphor for the way comics rely on imagination to carry the transitions between panels. Panels are separated by a gutter that requires the reader to fill in information. He tries to create a taxonomy of different types of transitions, such as when the gap the reader has to fill in is one of space versus one of time, etc.


message 29: by Robert (last edited Aug 11, 2018 02:50PM) (new)

Robert | 1993 comments Sara wrote: "Scott McCloud has a chapter in Understanding Comics about "blood in the gutter," his metaphor for the way comics rely on imagination to carry the transitions between panels. Panels are separated by..."

In fact I was going to mention that as an example - but really all art forms require imagination. I don't think that texts require more brainwork because there are authors who will explain everything everything within the text ( what's coming to mind is The Kite Runner, which spoonfeeds the reader so much that all foreign words will have an english translation next to them in brackets)

I guess then the extent of imagination is up to the author/illustrator/director/screenwriter/painter/playwright


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