Graphic Novels

Last night, folks were asking questions about graphic novels, what they are, some titles, are they good for kids to read, etc.  I wasn’t very coherent, I’m afraid, in my explanations, and I plead a blocked-up ear throwing me off-balance this week.   Here is some information about graphics:

First, start with the Wikipedia article:  This article traces the art back to the medieval woodcuts, then up to the 1920’s and the start of comic strips.  The artist Will Eisner was the first to describe a book as a “graphic novel” and the Eisner award for best graphic given each year is named for him.    Another good website is No Flying, No Tights (  It divides the list of suggested titles into those for children, and those for older teens and adults.  It is important to distinguish between the two.  A title for an adult or older teen may possibly be too violent or have sexual imagery that you might not want your child to see.  However, this does not mean that the GN is bad; it’s just not suitable for children.  Another good site for a list is the ALA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens   This just started in 2007, mainly due to the popularity of graphics.

If you remember the Tintin books, you already know a graphic novel.  Tintin, and the Asterix and Obelix comics are early versions of GN’s, as are all those Classics Illustrated comics we read back in the day.

Here is my list of favorites.  If there is an * after the title, we own this one here at Plumb.  Otherwise, the title is something I’ve read, or something I own, and we can try to get it for you.

Titles for younger ages:

Babymouse series *, by Jennifer Holm (Acutally Jen’s Favorite).   Babymouse is a sassy young mouse with all of the dreams and desires of a regular girl.

crilley_akikocover1.jpgAkiko series, by Mark Crilley.  Akiko is a fourth grader who has adventures with a ragtag group of space “invaders” from the planet Smoo.  I like the incompetent, bombastic pirate Spuckler and his robot Gax.

Bone series*, by Jeff Smith.  Three characters are wandering the countryside, and get involved with a group of villagers and their fight against the stupid stupid rat creatures.  However, there is more to this than meets the eye.  This is better for older kids.

Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio.   This comes from a genre known as steam punk, Jules Verne-like science fiction.  Agatha Heterodyne uses her incredible knowledge of engineering, and her incredible luck, to get out of tricky situations.  Also for older kids/younger teens.

Leave It to Chance, by James Robinson.  Combine Nancy Drew with the Night Stalker and you have the adventures of Chance Falconer, 14-year-old detective. leaveittochancejpeg.jpg

Older Teens and Adults

Grease Monkey*, by Tim Eldred.   Robin Plotnick is assigned to the space station Fist of Earth to work as a mechanic to a troop of space fighters.  His boss is a genetically enhanced gorilla.  Incredible art, great fight scenes, and lots of heart.  I love this book!grease-monkey.jpg

Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley.  Castle Waiting is a refuge for those who want to hide from the world, like a pregnant woman hiding from an abusive relationship, bearded ladies who used to be nuns, and a talking horse.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1, by Alan Moore.  Mina Harker gathers together a group of heroes from literature, such as Alan Quartermaine, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll, at the behest of the mysterious M, who is really Mycroft Holmes.  Full of detail, violent, and has sexual images.  Forget the movie, this book is MUCH better!  There is a Vol. 2, but it’s not quite as good as the first.

Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman.  This series is complex, beautiful, at times violent and confusing.  Death and his siblings confound humans and quarrel among themselves.   Artsy, moody older teens will like this series, if they don’t already know about it.  My favorite is Vol. 8, The World’s End, about an inn where travelers tell stories while the wait out a snowstorm.

Persepolis*; Persepolis 2, by Marjane Satrapi.  This is a memoir of sorts, about a girl growing up in Iran at the time of the Islamic Revolution.  She is sent to boarding school in Europe, which is the subject of the sequel.   The first book is being made into a movie.

Promethea series, by Alan Moore.  A teenage girl is obsessed with stories about the goddess Promethea until she takes on the role, becoming another in a series of Prometheas throughout history.  Alan Moore (who also wrote V for Vendetta, the Watchmen and many other fantastic GNs) constantly pushes the envelope in terms of layout, artwork, sexuality, what every you want.  Very much for adults, but worth looking at.

Maus; Maus II, by  Art Spiegelman.  The story of the Holocaust, but the Jews are mice, the Nazi’s are cats.  Tough to read, in places.

In the Shadow of No Towers, by Art Spiegelman.  Spiegelman lived very near the World Trade Center, and uses an interesting format to tell the story of that time.  He combines a love for older comics and a highly personal view of that fateful day, with criticism of the current administration in a large board book.


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