Graphic Novels are somewhat of a new thing. Sure, humans have been telling stories through images since, well. Since we’ve been humans. But graphic novels, emerging out of super-hero and detective comic books format is a recent development. Although a new format, there already has been a great proliferation of this type of work. Memoirs, fiction and non-fiction tales have been told or adapted.
To celebrate this media, the unique challenges it poses to artists, and to give you something more to read--because who already doesn’t have a list of 37 books to read?--I compiled a short list of graphic novels that I’ve read and recommend. I’ve aimed for somewhat of a theme in this list, since there are so many good ones out there. I tried to highlight and pick from those that in some way or another connects to themes of creativity, of the artists and creator, or of the craft.
The ones that can be found at the Hekman Library here on campus have a link on them.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
In Blankets, a memoir, Craig Thompson gives us glimpses of his life as a kid, and later as a teenager grappling to understand his first love, his sexuality, his faith and his art.
Craig Thompson is a big name within the graphic novel genre, not only because he writes a beautiful narrative but also because he delivers his narratives with an added mix of what I call “visual poetry.” He shapes the content and format of the comic page to his poetic vision, as if it was clay on a potter’s wheel. In Blankets, we’re able to get more than just his life story—we get his thoughts, ideas and feelings transpiring through paper and ink.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Another masterpiece by Thompson.
In this one, Thompson, delves into a realistic and gritty (yet made-up) Arabic world. In this book, Thompson returns to the question of faith and how it shapes our lives but through a fictional lens. Here, however, he also reflects somewhat on the power of narratives themselves to shape and mold our lives and actions. A great part of this exploration happens through the Islamic faith and how it weaves energy and emotion to the story of Dodola and Zam.
Bonus: If you’re ever wondering if Thompson does his research, at the end of the book you can look at all the different references he used. He went deep, and while one could still make arguments about whether it constitutes appropriation or not: 1) He claims in the back cover that this does not represent in any way reality or real-life places and people and 2) One would almost wonder if Thompson wasn’t more enamored with a culture and faith that he couldn’t put it in ink and breath in some form.
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
I’ll be honest. I read this one sometime ago, so my review might be fuzzy. The book, ever since I read it, stuck with me. It’s the story of an older architect and teacher who is going through a life crisis of his own. He remembers mistakes of his past, wishes for the different alternatives, and has several existential thoughts. One thing that struck me with this one is that similar to Blankets and Habibi, the author was able to weave the format of the comic for his own purposes by breaking the panels and creatively using interactions of the narrator’s voice in mixture with the visual representation.
By Scott McCloud
Scott McCloud is most frequently known for his other books Understanding Comics and Making Comics where he helps others creates comics within the comic format of panels and simplified drawings. In The Sculptor, he uses a common trope to explore questions regarding life and death, as well as questions relating to a young artists’ aspiration to fame, recognition and money. Is selling our souls away to the craft of making worth it?
J. Andrew Gilbert