In Defense of Graphic Novels and a Top 10 Best Graphic Novel Series List

comicbookguy

Top 10 Graphic Novels Series

(Based on nothing but my own subjective opinion)

(My defense of graphic novels after the list)

10. Persepolis
9. The Unwritten
8. The Invisibles
7. Bone
6.  Lucifer
5. Hellblazer
4. Y the Last Man
3.(Alan Moore’s) Swamp Thing
2. Promethea
1. The Sandman

 

I’ve seen you look at me cockeyed when I pull out a graphic novel from my backpack and sit down to read with the same fervor I would give to a fiction novel or some other form of “true literature”. I’ve noticed the amused look on your face when you see my foot high pile of graphic novels rented from the library. I hear the patronizing tone in your voice when you ask me what my comic story is about. I can sense your prejudice and your judgment.  I know what your assumptions are. I know that you think graphic novel is just a term that losers give to comic books so that they don’t have to feel like children when they read their little picture stories. I see your beady little bloodshot eyes hellbent on taking my graphic novels from me and replacing them with the latest Dan Brown book. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, maybe you don’t have these condescending judgments. Maybe you already love graphic novels. Maybe you just don’t know a lot about this form of art. Well, whether I’m being defensive or not, I want to defend graphic novels and declare their right to be on the shelves next to other forms of art and literature that hold both high esteem and critical value. But mostly I just want you to find a graphic novel that can speak to you and blow your mind like so many that I’ve found. I want you to love graphic novels like I do. And if you already love them, then give me your top 10 list.

I want to state my background clearly so that when I talk about graphic novels and comics you can know that I am not a comic book convention guy, and I’m no manga geek (not that there’s anything wrong with being either of those kinds of people). I have only been reading graphic novels (sadly) for the last 4 or 5 years of my life. I am incredibly late to the game and I would not consider myself a comic or graphic novel expert by any means. I was part of the “too cool for comics” crowd my whole life until I finally sat down and read one. I was also a part of the literary elitist crowd, assuming that because they had pictures, graphic novels couldn’t have any literary value. How wrong I was, how terribly and ashamedly wrong. I live with the regret every day of my life that I could have been reading graphic novels my whole life. And now I aim to make it right by dispelling some ignorance and false assumptions associated with the comic book form.

First I think we need to distinguish between comic books and graphic novels. There are no official, universal terms of differentiating the two, but generally there are several distinguishing elements. The main element is the length and completeness of story. Most of the time a graphic novel is going to be much longer than a comic and a graphic novel is generally intended to be a complete story in and of itself. On this note, taking a look inside a comic or graphic novel will tell you the difference between the two as well. If there are several stories that don’t necessarily join together to make a whole then it could be a comic or a comic anthology. If it is one single story, or a miniseries that works cohesively to tell a single story then chances are that it’s a graphic novel.

Another way to tell the difference is just to look at the form the book comes in. Usually comics are printed in the saddle stitch or staple form. They are thin sheets of paper stapled or cheaply bound at the spine. A graphic novel is most often hard cover and the paper is thicker and of a much higher quality. Also, looking at the back, at the price of the book will tell you a lot. Comics tend to be a few dollars (unless they are collector editions), while graphic novels usually sell for a minimum of $20.

Don’t forget one of the clearest differences is the target audience. Graphic novels are usually targeted to mature audiences. As with all of these distinguishing elements very few things hold true 100% of the time. Some of my favorite graphic novels could be read and enjoyed by an elementary schooler (See #7, Bone), and there is and has been a big wave of graphic novels targeted to youths.

Now the last differentiation that I will mention is the vaguest and most subjective definition and it is the art involved. In general graphic novels are more interpretive, more free, more explorative and sometimes abstract and will sometimes try new and inventive art forms to convey the story. Again, this is vague and generalizing because there’s no way to say that either comic or graphic novel art form is more “artistic”, but just pick up a several comics and compare them to several graphic novels and some key visual differences will start to come through.

I hope I haven’t bored you too much or confused you. Because the whole point of all of this is tell you why graphic novels are one of the greatest forms of art, literature and communication that humanity has ever developed. And no, I’m not exaggerating. I want you to picture right now the most beautiful art that you have ever seen. Ok, can you see it? Can you feel the emotions it evokes? Now think of the best writing you’ve ever read. Do you see yourself in the story? Do you remember the feelings that came over you when you read it? Now put the two together and just imagine the possibilities.

Humans have been telling stories through pictures for a long time. Ask the Egyptians about it.  It’s a very ancient, sacred thing inside us, to tell stories, and to paint our stories in pictures. In many ways graphic novels are our way of getting back to our oldest and truest forms of communication.

On a different note, one of the coolest things about graphic novels to me is that they are so universal. I am currently helping a young man, 21 years of age, with down syndrome and a 3rd grade reading level to read better. One of my main teaching methods is to read comics and graphic novels with him. He loves it. I don’t think he’s ever enjoyed reading anything in his life, but he is beginning to enjoy graphic novels. It’s art and it’s literature and if you like either of those things, and especially if you like both of those things then I will bet you $1,000,000 (just put it on my tab) that there is at least one graphic novel out there that will absolutely rule for you.

The truth is I will never be able to say why graphic novels are so great and why I really truly believe that there is no other form that tells a story so unique and so full on so many levels of human thought and emotion.  Hopefully you already know what I’m trying to get at. But if you don’t I ask you, nay! I implore you to search for a graphic novel that tickles your pickle and give it a go. It will take a fraction of the time that a non-graphic novel usually takes there’s no way you won’t take something away from it.

 

Blogs huh? Welp, see ya later.

Questions and Comments welcome.

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One response to “In Defense of Graphic Novels and a Top 10 Best Graphic Novel Series List

  1. I came to graphic novels late in the game, and for much of the same reasons. For the last year I have been picturing much of my life in Graphic Novel form… this has been in large part from watching Life of Pi, and recognizing something incredibly powerful—which is that the story with the tiger really is the more real story, because it captures the pure essence of what the boy went through. It captures the emotions, and most importantly the lessons that he learned in surviving.

    So comparing that to graphic novels, I have really grown to appreciate such creative art pieces to bring to life what we feel so deeply.

    Thanks for this writing.

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