Apr 16, 2010

List-Mania: Graphic Novel Recommendations

Day 166

It shouldn't come to a surprise but I love comics. Now most people think that comics are merely superhero stuff and that is partly true. Most comic books do deal with superhero themes but that only scratches the surface of what comics really offer. There is something for everyone and this column is devoted to my Top 5 Favorite Graphic Novels.

Now you might be asking yourself what is the difference between a comic and a graphic novel? There really isn't much of a difference except one big one. A Graphic Novel is a comic book but it is a larger comic book that most times collects a bunch of individual comics and puts them into a nice complete volume. So these can be read in one sitting. You don't have to buy multiple comic books, just one big volume. And these are my favorites.

Only one of them is a superhero book. You will find that much of these books dabble in history, science fiction, fantasy and plain real-life drama.

I have included a link directly to Amazon so you find more information and reviews as well and if you want to buy it. I have also included the synopsis/review of each title and why of course I love them.

By Art Spiegelman
Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance. Don't let the cartoonish nature of the art fool you. The author draws the Jews are mice and the Germans as cats but trust me, about six pages in you won't even notice. If you are interested in history like I am you will be enthralled by this book. Uplifting, sad and harsh, this book really hammers home what the Jews faced during World War II.

By Jeff Smith
The complete 1300-page epic adventure from start to finish in one deluxe trade paperback. Three modern cartoon cousins get lost in a pre-technological valley, spending a year there making new friends and out-running dangerous enemies. Their many adventures include crossing the local people in The Great Cow Race, and meeting a giant mountain lion called RockJaw: Master of the Eastern Border. They learn about sacrifice and hardship in The Ghost Circles and finally discover their own true natures in the climatic journey to The Crown of Horns. This black and white fantasy adventure has it all. But what I enjoy most out of this sprawling story is the characters and the humor. Combine that with Smith's animation-like art which adds an amazing atmosphere and you have a book that anyone would enjoy. The Great Cow Race will guarantee you for some laughs. Ask Kristy, this is one of the two comics she has read.

By Craig Thompson
The realism in Blankets reigns supreme in both the story arc and in the humanity of its characters. Thompson himself is the protagonist, and this is his tale of growing up, falling in love (and realizing the physical and moral complications that can imply), discovering the texture and limits of his faith, and arriving at a point from which he can look back at those experiences. The snowy Midwest, peopled by overweight parents, hairy youths, and lovingly depicted younger siblings-including a respectfully and realistically treated minor character with Down syndrome-is energetically realized in Thompson's expressive lines and inking. Much of the story occurs when Craig and his brother Phil are young boys and includes images of such boyish pranks as peeing on one another. Older high school students who have reached an age when nostalgia is possible will warm to Thompson's own wistfulness. This is a big graphic novel, in concept and successful execution. I bought this book and read it all the way through it in one sitting. There were experiences in this book that I have felt in my life. Confusion about religion and God, being somewhat of an outcast in school, lost loves and lots more. The author offers his soul here and does not hide anything. Because of that, reading this book opens the floodgates of my own memories of youth.

By Alan Moore (Author) and Dave Gibbons (Illustrator)
WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN? Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's monumental WATCHMEN is one of the most influential comic series of all time.
If you liked the movie, you HAVE to read the book! If you hated the movie you might as well skip this book even though you should check it out. This book really delves into what this world would have been like if superheroes existed. It can be beautiful at times but then it can be extremely brutal as well. The ending (I won't ruin it for you here) is one of the best endings to any comic book. And one that is different than the movie and much more meaningful and impactful.

By Alan Moore (Author) and David Lloyd (Illustrator)
The date is November 5th, 1997. War has ravaged England, entire races have been eradicated, the entire British populace is under constant surveillance, and the absolute power is absolutely corrupt. On this historic day, a man with a strong resemblance to Guy Fawkes (in action and dress) blows up Parliament. The bomber, a masked character named V, saves a girl named Eve from a violent crime and takes her under his wing. Moore's dystopian, fascist version of England, ruled by one central leader and his sects (named after parts of the body, such as Finger, Nose, and Voice), is systematically dismantled by the enigmatic V. Readers must ultimately decide if V is a mad anarchist/terrorist or a freedom-fighting avenger for good.
If you liked the movie you will LOVE this book. If you didn't like the movie you should read this book anyway. It is much different than the movie and is much more of an emotional read. This will make you think about how you view your freedom and it should make you cherish what you have. An engrossing read, one that will captivate you. There is action, humor, revenge and romance. If I had to take a book to a deserted island, this would make the list!

Most of these books are available at any book store and I am sure you could find copies of it at your local library. Do yourself a favor and try one of them out and you'll see why I love this medium so much.


  1. 1300 pages?!?!? Wowza!!!

    I do have to say the first one intrigued me! We are making our trip to the library tomorrow and I'm going to look for Maus to start with!

  2. I really liked the movie V for Vendetta. And I am in the market for a new book to read. Perhaps I will have to read my first graphic novel...

  3. You guys are going to make me cry. ;)