The Best Graphic Novels of All Time | The Reading Lists

The Best Graphic Novels of All Time | The Reading Lists

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With comics and graphics novels being one of the strongest growth categories in publishing; it’s clear that the world is waking up to some of the visually beautiful world of graphic novels. I am keen to discover a consensus on what the best graphic novels of all time are.  Some of the most compelling storytelling of the last couple of decades can be found in the well-thumbed pages of graphic novel s in your library right now. As someone who appreciates comics; but has no real deep knowledge of them, selecting which of it’s longer form family member, the graphic novel, to read can be a daunting task. Lucky for me; I could reach out to some of the world’s leading authorities on the subject and ask for their help. Selecting the best graphic novels of all time is no easy task. Many questions were asked as to how to judge such a vast catalogue of literature and narrow it down to just a few graphics novels. I have asked a panel of experts to select what they believe to the best graphic novels of all time. Now, I’m sure if I had said they could all pick ten each – they could have; so have some leniency if you feel there are any titles missing.    Please meet our expert panel who will help us discover the best graphic novels of all time.

Damian Duffy is a cartoonist, scholar, writer, curator, lecturer, teacher, and a Glyph Comics Award-winning, New York Times Bestselling graphic novelist. His many publications range from academic essays (in comics form) on new media & learning to art books about underrepresentation in comics culture, to editorial comics, to a co-authoring a graphic novel adaptation of Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, with John Jennings.

Marie D’Abreo grew up in Worthing and studied at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where Marie obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts.  Upon graduation, Marie transitioned from scenic painter to graphic designer and later moved to the West Coast. She has been going down the design path ever since and openly admits to not letting go of her love for drawing, painting – and is now making graphic novels.

karin kukkonenKarin Kukkonen

Karin Kukkonen is Associate Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Oslo. She is a specialist in cognitive approaches to literature and narratology and has published on comics and graphic novels, embodied and probabilistic cognitive approaches to literary narrative, and on the eighteenth-century novel. From 2010-13, she was a Balzan Postdoctoral Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Oxford.

stephen tabachnickStephen Tabachnick

Stephen Tabachnick is a professor of English at the University of Memphis. He has taught courses on the graphic novel for more than 20 years and is editor of Teaching the Graphic Novel. He has also taught at a university in Israel and is the author or editor of several volumes on Lawrence of Arabia. He sees literary criticism, biography, and teaching as interpretive arts and tries to help his students find their own voices and perspectives.

shaun treat Shaun Treat

Dr Shaun Treat, PhD Louisiana State University (2004), joined the UNT faculty in the fall of 2006. Shaun’s research interests include rhetorical theory and criticism, cultural and media studies, fantasy psychodynamics of discourse, Free Speech issues, propaganda and mediated persuasion, rhetorical leadership & team-building, mythic narrativization, comics studies, and the constitutive rhetorics of postmodern civic identities.

You’ve met the panel and now it is time to discover their nominations for the best graphic novels of all time.


Damian Duffy:

I’m going to be honest: I don’t really like “Greatest of All Time” lists. The world doesn’t fit neatly into numbered rankings, and what I think is the best of all ever depends on what I’m into at the moment. Since I’m in the United States and the moment is 2018, the journalistic escapades of the Hunter S. Thompson of tomorrow—Spider Jerusalem—seem as important as any and/or all the things. Ellis’s mastery of witty, snide, speculative sci-fi, and Robertson’s expert illustration of a crowded, fascistic, lived-in dystopia feels more and more like an entertaining take on today.


Shaun Treat:

mausSpiegelman is writer, artist, and subject matter in this rightly-canonized Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel hailed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker).  An autobiographical memoir that blends literary genres and artistic conventions, Spiegelman’s quasi-fictionalized interview with his father recounts experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor is powerfully engaging in its painfully earnest search for understanding. This compelling graphic narrative is somehow all-the-more visceral as seen through his minimalist Spartan style, portraying Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs in his slowly unfurling horror show of history. The first “comic” to garner serious literary and academic acclaim worldwide with its 1992 Pulitzer, Maus represents the best that the comics medium has to offer.

Marie D’Abreo:

Maus opened me up to the mind-blowing world of autobiographical comics, and their peculiar power to move us. The author is a second-generation Holocaust survivor: his parents lived through the Nazi concentration camps and he lived through their secondhand impact on him. The story shifts between Spiegelman’s present-day relationship with his father and other loved ones, and flashbacks to the family’s ordeals. With dark, gritty drawings and gripping dialogue crammed into two volumes, Maus tells the story of the enduring effects of trauma, and the fracturing of the family psyche through persecution and forced migration. The result is a magnificent and poignant portrayal of living with intergenerational pain. The day a friend gave me this book was the day graphic novels were born in me. Yes, it’s that good.

Stephen Tabachnick:

No surprise here. This graphic novel proved that the graphic novel could handle any subject, no matter how serious. The use of animals instead of people was very powerful and original because instead of the usual happy animals in the comics, these animals’ faces showed despair and hardship as well as happiness. So it was like a complete reversal of the usual thing and very striking. And it makes the point that torture of other people is not a good idea.


Marie D’Abreo:

This one’s a tearjerker. Beautiful, sad, lovely and haunting, Rosalie Lightning is about the sudden death of the author’s young daughter. The direct, raw, freeform drawing style and poetic, intense writing swept me up into the family’s grieving process. At times the story explores the world through a toddler’s eyes, and at others opens a door into the joy and pain of being a parent. It captures the profound loss, the gaping hole left behind, but also the great love that continues on after a child’s death. Warning: Don’t read this unless you’re prepared to be emotionally gutted.


Karin Kukkonen:

If you are only ever going to read one comic, it should Alan Moore’s Watchmen (forget about the film). Watchmen asks what it means to be a hero and reflects on the ways in which superhero comics are the latest twist in a long series of narrative traditions going back to antiquity. Moore and Dave Gibbons (who is responsible for the art) present a narrative of formal refinement and smart political commentary that is also a pleasure to read.

Stephen Tabachnick:

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  This is one of the best sci-fi books in any format. It too shows that the graphic novel can handle any subject, no matter how difficult. Its basic question is, “can we ever stop war?”, and the answer seems to be “no”. Veidt’s scheme to kill three million people with the illusionary but deadly attack from space fails, showing that even the most sophisticated and horrific plan cannot end our tribal reptile psychology. The film did not do justice to the graphic novel because it eliminated the subplot of the wrecked mariner who, like Veidt, murders people to no good end. The color drawings are very realistic and give a feeling of truth to the whole book.


batman the dark knight returnsShaun Treat:

Released in 1986, this Batman story was a revelation that forever changed comics storytelling and redefined a generation of superhero narratives with its darkly cynical and grotesquely gritty psychoanalysis of American superhero worship. With DKR fully pushing the new direct-to-market ‘adult’ formats, comics suddenly weren’t ‘just kid stuff’ and these violent urban vigilantes became profoundly serious personas. To be honest, Miller’s art has never been that appealing to me, but his cinematic sense of comics storytelling and his cyberpunk noir tale of an elderly Batman on a last-chance psychotic crusade to avoid Reagan-Era Apocalypse is still as intoxicating as heroin! It is Klaus Janson’s legendary inkwork and Lynn Varney’s sublime color palates that really help make this work a visually transcendent pioneer of its day, but Miller’s Batman still remains a high-water mark against which the Nietzschean superhero genre continues to be judged.


Karin Kukkonen:

A truly beautiful graphic novel that takes up themes and stories from the Arabian Nights. The fantastic world that is conjured through words by Sheherazade turns into an extraordinary series of images, in colour and in black and white, where djinns shrink and grow, creatures are in constant metamorphosis and readers slip from one narrative to another as they turn the pages.


Damian Duffy:

With her brushwork alone, Thi Bui identifies herself as a master cartoonist. That her skilful attention to line weight also communicates the emotional weight of family history establishes her as a master storyteller. The Best We Could Dointerweaves narrative threads of the author’s family’s history in Vietnam, their experience immigrating to the United States, and the author’s personal experiences as a child and parent make for a reading experience that is at once highly specific in its detail, and hugely universal in its import.


Marie D’Abreo:

Anyone who’s experienced a wrenching betrayal will relate to The Heartbreak Diet. A memoir about infidelity, it’s a compelling, beautifully drawn and intelligently written graphic novel. In a painterly style, Rose captures her life as a young art student, who finds herself falling in love, having a family… and eventually being blindsided by her husband’s affair. There’s an underlying sweetness, courage and humor that shines through the storytelling and artwork, which feels unpretentious and earnest. I never felt this book wallowed in self-pity or took pleasure in vengeance, where it could easily have done so. On the contrary, it seems the author transformed herself through the writing of it. It’s girl power with a heart – and that’s definitely my thing.


Shaun Treat:

Likely unknown to many American audiences, Mizuki is one of Japan’s most important cartoonists, and Noble Deaths is among his most important award-winning works as a writer-illustrator. An existential anti-war novel delivered as a one-shot Manga, it follows the fates of WWII Japanese soldiers stranded on an island in a vivid chronicle that is equal parts masterfully moving storytelling and exquisitely haunting artwork. Largely based on Mizuki’s own experiences being drafted into the Imperial Army where he lost his left arm, the story was his first manga translated into English but has long been a Gold Standard for graphic autobiography in its richly humanizing examination of war’s atrocities upon the pawns who fight in them.


Damian Duffy:

Alan Moore is a perennial name on “Best Of” comics lists, often for his wry deconstructionist takes on superhero clichés, but his best work is his collaboration with Eddie Campbell—one of the great works historical fiction in any medium. With its alchemical transmutation of a Jack the Ripper conspiracy theory into a postmodern investigation of the sexist, classist violence that belies Western cultural claims to civilization and exceptionalism, From Hell forms a perfect union of Moore’s formalist precision and idiosyncratic mysticism with Campbell’s peerless, period-appropriate linework and canny eye for relatable mundanity amidst even the fearful gore of the famous murders.


Karin Kukkonen:

This is a collection of graphic novellas that develop around the theme of how life and feeling are entwined in multiple ways. With a surprising range of visual styles, Davis’ stories play through delicate, bold and zany aspects of our desire for happiness. Davis makes you feel, philosophise and laugh in a powerful demonstration of the flexibility and force of graphic narrative.


Stephen Tabachnick:

Epileptic by David B[eauchard]. This graphic novel details the pain of living with a brother who has epilepsy and parents who, instead of utilizing medical help, drag the family through a series of alternative cures which achieve nothing except pain for the three siblings. This brings the reader into the world of a family trying to cope with a child’s illness and the world of false alternative cures. The black and white drawings bring out the starkness of the situation, especially in their use of shadow. This graphic novel is another proof—one of very many–that the graphic novel is especially well-suited to portraying medical issues.


Which books would you consider the best graphic novels of all time? Comment below and let us know!

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via The Reading Lists

September 20, 2018 at 08:02PM https://ift.tt/2D67gqP