Graphic Novel | Definition, Examples, Movie, Types, A Complete Guide

Graphic Novel : Definition, Examples, Movie, Types, A Complete Guide

Graphic Novel : A Study

Graphical Novel Definition

Graphical Novel is a full-length story with comic content represented in an illustrated or graphical style. Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as “a full-length (esp. science fiction or fantasy) story published as a book in comic-strip format.” Graphic Novels must have a proper beginning, middle and an end. Graphic novels combine text and pictures equally in order to convey a narrative.

A renowned comic book writer, Will Eisner first linked the words ‘graphic’ and ‘novel’ in 1978.

Graphic Novel Characteristics

Some fundamental characteristics of graphic novel are:

  • A perfect beginning, middle, and end
  • A central narrative (or A-story) supplemented by optional B-stories
  • Character development and personal journeys
  • Thematic messaging
  • Precise, carefully considered dialogue and narration

Graphic Novel Vs Comic

A graphic novel is a more extended, more intricate bit of text that typically covers the storyline in one book, though a comic book is significantly shorter and recounts to the story over numerous issues as well as volumes. Here are a few major differences between graphic novel and comic.

  • Graphic books are longer than comic books. They connect all the more intimately with full-length books while comic books associate all the more intimately with short stories.
  • Graphic novels deal with complete narratives. Whether or not they are part of a larger series, an individual graphic novel stands alone as a story. Individual comic books are pieces of a larger whole.
  • Comic books contain excerpts of serialized narratives. It can be difficult to read a comic book if you haven’t read the comic that comes directly before it in series. Consequently, comics will sometimes be reissued as a trade paperback, where many issues are bound together in a single book. In this sense, short-form comics suddenly become long-form.

Graphic Novel Types

We can categorize graphic novels into five specific types:

  1. Superhero stories: Graphic novels highlighted on protagonists with superhuman, paranormal, or magical or technological powers (like Spider-Man, or Batman)
  1. Non-superhero stories: Graphic novels based on the realities of the real world
  1. Personal narratives: Graphic novels that tell a story from their author’s life, ranging from focused memoir to full autobiography
  1. Manga: Graphic novels conforming to the aesthetics of Japanese comic culture
  1. Non-fiction: Graphic novels that tell real events in history and are rooted in provable fact

First Graphic Novel

The first graphic novel believed to have been published was an adaptation of a German stage play called Lenardo and Blantine in 1783.

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Graphic Novel Examples

10 Awesome Graphic Novel for Kids

  • 1.     Abigail and the Snowman by Roger Langridge
  • 2.     The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag
  • 3.     Epic Zero: Tales of a Not-So-Super 6th Grader by R. L. Ullman
  • 4.     Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • 5.     The Adventure Zone by Clint McElroy
  • 6.     Minecraft by R Ste Monster
  • 7.     Sonic the Hedgehog by Ian Flynn
  • 8.     Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar
  • 9.     Catstronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington
  • 10.   Smile by Raina Telgemeier

5  Top Graphic Novel for Teens

1.     Boxers & Saints By Gene Luen Yang

2.     Pumpkinheads By Rainbow Rowell And Faith Erin Hicks

3.     Speak: The Graphic Novel By Laurie Halse Anderson And Emily Carroll

4.     Hey, Kiddo By Jarrett Krosoczka

5.     Honor Girl By Maggie Thrash

15 Best Graphic Novel for Adults

  1. Mausby Art Spiegelman (which won the Pulitzer Prize)
  1. Persepolisby Marjane Satrapi
  1. Watchmenby Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  1. Ghost Worldby Daniel Clowes
  1. Ice Havenby Daniel Clowes
  1. Daddy‘s Girlby Debbie Drechsler
  1. The Diary of a Teenage Girlby Phoebe Gloeckner
  1. 100 Bulletsby Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
  1. Locke & Keyby Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returnsby Frank Miller
  1. Violent Casesby Neil Gaiman
  1. The Sculptorby Scott McCloud
  1. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earthby Chris Ware
  1. S.H.I.E.L.D by  Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver
  1. Square Eyes by Luke Jones, Anna Mill 

Graphic Novel Writers

  1. Alan Moore
  1. Art Spiegelman
  1. Will Eisner
  1. Marjane Satrapi
  1. Neil Gaiman
  1. Frank Miller
  1. Daniel Clowes
  1. Stan Lee
  1. Grant Morrison

13 Most-viewed Graphic Novel Movies

  1. Batman Series by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
  1. Spiderman Series by Stan Lee
  1. Captain America
  1. Avengers Series by Stan Lee
  1. Thor
  1. 300 by Frank Miller
  1. Blade by David S. Goyer
  1. Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
  1. Hulk by Stan Lee
  1. Iron Man by Stan Lee
  1. The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham
  1. Superman by Jerry Siegel

Graphic Novel History

Graphic novels grew out of the comic book movement in the 1960s and came into existence at the hands of writers who were looking to use the comic book format to address more mainstream or adult topics. There is some debate about who coined the phrase, but one of the first graphic novels, if not the first, was Will Eisner’s Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories, published in 1978. Eisner, who began working in comics in 1936, has stated that he devised the term as a marketing technique to increase the chances that his illustrated series of interlinked short stories about working-class Jewish families during the Great Depression might be published.

Graphic Novel : An Essay

The format has gained popularity over the past 25 years in a variety of geographic and topical areas, including the expected superhero stories and adaptations, but also works of satire, non-fiction, memoirs, historical fiction, and a Japanese form called manga. Some graphic novels are the product of a single writer, or a writer and illustrator team, but there are examples of collaborative works, such as the graphic novel series created by a collective of women called CLAMP. As Steven Weiner notes, 1986 was a “turning point,” although not the revolutionary year many had hoped it would be. In that year, DC Comics launched two series for adult readers, Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Also, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust memoir that casts the Germans and Jews as cats and mice, was published.

Maus is just one example of a historical graphic novel. Graphic novels are proving to be an effective vehicle for historical writings, both fictional and not. Consider Still I Rise by Roland Owen Laird and Elihu Bey, which tells the history of African Americans in the United States, beginning in 1619. The book includes extensive historical information and chronicles the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans. Novelist Charles Johnson contributed the introduction, which includes information about African Americans’ little known contributions to the field of cartoons and comics. Also of note are Ho Che Anderson’s three volumes about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Other examples of historical graphic novels are Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen series, which tells of Japan before and after Hiroshima, and Joe Kubert’s Fax from Sarajevo, which depicts the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina in the 1990s. Many graphic novels go beyond representing historical facts and offer portraits of a culture. One example is Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series, which is an autobiographical account of her life, including her childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution.

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Increasing popularity may be linked to several graphic novels which have been adapted into feature films, including Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World, Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Raynner’s Road to Perdition, Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis’s Hellblazer, Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and Frank Miller’s Sin City. These exemplify several genres of graphic novels, including memoir, crime fiction, coming of age stories, and action stories. The fact that an increasing number of graphic novels are being used as the basis for films is not surprising. Graphic novels, with their texts created within a visual context, are a natural fit for film adaptation, providing a ready-made storyboard.

Given the wide array of styles and topics described above, one may ask whether graphic novels are really novels or how they can be considered together as one genre. Although they vary widely, and some of them may be better characterized as “graphic short stories” or “graphic memoirs,” they can be legitimately considered as works of literary fiction. The term graphic novel” may be better viewed as a label for a particular format rather than representative of a single specific genre.

The fact that they include visual images may make them stronger contenders for use in the classroom. Rocco Versaci notes that many of his students see literature defined too narrowly and expect painful, boring experiences. He urges literature instructors to not “strive to get students to accept without question our own judgments of what constitutes literary merit” but to “encourage students to see themselves as having a voice” in that matter. Versaci discusses using graphic novels in his courses at Palomar College. Versaci details his use of John Callahan’s “I Think I Was an Alcoholic,” an adult-themed short comic that tells the story of a man whose drunken driving leaves him a quadriplegic. Students were surprised by the themes in the comic, and discussed it as they had discussed other literary works, exploring the tone of the narrator, irony and character development; the three page story fueled discussions for two class periods. Versaci also notes the use of other graphic novels, including Judd Winick’s Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss and What I cared, Katherine Arnoldi’s The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and Debbie Drechsler’s Daddy’s Girl, which deals with Sexual abuse.

At Washington State University (WSU), at least one faculty member in the English department uses graphic novels as texts. One course, Science Fiction Film, looks at science fiction writing and film adaptations. In the spring of 2005, the course also used graphic novels that influenced the films or represent the novels. For example, the class looked at Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the movie “Blade Runner” and also has considered Jean Giraud’s “The Airtight Garage,”one of the stories in Long Tomorrow and Other Science Fiction Stories, which influenced director Ridley Scott’s vision in “Blade Runner.” The class also explored the visual and thematic connections between Fritz Lane’s film “Metropolis” and a Japanese anime film version of “Metropolis” which was based on a manga by Osamu Tezuka.

In addition to being taken seriously by educators and librarians, scholars have also begun to write and present more frequently about graphic novels. Two key conferences were held in 1998 and in 2000 the 1st International Conference on the Graphic Novel was held the in November 1998 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and two years later, another international conference was held in Belgium. Proceedings for this second conference are available in print. In 2002, the University of Florida hosted a conference on comics and graphic novels called “The Will Eisner Symposium,” which featured Eisner as a keynote speaker, invited other artists and writers, and offered twenty presentations by various scholars.

Academic literature journals have also begun publishing these works of literary criticism. Until recently very few scholarly analyses had been published, with most appearing in science fiction journals and the International Journal of Comic Art, but it is important to note that more traditional English literature journals are beginning to cover graphic novels. Two recent articles both have looked at connections between Neil Gaiman and Shakespeare. Annalisa Castaldo’s essay in College Literature explores Gaiman’s use of Shakespearean motifs in several of his Sandman works, Kurt Lancaster explored the links between A Midsummer’s Night Dream and the Sandman series in an essay appearing in the Journal of American and Comparative Cultures in 2000.

Another notable contribution to the scholarly study of graphic novels is Joseph Witek’s Comic Books as History, published in 1989. Witck noted in his introduction that a critical analysis was “especially necessary now, when a growing number of contemporary American comic books are being written as literature aimed at a general readership of adults and concerned, not with the traditionally escapist themes of comics” but with culture clashes, dysfunctional families, and working class life. In his work, Witek discusses Pekar’s American Splendor and Spiegelman’s Maus, both mentioned above, as well as the work of Jack Jackson, who writes about historical events involving Native Americans, exploring the works as literary texts and historical narratives.

Most young adult librarians and teachers would agree that anything that gets students reading is a good thing. Gretchen E. Schwarz argues that graphic novels can promote literacy. According to Michael R. Lavin, reading graphic novels “may require more complex cognitive skills than reading text alone.” Schwarz also points out that the graphic novel format is being used for other subject areas beyond fiction and history.

Examples include Gonick and Smith’s The Cartoon Guide to Statistics Gordon and Willmarth’s McLuhan for Beginners, and Sardar and Van Loon’s Introducing Cultural Studies. All of these are introductory guides for serious topics, are geared toward adult readers, but are presented in illustrated panels.

At WSU, graphic novels have become a focus of collection development in the past year, and it appears that other academic libraries are also paying attention to the genre. Librarians active in the Association for College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Literatures in English Section (LES) recently addressed the collection of graphic novels at a conference meeting. An informal poll of the LES listserv members showed that a number of universities, including Duke, MIT, Michigan State, Chicago, UC Berkeley and Rutgers are collecting graphic novels fairly extensively, with recreational reading in mind. WSU holds an extensive collection of underground comics or comix that was begun in the 1970s, and interest in the graphical genres is keen among many faculty and students. Collecting in the burgeoning field of graphic novels is an appropriate choice for our collections.

Academic library interest in these items is also supported by the growing interest in graphic novels and the comic form in both popular culture and the media. Teachers and academics have not been the only ones to reassess the value and use of graphic novels. Recent coverage of graphic novels in widely read publications such as the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor shows that graphic novels are becoming part of the cultural landscape. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine suggests that graphic novels and comic books may be transitioning into a new literary form and provides an extensive critical analysis of graphic novels as literary, visual, historical, political and cultural artifacts. Another article in the New York Times suggests that visual media is becoming a more effective way to push a message; even asking if film studies now serves as the “new MBA.” Graphic novels share that visual image-plus-text sensibility, including the capacity to emotionally connect with readers. Elizabeth Daley, dean of the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, suggests that the greatest digital divide is between who can read and write with media and those who can’t…Our core knowledge needs to belong to everybody.” Print format graphic novels and the increasingly popular web-based comics and graphic storytelling provide a natural meeting of the image and the word in sequential art; a sophisticated partner to film and other electronic media.

Beyond the value of graphic novels as scholarly and cultural resources, an academic library that collects graphic novels is also continuing in a tradition of providing resources for students and others in the academic community who are looking for reading material not only to enhance their scholarship or teaching, but also to enjoy for personal pleasure and recreation

In the past academic libraries often had browsing collections to provide easily accessible pleasure reading opportunities to their academic community and campus libraries “vigorously promoted recreational reading interests of students.” Today, while physical browsing collections may be gone, technology has provided a number of tools that academic librarians can use to connect readers with books, including subject heading and keyword searches, electronic pathfinders, and online book review databases such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In 2004, a report by the National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America noted, “Over the past 20 years, young adults have declined from being those most likely to read literature to those cast likely.” Lara Saunders and Karen Bauer suggest that high-tech interests and activities may be replacing reading, especially of non-required textbooks, and note that students have competing forces in their lives, including part-time employment.

In such an environment, librarians must look for opportunities to encourage students to take advantage of pleasure reading opportunities in their library collection, including fiction, magazines, and graphic novels. The common view of the academic library is that its purpose is to support the academic program of the institution, but libraries have always had a reading agenda as well. Amanda Cain wrote in 2002 of the need to incorporate thoughtful or “deep” reading into library instruction, but academic librarians can also enrich the student experience and lifelong learning preparation by building collections that support academic departments and provide opportunities for reading for enjoyment, becoming advocates for reading in all its forms and formats.

The key to reading is often access, both bibliographic and physical, graphic novels bring their own complications to both of these dimensions, within the context of the decisions a library makes about how such works will be catalogued.

Graphic novels have a place in academic library collections, but a library intending to start such a collection would do well to consider how to promote their use and availability, both within and outside the library. Library staff may need to be convinced of the appropriateness of a graphic novel collection, while faculty, students and non-academic campus units may need to be made aware of the scholarly, creative, entertainment, and marketing opportunities that can arise.

Within the academic library, opposition to graphic novels often can take the form of concerns about cataloging, selection issues, and increased theft potential. Cataloging is discussed above, and although there may be questions of collection scope to address, selection issues are by for less significant for academic libraries than they are for public or school libraries that must consider issues of age-appropriate content. Theft, however, is a potentially significant issue, Graphic novels, like magazines, newspapers, and world civilization monographs, are potential targets. Libraries with graphic novel collections should consider library binding their covers in addition to the usual tattle-taping and making. Although that may lessen immediate appeal, the covers can be glued to buckram lo retain visual interest, and there is the side benefit of increased durability, These strategies can help ease concerns, but in the end the library may have to plan for replacements, consoled by the fact that graphic novels are considerably less expensive than many other materials that are added into the collection.

Graphic novels are growing in academic stature; in addition to their appeal as recreational reading, their perceived relevance may also lead to increased collection emphasis. Once the decision to purchase then at all or more aggressively is made, local decisions will need to made about their circulation and security.

Beyond the intrigue and allure of the works themselves lies a cataloging and classification puzzle that may, finally, hold a key to one of the reasons why these items have not seen wider use in academic libraries. Traditionally limited to a specific location on the library shell, graphic novels have been separated from other literary and artistic works, and have not been as widely available to students who browse the stacks in search of specific authors, literary traditions and themes, or criticism.

Graphic novels can support the literature curriculum and will certainly support the mission of the academic library to provide recreational reading. Myriad opportunities for promotion and marketing exist. Graphic novels can perhaps be a mechanism for the return to the humanistic ideal that reading should both educate and delight.

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