Graphic Novels Libraries Should Have
by Ken Gale
At the 2005 Arisia,
one of the other guest writers thanked me for
the recommendation of graphic novels I had
given her the year before. She was asking on behalf of a local librarian
who had learned that more kids come into a library when there are
graphic novels, but didn't know one from another. The librarian asked
the writer (whose name escapes me for the moment) to thank me for her.
She had gotten nearly every suggestion and said they were a success.
Now, I don't remember exactly which ones I recommended at the time,
but I decided to recreate the list as best I can and ask you for your
suggestions. I'm sure most of you would have a different list and I'd
like to know what you'd recommend to a librarian. The
list is a little longer than what I gave her. It's in no particular
order, just as I thought of them, so don't think the first ones are
the best ones. With additional input by 'Nuff Said!'s former co-host
Mercy Van Vlack.
- Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
- Gotta have the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel in the library.
And it shows what the form can be. Art Spiegelman turned his father's
stories about living in a Nazi concentration camp into an
anthropomorphic comic book.
- Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
- The story of the A-bombing of Hiroshima by someone who was there,
seven years old at the time. Not much manga (Japanese comics) on my list.
Not my expertise.
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons
- One of the few comics to win a Hugo Award. I would say this is
clearly the best our industry has created. The main characters are
super-heroes and there is nothing else in common with most mainstream
super-hero comics. They look at the world differently and we see
heroic action from several points of view.
- Born Again (Daredevil) by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli
- Often overlooked because it came out the same time as Watchmen, but one
of the best series Marvel Comics ever put out. Humanized the character
in ways few comics have ever done and showed raw heroism as well as
anything from mythology.
- Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
- It made each creator a star and should have. Told
from an ordinary man's point of view what it is like for
an ordinary person to live in the wild and weird Marvel Universe.
- Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
- Libraries especially should have non-super-hero graphic novels and
non-mainstream publications and this is one of the best. There is
some sexuality displayed by the characters, which might be a problem
for some libraries.
- Finder by Carla Speed McNeil
- Again, Libraries especially should have non-super-hero graphic novels
and non-mainstream publications and this is one of the best and by a female
creator to boot.
- Hellboy by Mike Mignola
- Library patrons should know the source material of popular movies,
especially when it's this quality.
- The Crow by James O'Barr
- Again, library patrons should know the source material of popular
movies, especially when it's this quality. But I'd only recommend the
O'Barr novels, at least at first. Not for younger patrons!
- Various Marvel Masterworks - the basics
- To be specific, start with Spider-Man and Fantastic Four.
- Various DC Archives - the basics
- To be specific, start with Green Lantern, Batman, Plastic Man and
- Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists
- The tops of the '90s.
- Swamp Thing by Alan Moore and Steve Bissette
- Made both of them stars. Deservedly so. Mainstream, but offbeat
and non super-hero.
- Lt. Blueberry by Mobius
- One of the best European graphic novels whose English translation
is still in print.
- Asterix by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
- The most widely-known comics characters in the world. Every
library should have some. My favorites are Asterix and the Soothsayer,
Asterix and the Roman Agent, Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods
and Obelix and Co.
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
- So much better than the movie version! Uses a lot of characters of
19th century literature and uses them well. A great entry to many of
the other books in the library.
- Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka
- The most famous work by the founder and master of manga and anime.
A real all-ages series of graphic novels.
- Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
- My favorite non-Tezuka manga. I know there are large gaps in
my manga knowledge, but that doesn't take away from the excellence of this.
- Scarey Godmother by Jill Thompson
- Charming, fun, well-written and well-drawn. Another all-ages
series of graphic novels.
- Domesticity Isn't Pretty by Tim Barela
- One of my all-time favorite graphic novels. No sex. No violence.
Funny and often poignant at the same time. Not for every library,
however, because the main characters are gay.
- Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
- An engrossing award-winning story of someone growing up gay during
the civil rights unrest of the '50s and '60s. An accurate depiction
of a controversial time period by someone who took part in it.
- Anything by Will Eisner
- The master of the art form whether he's doing fiction or nonfiction.
You can't go wrong with anything he did.
This article originally appeared in
Interlac 174, April, 2005.
Edited for this web page.
Comments? Additions? E-Mail me
of Xenia, Ohio and Robin Brenner
have both posted much longer lists. Perhaps too much
information to a librarian just getting graphic
novels for the first time, but excellent if your library already
has some and you want more.
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