Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Graphic novels to read if you've never read one before.

Top 10 Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we're particularly of lists here at The Broke and The Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top 10 lists.

I adore graphic novels, but when I look around the book blogs it seems that more often that not people seem to avoid them. I can understand why, it's a different way of reading, and if you aren't used to it, finding your way through the images and texts can be a little confusing or exhausting. But it's well worth a try. As I said, a  graphic novel is a very different reading experience to simply reading a book. You have to hunt through the pictures for the hints, emotion or subtext, and learn to read between the lines when the text and the image seem to be saying opposite things. It can be a real adventure, and lots of fun. And while creating a world in your head is always magical, sometimes it's nice to see that world in front of you, created by an extremely talented artist who can make you laugh or cry with a single image the size of a postage stamp. My world of imagination has opened up greatly since I've started reading graphic novels, and while I still read novels more often, there are graphic novels that make up some of my favourite reads of all time.

Below is a list of 10 (in no particular order) graphic novels that simply must be read. Most are very accessible for a first time graphic novel reader and several have been adapted from books or by traditional authors making them far easier to read that their comic author counterparts. Hopefully some of the artworks and descriptions below are enough to entice you to step into this wonderful world and experience something new and different from what you typically read. Enjoy!

1. Maus
If you ask for a graphic novel recommendation from a book fan you'll most likely be told to pick this one up, and for good reason. The story combines the biography of Vladek Spiegelman's survival during WW2 with his later life in America, as told by his writer/artist son Art Spiegelman. The dichotomy between the two time periods makes for an incredibly interesting story that must have been very difficult for Art to tell. Also, it's a little Animal Farm-y, with the Jews depicted as mice while the Germans are cats

2. The Great Gatsby
A graphic retelling of the marvellous Fitzgerald novel by the same name. The art is astounding in this graphic novel, it's made to look like a collection of old photographs collected in a photo album, and that sense of nostalgia is maintained through the entire story. The cast are depicted as sea creatures, which simply seems perfect for this story, don't ask me why. (my review)

3. From Hell 
Actually, just read anything by Alan Moore. He's a master graphic novelist, his other works including V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Swamp Thing. From Hell is the graphic interpretation of the Jack the Ripper conspiracy that it stemmed from a royal cover-up. It's a fantastic tale of the hidden and the covered-up, that is guaranteed to send you on a google search to check the validity of this theory! 

4. 30 Days of Night 
There are actually quite a few of these out now, but the only ones you really want to read are the original three written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. The first book (the best) takes place in a small Alaskan town that suffers through 30 days of night each winter. This year they're attacked by a posse of vampires who intend to make the most of the wintery darkness. The artwork is what stands this series apart, Ben Templesmith is one of my favourite artists, his work blends photo-manipulation with intense colour and ethereal illustrations that render everyone slightly manic and monster-ish.

5. Transmetropolitan 
Eleven issues of pure brilliance. This is the graphic novel series of what it'd be like if Hunter S. Thompson was alive and reporting in the very messed up future. However, in Transmetropolitan he's known as Spider Jerusalem, a controversial journalist who hates pretty much everyone. Just as HST told the story in the most honest, hard-hitting, gratuitous and venomous ways possible, so does Spider. Thoroughly entertaining, mercilessly funny, and dangerously good.

6. FreakAngels 
Another brilliant Warren Ellis series, FreakAngels tells the story of a group of slightly strange kids who destroyed England. The illustrations are by the wonderful Paul Duffield, and the entire series is available FREE on the FreakAngels website. So you have no excuse not to go read it! (my review)

7. The Arrival 
There really is truth to the saying "a picture is worth 1000 words". Shaun Tan's beautiful graphic novel/picture book charts an immigrants journey to a new and magical land. Each page bursts with expressive, detailed sepia toned pencil drawings that will literally bring tears to your eyes. There is so much going on in each image that it doesn't matter than not a single word is included, the story is there for anyone to see.

8. The Five Fists of Science
Yes you're seeing right, that is Mark Twain in the picture yelling "SCIENCE!" while a giant robot and monster take up the background. Other characters in this cheeky little comic are Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison (as the baddy) and many more. It's a fun revision of our history that plays around with real life grudges and personality traits to create a monster of a story. (my review)

9. The Stand 
The Stand is probably my all time favourite Stephen King novel, and this graphic adaptation does it absolute justice. It's almost word for word with King's version, and the illustrations perfectly match up with the way King meticulously describes his characters. I haven't finished this series yet, but so far they've been perfect. They've maintained King's sharp wit, shaped the characters perfectly and done everything possibly to make sure that this series is a knock-out. They've got some talented men and women working on this, and it really shows. 

10. Pyongyang: A Journey to North Korea
Cartoonist Guy Delisle worked in North Korea for several months in 2001. This is the graphic diary he kept while he was there. It's unflinchingly honest of life as a Westerner within the propaganda and weapon rich North Korea, and his insights are frank, to the point and rarely embellished. It's an interesting look into a side of life we rarely see, and it's perspective on propaganda and censorship provides food for thought. (my review)


  1. I can't participate in this Top 10 Tuesday because the only graphic novel I've read is "Watchmen" (which I LOVED). I've heard about some of the ones you listed, but "The Great Gatsby" WITH SEA ANIMALS?! WHERE has this been all my life?

  2. Woo, our lists are completely different! I'll have to check out some of the ones on your list! I'm becoming such a GN junkie.

  3. Awesome list. I really want to get into graphic novels and this list made that easier. Thanks for sharing. =]
    Here is My Top Ten

  4. I have a challenge I am doing this year that I need to read a graphic novel and until I went to the library I had no idea there were so many! It's like a whole new world of books. The Great Gatsby graphic novel looks really good and it's definitely making my list.

    You can check out my list here: Top Ten

  5. Megs do youself a favour and hunt it down! Nikki Greenberg also did a graphic adaptation of Hamlet with lions. I haven't read that one yet though.

    @Drea, hopefully you can add a couple to your TBR list then! These are all some of my favourites, so they're high on my list of recs.

    @Michael, I hope you enjoy getting into graphic novels. My one piece of advice would to give it a second try if at first you find the format a little distracting/uncomfortable.

    @Lu, Thanks!

    @Kimberly, every time I head into my local comic store I find about 50 new titles I just have to read, it's a great world to be part of! Hope you enjoy your challenge Kimberly.

  6. This is an AWESOME list, Kayleigh!! I love graphic novels but I haven't read many yet. I've got Maus but I haven't read it yet. I read Watchmen and Safe Area Gorazde which is about the Bosnian-Serbian war; I have some others but strangely enough only Watchmen is Fantasy. I'm definitely adding these to my wishlist!!

  7. I've read Maus, but graphic novels aren't generally my thing. I'm a very visual person, but something about not being able to imagine the stories on my own bothers me a little I guess. I confess, though, I had no idea there was a graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand. I have a friend who might really enjoy that, so I should look into it. :D

  8. I see several of my favorites on this list along with some graphic novels I'd really like to try or that are languishing on my shelves. Thanks for a great list!

  9. I'm not really into graphic novels but I LOVED Maus. Maybe I need to try more like it. Thanks for the ideas!

    Alison at The Cheap Reader

  10. I have to read Maus for my college English class, so I'll be reading that one. I'm not normally into GN so it should be interesting.

    Here's mine: http://danicapage.blogspot.com/2012/01/teaser-tuesday-13-top-ten-tuesday.html

  11. I haven't really read many graphic novels (I want to read more) but Maus is one of the best things I've ever read in any format. It's AMAZING! Also, how big is The Stand in graphic novel form? Because my guess is, pretty big!

  12. This probably would have been my topic if I hadn't done audiobooks! Great list, I'm actually reading Transmetropolitan right now. Pretty freaking awesome.

  13. Great list! I've been meaning to check out more graphic novels, the stories are just so dynamic and there's a lot of gorgeous art out there so yeah, just might check out some of the titles you listed there =)

    Thanks for dropping by my blog earlier! =D

  14. There are so many of these that I have read/heard of. I love graphic novels. Some of my favorites are Persepolis, Fun Home and The Sandman series.

  15. @Shannon, Thanks! I've read, and loved, Watchmen, but I haven't heard of Safe Area Gorazde before. Sounds interesting though, so I'll search it out.

    @Lauren, yeah the visual thing seems to be an issue for plenty of book readers. I'm equally a film and book fan though, so I imagine that's one of the reasons graphic novels work so well for me.

    @Allison and Andi, thanks!

    @Danica, I'm sure you'll love Maus, I'm yet to meet anyone who thought it was anything less than phenomenal!

    @Laura, I'm only on book four so far, but yes, pretty huge. It's just been completed (i think) so hopefully I'll be able to conclude it soon enough!

    @Heidi, yay! A fellow Transmetro reader! It was the series me and my boyfriend bonded over on our first date :)

    @Li, thanks for stopping over. The art is such a great draw for graphic novels, though it always makes me a little sad that I can barely draw a stick figure!

    @LBC, The Sandman series is wonderful (and huge) but I'm still trying to finish it! Persepolis is one of the top books on my TBR list at the moment, the modern art gallery in town is currently doing a "drawn to screen" series of films which are films based on graphic novels/comics, and the Persepolis film is on the bill but I want to read it first.

  16. Oooh awesome list! I've been wanting to try graphic novels so I'll definitely look into some of these.

  17. I've never tried any graphic novels before, and to be honest, I don't really have any intention to. But if I do decide to pick one up, I'll DEFINITELY try one from your list!! :)

  18. @Belle, let me know how you go if you decide to try one!

    @Sophia, at least you're honest! Who knows though, maybe you'll change your mind in a year or two

  19. Great category to do!! I hear Maus is fantastic! Have you ever read Fables and Y the Last Man? LOVED those two!

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

    Michele | Just a Lil Lost

  20. I've heard of both (and they're both on my Amazon wishlist) but I haven't gotten round to either of them yet. Soon though, hopefully!



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