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Graphic Novel Recommendations?

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I just got back from SCBWI LA and got pretty jazzed about graphic novels. Now, I'm a total noob in the genre and want to read as much as I can before I take a stab. I'm taking a graphic novel how to online workshop through MediaBistro in September and my agent is on board to see me try one of these things. In the meantime...

What graphic novels are considered the must reads of the genre?
What graphic novels are a stunning example that every newcomer should study?
What have you read and loved?

I write paranormal YA and am thinking of the same genre, girl protagonist and mostly girl audience. Educate me, blue boarders!
#1 - August 05, 2008, 03:38 PM

Two girl-oriented graphic novels are The Plain Janes and the Courtney Crumrin series. I loved these, too.
#2 - August 05, 2008, 03:53 PM
Bazooka Joe says, I have the ability to become outstanding in literature.

This isn't a kids graphic novel, but I loved Cancer Vixen by Marissa Alcetto Marchetto.  But it probably doesn't appeal to everyone, so make sure to read reviews and descriptions carefully before reading.

ETA: I didn't realize that you wanted more of a paranormal book.  Cancer Vixen follows a woman through her journey with, you guessed it, cancer.  So sorry about that!
#3 - August 05, 2008, 03:54 PM
« Last Edit: August 05, 2008, 04:00 PM by FutureDoctor »
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I would put American Born Chinese (Gen Luen Yang) at the top of the list.

also Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is quite good, and for a huge  :lmao , Manga Claus: the Blade of Kringle byNathaniel Marunas.
#4 - August 05, 2008, 03:57 PM

I loved Persepolis and Persepolis II, but if you want a list, check out the one compiled at YALSA. Looks like some good ones here!

#5 - August 05, 2008, 05:09 PM
Stained Glass Summer, Musa Publishing
Weaving Magic, YA Romance
Finders Keepers--MeeGenius Publishing

Watchmen is called a classic.  I didn't love it. I read it when I was 12 or 13, though, and I'm not sure I appreciated it at that age.  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is supposed to be up there, along with Batman: The Killing Joke.
#6 - August 05, 2008, 05:36 PM

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Shaun Tan's The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel about the immigrant experience that is absolutely stunning.

I loved Laika by Nick Abadzis, too - It's about the first dog in space, who died just hours after she was launched on Sputnik II.

And I'll second The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci.  Awesome book.
#7 - August 05, 2008, 06:24 PM

HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13

Like novels & poetry, these come in such a wide variety.   My suggestions are mostly paranormal bc that's my taste in this field. 

The Sandman series Gaiman (classic, MUST read)
Death: The High Cost of Living (The Sandman world)

Fables (comic/avail in trade paper)--on-going.  I'm a devotee of this series & the JACK series that spun off from it.
Vampire Knight (manga)--very fun, popular; I tend to chat abt this w my readers.

A Few Recent Ones or General Other stuff for the YA UF/Paranormal Writer--

Courtney Crumrin (2005? or so)--MG/YA
Death Junior (manga)--MG
Aria (Image Comics) late 90s--fairy (not quite faery, but not really fairy) in modern world, very adult, but good

Others I Just Like or have liked (all paranormal)

30 Days of Night (S Niles)--adult
Spike series
BtVS series
My Dead Girlfriend (manga)-- Teen

Daughter's manga recs:

Death Note
Model (older series)
Demon Diary

Not paranormal
Flood--very cool, wordless text

Now, that all said, if you go to your local shop & say "I'm looking for ____ type of comics, trade paper collections, and manga. Can you hook me up?"  They will :) 

Hope something there helps.
#8 - August 05, 2008, 06:49 PM
« Last Edit: August 05, 2008, 08:51 PM by Melissa »

Blue Monday by Chynna Clugston-Major!

Castle Waiting is really fun for more traditional (sorta) fantasy.

I also love Ai Yazawa's stuff for manga with a very YA vibe and wonderfully stylish art...the characterizations are excellent.  Paradise Kiss is a short series, 5 volumes, completed...very fun.
#9 - August 05, 2008, 08:04 PM
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Dark Metropolis, 6/14

My favorites were Persepolis and the sequel, and American Born Chinese.
#10 - August 05, 2008, 08:12 PM


WOW - Thanks so much you guys. The only ones I'd heard about (at the conference) were the Plain Janes and The Arrival, which I totally want to "read," hehe. This is going to be so much fun.
#11 - August 06, 2008, 06:41 AM


If you write YA,  you might be interested in the DC Comics Minx line. These are geared specifically toward teen girls. The Plain Janes is part of that line of graphic novels, but there are several others and they are tons of fun!

Also, if you're interested more in middle grade, Bone out from Scholastic is popular right now.
#12 - August 06, 2008, 09:29 AM


I'm also trying to learn more about the genre. The Sandman series is classic but the themes are very adult. Stephen King's Dark Tower series is being re-released as graphic novels. Unlike the books, they go in chronological order. I've been told the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a must read and it's on my TBR list. I've been trying to find Terry Pratchett's graphic novels but they've been eluding me.

For girl/YA stuff, I tried checking out Meg Cabot's Avalon High graphic novels, but there was too much summary for me to get into them. Now I'm trying the manga Fruits Basket. I love the concept but it's hard to get the hang of reading right to left! Next on my TBR list, Girl Genius! :books3
#13 - August 12, 2008, 10:01 AM


Hi Mary,

I illustrated a fun YA series called GoGirl, published by Dark Horse Comics. It's written by Trina Robbins, who as also worked with me on other graphic novels.
It's all about a young teenage  girl who inherits her mom's flying powers. Her mother  was an honest-to-goodness- flying superheroine back in the 70's known as Go-Go-Girl. Now her daughter, Lindsay, has donned on her mom's old costume and has become  the teenage superheroine GoGirl! Of course, there's a lot more going on then just saving the day!

Also please consider checking out any of the Graphic Classics editions .
 They are mostly anthologies of famous classic writers. Mark Twain, Jack London, HG Wells, and dozens more. They're all illustrated by different artists. And for a real treat check out Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey in Gothic Classics! :) (Another story Trina and I teamed up on!)
(I know this is a bit of a plug here but I am real happy to share my work with people who are looking for suggestions. :)

#14 - August 17, 2008, 08:53 PM

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Thanks for sharing Anne! Do you have a direct link for the Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey in Gothic Classics? I didn't see that one offered. Thanks!
#15 - August 18, 2008, 09:49 AM
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Many of the must-reads have already been mentioned (Persepolis, Dark Knight Returns, Sandman), but here are some others I'd suggest:

*The Hopeless Savages series by Jen Van Meter - I want to be adopted by this family. Seriously.
*The Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O'Malley - I started reading this series because it's being made into a movie starring Michael Cera (who I love) and directed by Edgar Wright (who I also love). I've only read the first volume, but I really liked it.
*Blankets by Craig Thomspon - A truly beautiful and devastating work.
*Bone by Jeff Smith - One of the few "all-ages" comics I can think of that truly appeals to all ages. Its sweet and epic and wonderful.
*Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore - I think this series faltered towards the end, but the first few collections (beginning with "I Dream of You") are pure awesome.
*Anything by Brian K. Vaughan. No, really - *anything* by Brian K. Vaughan: Runaways, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, it's all good (though I wouldn't read that last one without a big box of Kleenex on hand, especially if you're an animal lover). He's a writer on Lost now, too, and I am convinced that is a large part of why last season didn't suck.

the Brad, I tried reading Watchmen during my freshman year of college and just couldn't get past the grimness. I'm rereading it now in anticipation of the movie, and I'm blown away by how brilliant it is. So it might be worth another look.
#16 - August 18, 2008, 03:54 PM

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Watchmen, as the original
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth
The Stone Keeper
King City  (this is really good)
Pride of Baghdad

#17 - August 18, 2008, 10:59 PM

I second pretty much all of the suggestions already given, and say that FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel is effing amazing, and was the best book of its year in any genre, IMO.

#18 - August 19, 2008, 01:17 AM
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Nobody's mentioned Maus, which used to be one of the first titles brought up in these discussions, no?  Am I wrong in thinking that Maus was always a graphic novel (in two parts), whereas many of the titles mentioned are comic collections?  Is there a difference?  If I ask my husband, he'll go on for a half an hour!  Doesn't the original form of its release affect the pacing? (Says the girl with lots of single issues of Bone and Strangers In Paradise, etc. in a box in her closet.)
#19 - August 19, 2008, 04:06 AM

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Jaina, I think you're right, but I also think that the term graphic novel has expanded to include comic collections, like BONE ... but maybe someone more knowledgeable will jump in.

The form of release does affect pacing, and there is a difference when you read a GN that was conceived and released as a novel, as opposed to one that was released as a series of comics, then bound together later and released as a book. And of course, serials, where there's one storyline/story arc, for a number of single release comics are different pacing than comics that have the smae character, but each single release is a contained story.
#20 - August 19, 2008, 06:44 AM
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Thanks, Stephanie!  I've just been surprised when I've heard someone talk about X as a graphic novel when I knew X ten years ago as a comic book (and graphic novels as stuff like Maus).  To me, the "novel" in graphic novel implies that it's been written and conceived as a longer story . . . which is certainly true of some comic books, of course.  But just binding single titles together doesn't make it a graphic novel to me--it makes it a collection.

I was a small-time very unknowledgeable comic geek a while back when I was hanging with the comic geeks in grad school.  They'd toss all the "girl comics" and innocent stuff at me, while they read all the boy junk. ;)
#21 - August 19, 2008, 07:03 AM


Hi, mary. What happened at the Los Angeles Conference that got you jazzed about graphic novels if I might ask? I think I'm jazzed about them too. LOL
#22 - August 19, 2008, 07:06 PM

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Don't think I saw "The Invention of Hugo Chabret" listed. It belongs in the 'stunning' category.
#23 - August 19, 2008, 07:50 PM
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Shaun Tan's The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel about the immigrant experience that is absolutely stunning.

I've got to second this one. It blew me away.
#24 - August 20, 2008, 04:16 AM

This is a great list.  There are so many choices.

I loveThe Arrival. I also thought Maus and The Invention of Hugo Cabret were stunning.

Ellie McDoodle by Ruth Barshaw is a great graphic novel for elementary ages kids. My youngest loved it.

#25 - August 20, 2008, 04:41 AM
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I haven't read this yet (it's on hold at the library), but Shannon Hale's first graphic novel just came out: Rapunzel's Revenge.

It's a retelling of Rapunzel (duh), but from what I gathered on the cover, is set in someplace like Utah. She co-wrote it with her husband, and apparently is going to talk about it on the Today Show next month.
#26 - August 20, 2008, 05:37 PM
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
THE BLIND WISH, Random House Children's, 2015

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Can I assume that Mary took one of Mac McCool's classes at SCBWI-LA?

Two years ago I took two of his classes and it was the best part of the conference for me. He is a fantastic teacher; outlines the genre perfect, explains how to write and draw, and creates an excitement for graphic novels. I learned information I had not found anywhere else.
I also went to a discussion of graphic novels with two editors.

Besides the GNs that have already been mentioned, I also have Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman and Christine Norrie and Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age. (I like to study the different styles.)
#27 - August 20, 2008, 10:23 PM


Thanks for sharing Anne! Do you have a direct link for the Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey in Gothic Classics? I didn't see that one offered. Thanks!

Hi sruble, 
Here's a direct link to Gothic Classics and I've got some of the reviews for Gothic Classics up on my blog.

#28 - August 20, 2008, 11:14 PM


Wow Wow Wow Wow  :wow  :wow  :wow  :wow

You guys are rock stars! I've been reading a ton of graphic novels recently and yes, Got Art, you're totally right. I took a class with Mack McCool and that's why I'm here and I'm loving it! Thank you so much to everybody who has responded.
#29 - August 21, 2008, 08:36 AM

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Thanks Anne! I didn't know it was part of that book.
#30 - August 21, 2008, 10:06 AM
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