For a lot of people the terms “comic book” and “graphic novel” bring to mind images of over-muscled men in tights fighting super-powered criminals. There is no denying that tight-and-cape tales have been a staple in the comic industry for almost seventy years, but this medium should not be overlooked for its ability to tell complex and innovative adult oriented stories outside of the superhero genre. Windsor Public Library’s extensive graphic novel collection hosts a number of works recommended for reluctant comic readers, with stories ranging from heartbreaking autobiographies to chilling crime thrillers. This list highlights a few of our collection’s best graphic novels which offer readers an entertaining alternative to the traditional novel.
From Hell: Being A Melodrama In Sixteen Parts (1999) by Alan Moore (writer) & Eddie Campbell (illustrator)
Alan Moore is a writer whose name is synonymous with great comics. Works like Watchmen and V For Vendetta helped introduce graphic novels to mainstream audiences and garnered a new level of respect for the medium, proving it could tell complex and mature stories intended for adult audiences. While there is no denying how seminal works like Watchmen or V for Vendetta are, Moore’s most ambitious work to date has to be his fictional retelling of the Jack the Ripper murders: From Hell. This remarkably epic work presents an ingenious take on the killings, outlining a tangled conspiracy involving the Freemasons, the British Royal Family and poet William Blake. Moore’s mature prose sets the mood for this dark and intelligent story, while the stark black and white art by Eddie Campbell brings the brutality of the murders and the cityscapes of 19th century London to life. From Hell has received many prestigious awards, has garnered comparisons to Kafka and Dostoevsky, and is often cited as one of the greatest graphic novels ever written.
American Splendor: The Life And Times Of Harvey Pekar (2003) by Harvey Pekar (writer)
No comic writer may have been more down-to-Earth than the drolly self-depreciative Harvey Pekar. A cantankerous Cleveland native with an addiction to old jazz records, Pekar depicts the conflicts and frustrations that come from average day-to-day life. With comparisons ranging from Theodore Dreiser to Lenny Bruce, Pekar’s American Splendor stories are recommended for those seeking realistic narratives with biting intelligent humour. This collection features art by many comic legends including Gary Drumm and Robert Crumb.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) by Alison Bechdel
The autobiographic Fun Home displays the power which the graphic medium has to tell compelling and moving personal stories. Exploring many facets of family, memory and grief, this beautiful memoir follows the life of Alison Bechdel and her relationship with her closeted gay father. The novel delicately balances humour with heartbreak, depicting Bechdel’s budding realization for her own homosexuality, her yearning for a meaningful relationship with her father and an understanding of his tragically sudden death. This sophisticated narrative, along with Bechdel’s lovingly rendered and evocative artwork, places this graphic novel among the finest pieces of biographic literature. Fun Home has received of many awards including being selected as Time Magazine’s book of the year in 2006. Also recommended is Bechdel’s follow-up, Are You My Mother?, which explores the author’s relationship with maternal parent.
The Complete Persepolis (2007) by Marjane Satrapi
A nexus of personal, political and world history, Persepolis is the story of a young woman growing up during the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Young Marjane’s coming of age unfolds in a world riddled with war, where her ambitious and edgy nature comes into conflict with the oppressive government regime surrounding her. When life in Iran becomes too dangerous for the young girl her family sends her away to study in Vienna. Immersed a shockingly different environment, Marjane must make sense of these two conflicting worlds, while learning what it takes to stay true to her self and her Iranian heritage. Tragic, funny and poignant, this story reflects a struggle to exist in a world ravaged by war and conflict and what it takes to move forward. Persepolis was also adapted into a feature-length animated movie, which was awarded the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.
The Essex County Trilogy (2007-2008) by Jeff Lemire
Inspired by his childhood in local Essex, writer and illustrator Jeff Lemire’s Essex County series has received many accolades, most notably being selected in 2011 as one of CBC Canada Reads most essential Canadian literary works of the past decade. Tales From the Farm follows the exploits of Lester, a ten-year old orphan who moves in with his bachelor uncle after his mother dies from cancer. Ghost Stories tells the tale of Lou Lebeuf, an aged and lonely deaf man who recollects over his past as a professional hockey player and his relationship with his estranged brother. The Country Nurse follows a day in the life for Anne Quenneville, a travelling nurse for the farming community of the county. Lemire’s stories reflect an intimate study of a single community over the years and offers meditations on the themes of memory, family and reconciliation.
Visit the Windsor Public Library branch nearest you to begin exploring our selection of graphic novels.