Open thread: graphic novel recommendations

With Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes just having won the Costa Biography Award, and Chris Ware’s extraordinary-sounding Building Stories popping up on year’s-best lists, it seems clear to me that I’m missing out by not reading graphic novels. It’s not that I don’t like the form, more that I don’t really know where to start. So…

Please give me your graphic novel recommendations for someone who, like me, comes from a prose fiction-reading (rather than a comics-reading) background. Not Watchmen or Sandman, though — but something I might not have heard of. (And proper recommendations only, please — no advertising.)

Martin Lewis stopped by to recommend Days of the Bagnold Summer in the comments of my Costa post. What else could we add to the list?


  1. David, I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but love Posy Simmonds and luckily was given Mrs Weber’s Omnibus for Christmas, a huge doorstop of a book with Simmond’s classic style and tongue in cheek commentary all over it. I got Tamara Drewe a few years ago after reading it avidly every week in the paper. For my birthday last year (coming up again soon, sigh), I was given Habibi by Craig Thompson. It is a work of real beauty and extraordinary research. I reviewed it too, if you fancy a nosey. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is another good one. Sorry, my recommendations (except Habibi) are a bit girly. Sarah

  2. Preacher – very dark, kind of about the second coming and the war in heaven. Really, really good.
    From Hell – Alan Moore’s take on Jack the Ripper, nothing like the terrible film and an excellent story.
    Usagi Yojimbo – Umm, it’s about a Samurai Rabbit. Really beautiful take on the whole samurai ethos and has won oodles of rewards.

  3. I saw a Isagi Yojimbo exhibition in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I recommend it too. V for Vendetta, Watchmen and The Sandman series should definitely be on your list and Ghost World if you liked the film (otherwise skip it). Sailor Twain came out last year and I loved it, it’s all about mermaids and 19th century riverboats.

  4. Great idea for a post. I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels/comic books, so I’ll be following the recommendations here with interest. Glasgow has a gorgeous wee independent comic book, Plan B books, and I always mean to shop there more!

    Issue 13 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern was a comic book issue, which I loved. It was a great sample of things outside the superhero universe. From that I read Sacco’s Palestine and Lynda Barry’s What It Is and enjoyed both.

    Folk have recommended Alison Bechdel’s memoirs to me, and Charles Burns’s horror (have yet to read these, my library loans got recalled before I could read them!).

    One of my absolute favourites, however, is The Frank Book by Jim Woodring. Wordless, deliberately generic comic-book dream world full of quietly mysterious moments.

  5. I think you’d enjoy Blankets by Craig Thompson.

  6. David Hebblethwaite

    4th January 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for your suggestions, folks. Here are some more that have come in via Twitter:

    @Ellyanor recommends The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon.

    @ActuallyAisha recommends Sudershan (Chimpanzee) by Rajesh Devraj and Meren Imchen.

    @katieheart recommends “Anything by Adrian Tomine but especially Summer Blonde”.

  7. I am not a graphic novel fan as a rule but very much enjoy Daniel Clowes’ work, particularly Ghost World & David Boring.

  8. Ghost World is great, V for Vendetta certainly, anything by Joe Sacco, there’s some reviews at mine including Incognegro and Parker: The Hunter, the three volume (each quite short) Bluesman series is extremely good.

    Actually, there’s loads. What kind of stuff interests you? Are you keener on the single artist/writer stuff where someone says something about their life (a la Persepolis, which is much more interesting than most in that vein), the quirkier sort of thing (again, Ghost World really is good), are you ok with the more comic derived ones (I’m not a Preacher fan but lots are and it falls more into the comic space in my view, on which line I follow Criminal which is an incredibly good crime comic which I highly recommend, see also Hellboy which is a wonderful blend of art and writing).

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