Great Graphic Novels

I'm a big fan of a very specific kind of graphic novel. I'm not very keen on superheroes, war, fantasy, horror, or manga and that doesn't leave much left. I dutifully visit my local Borders every week and look through the "Other Graphic Novels" section but I rarely find anything to pick up. The New York Times tracks the best sellers in Graphic Books, and most of them fall under one of the categories I mentioned.

I've only found a handful that I enjoy, but I enjoy them so much that I'd like to request more from the universe. I'm not quite sure how to classify them. Non-fiction seems to fit, but not always. I have a hard time explaining to people who aren't graphic novel fans that there are indeed great ones out there. Here's a quick list and a panel from each of my favorite graphic novels:

Logicomix by Doxiadis and Papadimitriou

You have to wonder why there hasn't been a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell before now. Logicomix is partly about the fall of set theory, partly about Russell's life, and partly about the making of the graphic novel itself. ok, it sounds like a horrible trainwreck. Somehow it all works to show that there are people and personalities driving progress in philosophy and mathematics. Here's a panel with Russell and Wittengstein arguing about sets.


Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

Delisle writes personal travelogues. His work in animation has taken him to inaccessible places such as Pyongyang, North Korea and Shenzhen, China. In Burma Chronicles he accompanied his wife to Burma for her work with Doctors Without Borders. He chronicled his time there exploring the repressive culture, expat community, and locals he met. Instead of a long arcing narrative he presents a series of progressive vignettes.

Burma Chronicles

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

A.D. follows the stories of six people who experienced Hurricane Katrina in different ways. Some evacuated, some stayed behind, some left, some returned. It gave me a more personal view of something I only experienced through television.


The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

This is a series of short stories by manga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi written in 1969. They're gritty, looking at the darker side of human nature without ever tipping over into the grotesque like I think manga tends to do. He sets his cartoonish, simple characters against a realistic background as in this panel:

Push Man

It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken by Seth

The main character in this picture novella travels across Canada looking for the work of an obscure cartoonist who worked briefly in the 40's and 50's. Like the main character, the entire book is an anachronism and maybe the medium is too.

Good Life

I'm not sure what ties these together beyond realism. I've picked up a few guides to graphic novels including Graphic Novels by Paul Gravett and 500 Essential Graphic Novels by Gene Kannenberg and I still have trouble finding books that are in my favorite genre—whatever that might be.

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