The lines separating various niches of comic books are getting fuzzier with each passing year. As genre comics become more literary, literary comics incorporate more reportage and autobiography, and the highest-profile projects of any given season include the archiving and annotating of material that used to disappear into flea markets and quarter boxes. So, the artier side of The A.V. Club’s 2012 best-comics list was reduced to three categories: Fiction, Non-fiction and Archive. Fiction included original graphic novels, collections of formerly serialized material, short-story anthologies, and substantial chapters of on-going stories. While non-fiction contained memoirs, histories, travelogues, journalism, and criticism; archival collections focused on archival series rather than such essential on going series as Little Orphan Annie, Pogo, Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strip, and The Carl Barks Library. Graphic novels can fall in any of these categories and are different from regular comics in the way that they merge traditional style of storytelling with illustrations. Here are the top 10 graphic novels you would probably like to own.
10. The Tale of One Bad Rat:
‘The Tale of One Bad Rat’ is Bryan Talbot’s moving, compelling and beautifully illustrated tale of childhood sexual abuse and recovery. Helen Potter lived a happy life until she got lost in a nightmare of sexual abuse. Now, she’s travelling through urban and rural England on a journey that is remarkably similar to the one a certain Beatrix Potter once took. This inspirational story of Helen Potter and her journey of healing has won numerous awards and unending acclaim for the British writer/artist. This book is the definitive example of a touching story that transcends the misperceptions that comics are disposable and banal.
9. Ghost World:
A darkly comic, intermittently sombre exploration of friendship and modern life, ‘Ghost World’ has become renowned for its frank treatment of adolescence. Daniel Clowes’s cult classic tells of the adventures of Enid Coleslaw and Beck Doppelmeyer – two bored, supremely ironic teenage girls – as they spend their days wandering aimlessly around their unnamed American town. Powerfully and authentically spelling out the realities of teen angst it’s beautifully drawn, with a subtle and convincing storyline.
8. Preacher – Volume 1, Gone To Texas:
Garth Ennis’s savage epic, ‘Preacher’, exemplifies why some comics are only for the grown-ups. ‘Preacher’ focuses on narrative storytelling with an unapologetic handling of religious and supernatural themes. The character’s full-on, dark and frequently violent humor, plus a wide range of allusions to popular culture outside of comic books, is what makes this a compelling read. After merging with a bizarre spiritual force called Genesis, Texan preacher Jesse Custer has become completely disillusioned with the beliefs to which he had dedicated his entire life. Now possessing the power of “the word” – an ability to make people do whatever he utters – Custer begins a violent and riotous journey across the country.
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Volume 1:
‘The League…’ is Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s incredible reinvention of classic heroes and villains. What if Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, Dr Henry Jekyll (and his alter ego Edward Hyde) and the Invisible Man were brought together by a Miss Mina Harker (who once had a dalliance with a certain Count from Transylvania), to fight the menace of Fu Manchu? Now, despite fighting their own personal demons – and each other – they must join forces to save the world. A rare and wonderful treat for any fan of sequential storytelling which beautifully illustrates how much the graphic novel medium can add to the written word.
6. Hellboy Seed of Destruction/Wake The Devil (Library Edition Volume 1):
Drawing heavily from folklore, B-movies, ghost stories, monsters and pulp tales, ‘Hellboy’ is about a paranormal investigator straight from the pits of hell. ‘Hellboy’ has proved to be a both popular and critical success with its abstract artwork and H.P. Lovecraft-style horror. Created by writer-artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy was brought to Earth as an infant by Nazi occultists but discovered by the Allied Forces, amongst them, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. Post WWII the Professor forms the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) and an adult Hellboy becomes their primary agent fighting the remaining Nazis, demons and anything that goes bump in the night.
5. Alice in Sunderland (Hardcover):
Bryan Talbot takes the city of Sunderland and the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the ‘real’ Alice) and around them spins a spectacularly diverse range of different stories. He explores Carroll’s links with Sunderland and shows how the city inspired his masterpieces. Talbot’s artwork is a spectacular mixture of different styles and his stories are told from the stage of the Sunderland Empire theatre. In ‘Alice in Sunderland’, he shows, triumphantly, how local history is national history in microcosm and how one story begets another.
4. From Hell:
Legendary comic creators, Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore, have created a gripping, hallucinatory piece of crime fiction about Jack the Ripper, the most infamous serial murderer of all time. Detailing the events that led to the Whitechapel murders and the cover-up that followed, ‘From Hell’ has become a modern masterpiece of crime noir and historical fiction. Alan Moore names Dr. Gull as the villain and creates the most compelling and terrifying psychological study ever undertaken.
3. V for Vendetta (New Titan Edition):
Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s powerful epic about loss of freedom and individuality is what ‘V for Vendetta’ is all about. Taking place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet, this amazing graphic novel spotlights a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask and his young protégé as they fight political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts. It’s a gripping tale of the blurred lines between ideological good or evil and details a world where political, personal freedoms are non-existent.
2. Watchmen (Titan Edition):
‘Watchmen’ redefined what superhero comics could be and re-introduced the medium to an adult audience with a gripping, labyrinthine script and ultra-detailed artwork. Set in the 1980s, the novel follows a motley crew of costumed superheroes in an alternate universe where the United States is nearing nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Moore created a complex murder mystery with intense, unforgettable characters that explored the themes of absolute power and love through the medium of comic books.
1. Batman – The Dark Knight Returns:
No Batman story in the world is probably more important than Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’. Released in 1986, it was responsible for the rejuvenation of Batman as the dark, brooding character we know today – and for the comics industry as a whole. Batman represented all that was wrong in comics and Miller set himself the task taking on the camp crusader and turning this laughable, innocuous children’s cartoon character into a hero of all times.