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Stories To Change Your Life

GRAPHIC NOVELS: Stories To Change Your Life (UK)
GRAPHIC NOVELS: Everything You Need To Know (USA)
Written by Paul Gravett
Designed by Peter Stanbury
$24.95, £18.99
ISBN: 1 84513 068 5

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Once stereotyped as the preserve of improbably dressed superhumans with world-saving tendencies, in recent years graphic novels have become one of today’s most exciting art forms, taking on the world we live in and reflecting it back to us in a thousand different ways. All of human experience is here, from teenage girlfriends alienated in suburbia to a desperate housewife’s search for passion, brought to life with insight, imagination and page-turning narrative. This is the perfect companion to the world of graphic novels, whether you’re a novice uncertain where to start or an enthusiast eager to discover more. In a series of interlinked chapters, Paul Gravett introduces the masterpieces of the medium and helps readers explore its treasures, from the rich, mysterious textures of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman to Marjane Satrapi’s vivid memories of her Iranian childhood in Persepolis.

What are graphic novels? You might think they are easy to define, but the term has become distorted with prejudices and preconceptions, riddled with confusion among the media and public, and a topic of dispute among ‘graphic novelists’ themselves, some of whom reject the label outright. The word graphic does not have to mean disturbing, extreme, and in your face, shown in hard outlines, grotesque caricatures, or lurid coloring. There is room for very different styles of art. In fact, graphic does not narrow down to drawing and illustration, as in graphics, since some artists create their comics using photos, 3D models, or found objects. The term novel can make people expect the sort of format, serious intent, and weighty heft of traditional literature, as if a graphic novel must be the visual equivalent of “an extended, fictional work.” True, some individual graphic novels can run to hundreds of pages, while others stretch to thousands across multiple volumes - but many are much shorter, or consist of collections of short stories, and they come in all shapes, square, oblong, from miniscule to gigantic. Even more importantly, a great many are definitely not fictional at all but belong in the categories of non-fictional - history, biography, reportage, documentary, or educational. More…


UK: Aurum Press: 1st edition, 2005
USA: Collins Design - 1st edition 2005, 2nd edition 2006
Finland: Otava - 1st edition 2007


With thanks to Steve Bissette, Lotta Sonninen and others who have kindly spotted mistakes and sent in corrections.

Page 6:
The date of this strip was actually July 11, 2004.
Page 58:
Commando has not quite reached 4,000 issues yet; it’s on its way though and has topped 3,500 already.

Page 74:
Captain Marvel is of course the “Big RED Cheese”.

Page 88:
L’Écho des Savanes was not founded in 1974 by a disaffected Moebius & Druillet, but in 1972 by Claire Bretécher, Marcel Gotlib and Nikita Mandryka.

Page 136:
Frank’s pet is called Pupshaw, not Pushpaw. This mistake arose from page 344 in The Frank Book which incorrectly bills the name of ‘Frank’s testy little bowser-box’ as Pushpaw in the title, but amends this to Pupshaw in the text beneath.

Page 171:
Steve Bissette has meticulously clarified the origins of Phoebe Zeit-Geist and thanks to Dennis Perrin’s incredibly detailed biography Mr. Mike: The Life & Work Of Michael O’Donoghue (1998, Avon Books) established that it was not inspired by Barbarella. Bissette writes further:

“O’Donoghue’s first published work in Evergreen Review appeared in the August/Sept, 1964 issue, a satirical article entitled “The Automation of Caprice” (Perrin, pg. 109). Perrin traces Phoebe Z-G’s origins to O’Donoghue’s great affection for Terry Southern’s novel Candy (1957, first US mass market publication 1964); it informed a character featured in O’Donoghue’s “Automation” essay, named Ramona Wedgewood, who evolved into what became Phoebe Z-G… So it appears that Phoebe Z-G evolved and its first chapters were completed before its creators, O’Donoghue and Springer, had seen or were aware of Barbarella; but it debuted one issue after Barbarella’s first translated chapter was published in the US. My statements about the 1950s and early ‘60s material it satirized was correct in terms of the pop cultural context, but Terry Southern’s novel Candy was the clear inspirational wellspring for Phoebe Z-G according to O’Donoghue himself."


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My Books

1001 Comics  You Must Read Before You Die edited by Paul Gravett

Comics Unmasked by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning from The British Library

Comics Art by Paul Gravett from Tate Publishing

Featured Books

Graphic Novels:
Stories To Change
Your Life

by Paul Gravett
& Peter Stanbury