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GRAPHIC NOVELS: Stories To Change Your Life

A Review By: State Of Art

The following review apppeared in State Of Art magazine in 2005.

Book of the Month
Those immersed in the worlds of comics, graphic art and a relatively new manifestation, the modern graphic novel, will recognise the name of Paul Gravett immediately. Gravett has been the UK champion of these arts for over twenty years, sometimes a lone voice addressing an anonymous audience. Those not so familiar with the genre can forget superheroes, geeks metamorphosing into alien monsters and such like; the modern graphic novel is a marriage of cool writing and original drawing, street philosphy and net-savvy artwork.

It’s a bright and deluxe production, designed by Gravett’s long-time associate Peter Stanbury. A brief intro covers the ancestry of the graphic novel with examples going back to the early 19th century. It might be argued one could travel back to the 17th century chapbooks and beyond to try and find the essence of these contemporary, far more sophisticated versions of what Gravett tells us (quoting Eddie ‘Alec’ Campbell) is “a movement”, not a form.

Here, a collection of 30 “masterpieces” (or “essential graphic novels to get you started”) are presented, analysed amd decoded, enabling the reader to access the intellectual layering and alternative interpretations inherent within these individual titles. Although it would have been impossible to exclude the giants on this medium, American Robert Crumb (Fritz The Cat etc.) and Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Gravett trawled the world to offer up examples from as far afield as Canada and Palestine, endeavouring to illustrate the various editorial preoccupations he has identified - for example: childhood; growing up; seeing the funny side of life: unrequited love and secret desires, etc.

Without the highest of production values, the many reproductions, sourced from a myriad of previously printed pages, would have fallen flat. Aurum have excelled themselves and this large format, trade paperback offers 194pp of detailed delight. These stories might not actually “change your life” but they will certainly change the way you look at the illustrated novel, and comic books, forever. Paul Gravett’s most excellent information website has become a beacon for those interested in the art form; check out:


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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

All contents © Paul Gravett, except where noted.
All artwork © the respective copyright holders.