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GRAPHIC NOVELS: Stories To Change Your Life

A Review By: Strip Vesti

Strip Vesti is the Serbian electronic comics magazine, which has been distributed to almost 1,000 email address every week for more than 6 years.

When I think about some of my experiences from the last 40 years of collecting, following and delightfulness with comics and pleasure which I had reading them (Pegasus from Zika Bogdanovic, Have You Seen the Girls by Igor Kordey, big and small format of Strip Art magazines from Ervin Rustemagic, articles from Zoran Djukanovic, Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware) I can only regret that I did not write enough about them and at least express my gratitude to the authors for the spiritual pleasure that they have provided for me.

This time I am not going to be lazy and I believe that the wider circle of comic enthusiasts might be interested to hear about one new book, which I bought, read and enjoyed.

That book is by Paul Gravett, an eloquent and active English writer. Paul had published a book about Manga comics and for more than 20 years he has been regularly writing, preparing exhibitions, teaching and promoting comics. His book Graphics Novels, Stories to Change Your Life (Aurum Press Ltd, 2005) provides information about 30 graphics novels which are so strong that they changed his life and views, and which will probably have the same effect on the readers of Paul’s book. I would not like now to become involved in defining the term ‘graphic novels’ and rather say simply that we have here 30 books with comics, from 44 do 700 pages, published in the period from 1976 to 2005.

Paul’s book has a very modern text arrangement. It consists of 10 headings or topics and within each heading there are 2-4 graphics novels. The headings and the novels are:

The Undiscovered Country:
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
Epileptic by David B.
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

The Other Side Of The Tracks:
A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Locas by Jaime Hernandez
Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez
It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken by Seth

The Long Shadow:
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
Palestine by Joe Sacco

The Superhuman Condition:
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Of Futures And Fables:
The Airtight Garage by Moebius
The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

In The Mind’s Eye:
Strange Embrace by David Hine
Black Hole by Charles Burns

Murder, Smoke And Shadows:
Scene of the Crime by Ed Brubaker
Sin City by Frank Miller
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Behind The Smile:
The Frank Book by Jim Woodring
Cerebus by Dave Sim
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
When The Winds Blows by Raymond Briggs

Travels In Time:
Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt
Buddha by Osamu Tezuka
From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

Passion Beyond Reason:
My Troubles with Women by Robert Crumb
Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds
Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Each novel is presented on two pages, richly illustrated, and then, on the next two pages, another 4 novels are presented, which arrived in the world of comics before or after the main novel. The additional novels have a similar graphic style or topic to the main novel, but they are themselves very valuable and independent works. Hence, the total of 150 graphics novels is presented in the book.

The main technical flaws of the book are (a) within additional novels, the authors and titles are not emphasised (you have to read the whole text to identify the author and the title) and (b) in an introductory text of each heading there are some pictures of books, but without any explanations.

Thanks to the author of this book, the selected graphic novels represent different interests and authors in the world of modern comics and they cover a wide range of artistic individuality. My modest theoretical understanding of comics, but long term reading experience and the fact that I have read most of these novels, leads me to the conclusion that we have in front of us masterpieces of modern comics. Unfortunately, many of these titles are unknown in Serbia , thanks to our many years of isolation, but this book could be an excellent guide for our publishers as well for our individual readers. Especially for the readers who are a bit older and experienced and who are trying not to miss the works of a historical importance for the comic art.

Looking into Paul’s selection of graphic novels, I can only say (the opposite to Mirko Ilic’s opinion that the comics medium is going to die) that as books or radio did not die after the appearance of television, similarly the comics are not going to disappear with the arrival of illustrations and/or computer animations. On the contrary, I believe that the comics are more vital than ever - new authors choose to investigate life and reveal their findings through comics disregarding the necessary hard work and modest financial reward. The comic art lays on enthusiasm of the public and authors. It is not destroyed with the simple attempt to entertain and earn quick money (which is the case largely in music, movies and television), and the spectrum of topics and engagements is endless. This book confirms all of these statements. We can only be grateful to Paul Gravett for keeping us informed about some of the greatest modern comics works.

The book is in a big format (slightly wider than A4 format) and can be bought in comics’ shops for about £19 (plus £5-6 for postage to Serbia).


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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.