Mac McCool - Children's Book Illustrations and Graphic Novels

Monday, August 13, 2007

Writing Graphic Novels U.: Recommended Reading List

At the "Writing Graphic Novels" SCBWI session, I shared these titles (in no particular order) with the audience as a good set of great graphic novels to enjoy and study if you are diving into this art form. I've added a few comments about some of their literary and artistic strengths. Note: few of these titles suit younger audiences because so little has happened in children's comics in the U.S. in the last 40 years.

Bone by Jeff Smith
-- one of the great all-ages comics of recent years
Maus by Art Spiegelman
-- excellent writing, effective use of visual metaphors, brilliant story structure, intimate format, layouts that support the storytelling
Tintin by Hergé -- impeccably clear drawing style and panel compositions, voices and characters, slaptstick and verbal humor, smooth reading flow, great pacing (the later titles, like Tintin in Tibet, tend to be the best)
Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby
-- classic over-the-top adventures, dynamic drawings and visual effects, interpersonal conflicts
Spiderman by Stan Lee
-- a more "human" superhero, great dynamic visuals, strong pacing and rhythm
Epileptic by David B.
-- strong themes, careful writing, indelible graphic style
Pogo by Walt Kelly
-- voices, accents, and all-ages, or is it?
Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson
-- impeccably precise writing, voices, magic of ellipses, character, clear compositions, visual stylistic range, overall mastery of medium
Any Astroboy by Osamu Tezuka
-- solid stories, attaching character, a classic for Japanese children -- Tezuka also has wonderful more grown-up stories like Buddha
Krazy Kat by George Herriman
-- a humorous Samuel Beckett in comics panels, voice accents, page layouts, takes a little warming up to, but will grow on most!
A Contract with God by Will Eisner
-- solid writing & story structure, characters, mood, intimate form, effective, yet simple layouts -- his Spirit stories have far more obvious experimental layouts
American Born Chinese by Gene Yang
-- multiple voices, simple and effective imagery, serious themes, complex story structure
Flight, (vol. 1-4) edited by Kazu Kibuishi
-- most volumes are a visual feast, with enough variety to suit all tastes, synthesis of Japanese and European influences on U.S. comics, beautiful color, useful to study short-form graphic novels or graphic novellas
Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay
-- not so impressive writing, but everything else is astonishing, from the graphic mastery, to the perfect union of layouts and storytelling, pacing, etc.; and if you want to get the experience of reading it in its original awesome size, get the original size version
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
-- deceptively effective use of simple black and white scheme to match the narrator's deceptively simple view of life, structure, good writing
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
-- mapping of time and space, sophisticated and engaging use of typography, page layouts, color, clear visuals, relationship between text and image
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Lorenzo Mattotti
-- beautiful "non-typical" style of images, effective adaptation, pacing, mood, colors
Many books from the publisher First Second. They have picked some of the best international comics and translated them into English, and they're also nurturing great home-grown talent.

In the next day or so, I'll gather a list of books that teach about the medium such as the excellent Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.


Blogger Rita said...

Thank you for this list! I will get right on it. It was a real pleasure meeting you at SCBWI-LA, what with the celeb-sighting and all that.


I will look for you at future Comic Cons!

8/14/07, 4:26 PM  
Blogger Mac McCool said...

A strong addition to the present list, and a great kids comics: Lions, Tigers, and Bears by Mike Bullock and Jack Lawrence.

8/21/07, 6:54 AM  

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