Some of My Favorite Graphic Novels

A few months ago I shared a few of my favorite books. But one thing you may not have guessed from that list is that I also happen to be a bit of a graphic novel fan. There’s something about seeing the story visually come to life in front of you that makes you experience the story in a new way — and it’s cool to see a variety of art styles across the graphic novel genre, much like authors have their own voices. It gives you a reason to slow down and appreciate the craft that went into creating the art. So in no particular order and with the caveat that this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some of my favorite graphic novels.

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy. I don’t remember how I first heard about this book, but I’m really glad I did. It tells the story of a boy with diabetes who gets transported into a fantasy world during one episode when his blood sugar drops. The story bounces back and forth between his quest to defeat King Death in the fantastic world and his attempt to raise his blood sugar level in the real world. This sets up some really cool parallels between both worlds, like his pet rat becoming his anthropomorphic warrior-rat companion in the fantasy world. These cool insertions and imaginative illustrations combine to make an awesome portal fantasy.

reMIND by Jason Brubaker. This began as a webcomic, so I first read it online (where it’s still available to read for free). Putting aside the fact that Brubaker using the blog format to both host the webcomic and chronicle his journey in publishing reMIND is awesome itself, the volumes also tell an engaging story. Though it begins with a normal girl living in and maintaining a lighthouse, it soon introduces a talking cat, lizard-men, and an underwater kingdom to create a story much larger than what you see on the surface. This quirkiness is complemented by a unique art style that blends Brubaker’s background in storyboarding with textured colors, and was designed from the ground up to play with different ways of filling the pages.

Bone by Jeff Smith. This is probably on more than a few top 10 graphic novel lists, and it’s easy to see why. The story begins with the antics of a trio of cartoony brothers getting lost and gradually but consistently growing in scope until it becomes an epic. After getting separated, the brothers begin exploring a secluded valley, meeting its inhabitants, and discovering that life there may not be as idyllic as it originally seems. It has just the right mix of humor, adventure, drama, suspense, and romance, and Smith’s smooth illustrations demonstrate what a labor of love it was for him to craft it from beginning to end.

Mouse Guard (series) by David Petersen. I think the first book in this series (Fall 1152) is what first got me into graphic novels. In this world, mice live in a pseudo-medieval civilization, and are protected by the Mouse Guard, who are essentially knights who travel the land to protect villages and travelers from threats. The story of the first entry begins with a patrol out on a mission where they soon discover that the Mouse Guard itself may have threats of its own to worry about. Each entry develops the world even further, introducing different elements of life in the mice’s world. This setup, combined with Petersen’s wood-engraving-esque style of illustration and the square format of the books, make this a really unique series of graphic novels.

Rust (series) by Royden Lepp. One of the advantages of graphic novels is the ability to read them without technically reading words. Rust is probably the best example of that that I’ve read. The series follows a farm family who takes in a strange boy with a jetpack after he protects them from a massive, violent robot. But while he’s trying to keep his past a secret, others are doing everything they can to uncover it. It’s set in a alt-history world where robots and steampunk-esque technology aren’t out of place on sprawling farms and prairies, but the sepia-toned artwork helps it all to feel timeless. And Lepp isn’t afraid to let that art tell the story by itself. Action scenes in particular can go on for pages without word bubbles interrupting them, allowing this graphic novel to really play up what makes this medium so special.

Again, these are just a few of my favorite graphic novels — and I’m always looking for new ones! Do you have any suggestions?

Some of My Favorite Books

Since I’m still pretty new to the blogosphere, I’m still in the process of brainstorming and developing post ideas. And, as a writer, it seems only natural for some self-generated content to include some of my favorite books. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and the books aren’t arranged in any particular order, but they’re some of the first titles that come to mind when I think of some of the books that have had the biggest effect on me.

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. When people ask what my favorite book is, this is my most common answer. I vaguely remember being really intimidated by its size as a young kid, but eventually mustered myself to tackle it. And when I did, it blew my mind. The self-referential narrative and scores of characters with unique stories expanded my idea of what I thought a book could be, and, ultimately, inspired me to start creating my own stories.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and whole Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis. The Neverending Story may have got me started on storytelling/creating, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe got me started on reading. I wasn’t much of a reader at a really young age, but my mom insisted that I read the Chronicles of Narnia. I in turn insisted that I start with LWW because my brother and I watched the animated 1979 version on VHS. By the time I finished, I was hooked. I devoured the series, moved on to other fantasy books, and never looked back.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. My mom (sense a theme here?) read this to my brother and I when we were young kids, and I fully intend to do the same with my own one day. It took me quite some time after that to move on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I really loved how The Hobbit gave us a shared family memory.

Sabriel by Garth Nix. I read this classic YA adventure on a week-long Boy Scout trek. I had no idea what to expect, but was drawn into the world Nix created and revealed through Sabriel’s eyes. The combination of reading such a an engaging adventure while hiking through the Northern California forests made reading this book such an unforgettable experience. Even better, I was able to share this story with Nix in person at an author event where he signed and personalized it, and we were able to talk about our scouting experiences together!

Neverwhere and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Once again, what made these books so special was their stories plus the memory of where I read them. I actually bought my copies of both books while studying abroad in London, and read them that same semester. It was so cool reading Neverwhere while living in London and able to go out and walk to the different places it references in London Below, and I really enjoyed reading Stardust at a time when I was going out every weekend and exploring other parts of England.

Like I said at the beginning, this is just a smattering of my favorite books, but there’s probably a reason they’re the first few to come to mind. I’ll most likely revisit this idea over a number of posts, but hopefully won’t resort to this theme too, too often, haha.