Graphic Novels with Literary Appeal

Article by keaton

This summer, Brazos will feature our favorite literary reads that cross over into marginalized genres that are attaining new levels of respectability among literary aficionados. This week we’re focusing on graphic novels, the highbrow cousin of the comic book. On first glance they may seem childish, but many of our favorite graphic novels push the boundaries of what is possible in storytelling through their masterly juxtaposition of text and image. We believe there’s a graphic novel to entrance even the most rarefied reader of Literature. Here are a few suggestions to get you started. -Keaton

The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679406419
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Pantheon - November 19th, 1996

There is no better example of a literary graphic novel than this powerful, heartbreaking memoir of a Holocaust survivor’s son. Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize, Maus presents a view of the Holocaust that illuminates the effects of its horrific events both on the world at large and on the individual. Author/illustrator Art Spiegelman’s use of anthropomorphized animals instead of humans to depict Nazis and Jews is ingenious for two reasons: it graphically acknowledges the dehumanizing factors that made the Holocaust possible, and it provides some distance for the reader that makes the atrocities Spiegelman presents easier to digest. This is not just a graphic novel you should read; it is a modern classic of American literature you should not miss.

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes Cover Image
By Mary M. Talbot, Bryan Talbot (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781595828507
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Dark Horse Books - February 21st, 2012

This work bridges the gap between graphic novel and literature through its unique juxtaposition of two stories. Splicing biography and memoir, Mary Talbot connects the story of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, who went insane while helping her near-blind father write Finnegan’s Wake - hence the title - with an account of her own relationship with her father, the foremost Joycean scholar James Atherton. Illustrated by the author’s husband, Bryan Talbot, this book is a two-headed tale of young women’s attempts to navigate the social expectations demanded of their gender. In a NYRB interview last year, Neil Gaiman called Dotter the best recent graphic novel he’s read.

From Hell Cover Image
By Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780958578349
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: Top Shelf Productions - May 1st, 2004

The inimitable Alan Moore’s take on the story of Jack the Ripper will consume you in unrelenting darkness. Rendered in haunting, gritty, black and white illustrations by Eddie Campbell, From Hell blends historical fact and speculation into a profound psychological portrait of the most infamous murderer in history. Beyond graphically depicting the Ripper’s violent acts, Moore also levels his critical sights at the possible political cover-up that kept a monster like the Ripper from ever being caught. Moore’s works are mind-blowing, controversial and of the highest literary merit. From Hell is no different and will not disappoint.

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson Cover Image
By Mark Siegel, Mark Siegel (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781596439269
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 7-10 Days due to Covid-19 shipping delays.
Published: First Second - March 4th, 2014

This Gilded Age tale of a steamship captain’s encounter with a mermaid from the Hudson River lies in a zone somewhere between historical fiction and magical realism. Author/illustrator Mark Siegal’s striking, emotive charcoal illustrations will draw you into the lives of three peculiar characters who unexpectedly influence each other’s destinies in a world where things are never quite what they seem and desire often leads to destruction. Brimming over with imagination and mystery, Sailor Twain is a haunting exploration of how our understanding of the world is informed as much by myth as by history.

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