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Graphically Novel

The teens did it first.  Then the children.  (Our younger collections have always been precocious.)  Now, at last, our adult collection graphic novels have broken free of the stacks! 

The collection's been given a new home (and room to grow) next to the Speculative Fiction paperbacks.  The books have a "Graphic Novel" label on the spine, and are shelved alphabetically by author (just like the prose novels).  New graphic novel acquisitions are now listed monthly on the New Speculative Fiction page.  Some things haven't changed: books about the medium-- artists' manuals, encyclopedias, reading guides, works about writers or artists, or literary criticism (yes, there really is literary criticism on Batman)-- are still under 741.5.

If you haven't noticed our graphic novel collection before (it's been tucked away in the middle of the 700's), here's your chance to check it out!  Most of what people traditionally think of as comic books-- superheroes or the Sunday funnies-- are shelved in the teen and children's collections, so what you'll find in the adult collection isn't the usual run of capes and tights.  So... what is there?  Lots of great stuff that rides the border between art and fiction, from graphic adaptations of classics and popular novels to some amazing (sometimes wordless!) original storytelling. 

If you want to test the illustrated waters, you might like to start with an adaptation of a familiar work.  A wide variety of writers have been rendered in the graphic format, from Shakespeare and Ayn Rand to Stephen King and Janet Evanovich.  If you'd like to dip into some original fiction, graphic novels come in every genre under the sun.  Like mysteries?  Look for Saurav Mohapatra's hard-boiled Mumbai Confidential, Mat Johnson's Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story, a noirish heist caper set in the dark days following Hurricane Katrina, or the grey-and-gold spines of the Vertigo Crime imprint, penned by such mystery greats as Max Allan Collins and Ian Rankin.  Are thrillers or suspense more your speed?  Try Ed Brubaker's award-winning espionage thriller, Sleeper, Brian Wood's tense, near-future Manhattan war series DMZ, or Robert Venditti's paranoia-inducing The Homeland Directive.  Romance readers might enjoy Makoto Shinkai's poignant 5 Centimeters per Second, about the discovery-- and loss-- of a first love.

And of course, there's a good reason adult graphic novels' new home is right in the middle of Speculative Fiction-- writers and artists can really let their imaginations fly in this medium.  Horror fans should check out Scott Snyder's American Vampire series, Jason's kooky anthropomorphic The Living and the Dead, or the incredible team-up of Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson on City of Others.  (And if you need to kill a zombie or two, The Walking Dead-- which inspired the TV show of the same name-- comes in a nice, heavy omnibus edition.)  If your tastes run more to fantasy, I heartily recommend Bill Willingham's fairy tale mashup, Fables, Linda Medley's after-the-happily-ever-after Castle Waiting, or Mike Carey's life-echoes-literature fantasy The Unwritten.  And if you want a fantasy set very close to home, you don't have to go far for Mark Siegel's Gilded Age mermaid romance, Sailor Twain-- it's set in the Hudson Valley.  For SF lovers, there's Antony Johnston's masterful post-apocalyptic western Wasteland, Masamune Shirow's cyborg thriller Appleseed, or Brian K. Vaughan's worlds-spanning Saga, just for starters.  And one of my personal top-ten favorites (not just of graphic novels-- of ALL books) is Talisman, a book about the magic of books, and part of Carla Speed McNeil's Eisner-winning SF/tribal fantasy series, Finder.

If genre fiction isn't your speed, the graphic format also excels at historical fiction and memoir, giving you a front-row seat to some of history's pivotal moments and letting you literally see the world through someone else's eyes.  Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches gives us an unvarnished look at the First World War from a grunt's perspective.  James Vance's award-winning Kings in Disguise tells of a young man growing up far too soon in the depths of the Great Depression.  Li Kunwu's graphic memoir A Chinese Life gives us a rare look at the establishment of Communist China through the eyes of an average citizen.  Mark Long's semi-autobiographical The Silence of Our Friends puts the reader in the middle of the civil rights struggle in Houston in 1967.  Tarek Shahin's Rise collects a Doonesbury-like Egyptian newspaper strip that prefigures the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.  In Eric Trautmann's sobering true-to-life Shooters, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war struggles with PTSD, and a return to Iraq.

Sometimes it's the smallest stories, the everyday slices of life, that can affect us the most.  In Craig Thompson's intensely personal Blankets, we follow the author and his brother as they search for identity, struggle with faith, and fall in love in the snowy Midwest.  Daniel Clowes' Ignatz-winning Ghost World features two best friends who realize that growing up may also mean growing apart.  Will Eisner's New York is a long-time native's love letter to his city, warts and all.  For a wryer look at modern life, try Adrian Tomine's bitingly comic falling-out-of-love story, Shortcomings, or David Mazzucchelli's satiric Asterios Polyp, in which a self-important architect who's never designed a single building is forced to rebuild his own life.

Whatever your reading taste, there may be more to graphic novels than you ever realized.  Check them out!

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