Top 50 Graphic Novels: #6-4

You voted and now we continue our countdown of your votes for the top original graphic novels of all-time! These are graphic novels that were not serialized as comic books before they were released as graphic novels.


6. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Fun Home is Alison Bechdel's powerful memoir primarily about her relationship with her father, who died in an accident (Bechdel believes it was suicide) at the age of 44 soon after Bechdel came out to her family. She soon discovered that her father, himself, was a closeted homosexual.

The book took years for Bechdel to complete, mostly because she was meticulous in her attention to detail (not to mention her methods of drawing people included her posing for each figure).

While the narrative of the book is a strong one (examining the life of her closeted father as she herself awakens to her own homosexuality), the key to this book is clearly the deep, emotional resonance the characters evoke to the reader, which is due to a brilliant piece of characterization by Bechdel of herself AND her father.

The "Fun Home" of the title was the family's funeral home that her father ran besides his job as an English teacher.

There is no linear plot to the book, as it mostly contains Bechdel reflecting on various points of her life - it is all very powerful stuff.

The insights that Bechdel draws into her and her father's life are insightful and deeply touching.

Her artwork has a great impact and you leave the novel with a much greater understanding of Bechdel and her father, while still having the great haunting mysteries that Bechdel herself has to live with. Great stuff.

5. Asterios Polyp (2009)

David Mazzucchelli had been working on this book for literally years, but all that time and effort showed in what could only be called one of the most brilliantly designed comic books ever.

Characters, settings, times - they're all depicted by specific colors, making it a unique and rewarding reading experience.

The main character of the book, Asterios Polyp, sees his apartment destroyed by lightning, to the point where he takes a bus and goes to a whole new world in another part of the US, and as he goes on this journey, we learn all about his past, including his broken marriage (we're guided on this journey at times by Polyp's never-born twin brother, which is just one of many dualities within the work).

The plot of the book, strictly speaking, is not the key to this work. It's about how the characters interact with each other and how Mazzucchelli depicts these interactions with his art, and even his lettering - each person gets his or her own hand-lettered font. We're talking about a serious labor of love here.

See Mazzucchelli's master class here where we actually see mansplaining visualized, in an interaction between Asterios and his wife...

It's hard really selling Asterios in just four pages, but I think those give you a basic approximation of what is going on in this masterful work of art.

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