Top 50 Graphic Novels: #15-11

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.


15. Our Cancer Year (1994)

One of the best examples of Harvey Pekar's style of comic book storytelling occurred in the graphic novel, Our Cancer Year, which Pekar wrote with his wife, Joyce Brabner, with artwork by Frank Stack. The first part of the novel is just the general goings-on in the life of Harvey and Joyce, with the various dramas that happen to them in their life. Then, suddenly, things shift dramatically when Harvey is diagnosed with lymphoma and the rest of the book covers Harvey's diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment depression...

Stack's ability to go detailed when necessary and go more opaque when things get sort of surreal is wonderful. Like most American Splendor stories, we get as close to the "whole story" as possible, warts and all, but with such a dramatic event, it gives the book a much tighter hook than normal. It's an emotionally draining but satisfying tale.

14. Wilson (2010)

Daniel Clowes cleverly tells the story of Wilson through a series of one-page comics, each one with a slightly different style. You know how some jokes are so bad that they still make you laugh? Well, Wilson is a person who is so uncharming that you can't help but be charmed by him. He's so abrasive that it is hilarious watching him go through life. After the death of his father, Wilson reconnects with his ex-wife and decides to track down the daughter that his ex gave up for adoption after they broke up.

What's fascinating is how well Clowes tells the overall narrative while staying true to the standard set-up of comic strips, in that each individual page IS its own, full strip. So there's a lot of punchlines at the end of every page and they manage to work on their own while also keeping the story going.

Man, Wilson is such a jerk.

13. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993)

Scott McCloud blew a whole lot of minds when he released this graphic novel in 1993 that really dug deep into the history and theory being comic books. Much of the stuff discussed in this book are the sort of things that you know yourself without really realizing that you DO know it, as McCloud takes the standard, accepted aspects of a typical comic book story and breaks them down, categorizes them and explores them all...

It's a brilliant piece of work and one of those works that will forever be taught in schools as part of any good study of comic books.

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