Given that the first graphic novel was published in 1976 (Bloodstar by Richard Corben in case you were wondering) and that the medium has been getting more popular every year, you can imagine that there are thousands of novels to choose from. Pick any subject you can think of, and I can more or less guarantee a book has been written and illustrated on it. This is the challenged we faced when writing a top 100 graphic novels list – choosing just 100 out of thousands of books.
Now, I say 'challenge' but that might be a little unfair. I can't exactly call it a hardship to read so many books, and to be honest, if it wasn’t anything but an absolute pleasure then I wouldn't have bothered writing this list. What I found most difficult initially was narrowing my shortlist down to 100 books. After that, deciding an order became the next hurdle. There were times when I thought I was being unfair to a certain book, or a little to generous to another. I swapped the order of some books more than I care to remember before finally setting on an order.
I thought it might be helpful to talk for a little bit on my criteria in choosing the works that made this list. There are a few things I took into account, and they are:
Characters – Are they original? Do I care about them? Are they interesting? These are basic questions but you would be surprised how much they are ignored.
Story – I need to be gripped by the plot, to actually care what happens next. If you couldn't give a crap what happens next in a story, then can you call it an effective one? If I'm reading a book with a story I find boring, sooner or later that book is getting put down. Story is closely intertwined with character.
Originality – Does this work give me something I have never seen before? This might be something small, like a character chosen that has never been portrayed in a comic, or it could be something massive, like a whole new world.
Illustrations – The quality of the illustrations is absolutely paramount, I think we can all agree there. In written prose, an exciting story can mask poor word craft. In comic books, there is no hiding from bad illustration.
Dialogue – It has to be realistic, but at the same time as unique as possible, and it should feel natural. Good dialogue moves a story along and keeps the pace going. A mark of a great writer is shown in how well he handles dialogue.
What I haven't really taken into account, is the quality of certain publications. You always get times when a perfectly well written book is put in the hands of a printer that screws up. They have words get lost in the crease, or the panels are so dark you struggle to read them. I've tried to overlook printing flaws where I can, because I think the heart of illustrated fiction is in the story and the characters.
I hope that's given you some insight in how I chose the books that made it into the top 100 graphic novels list. If you want to know more, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy reading.
Unsure where to start in the list? You can either:
Start at #100 - Jinx