Comic book, comic-strip novel, illustrated novel, graphic memoir…a graphic novel by any other name is indeed as satisfying. The fact is, those who are currently enjoying books from your graphics collection already know how amazing the stories and illustrations are – the challenge is attracting readers new to the format.
Five or six years ago graphic collections were the darlings of the public library: they were new, hot, and edgy. Fiction collections wanted to be them and nonfiction wanted to be like them…well, maybe not, but as the “newness” of graphic books has faded, we now have to market them like we do with all of our other collections (and mentioning that reading something in comic format helps to retain knowledge can’t hurt, right?).
An excellent way to promote both literacy and your library’s graphic novel collection is to participate in some way in Free Comic Book Day. Free Comic Book Day takes place the first Saturday of May each year and has been growing since its inception in 2002. The idea has gained momentum over the years and now many libraries use the opportunity to spread the word about comics, graphic novels, and reading. Greater Victoria Public Library has participated in some capacity for the past three years. Highlights of past events have included giving away donated comics, prizes for comics-related costumes, and a demonstration from a local comics artist. As this year’s FCBD will be over by the time you read this, you’ll have a whole year to think of novel ways to celebrate it next year at your library.
The Eisner Awards (and the Kirby Awards before them) have highlighted the best in comics for almost 30 years. As with many awards, the Eisners have evolved over the years and now acknowledge excellence in the comic industry with awards for many kinds of contributions including categories like Best Digital Comic, Best Coloring, Best Single Issue, etc. As with awards in fiction and nonfiction, libraries should pay close attention to these industry awards and ensure we are promoting the inclusion of award-winning items in our collections through displays, lists and collection management.
Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere to start reading graphics yourself or for some superlative titles to highlight in library, here is a brief list of some stand-out graphics titles from the past year or so:
Are You My Mother? A comic drama by Alison Bechdel, 2012
This was one of my two favourite graphics published last year. Bechdel’s name may ring bells if you read her last work, Fun Home, which was focused on her father. This publication is about her relationship with her mother and it is honest and heart-wrenching.
Building Stories by Chris Ware, 2012
Chris Ware’s masterpiece appeared on dozens of Best of 2012 lists last year and for good reason. This collection of pamphlets, sheets, booklets, etc. has drawn admirers not just for its non-standard physical format but for Ware’s insight into humanity. If your library system is unsure about trying to circulate this item (it comes in a board game-style box), you could always purchase a copy for display within the library – talk about bringing attention to your graphics collection!
Delphine by Richard Sala, 2012
Perfect for fans of horror with gorgeous illustrations, this is a grown-up Snow White adaptation from the perspective of the prince.
The Graphic Canon (volumes 1 & 2) edited by Russ Kick, 2012
With Volume 3 of this gorgeous anthology coming out in June, now is the perfect time to check out the first two volumes which include adaptations of classics like Beowulf, Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle, 2012
This is my other favourite from 2012. It is a fascinating account of the year Delisle spent with his wife, an administrator for Doctors Without Borders, and two children in Jerusalem.
Saga (volume 1) by Brian K. Vaughan, 2012
The first in a new series by Brian K. Vaughan of Ex Machina and Y the Last Man fame; 2013 Eisner Award Nominee for Best Continuing Series. Plus bonus points for featuring a character breastfeeding on the cover (not every day you see *that* in a comic).
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel, 2012
An original fantasy set one hundred years ago relates the story of a Hudson River captain who rescues a mermaid and all the things, good and bad, that follow.
Looking for more reviews or industry information?
Publisher’s Weekly Comics Page
Graphic Novel Reporter
NPR Books: Comics & Graphic Novels