Who are the best graphic novelists

Graphic Novels - world literature in comic format

Strips & Stories bookstore, Hamburg

Graphic novels are books that tell their story using comics. What is new is that classics and modern literature are implemented and, in some cases, reinterpreted.

We've put together everything you need to know about graphic novels, including interviews with an award-winning illustrator, the owners of a bookstore specializing in comics and graphic novels, a graphic novel book club, and a publisher's graphic novel program manager.

And of course the books are the focus of our special: We present graphic novels and give many book tips.

From Kerstin Hämke

Together with the publishers Suhrkamp, ​​Reprodukt, Carlsen, Knesebeck, Galiani, Egmont and the Büchergilde, we have given away several graphic novel book packages to reading groups. The winners were the Cologne bookworms, a German-speaking reading group from South Tyrol / Italy, the literary group of the bookstore versatile in Berlin and the comic book reading group Münster.

In the beginning was the Word

But before that was the picture. Early cultures 'immortalized' themselves with their drawings on cave walls. Unfortunately, the picture disappeared from the 'picture surface' - and was only used to illustrate the word. The first comics appeared in American magazines and were simple sequences of images - little more than a drawn dime novel. The comics about the heroes Superman, Asterix & Co. later showed more depth of content and graphic skills.

The comic is growing up

But the illustrators wanted more and, above all, they wanted to tell their own stories. In 1978, Will Eisner drew a collection of short stories that appeared and became popular under the title 'A Contract with God'. The comic had grown up. And with 'Graphic Novels' - in German: graphic novels - was given its own name, also in order to emancipate itself from comics. 'Maus', a Holocaust parable by Art Spiegelmann (who received the renowned Pulitzer Literature Prize for it in 1992) and 'Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi (which thematizes a childhood in Iran) opened the drawn stories to a larger and new audience and are now classics of the genre. The graphic novels have now also arrived in Germany. And illustrators such as Reinhardt Kleist, Flix, Nicolas Mahler, Mawil, Ulli Lust and others have also made a name for themselves internationally. The range of topics is huge and ranges from politics and history to crime novels and biographies to literary adaptations.

But what is a graphic novel? And how does it differ from the comics?

Is a graphic novel a graphic novel? An illustrated book? Or an adult comic? The term, which originated in the United States at the end of the 1970s, is mostly understood to mean a comic in book format or a book that tells its story using comics. And again and again the question arises how one can distinguish between graphic novels and comics. Basically: "Every graphic novel is a comic, but not every comic is a graphic novel," explains Hans Ebert from the comic and graphic novel bookstore Strips & Stories. (»To the complete interview) Graphic novels are not in competition with comics, but are rather a special form of this genre of literature. For a graphic novel, several of the following criteria must apply: (Source of the criteria: www.egmont-graphic-novel.de/graphic-novels-hintergruende/)

  • The work is written for an older readership.
  • The author has a great influence on the work. The influence of the publisher is clearly less than that of the author.
  • The book is mostly sold in bookshops, not like the comics at the kiosk.
  • The work is not tied to a standard format (e.g. the format of US comic books or French albums), but can differ from it.
  • The work is mostly completed.
  • The work is not related to a particular genre such as B. Fantasy or science fiction tied, but a topic is in the foreground.

Traditional publishers have discovered graphic novels for themselves

At first, comics were published by pure comic publishers, later publishers such as Reprodukt, Carlsen or Egmont emerged, who saw comics and / or graphic novels as a publishing focus.

What is new is that more and more traditional publishers such as Suhrkamp, ​​Knesebeck, Galiani or the book guild have discovered the genre for themselves. Additional business for the publisher's classics or a literary entry aid for a younger audience? Surprisingly, however, a somewhat older and upscale audience finds pleasure in the drawn stories.

This is also how Marc Schmid, editor for the graphic novel program of the Knesebeck Verlag, sees it: For him graphic novels are an opportunity “... to be able to offer comics to a more traditional audience, which has the development of comics over the past 30 years to a certain artistic level and literary depth has not pursued. ”(» to the complete interview) Because in the elaborately created illustrated books, the classics and their readers are taken seriously. And the artists often succeed in reinterpreting world literature.

And it works: graphic novels are increasingly being taken seriously by the literary audience. This is also shown by the Prize of the Literature Houses, which in 2015 did not go to a 'classic' author but to Nicolas Mahler, an illustrator. Mahler is known, among other things, for his creative and headstrong implementation of his own ideas, but also of serious literature such as the adaptation of works by Thomas Bernhard, Robert Musil or Lewis Caroll. “Ten years ago such a prize would have been impossible for a comic artist.” Mahler is pleased about the literature prize. (»To our complete interview with Mahler)

'Read' graphic novels in literary circles?

Like film adaptations of literature or audio books, graphic novels in literary circles can also show new sides of old (literature) material. You just have to dare! Graphic novels can be read well on their own or in combination with the original literary text.

“With classics, especially if many participants in the literary community already know them, you can of course concentrate very well on the adaptation and implementation, including the graphic design and style, and discuss how this influences the narrative, a different direction or gives added value. ”was the tip from Knesebeck editor Marc Schmid.

Get to know graphic novels: In your literary circle, read a graphic novel along with the novel on which it is based!

Book tips and discussion questions

Read a novel and the graphic novel based on it and discuss both: We have one for you List of 17 recommended book combinations novel + graphic novel compiled: »To the combined book tips

Would you like to discuss an independent graphic novel in your literary community? You can find our book suggestions here:»To the graphic novel book tips

How do you discuss a graphic novel in the literary community? We have Discussion questions compiled:»To the discussion questions for graphic novels

Our interviews '5 questions for ...' on the subject of graphic novels

5 questions for Nicolas Mahler, multiple award-winning illustrator of comics, graphic novels and cartoons

5 questions to Marc Schmid, editor of the graphic novel program at Knesebeck Verlag

5 questions to the owners of the bookstore Strips & Stories, Hamburg

Graphic Novel Book Club

In our 'Literature Circle of the Month' series, there is also a Graphic Novel Book Club from Oregon / USA that only reads graphic novels / comics. The Book Club is organized through a public library, which also buys enough copies of each selected book for all Book Club members. Get to know this interesting group: »to the portrait

Further information on the topic of 'Graphic Novels'

- Books
The Graphic Canon: World literature as a graphic novel (Galiani Berlin)
Kafka by David Zae Mairowitz & Robert Crumb (Reprodukt Verlag): Insight into the essence and work of Franz Kafka

- Left
Detailed article: www.brandeins.de/uploads/tx_brandeinsmagazine/150_b1_05_12_comics.pdf
Community site of several publishers: www.graphic-novel.info
Wikipedia page: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphic_Novel

- videos
NDR culture journals (duration: 6 minutes)

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Graphic Novels - The Comic in the Feuilleton (ZDF) (Duration: 2 1/2 minutes)
http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/2385778/Graphic-Novels-Der-Comic-im-Feuilleton-#/beitrag/video/2385778/Graphic-Novels-Der-Comic-im-Feuilleton-

Video of the ZDF program aspekte on the history of the drawn stories (duration: 6 minutes)

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