Graphic Novel Reporter, a resource site for book industry professionals, has released a list of “core” graphic novels that librarians and store owners should consider basics to carry. The list starts with a basic ten book list:

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman, et al.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Okay, that’s pretty basic and unassailable. And all proven best-sellers as well, so they are a good investment for anyone who’s on the fence wouldn’t be taking much of a risk here.

Next comes a list of 25 more books:

The Adventures of Tintin by Herge 

Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
American Widow by Alissa Torres and Sungyoon Choi
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Collected Essex County by Jeff Lemire 

The Contract with God Trilogy by Will Eisner 

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
David Boring by Daniel Clowes
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Epileptic by David B.
Far Arden by Kevin Cannon 

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco 

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack
The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre
The Preacher Series by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, et al. 

Queen & Country Series by Greg Rucka, et al.
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco
Stitches by David Small
Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Y, the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
You’ll Never Know by C. Tyler

It’s surprising to see Kevin Cannon’s fine but very recent Far Arden enshrined with the comics that defined the Aughts here, and it isn’t the book we’d choose to represent this year’s stuff, but again, nearly everything here is time-tested and for a bookstore looking to start buying GNs, nothing on here would be much of a risk.

There’s also The Expanded List: 100 More, which sticks mostly to more of the same — mainstream fiction-y and recent historical non-fiction.

The most shocking things about the list is its recent vintage — so many of the cornerstones of the bookstore market have come out in recent years. The “legacy” books on it are Beanworld, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Concrete, Bloom County, Crisis on Infinite Earths, From Hell, Hellboy, It Was The War of the Trenches, The Killing Joke, Kingdom Come, Kings in Disguise, Love and Rockets, Pogo, 100 Bullets, Powers, Sin City, Tale of one Bad Rat, Transmetropolitan, West Coast Blues, Why I Hate Saturn, X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, You Are There and Zot. 
… meaning 77% of the books on the list are from the last decade.


GNR president Carol Fitzgerald explains the rationale for the list:

“Since we started conceptualizing this site — and even more frequently since it launched in December 2008 — traditional booksellers have asked for guidance on what to buy for their stores,” said Carol Fitzgerald, President of TheBookReportNetwork.com, which publishes GraphicNovelReporter. “We see a keen interest from retailers in carrying more graphic novels in stores, but they are overwhelmed by the number of titles out there. Given the depth and breadth of our content, we saw an opportunity to provide these honed lists.”

These edited choices are divided into separate categories to help accommodate particular bookstores’ needs, based on both content and size: beginning with 10 books for those with very small spaces to allot to graphic works,followed by 25 and 100 more selections for those with more room. A nonfiction list is also included.

In the weeks ahead, GraphicNovelReporter.com will debut lists for the Teen and the Kids categories, two of the biggest categories in comics, as well as manga lists again broken out by demographic.

“This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a best-of list. It’s a solid, core list for booksellers who want to branch out into comics selling and build a base,” added John Hogan, Editorial Director of GraphicNovelReporter. “Once they jump in, whether it’s with 10, 25, or 100 or more titles, they’ll quickly learn how strong this category can be for them and also will learn what is interesting to their customers.”

There’s no denying that this “core list” is a bit of a “bore list” that seems to have left off most of the adventurous and challenging books of recent years — no EXIT WOUNDS or SCOTT PILGRIM or BOTTOMLESS BELLYBUTTON, to name three critically acclaimed books of recent years? Instead everything is pretty safe and “current events” friendly. But as a list of books that comics clueless booksellers could safely order, it’s probably the sensible way to go. And on another note, it’s nice to see “Euro-comics” extended beyond Satrapi to include Guibert and Tardi and David B.

But moving beyond this, I’d like to see a “Challenging 50” list for book buyers who want to service their readers who like Danielewski or Calvino. Any nominations?


  1. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at the omissions and including The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve been an avid reader for years, so I didn’t need backstory, but reading The Dark Knight in a graphic novel class that was offered at Temple University, left a few students confused and a bit lost. I know everyone knows the story of Batman, but not of Jason Todd, which seemed to be the reason why Bruce stopped being Batman.

    The class couldn’t understand the motivation without being told of a story from the 1980s.

    Also seeing the only two representations of the superhero genre at Watchmen and the above mentioned Dark Knight. Yes, Watchmen is a wonderful piece of work, but I think to have a better understanding of the work, the conventions that it is breaking, you have to be a comics fan.

    It’s like giving someone a third season of a tv show without them seeing what came before.

  2. Kevin, I think your objections to Watchmen were overcome by the thousands and thousands of people who read itduring the late 2008-early 2009 period, leading to something called “The Watchmen Effect. “

  3. Unassailable…?

    The two books I recommend to ANYONE who is interested in graphic novels:




    The one book which explains how the medium works! The one book which pulls back the curtain and shows you how everything works. And it didn’t make the Top 100?

    Yeah… it’ll probably be on the “books about comics” list… but if the Top Ten is designed to list the books every store should carry, then it should be there. Especially since it’s a graphic novel about graphic novels.

  4. I’m batting a thousand today, I thought Ray Bradbury was dead and I misread the article, thought it was an essential graphic novel list for readers, not for what bookstores should carry.

    My bad!

  5. I’m a bit surprised that there are enough independent book stores around to make the list worth putting together. The list is fine for school libraries.


  6. “It’s surprising to see Kevin Cannon’s fine but very recent Far Arden enshrined with the comics that defined the Aughts here, and it isn’t he book WE’D chose to represent this year’s stuff,”

    Haven’t read this myself yet, but Chris Pearce, who teaches high school and has a graphic novel library in his classroom that was featured on Robot6’s Shelf Porn (http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/03/send-us-your-shelf-porn-60/) claims that it is one of the most popular among his students. Very surprised that Scott Pilgrim isn’t on the list, especially with the new film coming out.

  7. Kevin: “To be honest, I’m a little surprised at the omissions and including The Dark Knight Returns. I’ve been an avid reader for years, so I didn’t need backstory, but reading The Dark Knight in a graphic novel class that was offered at Temple University, left a few students confused and a bit lost. I know everyone knows the story of Batman, but not of Jason Todd, which seemed to be the reason why Bruce stopped being Batman.”

    Not to pile on, but I thought I would point out that when The Dark Knight Returns came out, Jason Todd hadn’t been killed, so the people reading it as it came out would have had the same “What happened to Jason?” reaction.

    Then DC decided they liked the idea so much that they had Joker beat Jason to death with a tire iron.

  8. Nice list! I feel like I should point out that Diamond is currently out of stock on two of the ten essential titles. It’s quite frustrating to have to carry Maus as two separate volumes (who ever buys just one?), or to have to rely on Amazon to keep Fun Home in stock.

  9. Interesting, well my point really was that a non comics reader wouldn’t know who “Jason” is, whether he was Robin or not. (think someone asked snarkily if he was an ex lover, which in Miller’s world probably isn’t far from the truth). Don’t think they mention that Jason was Robin in The Dark Knight Returns.

    I could be wrong, as it seems to a trend today. ;)

  10. I’d like to see a “Challenging 50″ list for book buyers who want to service their readers who like Danielewski or Calvino. Any nominations?

    Hmm… how about the Abstract Comics anthology? And I can’t resist the opportunity to plug Bryan Talbot’s work: Alice In Sunderland does some really interesting things with the medium, as does The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. And Lynda Barry’s What It Is is not 100% comics, but it’s a towering achievement.

  11. A little surprised, and happily so, about Criminal, Powers and two classic X-men runs being the only Marvels to make the list, although Marvels and the RM run on DD probably should’ve.

  12. I’ll second the call for Alice in Sunderland. And I’d like to see some love for Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, which was ahead of the curve 15 years ago, when first released. (To be clearer: It was ahead of the curve in terms of marrying a critically acclaimed literary graphic novel with openly gay content.) Happily, it’s soon to be rereleased.

  13. I’m just gonna say it – Far Arden was awesome until the last few pages, then it gets ruined by the worst ending to any story ever.

  14. You can say it if you want, Nate, but some of us are “just gonna” disagree with you. For me, the ending works perfectly – one final crazy twist in a book filled with them.

  15. this list is great for libraries and there are no surprises – essential reading, afterall. perhaps this would fit better in a Teen category but i think it’s a fine GN in a general category as well: Skim, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

  16. Is availability of the books a factor in the selections? If not, I’d add Darnall and Ross’ UNCLE SAM to that main list. And maybe replace DKR with either BATMAN: Year One or RONIN instead. And second that PALOMAR suggestion.

    With Chester Brown’s ED THE HAPPY CLOWN and Moore/Babner/Sienkiewicz/et al’s BROUGHT TO LIGHT for inclusion in that “Challenging 50”

  17. A great list, all told.

    There are things I’d quibble with, like putting the Crumb book in the Top 10 or recommending — let’s be honest: terribly dated — work like THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA, GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS or CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to strangers. (There are X-Men comics by Grant Morrison now, you know!)

    Overall, though, this is an excellent starting point.

  18. I like the list, a lot of great stuff. It seems to be more of a critically acclaimed, library list rather than a bookseller list. To use this as a buying list to a bookseller would be like asking them to go out of business. It lacks the big sellers until you get into the top 100, which is a lot more than 100 books if you carry all of the volumes of the serial books. A store could easily pick 25 books from the top 100 that would outsell the core 325 days out of the year.

    And no Y the Last Man?

  19. Dave Sim’s head explodes into a shower of baby tears to not see Cerebus included (although I agree that it’s a slight). Sorry, great book, I just didn’t like how he complained that the world didn’t suddenly bow to his brilliance when it was completed.

    I’ve been a comic book junkie for many years, but I’m sad to say even a few on the top ten list are books I’ve never heard of. Looks like art school has made me take sacrifices in my comic book knowledge. I graduate next fall, so this is a good list to start getting caught up on some the lesser known books.

  20. As a bookseller, most of the Top Ten sell well. I’d replace Crumb with Understanding Comics…

    If I were making a list for an independent bookstore, first I would see what the store’s clientèle is, then craft a selection of titles to match potential sales. Is the store literary? Something of a New Yorker crowd? I would tend towards Pantheon, Love and Rockets, the Rick Geary true-crime books, Chris Ware, Seth…

    If it’s more alternative, then I would start with the completed Vertigo series like Transmetropolitan and Sandman and Doom Patrol and Preacher, as well as DMZ and Fables.

    The most important aspect for bookstores? Find an employee who knows the category, and let them manage it.

    Superheroes? Essentials and Showcase (start with the first volumes, when they sell, order the second…) to begin, then any SH GN which has been in print for ten years or longer. Concentrate more on the done-in-one GNs like “Superman: Red Son” or any “volume one” volumes, to ease the novice reader into the storyline.

    So, what superhero titles would I nominate for this list?

    Superman: Red Son (so easy to sell!)
    Superman: Secret Identity
    It’s a Bird…
    Batman: Black and White
    Squadron Supreme
    Rising Stars
    Clan Destine
    The ABC line of superheroes
    Astro City: Life in the Big City
    Astro City: Local Heroes
    Astro City: Family Album
    DC: The New Frontier
    V for Vendetta

  21. Since I’m so unproductive these days the rare emails I get are from readers who have discovered Concrete in a library and moved to write.

    So being included even on the third tier is a relief. Not forgotten yet!

  22. Call me young and shallow, but… most of the books on the expanded list aren’t much fun.

    They’re very… worthy, most of them.

  23. I second the above comment that Cerebrus has to be included. I would have included High Society, Jaka’s Story, Melmoth and (maybe) Guys.