In 1969, John Updike wrote,"I see no intrinsic reason why a doubly talented artist might not arise and create a comic-strip novel masterpiece." Updike would see his prediction come true less than a decade later with the publication of Will Eisner's pioneering graphic novel, A Contract With God.
The graphic novel, a swiftly developing, high-low cultural hybrid, has a many-stranded past. Major influences include the caprices of 19th-century European caricaturists; the dazzling sketchbooks of Hokusai and, subsequently, Japanese manga (comic-strip narratives); and the underground comix that culminated in Art Spiegelman's Maus. The triumph of Maus allowed a generation of artists to pursue far-flung ideas and personal obsessions.
Increasingly, many have done so in books with special appeal for young readers. As a more grown-up version of comics, the graphic novel has proven to be an art form ideally suited to the coming-of-age story, as in Craig Thompson's Blankets. For beginning and "reluctant" readers, these illustrated books can be gateways to literacy as well.
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Written by Art Spiegelman
Written by Craig Thompson
Written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi
Written and illustrated by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Written by Shaun Tan
Written by Will Eisner
Originally published in 1978
Written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel
Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson
Written and illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag
Written and illustrated by Jerry Craft
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell