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I love illustrated stories. The combination of text with illustrations creates, I think, an exciting way to tell a tale. This method of telling a story has its own challenges but also its own special rewards. These challenges, properties, assets and other elements of visual stories (a.k.a. graphic novels or comics) are explained wonderfully in Scott McCloud’s ‘Understanding Comics’. For anyone who’d like to make a visual story/graphic novel/comic, I’d also recommend McCloud’s follow-up book ‘Making Comics’.

I’ve created my own graphic novel, ‘The Great Secret’, an adventure tale set in the 1920s about a young man’s search for the truth about the Great Pyramid and the origins of civilisation. I’m pleased with it, but it’s my first stab at the genre and I think there’s a lot for me to learn (along with further improvements in my artwork!).

For anyone who like to read classics of the graphic novel world (particularly ones with beautiful artwork, or about important subjects, or both), I’ve described some graphic novels below that you might like to try:
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Wonderful, wonderful watercolour artwork from Juanjo Guarnido; a man schooled in Fine Art but also with years of Disney animation under his belt. The stories are Chandler-esque, Fifties noirs, but with animals heads. An absolute gem.
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One of the all-time greats of non-superhero graphic novels. Spiegelmann tells the story of the Holocaust, based on his father’s experiences and depicts the jews as mice and the nazis as cats. Unforgettable.
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Not all graphic novels are fiction stories. Some are factual journals from reporters. Sacco does a wonderful job of bringing to life war-torn or oppressed areas with his illustrations and testimonies. Often harrowing, but brilliantly done.
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A 300-odd page graphic novel about… Bertrand Russell’s search for a logical underpinning of mathematics. Sounds dull, doesn’t it? But it’s not; it’s excellent. Lovely visuals, vivid story-telling and a subject about which you truly will become fascinated. Highly recommended.
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Guy Delisle illustrates his experiences as a French-Canadian animation supervisor in the very strange world of North Korea. His style succeeds effortlessly and, like Sacco’s books, shows that a graphic novel can be the best way to report on a strange land, or a strange society, or both.
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Marjane Satrapi grows up in relaxed semi-secular Iran in the Fifties, then the U.S. and the U.K. oil cabals’ desire for Iran’s natural wealth tail-spins the country in islamic fundamentalism. Satrapi escapes to Europe, goes back and finds she doesn’t belong in either place. Excellent stuff. It’s now a film as well.