3 4 Friday - the joy of strips, or how we embraced graphic novels

When I was a teenager, I spent an awful lot of time reading comics: mostly a British comic called 2000AD. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I was reading stories by authors and illustrators who would go on to be some of our best-known and loved tellers of stories, such as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

As I got more into Science Fiction, I stumbled across a different kind of comic - 'Watchmen'. The book was a revelation: sophisticated, not (as with other comics) to be enjoyed in one sitting, and with characterisation and plot as rich and thrilling as any novel I'd read.

The Graphic Novel had arrived. And people have being arguing over the difference between comics, graphic novels and literature ever since...

We've carried Graphic Novels in the shop for some time - but this week we expanded our Science Fiction space to accommodate a broader range - and we've taken the (controversial?) decision to include a few comic books in there as well.

Independent Bookshops are not so hidebound to stick to 'traditional' categories anyway - but like more things we try in the shop, rapid evolution based on customer feedback is the order of the day...

Here's a few of the titles we have on the shelf to give you a bit of an idea of what we're trying to do...

Firstly, I've recommended and ordered this book for may customers over the year - but 'Pride of Baghdad' has now got a space on the shelves. Written by Brian Vaughan and illustrated by Niko Henrichon, it's based on the true story of four African lions who escaped Baghdad Zoo after its bombing during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

As a metaphor for the rights and wrongs of the war, it works well, but as a thrilling and hugely moving story in its own right, it's storytelling perfection. It also happens to be a great introduction to concepts such as war, freedom and liberty for teen readers.

Straight comic books have languished for many years, until the arrive of the DFC (short for the 'David Fickling Comic') in 2008. When the DFC closed, it was replaced by The Phoenix Comic in 2012 - still going strong.

We know the team at David Fickling well, and we're big supporters of the newly-independent publishing company, with favourite recent titles including 'Shadow of the Wolf', 'The Murdstone Trilogy' and 'Thirteen Chairs'. Within Fickling, we're rather known as 'the independent bookshop that stopped stocking The Phoenix' but actually we were so passionate about it, that I think we actually got everyone signed up to a subscription...

But the DFC Library gives us a great opportunity to relive some of the best strips from the DFC - and jostling for position amongst 'Bunny versus Monkey' is the genius that is 'Corpse Talk'. Anyone who likes 'Chatty Deaths' on Horrible Histories will understand the idea, but the format and pacing of the comic strip really allows the subjects to (no pub intended) 'come alive', and there's a surprising amount of history packed in there . And some truly awful jokes...brilliant.

We're into Season 2 now - I wonder what Guy Fawkes thinks about the current crop of MPs?

Finally, you'll notice Emma Chichester Clark's 'Plumdog' in there. Any review we do could not do justice to 'Read It Daddy''s brilliant analysis - so we'll hand over to him for why this is so brilliant.

But we are keen to learn. What other graphic novels should we get? What is a graphic novel anyway? We'd love to hear from you...


  1. Asterix and Tintin were among the first books I read, our local library had a good selection, and then it was on to the Doctor Who target novelisations.

    Alan Moore is a genius. I first read strips by him in Doctor Who Weekly (as it was originally - I still have 1-50) and 2000AD. Watchmen and V for Vendetta are two of my favourite books.

    I've been meaning to start collecting the Judge Dredd anthologies but might have to wait until the financial squeeze of the little one wears off first.

  2. I never read the Dr Who magazine - but the Dredd anthologies should definitely be on your list. The Apocalypse War looms large in my teenage memory!

  3. Thanks to Simon Thomas for this recommendation - Brecht Evans - come take a look in the shop, it's a remarkable and beautiful book.