- Part 1: An introduction to the term "Graphic Novel" (with heavy Wikipedia Quoting).
- Part 2: Graphic Novels that have delighted my young children. (Recommendations with age appropriateness offered).
- Part 3: Complete Collections Recommendations (for adults).
- Part 4: Ongoing series (for adults) that I am currently reading...
It is hard to draw a firm line between Graphic Novels, Ongoing Serialized Comics, and Finished Series. For instance, Watchmen—clearly a complete story presented in "1 book" and found in lists of "Graphic Novels"—was released originally over a year's time, and is called a "Limited Series" in places:
A limited series is a comic book series with a predetermined number of installments. A limited series differs from an ongoing series in that the number of issues is determined before production and it differs from a one shot in that it is composed of multiple issues.
So here are a few attempts to list a few of the more complete stories that I have read:
DMZ by Brian Wood (72 issues):
Note: I wrote a review of DMZ in a different post and so will not re-review it here.
Here is a link to that post.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman (75 issues plus one Special and a handful os spinoffs):
I have mentioned Sandman more than any other title in my blog. Neil Gaiman's work is critical to the genre, and the story is unique enough that there is something for almost everyone. There are various threads though out the story, some violent, some intellectual, some allusion-al. Anything that intersects the world of sleep or dream is fair game for Gaiman's character, Morpheus. Numerous artists ink and pencil the series lending various story arcs different tone and feel, but the writing is consistently Gaiman's. This prolific author has written for adults and children alike (including the Newbury winning children's title: The Graveyard Book), sometimes confusing would be gift buyers. Sandman is decidedly a grown-up title. Here is a quick summary from Wikipedia:
The main character of The Sandman is Dream, also known as Morpheus and other names, who is one of the seven Endless. The other Endless are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium who was once Delight, and Destruction who turned his back on his duties. Each of the brothers and sisters inhabit and are the anthropomorphic personifications of their concepts. The Sandman is a story about stories and how Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, is captured and subsequently learns that sometimes change is inevitable. The Sandman was Vertigo's flagship title, and is available as a series of ten trade paperbacks, a recolored five-volume Absolute hardcover edition with slipcase, in a black-and-white Annotated edition, and is available for digital download. Critically acclaimed, The Sandman was one of the first few graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list, along with Maus, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. It was one of five graphic novels to make Entertainment Weekly's "100 best reads from 1983 to 2008", ranking at #46. Norman Mailer described the series as "a comic strip for intellectuals."
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (60 issues):
Brian Vaughan is currently writing Saga (included in next week's post) and in the early 2000s finished a story about the single last man left on the planet.
Both titles have a hefty dose of sex and violence (not often mixed together). Both are absolutely adult only titles.
Y: The Last Man is a dystopian science fiction comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra published by Vertigo beginning in 2002. The series is about the seemingly only man who survives the apparent simultaneous death of every malemammal (barring the same man's pet monkey) on Earth. The series was published in sixty issues by Vertigo and collected in a series of ten paperback volumes (and later a series of five hardcover "Deluxe" volumes). The series's covers were primarily by J. G. Jones and Massimo Carnevale. The series received five Eisner Awards.At first I was prepared to be offended by Y: The Last Man, worried that it was glorified hetero-male wish-fufillment fantasy written by a man for a genre consumed predominantly by men. And then reasonably quickly it's min male character outed himself, criticizing that very aspect of his own existence. Although the title flirts with the wish-fufillment fantasy of how great it would be to be the only man in a world of women, Vaughan quickly paints certain "realities" that spoil moment after moment while driving a more interesting story than sex; what caused all the mammal's of the world with a Y chromosome to die except one man and his pet monkey? Implausible and fun, you never forget that Vaughan is a guy writing a story mostly for guys, but he has a few surprises in his story that provoke some thought and conversation.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore (12 issues and a whole lot more):
Alan Moore, like Gaiman, is definitional for this genre, getting lots of mention in my posts. V for Vendetta and Watchmen were released as limited series, and thus each feel like Novels, in that they have a clear beginning, middle and end with complex character development. The titles in this week's post are more drawn out stories with numerous threads, arcs, etc. They have more a feel like The Tale of Genji, written in the Heian period of medieval Japan and often named "the first novel"—complex story arcs that end as others start, more like a Mexican soap-opera: complex, ongoing, but with an eventual end.
I have cheated by adding The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was originally released in two volumes each with six issues, but has continued to become something much larger...
Volume I: In the aftermath of the events of the novel Dracula, a now disgraced and divorced Mina Harker (née Murray) is recruited by Campion Bond on behalf of British Intelligence and asked to assemble a league of other extraordinary individuals to protect the interests of the Empire. Together with Captain Nemo, Mina travels to Cairo to locate Allan Quatermain, then on to Paris in search of Dr. Jekyll; finally in London she forcibly recruits Hawley Griffin, The Invisible Man, who completes this incarnation of the League. Meeting with Professor Cavor, the League is sent against Fu Manchu in his Limehouse lair, who has stolen the only known sample of cavorite and plans to use it to build an armed airship, against which Britain would have little defence. Having eventually retrieved the cavorite, the League delivers it into the hands of their employer — none other than Professor Moriarty (nemesis of Sherlock Holmes), who plans to use it in an airship of his own, with which he will bomb his adversary's Limehouse lair flat, taking large parts of London and the League itself with it. An aerial battle above London commences, and the League eventually triumphs. Mycroft Holmes replaces Moriarty as the League's employer, and the extraordinary individuals are given the task of remaining in the service of the Crown, awaiting England's call. It is shown some kind of a meteor shower, leading up to the events in Volume II.
Volume II: Placed during the events of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, Volume II opens on Mars, where John Carter and Lt. Gullivar Jones (of Edwin Lester Arnold's Gullivar of Mars) have assembled an alliance to fight against Martian invaders. When the invaders are forced off Mars and land on Earth, they begin to build their tripods. Griffin leaves the League under cover of invisibility to form an alliance with the invaders before betraying it outright, stealing plans for the defence of London as well as physically and emotionally assaulting Mina.Moore went on to release The Black Dossier, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume III: Century, and is currently writing Nemo. These are sort of continuations of the League characters' stories, sort of spin-offs. I have only read Volume I and II, found the story complete, and have not ventured further. It feels like collecting live Grateful Dead shows or amassing "essential" Motown recordings: the floodgates open and obsession ensues. I am trying to proceed cautiously...
Mycroft Holmes deploys Nemo and Hyde to defend the capital by patrolling London's rivers in the Nautilus. Meanwhile Murray and Quatermain meet up with Dr. Moreau in his secret hideout in the forest, and tell him that MI5 has asked for something known as H-142. Hyde returns to the British Museum and tortures Griffin; breaking Griffin's leg and raping him before murdering him. Hyde dies fighting a tripod, allowing time for MI5 to launch H-142. However, before he goes to fight the tripods, he asks Mina for two things: for her to give him a kiss, and permission to touch her breast.MI5 then launches H-142: a hybrid bacterium, made up of anthrax and streptococcus. Nemo is infuriated about H-142, and Bond coolly replies that they will claim that, officially, the Martians died of the common cold, whilst any humans found dead will have been killed by Martians. Angered by the British government's heartless use of biological weaponry, Nemo leaves in the Nautilus and tells Quatermain and Murray to "never seek [him] again", mistakenly believing that they knew the details of the British plan.
Fables by Bill Willingham (150 issues complete in the spring 2015):
Willingham started a interesting story in 2002 with numerous arcs that transect each other. As Sandman finds material in all things "sleep and dream", Fables finds story in all things "fairy tale and folklore".
The further I delved in, the more I wanted more. Some story arcs were less compelling than others, but each offered a different perspective on stories that are near and dear to anyone who grew up reading collections of fairy tales.
Fables is a comic book series published by DC Comics's Vertigo imprint beginning in 2002. The series deals with various people from fairy tales and folklore – referring to themselves as "Fables" – who have been forced out of their Homelands by "The Adversary" who has conquered the realm. The Fables have traveled to our world and formed a clandestine community in New York City known as Fabletown. Fables who are unable to blend in with human society (such as monsters and anthropomorphic animals) live at "the Farm" in upstate New York.There are so many twists of character. The Fables know of their story status in our lives, but are not always the part they played. For example The Big Bad Wolf was a pig chasing bad guy in the Homelands, but is head detective in Fabletown; but because of his past, is not allowed to visit "the Farm" in upstate New York where the Three Little Pigs live. The series is an adult spin on children's tales. The story arcs are complex and as numerous as there are fictional characters to draw from.
Story arcs  (from Wikipedia):
- Legends in Exile (issues 1 to 5): The introduction to Fabletown. Sheriff Bigby Wolf investigates the apparent murder of Rose Red.
- Animal Farm (issues 6 to 10): A revolt occurs on the Farm, a place for non-human Fables.
- Bag 'O Bones (issue 11): A tale set during the American Civil War in which Jack Horner finds a way to cheat Death.
- A Two-Part Caper (issues 12 and 13): A mundane journalist finds out about the Fables and they have to decide how to react.
- Storybook Love (issues 14 to 17): Bluebeard hatches a plot to rid himself of Bigby and Snow by enchanting them, and the homicidal Goldilocks attempts to kill the pair. Prince Charming decides to run for Fabletown Mayor.
- Barleycorn Brides (issue 18): Bigby tells Flycatcher the story of a Smalltown tradition.
- March of the Wooden Soldiers (issues 19 to 21 and 23 to 27): Prince Charming runs for Mayor of Fabletown while the community deals with the apparent escape from the Homelands of Red Riding Hood. The Adversary sends his first troops into Fabletown to begin an assault.
- Cinderella Libertine (issue 22): Cinderella's apparently frivolous lifestyle is revealed to be a front.
- War Stories (issues 28 and 29): Bigby's adventures during World War II.
- The Long Year (issues 30 to 33): Snow gives birth and realizes she must relocate to the Farm. Bigby isn't allowed there and instead exiles himself. Snow encounters Bigby's estranged father, the North Wind. One of her children is revealed to be quite different than the others, so she sends him to find his father. This story arc is retitled "The Mean Seasons" in the Trade Paperback of the same name.
- Jack Be Nimble (issues 34 and 35): Jack goes to Hollywood and sets up a film studio. Spins off into Jack of Fables.
- Homelands (issues 36 to 38 and 40 and 41): Boy Blue goes on a mission to the Homelands with the aim of assassinating the Adversary and learns the Adversary's identity.
- Meanwhile (issue 39): What has been going on in Fabletown during Blue's adventures.
- Arabian Nights (and Days) (issues 42 to 45): A delegation of Arabian Fables led by Sinbad visits Fabletown to discuss an alliance against the Adversary.
- The Ballad of Rodney and June (issues 46 and 47): A side story of the seemingly ill-fated love of Rodney and June, two members of the Adversary's forces.
- Wolves (issues 48 and 49): Mowgli searches for the missing Bigby and brings him a message from Fabletown.
- Happily Ever After (issue 50): Bigby returns, delivers a warning to the Adversary and marries Snow.
- Big and Small (issue 51): Cinderella continues her mission in the Cloud Kingdom, but must be turned into a mouse and enlist the aid of Smalltown's resident medic in order to treat a sick giant king.
- Sons of Empire (issues 52 to 55): The Adversary calls a conference of the Imperial elite to decide what to do about Fabletown. Pinocchio has to face up to his divided loyalties.
- Jiminy Christmas (issue 56): Santa Claus' existence as a Fable is addressed.
- Father and Son (issues 57 and 58): Bigby decides that the time has come to square things with his father, the North Wind. On a hunt, his children encounter Bigby's siblings, who have become more beasts than men.
- Burning Questions (issue 59): Readers were invited to participate in a contest by asking Willingham questions of unresolved events in the series. Here, they are answered in a series of one to four page short stories.
- The Good Prince (issues 60 to 63 and 65 to 69): Flycatcher, who has never fully accepted the death of his wife, must face up to his past.
- The Birthday Secret (issue 64): Preparation for war begins at the Farm and the birthday of Bigby's children.
- Kingdom Come (issue 70): Boy Blue and Rose Red discuss their relationship. Flycatcher's offer is brought to the Farm. Plans are made to begin the war.
- Skullduggery (issues 71 and 72): Cinderella repays her debt to Frau Totenkinder by going on a mission down South.
- War and Pieces (issues 73 to 75): Fabletown and the Empire go to war.
- Around the Town (issue 76): Fabletown's newest member is given a tour, much to the displeasure of some of the other residents.
- The Dark Ages (issues 77 to 81): A new era begins as the residents of Fabletown face the aftermath of the war. New challenges arise at home and in a distant land a dark power is awakened.
- Waiting for the Blues (issue 82): An epilogue to "The Dark Ages".
- The Great Fables Crossover (issues 83 to 85): Bigby and Beast get into a violent fight that demonstrates the influence of the dark powers present. Rose Red sinks deeper and deeper into depression. Stinky starts a religion foretelling Boy Blue's heroic return, which a returning Jack Horner takes advantage of before encountering his son, the new Jack Frost. In an interesting twist, the issues are more focused on Jack than on the other Fables. (Note: Includes Jack of Fables issues 33 to 35 and The Literals issues 1 to 3.)
- Boxing Days (issue 86): Mister Dark relates how he came to be trapped in a magical box by a group of imperial warlocks, and the rise of their leader Dunster Happ.
- Witches (issues 87 to 91): The leaders and witches of Fabletown discuss how to defeat Mister Dark. Meanwhile Bufkin finds himself trapped in the lost business office with Baba Yaga and many other monsters.
- Out to the Ball Game (issues 92 and 93): A story set in Haven, where the local baseball game leads to a murder.
- Rose Red (issues 94 to 98): The Farm is in chaos, as various factions vie for control. To restore order, Rose Red must face her greatest foe - herself.
- Dark City (issue 99): Mr. Dark uses his power to construct a new citadel in New York City.
- Single Combat (issue 100): The final confrontation between Frau Totenkinder and Mister Dark.
- The Ascent (issue 101): Bufkin climbs the Business Office's tree and finds himself in Ev (a neighbor to the Land of Oz).
- Super Team (issues 102 to 106): Ozma puts together a team of Fables to mimic the superheroics of comic books.
- Waking Beauty (issue 107): The fate of the defeated Empire's thorn-covered capital.
- Inherit the Wind (issues 108 to 111):The North Wind's successor is chosen among Snow and Bigby's Cubs. In Ev, Bufkin forms a resistance movement in order to overthrow the evil Nome King.
- "All in a Single Night" (issue 112): A Fables take on A Christmas Carol, focusing on Rose Red.
- In Those Days (issue 113): A collection of short, short Fables stories.
- Cubs in Toyland (issues 114 to 121): Snow and Bigby's cub Therese is taken to a bleak, mysterious land inhabited by discarded toys, inciting a series of soul-crushing events. This storyline has a backup feature that follows Bufkin's (mis)adventures in Oz.
- The Destiny Game (issues 122 and 123): A look at how fate works in the Fable universe. Bufkin and Lily's adventures continue in the story's backup feature.
- After (issue 124): Bufkin and Lily’s heroic adventures comes to its grand finale.
- Snow White (issues 125 to 129): A man from Snow White's past claims her as his legal wife.
- June Bug (issue 130): The daughter of Rodney and June, the Adversary wooden soldiers that became human, explores Castle Black.
- Camelot (issues 131 to 133 and 135 to 137): A new dark age calls for a new Round Table, with modern knights willing to take on a sacred quest to reassemble the shattered pieces of Fabletown.
- Deeper into the Woods (issue 134): Bigby Wolf wanders a heaven resembling the woods he used to hunt in, where he meets a long-lost friend.
- Root and Branch (issue 138): Geppetto is up to his naughty tricks in a stand-alone story that fills in the gaps of an event that happened in Fabletown long ago.
- The Boys in the Band (issues 139 and 140): Peter Piper, Joe Shepherd, Puss in Boots and Briar Rose - the members of Boy Blue's band - set out on a quest to free one tiny Fable Homeland.
- Happily Ever After (issues 141 to 150 ): Good knight vs. bad knight. King Arthur vs. Morgan le Fay. Rose Red vs. Snow White. The two sisters are caught up in the roles Camelot has set for them, and now they’re ready for battle.
Next week: "Graphic Novels" Part 4: Ongoing series (for adults) that I am currently reading...