Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I wrote the following blog entries as a magazine article way back in June 2005, however the magazine never got off the ground, so I figured it was time to put the article out on my own.

I've read a lot of graphic novels since I wrote this down (I've now read 16 of the top 20, plus many others), plus newer, superb, GNs could have come out since I researched this article. If you think so, then please comment! I'd love to hear about a great book that I haven't heard of so far!

Background and Methodology

I’m writing this article because its one that I would like to have read.
Bizarrely, unlike board games (which sell much less), there is no reliable source on the web for ratings of graphic novels. So how do people find out the good ones? Hmm….well, they probably don’t, hence why DC and Marvel dominate the comic/graphic novels market. There is a conspiracy there, but I’m not going to go down that route. So how do you find out what the best stuff is without going and talking to some weird guy behind the till in a comics shop?

Well there is a book available titled “The 101 Best Graphic Novels”, but in this age of information why would you want to pay for something like that?! Plus having seen a couple of reviews of it on the web it is not too reliable anyway. So as an alternative, I have done the work for you and created a “Best Of” list which you can have for free!

The following Top Ten list was created using various sources found on the web, mostly a load of lists of "best Graphic Novels" (or “Graphic Novels you have to read”, etc) put up on Amazon. Having spent enough time on the web to put together a list of 50 reliable(ish) sources I reckon that I have enough to give a representative(ish) top twenty. So what I have done is give one vote to each graphic novel that these sources put in their own list. There is a chance that I have added a bias by the way I have selected the lists, but if you don't like the result work something else out yourself.

I have also played a little fast and loose with regards to the scoring. In some cases I have grouped all of a series under one heading (e.g. Preacher) and in the case of the big guys I have broken their entries down by book (Batman, Superman, Daredevil)

The Top Ten Best Graphic Novels Ever

These are the Graphic Novels that got the most votes in reverse order......

10. Sin City – the comic that the new film is based on – vicious film noir
9. Maus – Pulitzer prize winning story of the holocaust, with mice & cats
8. Kingdom Come – the world is ending and superheroes try to stop it
7. Preacher – Texan ex-vicar is given the power of God and kicks arse
6. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – forget the dire film, enjoy this romp
5. From Hell – the quality graphic novel that inspired the film about the ripper
4. Sandman – Emotional complexity & story depth across a multipart series
3. V for Vendetta – Britain under a fascist regime & a vigilante freedom fighter
2. Watchmen – A grim and complex take on the absolute power of superheroes
1. Batman: Dark Knight Returns – An aging Batman returns to a dark future

I’ve got to say that this is a stunning list. I’ve read half of them and they are fabulous. All are highly recommended - you cannot lose with these.

Best Novels 11-20

Here are the near misses – the 11-20…… Batman: The Killing Joke, Jimmy Corrigan, Batman: Year One, Marvels, 100 Bullets, Daredevil: Born Again, Ghost World, Ronin, X-men Legends Volume 1 (Dark Phoenix), 300.

For me the big surprise is the absence of the uber-superhero, Superman from the top twenty, in fact on my list he comes in at a poor 52nd. Also there is little Manga in this list, possibly because my sources are almost all English-speaking (Lone Wolf & Cub came in 43rd).

Best Graphic Novel Authors

So, what about the authors? Who writes this amazing stuff? Well, I totalled the votes by author instead of by novel to see who are the best of the best…..

5. Mark Waid (Kingdom Come)
4. Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Hellblazer, Death)
3. Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Authority, Hellblazer, Punisher, Miracleman)
2. Frank Miller (Batman: DK Returns & Year One, Sin City, Ronin, 300…)
1. Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta)

Alan Moore was the clear winner. As well as the superb Watchmen and V for Vendetta, he has also written From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Top Ten, Miracleman, Swamp Thing and Batman: Killing Joke, all of which featured highly in the top 50 graphic novels.

So, if you are looking to start into graphic novels, I’d recommend starting with Watchmen. From there dive into the top ten, or just read anything by Alan Moore or Frank Miller.

Other Possibilities

For those of you looking for something a little more eclectic, then try some of these: Blankets, Love & Rockets, The Invisibles, David Boring, Death, Perspolis, or Bone.

And for the superhero lovers: Infinity Gauntlet, Starman, The Authority, Batman: The Long Halloween or Daredevil: Yellow.