Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2012

I’ve posted several times about how graphic novels can help teens bridge literacy gaps. I’ve also spoken several times on this topic. So anyway, came across the Booklist 2012 top ten GNs for kids, and wanted to pass it along.

I love Craig Thompson (Blankets) so I’m particularly excited for HabibiBig Questions and One Soul also look right up my alley. I can’t help wondering (and sighing) why nearly all of these are drawn and illustrated by the same person, though. Writers: you can Do This Too. It’s just like writing a picture book. Except different.


First published March 15, 2012 (Booklist). This list of the best graphic novels reviewed in Booklistover the past year showcases just how ambitious the medium has become, tackling everything from the minutiae of a masterpiece to, well, everything. —Ian Chipman

 21 The Story of Roberto Clemente21: The Story of Roberto Clemente. By Wilfred Santiago. Illus. by the author. 2011. Fantagraphics, $22.99 (9781560978923).

Kinetic compositions washed with Pirate-yellow hues and a narrative that traces both Clemente’s personal and athletic triumphs combine in this biography of the pioneering Puerto Rican baseball great.

Any Empire. By Nate Powell. Illus. by the author. 2011. Top Shelf, $19.95 (9781603090773).

Powell flashes his considerable cartooning talents in this complex, open-ended antiwar parable. The story follows three characters, first as children and then 10 years later, as their lives are upended by violence.

Big Questions. By Anders Nilsen. Illus. by the author. 2011. Drawn & Quarterly, $69.95 (9781770460447).

This enormous work, 15 years in the making, balances a minimalist drawing style with unusual touches of magic realism in a story about finches, philosophy, and the mysteries of life.

Daytripper. By Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon. Illus. by the authors. 2011. Vertigo, paper, $19.99 (9781401229696).

The life of a Brazilian writer—a father, son, lover, and friend—is laid bare by looking at 10 momentous days from his boyhood to old age, each ending with a different variation on his death.

 The Death-RayThe Death-Ray. By Daniel Clowes. Illus. by the author. 2011. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (9781770460515).

Returning to the arena of adolescent alienation that defined Ghost World(1997), and tossing in a lacerating takedown of superhero comics and pop culture, Clowes depicts a teen boy who derives low-level superpowers from smoking cigarettes.

Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. By Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell. Illus. by Alex Toth. 2011. IDW, $49.99 (9781600108280).

Long considered by comics aficionados to be one of the most masterful artists to have worked in the medium, Toth finally gets the spotlight he deserves in this biography-cum-compilation.

Habibi. By Craig Thompson. Illus. by the author. 2011. Pantheon, $35 (9780375424144).

In a kaleidoscopic epic of a concubine and a castrato set in a modern yet timeless Arabic society, Thompson shines light on issues of race, sexuality, religion, mysticism, and social inequity with soaringly ambitious artwork.

MetaMaus. By Art Spiegelman. Illus. by the author. 2011. Pantheon, $35 (9780375423949).

This apologia and casebook for Spiegelman’s graphic-novel masterpiece, Maus (1986), presents an array of interviews, notes, and artwork that articulately illuminates the work itself and the comics format as a whole.

 One SoulOne Soul. By Ray Fawkes. Illus. by the author. 2011. Oni, $24.99 (9781934964668).

With the biggest of life’s great questions in play, 18 different lives, each lifted from a different page in history, unfold simultaneously from the darkness of the womb to the silence of death.

Zahra’s Paradise. By Amir. Illus. by Khalil. 2011. First Second, $29.99 (9781596436428).

A blistering condemnation of a state that has lost its people, this inside view of the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election chronicles the nightmare search for a lost loved one, swallowed up by a sham of a judicial system.


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
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2 Responses to Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2012

  1. John Shableski says:

    Hi Pam,
    It’s great to see the list. As for your question/observation about so many titles being written and drawn by the same person, it’s all a part of the evolution of the graphic novel category. There are more titles being created by a team(writer & artist) and it will only be a short while before you see a lot more. Barry Lyga’s Mangaman is a great collaboration with Colleen Doran. Stephen King and his son Joe Hill both have quite a few graphic novels that are collaborative efforts. Each new success creates and encourages more great books.

    Is there any chance you have a list of graphic novels for the K-5th grade realm?

    • pamwatts says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for stopping by. And I think a lot of fabulous writers who aren’t artists just don’t know how to go about writing a graphic novel. I’ve spoken at Vermont College and the SCBWI about how to write a script as a non-artist. I’m not sure that publishers know exactly what to do with someone who just writes in terms of graphic novels either, though. The partnerships that you mentioned are both established writer-illustrators, are they not? Neil Gaiman, of course, has also made a career out of collaborating with great illustrators. But for those of us who aren’t Shannon Hale, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman the path to writing great novels is a little murkier. But as you say, it’s evolving.

      And I’ll post a list of great graphic novels for elementary schoolers in a minute. Thanks for asking.

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