The Beauty of Graphic Novels

Blog · Posted August 25, 2023

Jack is here to grow our Graphic Novel section!

“Could you recommend a book for a five year old struggling to get into reading?”

“Why yes, madam, I would recommend Juniper Mae. It has a comic layout with the narration written in prose, making it very easy to read whilst being slightly more advanced than a picture book.”

“A comic? No, I think I’ll get a proper book instead.”

Hello, I’m Jack, Mainstreet’s resident artist and graphic novels connoisseur, and this is the hill I’m dying on.

Junper Mae: Knight of Tykotech City by Sarah Soh

Since 2020 we’ve been slowly cultivating a small, often unseen, shelf of books by the counter. Books of lonely spirits in search of companionship, mischievous young girls finding monsters in the hills, heartfelt illustrated memoirs, first loves, and ancient treasures.

Thieves by Lucie Bryon

Graphic novels have a unique power in which they can be as silly, whimsical and outlandish as children’s fiction; and as emotionally raw and characterful as adult fiction – all of the entertainment and all of the depth condensed into one form. The symbiosis of artwork and storytelling lends itself to this. It’s a dance between writing and art, with the latter often taking centre stage where words aren’t enough. I’ve read a Sonic the Hedgehog comic with more psychological impact in a single wordless page, than a quarter of the last thriller I read.

It’s not all kicks and thrills however. It’s a common misconception that graphic novels are all one single genre – superheroes – and with that, comes stigma. Since Superman’s debut in 1938, comics have been shadowed by the notion that they promote crime, aren’t challenging enough to read, and they use speech bubbles and pictures instead of quotation marks, so they must be for little kids. In reality, “graphic novel” refers to the format, like “audiobook”, within which there’s an entirely unique library of storytelling. Any age, any genre, any style. Zoe Thorogood holds the beautiful stance in her auto-bio-graphic novel, It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth, that it’s her book and she can do whatever she wants with it. The only limit to the story you want to make is whether or not you can draw it.

It's Lonely at the Centre of the Eearth by Zoe Thorogood

Illustration takes a lifetime of experience to hone, and even then, an artist never stops improving. The work that goes into a graphic novel isn’t just the time it takes to write and draw, but that entire lifetime of improvement behind it too. It’s a milestone, and a testament to a creative passion. From the first to last entries in Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, you can see his art style refining with each book, and there’s an intimacy to seeing that growth. It takes 20 minutes to fill a page of writing, but multiple hours to illustrate a comic page, and you can see the artist’s hand in every line.

Like all art forms, there’s still a sense of taste. If I don’t like the art style, I struggle to enjoy the story; and sometimes vice versa. The increasing prices of printing paper and the influential trends of subgenres have made unique graphic novels more scarce. Months can pass without a bite from anything different or new. But on that golden day, something fresh will slip onto the shelf with a big glossy cover and a thick smell of ink; and every time, without fail, after closing the back cover having finished a graphic novel, I feel infinitely and totally inspired.

Lost At Sea by bryan Lee O'Malley


Comic Strip

A single page or row of comic panels, often ending on a punchline, found in newspapers and magazines.

Examples: Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Dennis the Menace

Comic Book

A publication consisting entirely of stories told in comic format, sold in issues.

Examples: Batman, 2000AD, the Beano

Graphic Novel

A book composed in comic layout. May comprise multiple Comic Book stories telling one serial narrative. Sold in volumes.

Examples: Batman, Maus, Tintin


Graphic Novel recommendations: 

It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth by Zoro Thorogood (Buy HERE)

Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Buy HERE)

Thieves by Lucie Bryon (Buy HERE)

Scott Pilgrim Volume 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Buy HERE)

Juniper Mae by Sarah Soh (Buy HERE)

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (Buy HERE)

Garbage Night by Jen Lee (Buy HERE)

Hilda and the Mountain King by Luke Pearson (the whole series is great too).  (Buy HERE)

About Jack

When not behind the till or squeezed in the windows of Mainstreet, Jack is an illustrator, cartoonist and writer. Even when at work, if there is a spare second, he will be drawing on an old receipt or scrap piece of paper. Behind the scenes at MST is filled with thoughtful cartoons that make each and every one of us smile when we see them. 

Jack takes commissions and is also working on his own graphic novel in his spare time. Drawing is his passion and he will think of every detail to ensure a drawing is just right. You can check out more of his artwork on his instagram or head to his website to find out more. If you would like more information or recommendations of graphic novels, contact Jack here and he will happily help you out.