Comic Gold: 4 Brilliant Graphic Novels for Younger Readers
The recent announcement of Dave Gibbons as the first UK comics laureate will hopefully serve to underline the value of graphic novels for readers of all ages. Gibbons, who illustrated Alan Warner's classic Watchmen, is passionate about promoting graphic novels to schools as a substantial art form, full of literary merit.
To do our bit, members of the Scottish Book Trust have flagged up some fantastic reads below from a varied range of genres.
Antonia Clark, Schools Outreach Co-ordinator:
Monkey Nuts: The Diamond Egg of Wonders by the Etherington Brothers (age 8+)
The Diamond Egg of Wonders follows Monkey Nuts, a wacky crime fighting trio who battle against a variety of villains in this first-in-the-series graphic novel. Each chapter brings a new battle and a different mischief-maker to contend with! The illustrations are colourful, eye-catching and chaotic and the puns are egg-cellent (sorry).
Originally featured in a weekly comic, the comedy heroes go wild fighting all sorts of oddballs round Isla de Monstera in this new novel. When a strange signal begins to slowly drive everyone on the island insane, the trio (with the help of Chief Tuft, a coconut who just happens to be the boss of the ‘Serious Crime Squad’) need to discover who and what is causing it then stop it before more chaos ensues. Great for eight years and up; there’s so much going on in every single spread that you will spot something new each time you read it!
A Study in Scarlet by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard (age 11+)
SelfMadeHero is an excellent independent publishing company which specialises in graphic novel versions of the classics, such as Crime and Punishment, Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde and of course, Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet is the first of Holmes’ adventures – a man’s dead body and a name written in blood – who else could solve this mystery?
The illustrations work well with the story – dark, steely and grim. If you are familiar with the original don’t worry, this does stay true to the book. The end chapters detail exactly what happened and are written from the point of view of the murderer himself – a nice twist.
There are three of these Sherlock Holmes graphic novels so far, and my favourite is definitely A Study in Scarlet. The characters really come alive through the pictures and you won’t be able to put this one down!
Michael Merillo, Operations Manager:
Calvin and Hobbes: The Complete Collection by Bill Watterson (age 11+)
Humour, childhood mischief, social satire, and life philosophy brought to us by one of the most popular duos to ever be illustrated. Calvin, the academically poor but intelligent 6 year old boy, and his anthropomorphic tiger Hobbes try to make sense of the world around them – a world that blurs the lines between reality and make-believe.
The strips depict a large range of weighty topics such as friendship, life and death, and environmentalism, but also lighter subject matter like evil snowmen, space/time travelling cardboard boxes, and the importance of GROSS. It’s definitely a series for those looking for funny and thoughtful comics.
Conan by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord (YA)
Conan has been a long standing and recurring character in films and comics since John Milius’s 1982 film. However, the film and the original stories Robert E. Howard wrote in the 1930s share very little in common. Howard wrote his titular character very much an anti-hero: Conan was a sullen-eyed brawler and irrepressible thief and by using wicked-cunning and barbaric violence took what he wanted, when he wanted and woe be the consequences.
In the 2000’s Dark Horse comics created a much more accurate retelling. Carefree and careless the Cimmerian wanders the world collecting gold, enemies, and women, and losing all in turn. If you like your protagonists a little on the dark side, you won’t go wrong with Busiek’s vision of Conan.
If you're a teacher looking to get started with graphic novels, check out this video by comic duo Metaphrog, which introduces you to the writer's craft in graphic novels.