Graphic novels are underrated.Mostly because there are a lot of them, most of which aren't that great. So the good ones get lost in the rubble. But the good ones are very good, bordering even on the exceptional. (& I mean by literature standards.). Taking into account only stand-alone graphic novels i.e. written by one author or (one set of authors) only for one (completed) series where characters are not reused by other authors. So as good as Batman : The killing Joke and Daredevil: Born again are , they won't be included.
17.Y: The Last Man .Author -Brian K. Vaughan. Artist -Pia Guerra. released 2002-2008
why: Every male mammal on earth dies except one man and his monkey.A great plot, sharp dialogue and dealing with scientific advancement issues. also full of gender differences issues.
Persepolis . Artist and Author - Marjane Satrapi. released in 2000.
why: About growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Very clever and witty although at times dark it gives an insight about how character prevails even when it is tried to be repressed.
15. 300. Author and artist - Frank Miller. Released in 1998
why: Everyone's seen the movie by now. Doesn't mean you shouldn't read the comic. Every page is a double page spread of rich colours. As much action in the book as in the movie.
14.David Boring . Author & Artist -Daniel Clowes. released in 2000.
why: A story about a man trying to find the perfect woman with a nuclear apocalypse impending. Full of sardonic humour with plot elements from film noir and Nabokov.
13. Blankets . Author and artist - Craig Thompson. Released in 2003.
why: An autobiographical coming of age novel. About growing up in a strict Evangelical family and first love and early adulthood. Perfectly written in the sense that you can comprehend (and at times relate) everything and get drawn into the remembrance of experiences .
12. Les Adventures de Tintin: L'Ile Noir. Author and artist - Herge. released in 1937-1938, English translation in 1966.
why: It's the best of the Tintin adventures in my opinion. Tintin was great since the 1930's and still popular and a great read even today. Still serialized in newspapers now. Classic adventure stories like this are all too rare these days.
11.Our Cancer Year . Author- Harvey Pekar & Joyce Brabner. Artist- Frank Stack. released 1994.
why: I'm not sure if i can put the whole American Splendor series here but this is representative of it. It tells the story of Pekar's struggle to overcome cancer as well as throwing in social commentary about that year. Filled as usual with Pekar's confrontational style.
10. Ghost World . Writer and Artist - Daniel Clowes. Released 1993-1997
why: A good film was actually made out of this graphic novel. A realistic look at teenage life and relationships, albeit a slightly cynical one. Comparisons can be drawn with The Catcher in the Rye.
9. The Sandman . Author - Neil Gaiman. Artists - Several. Released 1989-1996
why: Winner of the world fantasy award and a NY times bestseller.Several elements of classical mythology are present. As well as character focus on The mythical Sandman is creative yet holds true to the myths.
8.The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. I&II). author- Alan Moore- Artist - Kevin O'Neill
why: Several major nineteenth century characters from novels appear together in this graphic novel. Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo , Allan Quatermain and several others join to fight Fu Manchu & the Martians. The most original use of created characters in a long time, if not ever.
7. Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Writer and artist - Chris Ware. released in 2000.
why: Several possibly autobiographical elements. A story of relationships with family. Several parallel storylines and flashbacks occur. Jimmy daydreams a lot and his fantasies are his only recreation. The smartest kid one earth may actually be a daydream fantasy of a lonely,dull middle aged man. Great work which explores themes of isolation and depression.
6.V for Vendetta . Author- Alan Moore. Artist- David Lloyd. Released 1982-1989.
why: A story about an anarchist terrorist who lives in a dystopian future. Written in the 80's the parallels to modern life are there for all to see. Several literary themes are present, (V always talks in iambic pentameter). The debate to whether anarchy is preferable to fascism is also looked into.
5.From Hell . Artist - Alan Moore, Author - Eddie Campbell. Released in 1991- 1996.
why: A huge conspiracy theory that follows the Jack the Ripper murders and the possible identity of the killer. Immensely detailed and as much a comic about the Victorian era as Jack the Ripper.
4. Bone . Author and Artist - Jeff Smith. released 1991-2004
why: The funniest adventure story around. You can read it either as a fan of adventure or comedy and be impressed. Very deep characters as well, especially for a comedy.
3. Sin City . Artist and author - Frank Miller. released 1991-2000
why: A nod to the film noir style and hardboiled detectives.Very black and white in the 1940's feel of a detective film which gives a pulp fiction style. Great memorable characters are everywhere in Sin City, each with their own agenda.
2.Maus: A Survivor's Tale . writer and artist : Art Speigelman. Released 1972-1991
why: Winner of a Pulitzer prize. A world war II story about the Holocaust where everyone is presented as anthropomorphic animals. Biographical too, since it's about the author's father. It also deals with the after-effects of the Holocaust for survivors as well as those who didn't experience it. Large portions are on the author's relationship with his father.
1. Watchmen - written by Alan Moore, art by David Gibbons.released 1986-1987
why: Most people know the movie.Which is unfortunate because it isn't a very good movie even if you haven't read the graphic novel.If you have, then you know how far they missed. Watchmen is regularly used in the argument that graphic novels should be considered literature. It's a compelling argument after you've read it.