Graphic novels are book-length tales that combine words and pictures to tell an intense and complex narrative. They tend to emphasize adventure, character development, complex plots and striking visuals that lend as much to the story as the words.As graphic novels have grown in popularity, they have become more diverse and cross-cultural. No longer limited to superheroes or humor, this unique type of book often is experimental, innovative and creative.Here’s a look some popular ones.‘Adventure Time Sugary Shorts’Edited by Shannon WattersKaBoom!, 2014 For ages: 9 and olderA variety of comic-book creators have come together to make an exquisite collection of Adventure Time short stories. Finn and Jake, the main characters from the TV show, are included, but they luckily share the spotlight with many other characters: Lumpy Space Princess helps out some friends … in her own special way; Susan Strong learns what it means to be brave; and Ice King has a lair sale!These stories have all the time travel, reality warping and awesome bowls of party dip fans could ever want. However, if you’ve never read or watched Adventure Time, you may feel as if you’re walking into an awkwardly twisted world with quite an interesting cast of characters. But hey, that’s half the fun!‘Cardboard’By Doug TenNapelGraphix, 2012 For ages: 10-14Cam’s father, Mike, is a construction worker who has been out of work for quite a while. On Cam’s birthday, Mike goes in search of an affordable and cheap gift. Mike stops at a roadside vendor who sells plastic toys. Unfortunately, even the plastic toys are too expensive for Mike. The salesman gives Mike a deal for a cardboard box that would be more exciting to play with than the plastic toys, because a cardboard box can be turned into whatever one can imagine. Cam is grateful and decides to make a championship boxer out of the cardboard. During the night something magical happens that neither Cam nor his father could have ever imagined. The outcome not only affects Cam and his father, but the entire neighborhood. A message of friendship, self-esteem and imagination are all a part of this vibrantly illustrated graphic novel. ‘The Emerald City of Oz’Adapted from L. Frank Baum; written by Eric ShanowerMarvel, 2013 For ages: 10-14This is the first graphic novel adaptation of a five-book collection. Dorothy Gale’s Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are about to lose their farm in Kansas. Dorothy doesn’t know what she would do for work at such a young age so she decides to go to the Land of Oz to take her title as Princess. Once in Oz, Dorothy tells Ozma what is about to happen to her aunt and uncle’s farm. Ozma suggests that they both come to the Land of Oz.While in the Land of Oz, Dorothy, her aunt and uncle are all given the royal treatment and sent out to tour the many different areas. There are so many unusual places and inhabitants — bunnies living in Bunnyboro, living paper dolls created by Miss Cuttenclip and the Spoon Brigade from the Kingdom of Utensia, just to name a few. As Dorothy and her family are getting to know the Land of Oz, there is an evil Nome King that wants to take over the kingdom and retrieve his magic belt. The Nome King appoints General Guph to lead the Nome Army of 50,000 to invade Oz. The invasion seems like it will be easy, but the people of Oz stand their ground, with a surprising outcome. ‘Fairy Tale Comics’Edited by Chris DuffyFirst Second, 2013 For ages: 6 and olderFairy tales have been around for generations, and they’re often made into movies. Interestingly, moviegoers sometimes don’t know where these movies really come from or know that they’re based on fantastic stories from all over the world.Various artists have come together to reimagine 17 popular stories, and they’re as great as ever. The well-balanced collection includes favorites such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and a wonderfully silent Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The vibrant and gorgeous illustrations lend so much to the narrative tales. ‘Lost at Sea’By Bryan Lee O’MalleyOni Press, 2005 For ages: 17 and olderRaleigh’s stuck in a car, stuck with people she doesn’t really know, and stuck in that limbo-age between kid and adult. Nothing makes sense, everything makes her nervous, and she’s pretty sure she’s missing her soul. But, as much as Raleigh may think she is alone, she never is and she’s definitely not crazy. She’ll just have to learn to open up and ask her companions if they’ll help her chase cats in the middle of the night.O’Malley perfectly captures the awkwardness of teen insecurity with this graphic novel and reminds us that sometimes, the ones that look like they have it all together could really use a friend.‘Marvels’By Kurt BusiekMarvel, 2008 For ages: 13 and olderImagine what the world would be like if, out of nowhere, superpowered beings suddenly flew through the sky, swung on webs and fought in battles of epic proportions, but you were stuck on the ground? Marvels takes the point of view of the often scared, frustrated and powerless people who stare up at the sky in awe. These people can do nothing as galactic beings threaten the safety of the entire world, but they hope and cheer for the best; they take photos and excitedly talk about the upcoming marriage of two heroes; and they fear and hate those both similar and different from themselves.Featuring the incredible realism of Alex Ross, this book brings us as close as possible to a world where the fantastic is commonplace. While we’re there, will we trust those who put their lives on the line for us? Will we thank them when they succeed? Or will we grow accustomed to them and turn on them when we’ve forgotten their amazing deeds? ‘Sunny’By Taiyo MatsumotoVIZ Media LLC, 2013 For ages: 13 and olderTaiyo Matsumoto has written this graphic novel in manga style, read right to left, along with chapters to separate each scene. Sunny takes place at an orphanage in Japan. A few of the kids have found an old abandoned Nissan Sunny and have turned it into a place where they can gather and use their imagination to go anywhere they want.One of the characters, Taro, sings what can be the theme of this series: Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The lyrics, “Life is but a dream,” explain exactly how the children in this orphanage feel. They all have dreams about getting out and either finding their families or going on to live their lives as they want, but to the children right now, it is all but a dream.
Kendra Meeks and Gilbert Smith are library assistant II’s for the Fort Worth Library.