Gateway Books: A Guide to Entering the World of Comics and Graphic Novels

Gateway Books: A Guide to Entering the World of Comics and Graphic Novels


For those in the know in the comics world, Scott McCloud needs no introduction. McCloud has literally written the book on this genre, with classics such as the widely-acclaimed Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics. This comic heavyweight is back this year with a new graphic novel The Sculptor, featured in our winter previews. Here, McCloud gives Bookish the scoop on gateway books for getting into graphic novels and comics:

For readers who enjoy a smart, stimulating read in prose and would like to find a comparable experience in comics, here are a few books that might fit the bill. If you’re an old friend of books, but just making the acquaintance of comics for the first time, one or two of these might start a lifelong friendship.


1. City of Glass

The comics adaptation of Paul Auster‘s novella City of Glass is formally audacious and stands apart from the original, while remaining faithful to the story’s core themes and values. It’s a perfect demonstration of how to adapt a story into comics, not just illustrate or embellish the original text. It’s also the most teachable comic I know.


2. Tamara Drewe

If you’re used to cozying up in a warm blanket of words, Posy Simmonds will help ease you into comics with this text-heavy, but supremely readable story of the secrets and shenanigans of a writers’ retreat. Simmonds is a funny, wise, and crisp writer and her artwork is deliciously rich and fluid. Made into a decent if forgettable movie, it’s the comics version that will last.


3. Market Day

One of my all-time favorite graphic novels is this simple story of a rug merchant with artistic aspirations facing a crisis of confidence during a time of industrial change. James Sturm is a master of pacing. His instincts are rock solid, guiding him to just the right lines and colors to get the job done. This ostensibly modest story of one man’s struggles seems more about all of us every time I read it. This is a bulletproof work of quiet, confident fiction.


4. Fun Home

The comics canon these days roughly boils down to Maus by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, most anything by Chris Ware, Moore and GibbonsWatchmen (if you don’t mind the men in tights), and Fun Home, Alison Bechdel‘s rightly-celebrated memoir chronicling her relationship with her closeted funeral director father. All are highly recommended gateways into comics excellence, but Bechdel’s book stands out for its special attention to the power of language and literature. Words matter in Bechdel’s universe. If they do in yours too, you may find a kindred spirit.


5. The Nao of Brown

This handsome graphic novel debut of longtime British comics craftsman Glyn Dillon led the way in a recent revival of the UK comics scene. Masterfully drawn and expertly paced, The Nao of Brown captures the rhythms of these not-quite-ordinary people beautifully, throwing in some gorgeous flights of fantasy for good measure.


6. This One Summer

Although classified as young adult fiction, this coming-of-age tone poem by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki was my favorite graphic novel of 2014 and it has plenty to offer adult readers. As with film, the best comics artists know that all pictures are words, and the lush, intoxicating visual storytelling of This One Summer speaks volumes. This book will wash over you like a hot bath.

Scott McCloud is the award-winning author of Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Zot!, and many other fiction and nonfiction comics spanning 30 years. An internationally-recognized authority on comics and visual communication, technology, and the power of storytelling, McCloud has lectured at Google, Pixar, Sony, and the Smithsonian Institution.  First Second’s The Sculptor is his most recent book.


Leave a Reply