Position Paper

Graphic Novels


Graphic novels have been around for many years, but until recently have been virtually unnoticed by librarians.  Graphic novels are comic books in a narrative form.  They are known as manga in Japan and have also been referred to as comic books.  These books have had a major influence on the young adult population and adult population.  Many librarians are using them to draw teens into the library and show them that reading can be enjoyable.

            There are many different kinds of graphic novels according to the article “Beyond Superheroes: Comics Get Serious.”  The Superhero graphic novel is a novel that incorporates a familiar character but tells a story that explores a new aspect of the character.  They use characters such as Superman, Spiderman, and Batman to help tell the story.  The Human Interest Story incorporates stories that might be found in ordinary fiction.  Nonfiction can include stories of the Holocaust and the life of Martin Luther King Jr.  Manga are Japanese graphic novels. They include popular characters like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball.  Adaptations use familiar characters such as Luke Skywalker.  They can also be an adaptation of classic literature such as The Jungle Book.  The last is Satire which talks about political issues and social norms in an entertaining way (Weiner, 2002).  All of these genres are just as important as the fiction and nonfiction materials that are normally found in libraries.

            Libraries are known for their books and their access to information.  In the past few year graphic novels have entered into libraries and have shown that they are valuable to the collection and the community.  Librarians who have placed graphic novels in their collections have found that their circulation has gone up.  These books have become popular not only for children, but also for adults.  Graphic novels have long appealed to boys because of their fantasy story lines and the strong male characters.  In the past few years graphic novels have also become popular with girls.  This could be the result of the European and Japanese influences in the graphic novel design (Weiner, 2002).  Although girls and women are now reading graphic novels the most popular genre remains the Superhero (Gorman, 2002).  These stories appeal to young adults.  Graphic novels provide them with information in an entertaining way.  They offer a narrative accompanied by pictures and graphics that help the reader to better understand the story and the author’s intentions.   

            In the past few years schools in Japan have been offering graphic novels in their curriculum.  Graphic novels are also finding their way into the curriculum at public schools in the United States.  School libraries are now promoting graphic novels in hopes that it will promote literacy.  The librarians in schools are finding that graphic novels can be used as an alternative or in addition to other materials such as text books and other media (Schwarz, 2002).  Many adaptations can be used in English classes to promote literature that the students would not encounter otherwise (Schwarz, 2002).  Another way to use graphic novels is in a social studies class.  There are graphic novels that cover biographies, history, and current events.  Graphic novels can also be used to study things like color and emotions, angles, realism, and stereotypes (Schwarz, 2002). 

            One of the challenges facing graphic novels is the fact that many people still believe that they are just glorified comic books.  According to many of the articles that I have read, many people and librarians have embraced graphic novels.  Some librarians that I have spoken to say that there is no place in their libraries for graphic novels.  Teachers are also reluctant to accept graphic novels for pleasure reading or in their curriculum.  As this trend becomes more popular and shows that it has staying power teachers and librarians will have these books in their libraries. 

            Overall graphic novels can be used by librarians to draw in teens to the library, can be used to help non-readers read, and can be used in the classroom as an alternative to normal curriculum material.  Graphic novels will appeal to all age groups and sexes.  Even though graphic novels have illustrations, they still hold valuable information and are a good form of entertainment.





Schwarz, G. E. (2002). Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 46(3), 262-266.


Weiner, S. (2002). Beyond Superheroes: Comics Get Serious. Library Journal, 127(2), 55-59.