Although famous as an author of prose fiction, the author of the Noughts and Crosses novels here shares her enthusiasm for graphic novels that will excite teenage readers
Deceptively simple … a still from the animated version of Persopolis.
Malorie Blackman’s first book, Not So Stupid! was published in November 1990 and since then she has written more than 50 books, including Pig-Heart Boy, Hacker and Whizziwig. She also writes for theatre and TV. Her latest book, Double Cross, the fourth in the award-winning Noughts and Crosses series, has just been published in paperback.
“There are so many other fantastic graphic novels that I could’ve added to this list. Novels such as the Lone Wolf and Cub series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, or Palestine by Joe Sacco, to name just a few. But I hope I’ve given a flavour of some of the graphic novels that have made an impression on me.”
1. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
This book started my love of graphic novels. I’d always read comics as a child but I didn’t realise stories could be told in this format for adults and teenagers until I read this story. V For Vendetta is complex, absorbing and truly brilliant. The story is set in an England in the near future where those deemed “deviants” are sent to camps to be exterminated or experimented on. What I love about this story is that it celebrates the individual, how just one person can make a difference, can start a domino effect that can change a whole society. Awe-inspiring stuff.
2. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
I still remember the sense of wonder I felt when I first read this. It was the second story by Alan Moore that I read and after that I was hooked, not just on his writing but graphic novels in general. Using the warning “Who watches the Watchmen?” as a starting point, the story follows an ageing, now disbanded group of “super-heroes” after one of their number is murdered. What is believed to be a revenge killing turns out to be something much more globally significant, told against the backdrop of the world rushing forward towards nuclear Armageddon. And the moral dilemma presented at the end of the story is truly thought-provoking. A great read.
3. Sin City: Hell and Back by Frank Miller
Hell and Back is the seventh in the Sin City series written by Frank Miller. I love all the books in this series but Hell and Back is my favourite. The first three books have already been turned into a film directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. These stories are bloody and brutal but what great storytelling! An ex-Navy seal called Wallace rescues a woman called Esther who has tried to commit suicide. They become close but then she is abducted, and boy, did the kidnappers pick the wrong woman because Wallace is going to find her and make those responsible pay. Loved, loved, loved this story.
4. Chronicles of Wormwood by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
This graphic novel is for mature readers only. And I mean, mature! It is sexually explicit. But I think this story has some very interesting things to say about heaven, hell and religion in general. It’s the story of Daniel Wormwood, who is a benevolent anti-Christ. Daniel’s best friend is a Rasta called Jay (bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jesus) who is brain-damaged after a police officer used his head for target practice. Jay, Daniel and a talking rabbit called Jimmy take a road trip to heaven, then to hell. But it all goes wrong when Satan captures Jay and tries to force Daniel to bring about Armageddon. I thought this was an amazing read. (Although – did I mention? – it’s for mature readers only!)
5. Hellblazer (John Constantine)
There are a number of graphic novels in the Hellblazer series and some are far better than others. A number of writers and illustrators have told the story of John Constantine, the chain-smoking demon hunter. But for me, amongst the very best Hellblazer stories are the ones written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon, including Fear and Loathing, Damnation’s Flame, Son of Man and Tainted Love. These are intelligent horror stories which are truly “unputtdownable”.
6. Black Hole by Charles Burns
This was a story that definitely made an impression! It follows a number of teenagers in a small American town, some of whom are stricken with a sexually transmitted virus which causes irreversible mutations – anything from a second mouth appearing on one boy’s neck to a girl growing a tail. It’s the story of how these teenagers come to terms – or not – with their changing bodies and the attitudes of those around them.
7. Troubled Souls by Garth Ennis and John McCrea
This story is set in Belfast and is the story of two friends, Tom and Damien, during the Troubles. Damian is a member of the IRA, Tom is just trying to keep his head down. This is an amazing story which I read way back when, and I remember the sense of shock I felt when I read the ending. It’s a story that truly gets to you.
8. Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds
Posy Simmonds is so talented that I could have picked any number of her books for this list. But Gemma Bovery is one of my favourites. Her artwork is expressive and imaginative and I love the way this story is told. It’s funny and insightful. Gemma, a British woman, moves to France with her husband to escape her past. Once there she tries to spice up her tedious marriage by having an affair with a guy called Patrick. But then Gemma dies. The story is told by Raymond Joubert, her neighbour in Normandy who has access to Gemma’s diaries.
9. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is a clever, funny and moving graphic novel based on the author’s life as an ordinary Iranian girl growing up in the 1980s in the wake of the Islamic revolution. This amazing story gives real insight into what life was like at that time in Iran. The style is deceptively simple but very readable and totally engrossing. Highly recommended.
10. Maus by Art Spiegelman
This is the story of Art Spiegelman’s father Vladek, a Polish Jew who managed to survive Auschwitz. Vladek’s story is intertwined with Art’s present day story as Art tries to understand more about his father and therefore more about himself. In this story, Jews are portrayed as mice and Nazis are portrayed as cats, which works brilliantly as a metaphor. I’d recommend this to any teenager.