A Brief History of The Graphic Novel


Graphic novel is a term that has only been recognized in the 1970’s, however, the idea of a graphic novel existed way before. Although graphic novels are often looked down upon as they are often targeted to younger audiences, but their importance academically cannot be denied, especially as they became more and more political with time. For this research project, I chose to do a timeline on the brief history of Graphic Novels using Knight. In addition to the timeline, I chose to do juxtaposition of the graphic novel before and after the political unsettlement caused by World War II. Given the fact that my thesis is going to be a case study on two graphic novels by Art Spiegelman, I was very much interested in portraying how the modern graphic novel came to be, and its evolution from being humorous and fun to being political and serious.  

Visualisation 1

For this visualisation I decided to use Knightlab and create a brief timeline on how the Graphic novel came to be. At the very beginning, the word ‘Comic Novel’ was the term used for this style of narrative with a combination of pictures and stories. They were not sold in usual bookshops but rather had their own ‘comic shops’. Comic books were mostly light and charged with humour. They were read by young-adults or children. Through this timeline, one can see the evolution of it as the modern graphic novel started to adapt to the reality of its time and portrays the political issues happening at a certain time. For instance, this timeline showcases the graphic novel in the post-war era. I gathered some of the pictures from Wikimedia Commons, and others from Google images. I made sure to click on ‘tools’, ‘Usage right’ and select ones with a ‘Creative Commons Licence’.

Visualisation 2

For the second visualisation, I chose two graphic novels from different periods to showcase the evolution of comics from being more focused on fantasy and humans fighting an outsider enemy to fighting each other and becoming more politically focused. The picture on the right shows the comic novel Rockets to the Moon (1951) which speaks about an American inventor who was the first person to land an object on the moon by firing a space-gun at it. To his surprise, the people of the moon fire back. The second comic novel is Real Life Comics n.3 which portrays a giant picture of Hitler and follows his story. The novel was published right before the United States entered W.W II. Both pictures were gathered from Wikimedia Commons and are for the Public Domain. The post-war era for the comics; and later graphic novels, is very interesting as they slowly started to be used for propaganda. One can argue that any sort of Art holds in some way a purpose for propaganda, but comics were mainly targeted for children, which switched with time.