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Graphic Novels & Sequential Art: Introduction

This guide features resources and information about graphic novels, comics, and sequential art for the casual reader and the academic.

What Is a Graphic Novel?

At the most basic level a graphic novel is a story told in a comic strip format. But this definition does not begin to touch on the nuances and subtleties of sequential art and storytelling.

A graphic novel can best be described as being book-length in format, containing sequential art narrative. It shares many of the characteristics of prose novels, including a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story is presented through the combined use of image and word. However, images are not simply illustrations; they contain information critical to understanding elements of the story not presented verbally. Likewise the verbal components are not captions, but they convey information not included in the images.

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graphic novel collection

Comic or Graphic Novel?

Comic Strip Comic Book Graphic Novel
Single idea (often but not always a joke) Serialized story Bound narrative with story arc
Story unfolds across multiple panels (typically 3-5) Story unfolds across multiple pages in panels or strips Multiple pages
Often serialized, appearing in newspaper and magazines Often multiple artists and writers for one series Combination of single page illustrations and multiple panels
Often the product of a studio (i.e., Marvel or DC) Illustrations and textual components work together to reveal the story

But What about Cartoons?

A cartoon is a simple 2 dimensional drawing in which the features of the subject are exaggerated in a humorous or satirical way. Typically it appears as a single illustration. Cartoons also refer to a movie that uses animation techniques to photograph drawings rather than real objects.

In the Stacks

The Full Sail Library holds over 1,000 graphic novels in its collection. The graphic novel collection is shelved near the circulation desk in call number range GRN 30 DAY NIG through GRN  ZOD 1. Graphic novels are shelved alphabetically by title.


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How To Read a Graphic Novel

Reading a graphic novel makes use of multiple literacies (verbal and visual): decoding of text and interpreting visual cues. Unlike collections of comic strips, which can be browsed from any point, a graphic novel is a complete narrative. Because it is a bounded, linear narrative, the reader begins at one end and progresses through the story page by page. A graphic novel is intended to be read in the same manner as a text-only book.