"It's like being 8 again," said Michelle, obviously not interested in indulging her inner child.
"No," said Bill, "some of them are really quite grown up."
Michelle remained skeptical, so I jumped into Bill's corner. "It's a hugely varied format," I argued. "I bet I could find some things that you'd like: graphic novels for people who don't read graphic novels."
Mirdza, another librarian, popped her head out of her cubicle and into the conversation like an eavesdropping prairie dog. "I'd like to see that list! I've read bits of graphic novels I've liked but never knew where to start."
Thank goodness for Mirdza, because Michelle was having none of it. She let out a bit of good-natured grumbling and went back to work. I shifted my lecturing to Mirdza, not wanting to waste a good head of pedantic steam.
"It's important to remember that graphic novels are a format like DVDs or audiobooks, not a genre like fantasy or mystery. Just as one may make a DVD about any number of subjects, a graphic novel can deliver memoir or journalism as easily as it delivers a superhero story."
Somewhere during those opening remarks Bill slipped out of the workroom and Mirdza sat back down, pretending I wasn't there. I've worked here long enough that folks understand they must sometimes ignore me if they're to get anything done. Like any dumb beast, I'll eventually forget what I was doing and wander away.
But my failures as an ambassador don't change the fact that there are all sorts of great graphic novels being published these days! All the superheroes you remember are still around and are still lots of fun, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a short list of suggestions for a variety of readers.
For the memoir fan:
Special Exits by Joyce Farmer
The author unflinchingly relates her attempts to care for her elderly parents as their physical and mental health deteriorates. Bring tissues.
Or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
For the non-fiction reader:
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Groundbreaking journalism hidden away in the graphic novel section. Sacco shows us a uniquely personal view of the Palenstinian people.
Or Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic Adaptation by Harvey Pekar
For the sci-fi fan:
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
Vaughan was a big name in comics before he ever wrote for TV on Lost. His new sci-fi series is equal parts epic space oprera and intimate family story.
Or Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil
For the foodie:
Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya
A manga series whose thin plot is little more than an excuse for some expertly-drawn and highly informative discussion of Japanese cuisine.
Or Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain
For the fantasy fan:
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly
A young girl escapes troubles at home by losing herself in a terrifyingly real fantasy life.
Or Conan by Roy Thomas.
For the artist:Building Stories by Chris Ware
An experiment in form from an established master. Ware's work is always expertly composed, great to look at, and full of soul-crushing ennui and isolation.
Or Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
For the mystery/thriller fan:Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales
A collection of classic noir private eye stories in which the detective happens to be an anthropomorphic cat. Great art, atmosphere, and tough guy antics.
Or Queen and Country by Greg Rucka
For those interested in a fiction with religious themes:
Buddha by Osamu Tezuka
Tezuka's so important to Japanese comics that it's ridiculous to pick just one of his titles, but his tale of the founding of Buddhism is a personal favorite.
Or Habibi by Craig Thompson
I'll end there, as I have to end somewhere. Did I not address a genre or topic you're interested in? Did I not name a graphic novel you'd love to see more people read? Speak up in the comments!