For decades the Graphic Novel was felt to be the reserve of the nerdy and of those who couldn’t face a ‘proper book’. But Graphic Novels have an important place in our cultural canon both in this country, and as a genre that links cultures across the world. Will Eisner’s work in the late 1970s is often credited with being the first Graphic Novel form, but there is a huge body of work that is of great importance to both adults’ and children’s literature that pre-dates it by decades, even centuries. Herge’s ‘Tintin’ books, and Goscinny and Uderzo’s ‘Asterix’ Series’ both told complete tales in cartoon form to generations of children from the late 1920s onwards. We can go back further too; many of the graphic novel writers today talk about the influence of 18th Century artist and poet, William Blake, on their work. Blake’s powerful combination of images and hand-written lettering, in which his art forms part of, and adds layers to, the narrative seems to resonate across much of our culture – and the Graphic Novel is certainly one of the genres to which is has been of significant influence. The problem with the term ‘Graphic Novel’ is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that as a literary form, it is ideal too for biography. Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’, an account of his Jewish family’s life under Nazi rule, and more recently, MarJane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’, which tells the story of her childhood and young adult life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, are amongst the most important and influential books of social political commentary of our times. Many of our great illustrators are also writers, and many of our writers have a profound understanding of the importance of illustration to storytelling. We should also consider the role of graphic novels in education; as a tool for introducing Shakespeare into the classroom, for example, they are of huge value; the dramatic form of a graphic novel is far closer to the concept of watching a story performed in front of you as a play, than reading stripped back text. Many children introduced to Gothic Fiction at secondary school, which they no study from the age of eleven, right the way up to sixth form, find that they get a stronger sense of the atmosphere and subtleties of the gothic genre, with its motifs of supernatural activity, dramatic ruins and tense relationships, through seeing it first as a graphic novel, than reading text alone. We should remember that many of these novels were originally published with very striking illustrations; the new thing, if there is one, is that we expect older children and young adults to read books with no illustration. There are several versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and most of Shakespeare’s works in graphic novel form now, all of which are superb – so there is every reason for us to be using this literary form in the classroom too. Graphic novels are a really interesting and fast-developing genre within literature. Here are a few of our favourites – for both adults and children.