History of the Graphic Novel

Lynd Ward Woodcut novels

Image of Lynd Ward’s book collection retrieved from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1598530828/braipick-20

Free Google Advanced Image

Free Google Advanced Image

Bloodsong by Drooker

Book cover image for Eric Drooker’s Blood Song retrieved from the online catalog of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System at http://contentcafe2.btol.com/ContentCafeClient/CoverImage.aspx

Many young adults who visit the reference desk are hooked on history.  To connect with that interest, it’s helpful to gather information about the history of the graphic novel format.

Lanier (2007) explains that in the early twentieth century, a number of artists throughout the world created wordless “woodcut novels” which were aimed at making political statements via “visual rhetoric” (para. 5).  As a result, there were no geographical boundaries for their stories and messages, and also no need to be literate in order to ‘read’ them (para. 3).  Two of these artists were Belgian Frans Masereel and American Lynd Ward.

Popova (2011) refers to Ward as the “Father of the Graphic Novel,” although this may be an Americanized view.  Regardless, it’s exciting to find information that spans not only decades, but centuries, in discussions of the format.

Several of Ward’s woodcut novels are held in collections within the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS) via the catalog at Live-brary.com.  A collection of six woodcut novels by Ward is available via Amazon.com (image above).

Lanier points to contemporary work by graphic novelists Peter Kuper and Eric Drooker.  Drooker’s graphic novel Blood Song (image above) is held in YA collections in two SCLS libraries.


Lanier, C. (2007). The “woodcut novel”: a forerunner to the graphic novel. World literature today, 81(2), 15. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA160279681&v=2.1&u=scls_main&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w&asid=741e9bca11c75e81cdeb2590d6b13ddf

Popova, M. (2011). Depression-era woodcuts by Lynd Ward, father of the graphic novel.  Brainpickings. Retrieved from http://www.brainpickings.org/2011/10/19/lynd-ward-box-set/

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