A New Look at Superman

The significant change to this week’s NYT Graphic Books Best Seller lists is the arrival of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman Volume 2 at #3 on the Paperback list. The teaming of this particular writer and penciler signal a stellar graphic novel; readers immediately know that a title by the two of them will be popular and, while even great creators have off days, of high quality. Superman, while still in the top pantheon of superheroes, has recently been lagging behind Batman in popularity, and All-Star Superman, free of the dense continuity that keeps new readers away, has been a strong step in bringing Superman back to the forefront.

Morrison and Quitely first paired up to create the praised JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel, astonished readers with the grim, wrenching standlone We3, and then shook up the status quo working on New X-Men, reinvigorating what many saw as a tired parade of expected storylines. They are currently endeavoring to do the same with DC’s Batman and Robin series.

To give you a better sense of Quitely’s distinctive style, we’re running a larger than usual version of the book’s cover.

All Star Superman, Vol. 2
Grant Morrison
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: DC Comics – (2010-02-16)
ISBN / EAN: 1401218601 / 9781401218607

Many librarians don’t realize how many people contribute to making a graphic novel. There are some creators who do everything themselves, such as Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and R. Crumb (whose Genesis is currently number one on the Hardcover List). Most graphic novels, however, are identifiable by two main creators, the writer and the penciler, with strong contributions from inkers, colorists, letterers, and editors. In this field, it’s equally important to recognize the top-name authors and pencilers; they are the Dan Brown’s and Michael Connelly’s of the format.

Grant Morrison, one of the British invasion of comics authors that also brought in Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, is best known for his work on Batman: Arkham Asylum and various series including Doom PatrolJustice League of America and the current All-Star Superman. He is hailed as one of the best writers in the business.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (15th Anniversary Edition)
Grant Morrison
Retail Price: $17.99
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: DC Comics – (2005-11-01)
ISBN / EAN: 1401204252 / 9781401204259

Pencilers, as the artists who set the style and tone for the look of a graphic novel, are just as important in a format where art and writing have equal weight in storytelling. Readers used to straight prose think first and often only of the writer, but in graphic novels, the pencilers and other artists involved, from colorist to inker, are invaluable. Their style and layout gain fans just as much as an elegant turn of phrase.

Frank Quitely currently holds a lofty position among the main pencilers, having won four Eisner Awards and one Harvey Award, and has his pick of projects.  He is noted for his inventive and compelling layouts, and while his substantial figures take some getting used to, readers are won over by his obvious skill with pacing, tone, and visual storytelling.

In upcoming posts, we’ll be writing about other important names in the field.

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