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Course & Subject Guides

Graphic Novels @ Pitt

This guide provides information on Pitt's Graphic Novel Collection.

What is a graphic novel?

The term 'graphic novel' (like the genre science fiction) is open to interpretation. The Oxford English Dictionary Online defines a graphic novel as a "full-length ( fiction or fantasy) story published as a book in comic-strip format." Although Will Eisner is credited with the first use of this term for his A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) the origin of this artform may be considered as old as cave paintings which were used to tell stories in ancient times. But it was in the 20th century, particularly in the 1940's and 1950's, that authors and illustrators realized the potential of using pictures and words together to tell a story. After the appearance of A Contract with God, the term began to grow in popularity. However, some authors such as Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, have publicly objected to the term, suggesting that it is simply a marketing term dreamed up by publishers to sell comic books for a higher price. 

The Research Process: Graphic Novels

Here are some points to consider when developing your paper on graphic novels:

  • Develop a topic that asks a question or poses a problem that interests you.
  • Select appropriate search terms for your subject.  For graphic novels you should search by a specific author/title or keywords. Suggested terms may include:
    • graphic novel
    • comics
    • alternate history
    • manga
    • superhero
    • science fiction
  • Search PittCat and subject oriented databases.
  • Revise your topic. Determine how you will answer your question.
  • Evaluate your resources carefully!
  • When in doubt, contact your librarian.