Proposal: Literature

Naturally many graphic novels will overlap with scifi/fantasy, but what about graphic novels that do not fit that category? Maus comes immediately to mind as a "graphic memoir" unrelated to fantasy (even if the artist incorporates anthropomorphized animals into the illustrations).

  • 2
    Bear in mind that anthropomorphic animals are off-topic on SF&F.
    – Chenmunka
    Oct 29, 2016 at 7:35
  • 3
    I would say yes, why not? But as Helmar says, this is probably a question for meta once the site is created. Nov 1, 2016 at 0:00
  • What about the books of Brian Selznick? They are half drawings and half text..
    – Mirte
    Jan 5, 2017 at 16:29

4 Answers 4


I would vote yes.

I wish I could remember the name of it, but I read a graphic novel a year or two ago depicting a young Chinese-American man's struggle with balancing the culture of his parents with the culture of his predominantly white neighborhood.

No elements of science fiction or fantasy. Just real life experiences told through text and illustrations. The illustrations carried information and meaning not always supplied by the text.

I think the tough call would be collections of comic strips. As much as I enjoy the Far Side, I think of it more as art than literature as it's all one-shots. Doonesbury, on the other hand, has long-running story arcs and characters who are born, age, and die.

What if we allowed narrative-based questions but not art-based questions?

  • Acceptable: Why was the character Cheryl Blossom introduced into the Archie-verse?
  • Unacceptable: What is the blue object in this panel?
  • Ambiguous: Is there any significance to Betty's and Veronica's hair colors?

If I may, I feel there is some confusion of what a graphic novel is (or even what literature is) and isn't. A Graphic novel isn't a genre; it's a format, much like an audiobook.[1] While it is often lumped and viewed distastefully alongside comic books, graphic novels come in as vast a range of genres as audiobooks do.

Visual/artistic Narratives as literature precedes the written language and limiting literature based solely on word count vs imagery would exclude a vast array of ancient and Classical pieces of literature, particularly hieroglyphics and illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Hours or the Book of Kells, which often contained substantial more artwork than written words, if any at all, and modern translations, such as The Prince, into graphic novel format.

As someone who has spent the past 9 nine years immersed in the academics of Ancient and Classical History and work in the wonderful world of books, after having read many of these posts, I get the sense that people are confused in what literature is. Literature, in itself, refers to any piece of writing that holds artistic merit, is both fiction and nonfiction and encompasess all genres, including comic books. We can't simply pass over a title because of a lack of understanding of what literature is. I've included a succinct list of academic sources at the bottom to help uncover the world of graphic novels!


  • 1
    "A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle" - when I read this, it was 100% text and no pictures. I guess there was a graphic novel edition at some point? Jan 6, 2017 at 0:37
  • Yes, it was one of my favorite books as a child. Back in 2012, it was illustrated by Hope Larson and she did a superb job!! The Call of the Wild was also well done as a graphic novel, however, it was a never a book I was too fond of until the graphic novel version. It was published by Campfire Graphic Novels that have made many Classics into graphic novels- Moby Dick, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Swiss Family Robinson... just to name a few!
    – user166076
    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:35
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    Especially if you take into account that even theatre plays are afterall not actually supposed to be consumed in a written form rather than a performed one and thus more related to a film than to a novel. And I'd doubt anyone really considers exlucding Shakepearean dramas from the site. Jan 9, 2017 at 13:50

Interesting question. Generally most example questions would easily fit such works too. Thus, we would need a community decision on meta in the private or public beta to discern if the site views graphic novels as part of literature.


Here's my opinion:

Any book that consists more of graphical content than it does of text, should not be allowed.

This means that some comic-style literature is allowed as long as there is around as much text as there is graphics, with exceptions to be decided on a case by case basis.

  • 5
    I would certainly argue that comics like Persepolis and Maus are literature.
    – Catija
    Dec 2, 2016 at 0:58

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