Research Resources Home > Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Several full-run titles are available on DVD from Media Resources; most titles are in print and can be found in the Carrier Library Browsing Collection area on a freestanding rack, OR on the third floor of Carrier in the PN6768 section. The Browsing collection is on the first floor of Carrier Library. All comics in this collection, including DVDs, can be checked out.
In Fall 2008, JMU Libraries began to offer a selection of mainstream comic books titles. This collection was funded as an special collection development project. In addition to being fun to read, comic books and characters have become part of mainstream popular culture and could easily be used as primary sources for research into gender, sociology, literature, and more!
Size of the Collection
The original collection contains about 225 items. Currently, the library owns about 745 graphic novels.
About 50 new items will be added in Spring 2013.
Scope of the Collection
JMU's mainstream comic books collection features core titles from DC and Marvel, with some independent titles. Examples include Spider-Man, Iron Man, Superman, and the X-Men, Usagi Yojimbo, and Sandman. It also includes some graphic novels such as Watchmen and Batman, the Dark Knight returns.
Criteria for selection included:
- That the title be available in a bound or DVD format to facilitate preservation.
- That the title be either one of the major comic titles or feature a leading female character or character of color (white male leads being the norm for so-called “major” titles).
- That the collection include comics from the Golden Age (1930s-1940s), Silver Age (1959-1970), and modern day to facilitate time-series research.
- That the collection include a few major manga titles (usually Japanese). Of graphic novels on the overall bestseller list, Naruto and Fruits Basket were of the most highly ranked in 2006. The most recent issue of Fruits Basket is ranked around 900 on the Amazon bestsellers list. Titles were also included from the most famous historical manga by Osamu Tezuka, the ‘father of manga.’
Q. Who pays for these comics?
A. This project was originally funded by JMU Libraries' Collection Development Committee as a special project. Circulation statistics for these titles were tracked during the first semester to evaluate the usefulness of this collection to the JMU Community and general library funds were used to purchase additional titles.
Q. I am sort of interested, but don’t want to read about men in tights. What do you recommend?
A. Here are some recommendations. With the exception of Fruits Basket, all the titles below were written for adults:
- Fables deals with various characters from fairy tales and folklore.
- Usagi Yojimbo is set in medieval Japan. All the characters just happen to look like animals!
- Alias and Queen and Country feature private investigators in the US and UK respectively.
- Fruits Basket is one of the top Japanese ‘manga’ titles, and follows the life of a high-school student investigating a zodiac curse!
- Buddha tells the story of Siddartha in a visual and engaging format.
Q. Are these books for children?
A. No. Some of the titles in this collection have adult content such as violence, drugs, and occasional nudity. As with any book, movie, or TV show, it is important for parents to decide what is age-appropriate.
Q. Why does JMU Libraries have comic books?
A. This collection was funded as an experimental collection development project. In addition to being fun to read, comic books and characters have become part of mainstream popular culture and could easily be used as primary sources for research into gender, sociology, literature, and more!
An increasing number of movies and television shows feature new and existing comic heroes and stories (X-Men, Spider-Man, Heroes) which spur interest in the comic books on which they are based: The Monday after V for Vendetta brought in $26 million at the box office, the reissue edition of V for Vendetta published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint was No. 4 on Amazon’s bestseller list. Additionally, the comic book marketplace is growing. Although comic books (or ‘graphic novels’) are one of the smallest segments of the book market, according to Simba research for Bowker (2007), their segment of the market has shown the greatest growth since 2000. Title output has grown by 220% over the last 10 years, with a 19% increase from 2004 to 2005 of graphic novels on the overall bestseller list. According to consumer surveys, almost half of kids aged 8-11 read comic books, both boys and girls (The U.S. Market for Tweens and Young Teens, 2005).
With the advent of inexpensive DVDs which contain entire runs of comic titles, and trade paperback compilations of complete comic runs, the questions about preservation of these fragile materials have indeed become largely moot. Acquisitions challenges such as tracking down old comics issues are also greatly reduced as many titles are now published in compilations and available on Amazon.com.
The writing, storylines, and visual imagery of mainstream U.S. comic books present not just compelling characters and stories, but also provide insights into American society, sociology, and politics. These materials serve as primary sources for a wealth of research in the social sciences. Furthermore, these items are worth of study by media, art, and design students, not to mention writing and communications. The collection enhances JMU's popular reading collection.
The quality of the writing and artistry across the proposed titles does vary greatly. Writers such as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore have brought comics into the realm of the literary. Gaiman’s mythopoeic Sandman is the only comic to ever win the World Fantasy Award (Anderson 2001); Alan Moore’s Watchmen not only won a Hugo Award, but appeared on Time Magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. Even non-literary writers such as Stan Lee (Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four) still contributed a wildly imaginative style that was critical to the development of the medium.
Since the books were added in Fall 2008, and as of January, 2009, 89 percent of the original collection has circulated at least once since they were added in the Summer of 2008. Seventy-six percent have circulated at least twice, and 61% have circulated at least three times.
Q. Can I receive notification by email when new comic books are added the the JMU Library collection?
A. Yes, you can create an email alert to do just that. Simply follow these steps:
- Login to My LEO.
- Type in the text box or click on Search Catalog and search for a word, author, or subject of interest.
- For comic books, we recommend using a the following search: http://catalog.lib.jmu.edu/search~S0/?searchtype=X&searcharg=d%3A%28Comic+books%29+or+d%3A%28graphic+novel*%29&sortdropdown=-&SORT=D&extended=0&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=Xd%3A%28Comic+books%29+or+graphic+novel*%26SORT%3DD. This will include not only comic books and graphic novels, but also books about comic books, but it's difficult to separate the two.
- If you want a more exclusive search, try: http://catalog.lib.jmu.edu/search~S0/?searchtype=X&searcharg=%22comic+books+collection%22+or+%22Graphic+novels+collection%22&sortdropdown=-&SORT=D&extended=0&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=X%22comic+books+collection%22
- In the Search Results display, click on the Save as Preferred Search button near the search box at the top of the screen.
- Click on the button for My LEO.
- Click on the link for Preferred Searches.
- You'll find a list of all your saved searches, with the option to remove each one, mark each for e-mail alerts, or repeat the search.
Q. Does JMU Libraries have foreign language comic books?
A. Yes! We have a large Italian language comic books collection. We also have comic books in the following languages:
Business of Consumer Book Publishing 2007 (Simba Information: 2007). Downloaded 11/27/2007 from Market Research Academic.com, p. 140.
The U.S. Market for Tweens and Young Teens, 2005, p. 118. Downloaded 11/27/2007 from Market Research Academic.com.
http://www.lib.msu.edu/comics/. Accessed 11/27/2007.
Anderson, Porter (July 30, 2001). Neil Gaiman: 'I enjoy not being famous'. CNN.com. Retrieved on October 09, 2007.