The Graphic Narrative Corpus (GNC)

This project aims to build the first representative corpus of graphic narrative written in English and to make the results available to an interested public. In our definition, graphic narrative refers to book-length comics that exceed 64 pages in length, tell one continuous or closely related stories, are aimed primarily at an adult readership, and form one single volume or a limited series (such as a trilogy). Included are fictional and non-fictional texts, such as graphic novels and memoirs, graphic journalism, and what we refer to as graphic fantasy, including comic books that belong to the superhero genre. Historically, our corpus stretches from the mid-1970s, when the graphic novel started coming into its own, to the present. Over-all we currently include around 240 titles. This collection of text has been conceived as a so-called monitor corpus, which means that we regularly add texts that we have overlooked - or that are suggested to us by fellow researchers and readers. Thus, by filling out our contact form, you can become part of this research project and alert us to errors, or suggest additional texts.

For several reasons to do with the pop-cultural status of graphic narrative, it's almost impossible to know how many graphic narratives exist. Therefore, we have drawn on a wide range of sources in constructing our corpus. These are: international comics prizes (Eisner, Ignatz, Harvey, and the British Comics Award), academic databases (JSTOR and MLA), bestseller lists, online bibliographies (Grand Comics Database, Comicsvine) and library collections (Library of Congress, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at OSU), literary histories and international comics experts, as well as newspaper articles (Guardian, Time, etc.). By casting our net widely, we aim to balance popularity and prestige and to offset the biases of individual sources.

This homepage offers an up-to-date version of our corpus and selected graphs that aggregate and visualize some of our metadata. The Books and Authors sections allow you to explore the corpus based on individual titles and authors and includes basic biographical and bibliographical information. The Graphs section presents a wealth of interactive maps, charts, and historical overviews of the genre of graphic narrative. You can look at the geographical spread of this form, explore differences by gender, or see which sub-genres dominate our corpus. Over the next few months, we'll be adding to this section, and we'd love to hear your suggestions on all aspects of this project.