The Prehistory of the Graphic Novel – Revised

Based on some suggestions via Twitter and email, here is an updated list of books that could be classified as graphic novels, but that were published before the term was coined. Special thanks to Steve Blatchford, Lev Bernstein, and Woodrow Phoenix. Besides additions, I have also included hypertext links to the works available in full text online. I have also included the country of the artist, though for some of them this varies.

Also, this is a U.S. and Euro-centric list. I know a bit about Japanese art history, but not enough to make a list like this. For that side of things, I recommend Frederick L. Schodt and Ryan Holmberg. There’s also a great Instagram account called prewar_manga. As for the rest of the world, I know even less.


Rodolphe Töpffer (Switzerland)

Cham (Charles Amédée de Noé) (France)

Gustave Doré (France)

J.A. and D.F. Read (United States)

George Cruikshank (United Kingdom)

Dr. Charles Ellery Stedman (United States)

  • 1857 Mr. Hardy Lee, His Yacht

Wilhelm Busch (Germany)

A.B. Frost (United States)

  • 1881 “Our Cat Eats Rat Poison” (later published as “Fatal Mistake”)

Frans Masereel (Belgium/France)

  • 1919 The Sun
  • 1919 Passionate Journey
  • 1924 The Story Without Words
  • 1925 The City

Lynd Ward (United States)

  • 1929 Gods’ Man
  • 1930 Madman’s Drum
  • 1932 Wild Pilgrimage
  • 1933 Prelude to a Million Years
  • 1936 Song Without Words
  • 1937 Vertigo
  • 1952 The Biggest Bear (children’s book)
  • 1973 The Silver Pony (children’s book)

Otto Nückel (Germany)

  • 1930 Destiny

William Gropper (United States)

  • 1930 Alay-Oop

Milt Gross (United States)

  • 1930 He Done Her Wrong

Helena Bochráková-Dittrichová (Czechia)

  • 1931 Childhood

István Szegedi Szüts (Hungary)

  • 1932 My War

Max Ernst (Germany/France)

  • 1929 La femme 100 têtes
  • 1930 Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au carmel 
  • 1934 Une Semaine de Bonté

Giacomo Patri (Italy/United States)

  • 1940 White Collar

Charlotte Saloman (Germany)

  • 1941-43 Life? or Theater?

Myron Waldman (United States)

  • 1943 Eve

Miné Okubo (United States)

  • 1946 Citizen 13660

Alan Dunn (United States)

  • 1948 East of Fifth

Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, Matt Baker, and Ray Osrin (United States)

  • 1950 It Rhymes With Lust

Manning Lee Stokes and Charles Raab (United States)

  • 1950 The Case of the Winking Buddha

Laurence Hyde (United Kingdom/Canada)

  • 1951 Southern Cross

Edward Gorey (United States)
(Gorey made more than 100 books, so this is a partial list)

  • 1953 The Unstrung Harp
  • 1954 The Listing Attic
  • 1957 The Doubtful Guest
  • 1958 The Object Lesson
  • 1961 The Curious Sofa
  • 1962 The Willowdale Handcar
  • 1965 The Remembered Visit
  • 1967 The Utter Zoo
  • 1972 The Abandoned Sock
  • 1977 The Loathsome Couple
  • 1982 The Dwindling Party
  • 1990 The Fraught Settee
  • 1999 The Headless Bust

Jules Feiffer (United States)

  • 1959 Passionella and Other Stories [includes Munro]
  • 1979 Tantrum
  • 2014 Kill My Mother
  • 2016 Cousin Joseph
  • 2018 Ghost Script

Martin Vaughn-James (United Kingdom/Canada)

  • 1975 The Cage

Tom Phillips (United Kingdom)

  • 1980 A Humument (first edition)

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