American Graphic Novel: Home

This guide provides assistance in doing research for the course co-taught by Professors Jeremy Dauber and Paul Levitz.


Finding comics and graphic novels

Searching in CLIO

You can search the collection remotely in CLIO, the libraries' online catalog.

Searching by title

Change the default search type from Keyword to Title, and leave out any initial articles (A, An, The, and their foreign-language counterparts).

Some titles are preceded by recognizable character names (Batman: Hush); others begin with the individual volume title and relegate the series title to elsewhere in the record (Criminal: Bad night).  It might take a couple of tries before you find what you're looking for.

Searching by keywords (with subject terms)

The main subject heading for the medium is "Comic books, strips, etc."  Sometimes this stands on its own, with only a geographic indicator (Comic books, strips, etc.--United States.); sometimes it acts as a subheading to a larger topic (HIV-positive persons--Comic books, strips, etc.); sometimes it is joined to the larger genre type (Fantasy comic books, strips, etc.).

Keyword searches can combine these elements:

Keyword: crime AND"comic books" (the " " allows searching as a phrase)

Keyword: "hurricane katrina" AND"comic books"

Keyword: "race relations" AND "comic books"

In addition, the format term "Graphic novels" is sometimes used in CLIO records.  For absolute thoroughness, use both in a Keyword (Boolean) search (not the same as a regular "Keyword" search):

Keyword (Boolean): crime AND ("comic books" OR "graphic novels") = 87 results

Keyword: crime AND "comic books" = 82 results

There are many more sophisticated ways to search for titles in CLIO.  Contact Karen Green at for assistance.


Printed guides

There are several books in the collection--some of them online--that you can use as guidebooks through the vast array of sequential art options.  Here are a few:

1001 comics you must read before you die (Butler Stacks PN6710.O64 2011g) -- arranged by era

500 essential graphic novels: the ultimate guide (Butler Stacks PN6710.K266 2008g) -- arranged by genre

Critical survey of graphic novels: independents and underground classics (ebook) -- plot, characters, style, themes, impact, and bibliography of select titles

Critical survey of graphic novels: heroes and superheroes (ebook) -- plot, collected editions, characters, style, themes, film adaptations, and bibliography of select titles


Electronic content

A combination of subscription and open access databases provides access to full-text

Underground and independent comics, comix, and graphic novels

  • Over 1600 comic books from the 1960s onward
  • A wide (soon to be complete) selection of issues of The Comics Journal
  • The full text of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent

Digital comic museum

  • free database of public domain, Golden Age comics

Comic book plus

  • free database of Golden Age and Silver Age comics


Archival content

In 1973, alumnus Jonathan Zeitlin donated over 800 Marvel comic books, primarily from the 1960s, to the libraries.  This collection is now located in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Butler Library, and its contents may be paged for consultation in a supervised reading room.

The finding aid to the collection may be perused here.

In 2011, Chris Claremont (longtime writer of the X-Men, among many other works) donated his archives to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  This gift consists of drafts of all Claremont's writing projects--comics, novels, short stories, and plays--correspondence with artists and editors, fan mail, notebooks filled with plot and character ideas, and much more.  The archive is still being processed and a finding aid will be available within a year.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds many interesting items in the history of American comics, from an English-language edition of Rodolphe Töpffer's The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck to Peter Kuper's accordion-folded adaptations of Kafka short stories.  Consult Karen Green, the Graphic Novels Librarian, or Jane Siegel, the Curator of Rare Books, for more information.

Ancient & Medieval History Librarian; Graphic Novels Librarian

Butler Library