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Photo-Embedded Graphic Novels

There are surprisingly few graphic novels that use photography for some or all of its imagery. This bibliography includes those that I am aware of. If I have overlooked a potential title, please let me know in a comment below. For further reading on a somewhat similar artform, check out the Wikipedia article on Photo Comics. [Last updated January 28, 2022.] These listings are in chronological order.

Art Spiegelman. Maus II – A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. NY: Pantheon Books, 1991. A Holocaust classic. A fictionalized retelling of a true story of the author interviewing his father about his experiences during World War II, which includes two photographs: a photograph of the author’s brother Richlieu (1937-1943) on the book’s dedication page and a photograph of the author’s father on one of the book’s last pages.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Vertigo/DC Comics, 1995. A graphic novel that updates the traditional Punch & Judy story, with occasional photographs in place of drawings.

Dave McKean. Cages. Kitchen Sink Press, 1998. A 500-page graphic novel about a painter, a novelist, and a musician, that is often about the subject of creativity itself. McKean occasionally uses manipulated photographs in addition to his drawings.

Eddie Campbell. The Fate of the Artist. NY: First Second, 2006. A pseudo-autobiography about the artist’s own disappearance. Occasional photographs employed.

Bryan Talbot. Alice in Sunderland. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2007. A photographic retelling of Alice in Wonderland that employs some photography.

Melvin Van Peebles. Confessions of a Ex-Doofus Itchy Footed Mutha. NY: Akashic Books, 2009. “Art direction & story by Melvin Van Peebles, Illustrations by Caktus Tree..?” A graphic novel based upon his 2008 film of the same name. A number of film stills from the movie are used as the background for drawings in some of the panels.

Harry Gamboa Jr. Aztlángst. Los Angeles: CreateSpace, 2011. A somewhat political pastiche of the classic fotonovela by Los Angeles based photographer Harry Gamboa, Jr, using the theater group Virtual Verite as actors. You can see my post on this book here.

Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel. NY: Yen Press, 2013. This graphic novel extends the story found in Riggs’ 2011 novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, using photographs from the novel interwoven with graphic novel artwork by Cassandra Jean. Approximately 24 photographs appear on 14 of the 272 pages.

Julio Cortázar. Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia Narrated by Julio Cortázar. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2014. The first English translation of Cortazar’s 1975 book, originally titled Fantomas contra los vampiros multinacionales. After serving on the Second Russell Tribunal in Brussels in 1975, which condemned human rights violations in Latin America and was deeply critical of multinational corporations and countries that were propping up criminal regimes like that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Cortázar decided to promote the work of the Tribunal through his writing. But the result was more comedic than grim. In this short, heavily-illustrated text, Cortázar, Susan Sontag, other well-known writers, and Fantomas (a hugely popular sociopathic thief who was the subject of scores of French novels and films) plot ways to support the work of the Tribunal. The illustrations are a mix of photographs and photomontages, illustrations apparently from early twentieth century editions of Fantomas stories, and sections lifted directly from a Mexican comic book series featuring Fantomas that ran from the 1960s into the 1980s. The specific comic book that Cortázar reproduces here is from 1975, Fantomas la amenaza elegante, which included the character of Julio Cortázar himself.

Stephen Saperstein Frug. Happenstance: A Photographic Novel. Ithaca, NY: Spark and Boojum Press, 2019. A long, complex photographic novel about friendship, love, and faith, involving two couples who live in Ithaca, New York.

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