With burgeoning interest in the genre of graphic novels, during the next few weeks PW Daily is printing a selected list of titles a bookstore needs to stock a basic graphic novel section.

First, five essential backlist and five recent releases:

1. Maus by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon). The Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel about Spiegelman's father's Holocaust experiences. One of the masterpieces of contemporary comics literature.

2. A Contract With God by Will Eisner (DC Comics). Generally regarded as the first American graphic novel, this book offers a collection of acclaimed short stories set in the poor, crowded Jewish Bronx neighborhood where Eisner grew up.

3. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (DC Comics). Originally published in the late 1980s, Miller returned to the pulp crime roots of the classic Batman character to recreate a brooding, middle-aged vigilante driven to revenge criminal acts and his own psychic wounds.

4.The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (a multi-volume series) (DC Comics). This popular, award-winning fantasy series collects Gaiman's haunting stories about Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, and his immortal siblings and their travels between the realm of dreams and the waking world of mortal humans.

5. Understanding Comics by Scott McLoud (HarperCollins). The best examination available of the historical development and perceptual traits of the comics medium, presented in the language of comics itself.

Recent Releases:

1. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (Pantheon). A bleak tale of successive generations of melancholy losers is transformed by the work's historical context--the 1893 Chicago World's Fair--and Ware's poignant storytelling and extraordinary full-color illustrations.

2. King: Volume 2 by Ho Che Anderson (Fantagraphics), the second volume of Anderson's acclaimed biography of Martin Luther King. Anderson offers an interpretative (indeed often speculative) look at the life of MLK and his commanding role in the Civil Rights movement using fictional techniques and a vividly inventive graphic style.

3. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf). This extraordinary graphic novel--upon which the Hughes Brothers hit film was based--is both a meditation on the voluminous histories and speculation on the Jack the Ripper legend as well as a riveting work of allegorical fiction that focuses on Saucy Jack's crimes and the period as a grimly prophetic prelude to the 20th century's worst events.

4. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson (Top Shelf). An ebullient, funny, character-driven graphic novel preoccupied with the nature of people and their relationships over time. Much like Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the book uses the fledgling comics industry in the 1930s as a platform for a fictional portrait of post-college life in New York City in the mid-1990s.

5. To Afghanistan and Back by Ted Rall (NBM). Talented comics artist and contrarian journalist Rall reports from Afghanistan during the American bombardment. He provides comic observations about a hair-raising stay, rejects U.S. claims of victory and lampoons the hordes of clueless western media covering the miserable conflict. An important contribution to journalism in a comics format.

This article originally appeared in the August 28, 2002 issue of PW Daily for Booksellers. For more information about PW Daily, including a sample and subscription information, click here.