Arts and Entertainment

Penn State announces winner of the Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book are pleased to announce that “Unflattening” by Nick Sousanis, published by Harvard University Press, has won the 2016 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year.

“‘Unflattening,’” the jury noted, “is an innovative, multi-layered graphic novel about comics, art and visual thinking. The book’s ‘integrated landscape’ of image and text takes the reader on an Odyssean journey through multiple dimensions, inviting us to view the world from alternate visual vantage points. These perspectives are inspired by a broad range of ideas from astronomy, mathematics, optics, philosophy, ecology, art, literature, cultural studies and comics. The graphic styles and layouts in this work are engaging and impressive and succeed in making the headiest of ideas accessible. In short, ‘Unflattening’ takes sequential art to the next level. It takes graphic narrative into the realm of theory, and it puts theory into practice with this artful presentation of how imaginative thinking can enrich our understanding of the world.”

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize honors Ward’s influence in the development of the graphic novel and celebrates the gift of an extensive collection of Ward’s wood engravings, original book illustrations and other graphic art donated to Penn State’s University Libraries by his daughters Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Weedon Ward. Between 1929 and 1937, Ward published his six groundbreaking wordless novels: “Gods’ Man,” “Madman’s Drum,” “Wild Pilgrimage,” “Prelude to a Million Years,” “Song without Words” and “Vertigo.”

Sponsored by Penn State’s University Libraries and administered by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or nonfiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident. A $2,500 prize and a two-volume set of Ward’s six novels published by The Library of America will be presented to Nick Sousanis at a ceremony at Penn State in the fall.

The jury also awarded two honor books: “Displacement,” by Lucy Knisley, published by Fantagraphics, and “Russian Olive to Red King,” by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen, published by AdHouse Books. About “Displacement,” the jury said, “Lucy Knisley's ‘Displacement’ is a perfect memoir comic. Her vibrant watercolor illustration humanizes the reality of caring for loved ones as they age with candor and grace. The narrative of her grandfather’s journal from World War II woven in with harrowing cruise experiences is a crucial touchstone, reminding us that her grandparents are so much more than what they can express to the outside world in the present.”

About “Russian Olive to Red King,” the jury said, “Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s ‘Russian Olive to Red King’ is that rare work of fine art that succeeds at cross-purposes; it is both successfully avant-garde and profoundly relatable. Stuart’s light, clean and deliberate artistic choices are the ideal counterpoint to Kathryn’s searing and devastating story of loss and grief, all of which leads to the novel’s formally upsetting and innovative coda.”The selection jury had representatives from various Penn State academic departments who use the graphic novel in their teaching or research, as well as representatives with graphic novel expertise from among Penn State’s alumni and students.

The following comprise the selection jury for the 2016 prize:

  • Chair John McComas has a bachelor of arts degree in English from Penn State and puts his 20-year “fascination for all facets of the comics medium” to good use as a full-time staffer at the Comic Swap in State College;
  • Kendra Boileau is editor-in-chief of the Penn State University Press and the acquiring editor for the Press’ graphic medicine book series;
  • Collin Colsher, of Brooklyn, New York, is creator of the “Real Batman Chronology Project,” and has a master of arts degree in cinema studies from New York University;
  • Dustin Perna is an undergraduate student at Penn State majoring in advertising and public relations with a fervent interest in comics and graphic novels; and
  • Beth Theobald is a reference and instruction librarian at Penn State’s Beaver campus.

For more information about the selection criteria and how to submit books for consideration for the 2017 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, contact Ellysa Cahoy at or 814-865-9696, or visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book website.

“Displacement,” by Lucy Knisley, published by Fantagraphics, has been named a 2016 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize honor book. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated April 28, 2016