Graphic novels, although a relatively new genre of literary production and study, are not particularly “new.” As Tatiana Prororkova and Nimrod Tal (Cultures of War in Graphic Novels, Routledge University Press, 2018) discuss at length, graphic novels have deep historical roots.
The precursors of graphic novels have their roots going back to the late 17th and 18th century with a tradition of graphic story-telling, wordless novels, and illustrated narratives as well as in the long history of Japanese manga (“comic pictures”).
On this page you'll see some notable precursors, arranged by date of publication. This list of titles leads into the mid-21st century with more-recent titles that have have become part of the canon of graphic novels, and have had wide-ranging influence and adaptations. Some of these include Maus, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir, 7 Miles a Second, and Fun House.