The graphic novel genre is incredibly vast and full of so many different stories just waiting to be picked up – and yet, so many people seem to turn away from it. Maybe it’s the perception that they’re a bit ‘geeky’, or maybe everyone assumes that Marvel and DC are the only way to go, but this is so frustrating! There are so many amazing, independent comic books out there; they all have their own unique and fascinating stories, complimented by beautiful artwork. And it’s not just about superheroes, you know…
It’s a genre that showcases so many talents, from writers to artists, and is such a huge contributor to the pop culture we see around us everyday. From the biggest movies, to the TV shows that everyone is watching, you can nearly always find a comic book influence somewhere.
So, for anyone who is still a bit skeptical, or anyone who is looking to ease themselves into the genre, here are five of my recommendations to help get you started:
Don’t be put off by the sort-of-strange cover! Saga is a brilliantly weird series of books that has gathered up a lot of praise.
Saga is set in a galaxy in which two races, the ‘wings’ and the ‘horns’, are in the middle of an epic war that has been going on for centuries. The story follows Marko and Alana, two soldiers from opposing sides who fall in love and have a child, making them the most wanted people in the galaxy. You follow them as they fight for survival, whilst still trying to do the best for their daughter.
It’s amazing how, as well as developing a deep caring for the story’s main characters, this narrative also gets you to care about the supposed ‘villains’ of the story. This not only challenges what ‘villainy’ really is, but also makes for an extraordinarily well-rounded story.
This series has been praised for the way it confronts prejudices surrounding race, sexuality and gender, and for it’s diverse representation.
This is a beautifully written story, accompanied by incredible artwork, and with love at its heart, you feel fully immersed in the story. However, I must warn you that it includes many explicit scenes, so it is not one for younger readers.
Ultimately, though, it is full of epic twists and turns, and carries a strong message about war and race-relations that can be applied to our world even today. Incredibly emotional and action-packed, with the eighth volume to be released next year, now is the perfect time to jump into this epic saga.
This is quite possibly one of the most emotional books I have ever read. It tells the true story of the author’s parents, Vladek and Anja, who were Polish Jews during the Holocaust. This novel is an incredibly detailed and personal account of their journey under the Nazi regime. It shows you the experience of this horrific period through the eyes of someone who was there, rather than looking at it through statistics as we so often do. As well as this, you are shown the process by which the author was told the story by his father, in turn showing you how Vladek’s experiences affected him and his family later on in life.
It uses an incredible metaphor, where all the Jews are drawn as mice and all the Nazis as cats, which I thought was very clever. Not only does this device allow you to immediately know which side each character is on, and represents how many people feel throughout the story, it also proves a point, by showing the ridiculousness of reducing people down to stereotypes, or just one aspect of their character.
Maus has been very well received all-round, and even won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
This account is by all means incredible, with unique and beautiful artwork and a captivating story, I definitely think that everyone should read this book!
When I first saw the film adaptation of this book, I absolutely loved it! So you can imagine my joy a few months later when I discovered that it was based on a graphic novel, which I loved just as much! Kick-Ass, simply put, is the story of an average teenage boy who gets bored and decides to become a superhero, and it soon becomes clear that he is way out of his depth. This franchise also includes possibly one of my favourite comic book characters of all time: Hit-Girl.
Although key elements are still there, the movie took many liberties with the story, so those who have seen the film and those who have not can get equal amounts of enjoyment from this. It is characterized by its (often adult) humour, its blood-filled fight sequences, and characters that are relatable in some form or another, making the simple story hugely entertaining.
The author, Mark Miller, has written many other titles, such as ‘The Secret Service’ (which the hit-movie ‘Kingsmen’ is based on). His company, Millarworld, has recently been sold to Netflix, so we can expect to see many more adaptations of his works very soon.
Kick-Ass pokes fun at the superhero genre, and tells a more ‘realistic’ story of a superhero. Followed up by two sequels and a Hit-Girl mini-series, this is a story that will keep you entertained for a long time.
This is an absolute classic! The first issue of ‘Watchmen’ was released in September 1986, and it has since been highly critically acclaimed – including being listed in Time Magazine’s ‘100 best novels’. With its strange and dark premise, paired with beautiful artwork, this was groundbreaking in the graphic novel genre, and changed the way comic books were both written and viewed.
This is particularly heavy for a graphic novel, as it uses a lot more text and has a more complex story than most, so it is definitely not a quick read, but might be one for people who are unsure of the ‘graphic’ side of things, and want something closer to a ‘novel’.
Watchmen is another example of a story that takes a more realistic approach to the superhero genre. It follows a group of superheroes, who were more-or-less forced into retirement years ago. Following the murder of one of their former colleagues, we are told in flashbacks how they came to be superheroes, and how the heroic movement fell. Alongside this, we see them coping with their lives now, and also with the death of a character that wasn’t all that well liked.
The characters are all ordinary people who, one day, decided to fight crime. That is, except for one – Dr Manhattan, who is a man that can literally do anything, but often chooses not to. This allows the writers to explore many avenues, such as what it means to be a hero, can anyone really be good, and is having superpowers all it’s cracked up to be?
Overall, this is an extremely influential piece, that has a large fan base and legacy behind it, and was even adapted into a film in 2009. If you want something that will make you think, and something that is a bit more substantial, then this is a good choice for you!
- The Walking Dead
It’s an extremely popular and successful TV show, but ‘The Walking Dead’ actually started life as a comic book. This is a substantial series of novels that is continuously being reprinted and has gathered a hugely dedicated fan-base.
The art is probably the most interesting part of this book. It’s entirely in black and white, which definitely adds to the dark and gloomy feel that this novel has, and allows you to concentrate more intensely on the story. It also has a slightly unique style of storytelling, quite often jumping around from one plot point to the next, skipping a lot between panels. I like this, as it keeps it simple, and sticks to the story, making sure that the reader is never bored.
It starts with the main character, Rick, waking up from a coma in hospital, only to find that the zombie apocalypse has happened. We follow Rick as he journeys to find his family, meeting an intriguing group of characters along the way. It follows our group of heroes on their journey to stay alive, and documents their determination to continue to live the most normal lives possible.
Whether or not you are a fan of the TV series, this is one I would definitely recommend. It has something for everyone: love, romance, heartbreak, epic fight scenes – to name a few! With a captivating story and stunning artwork, it’s hard to see how you could go wrong with this one.