Escaping into another world can be cathartic, educational, exciting and rewarding. Comics and graphic novels are a colorful way to pursue that journey. (Quick note on comic books vs. graphic novels – Comic books tell a story over many issues. Graphic novels tend to be longer and more complex, often telling a complete story in one book.)
Think about that last tearjerker movie you watched and why it had such an impact on you. Would you have felt that same impact from the text alone? Images are powerful, and it’s been proven that graphic novels can significantly help understanding of complex issues while still being entertaining. What’s more, the images tell a story just as much as the words, which helps critical thinking and builds a strong connection between imagery and the subtext of a story.
Activists such as John Lewis (March) and George Takei (They Called Us Enemy) adapted their personal stories into graphic novels. Others have also used graphic novels to share their identity and history in a new way. Penelope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World is a comic biography.
Even established superheroes in DC or Marvel Comics have had powerful storylines throughout their years of evolution. Some newer ones include Sean Murphy’s hero/villain reversal of Batman and the Joker in Batman: White Knight and Ta-Nehisi Coate’s Black Panther sagas on the inner turmoil and difficulties of being Wakanda’s fierce leader. There are also some longstanding classics (I’m looking at you, Watchmen). Though we all admittedly judge some books by their covers, it’s worth looking at comics and graphic novels as a legitimate storytelling.
You’ve Seen the Movie, Now Read the Comic Book
Of course, we can’t forget the legions of comic book movie adaptations that have developed. I remember seeing Spider-Man with my father in 2002 and I didn’t realize it was only the beginning. Look how blessed we’ve been since then! Some great Marvel storylines – Marvel’s Civil War and the X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga for example – have been adapted for the silver screen. We all know the books are better than the movies, so you’ve got to read them. If you’re looking for more mature storylines, I highly recommend Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s work heavily influenced Christopher Nolan’s incredible cinematic Batman trilogy.
If superheroes aren’t really your thing, there are still plenty of great comics and graphic novels for you. Along with the titles mentioned above, I’ve included a list of various recommendations below to get you started. Let me know your thoughts on some of the titles in this list. I would absolutely love to hear your essentials and favorites!