Graphic Novels for Grownups

Comics are not just for kids anymore.  We have many graphic novels with complex story lines, fiction and non-fiction, all 100% superhero free.

Fiction

Black Hole by Charles BurnsBurns, Charles.  Black Hole

In this edgier work, Burns imagines a 1970s suburban Seattle in which a plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers. Told in black and white panels that can be graphic, Black Hole would appeal to readers of apocalyptic fiction, science fiction, or stories of high school alienation.

Locke and Key by Joe HillHill, Joe and Gabriel Rodriguez.  Locke and Key:  Welcome to Love Craft

Best-selling horror/suspense writer Joe Hill has written an award-winning story of three children who have survived the murder of their father only to be thrust into a deep family secret involving a powerful key and the evil forces who want it. Rodriguez’s full-color, glossy drawings realistically depict the human and non-human characters.

Katchor, Ben.  Julius Knipl:  Real Estate Photographer

In 90 stories, ranging in length from a single strip to many pages, Katchor depicts the lives of middle-class, urban men in a 1950s-esque atmosphere. This work is humorous, insightful, and nostalgic. Also, while the work as a whole provides a larger perspective, it can also be read and enjoyed in small doses.

Berlin:  City of Stones by Jason LutesLutes, Jason.  Berlin: City of Stones

In part one of this historical fiction trilogy set in Weimar Republic-era of German history, Lutes follows a group of sympathetic protagonists as war approaches.  Using black and white drawings, Lutes’ work sometimes goes on for pages without any dialog; however, the plot and the emotional pull of the story is only enhanced by the silence.

Black Jack by Osamu TezukaTezuka, Osamu.  Black Jack

In this Manga for grown-ups, Tezuka recounts the story of a surgeon-for-hire who is mysterious, unlicensed and scarred but a wonderful healer.  Originally created in the 1970s, Black Jack is like the TV show “House,” only in comics.  This is a great grown-up introduction to the popular Manga style, and don’t forget, like all Manga, it must be read back to front.

Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware

Ware, Christopher.  Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth

A great example of a “novel in comics,” Chicago native Ware’s book tells a complex story of the sad fortunes of four generations of men. Ware’s detailed, color frames enhance the emotional pull of this moving tale.

Non-Fiction

Epileptic by David B.B., David.  Epileptic

French graphic novelist David B. chronicles his life with an epileptic brother in this moving memoir. Recounted in detailed, black and white panels, this is the story of David’s coming of age in 1970s France, and how his journey to adulthood is affected by the historical period and his brother’s illness.

Fun Home by Alison BechdelBechdel, Alison.  Fun Home

Well known, cult comic artist, Bechdel, recounts her childhood in rural Pennsylvania, her struggle to come out as a lesbian and her father’s refusal to acknowledge his own homosexuality. Told with blue, black, and white traditional panels, this is a moving portrait of a family in turmoil, yet Bechdel also conveys the complexities of her extremely close relationship with her father.

A.D.:  New Orleans After the DelugeNeufeld, Josh.  A.D. : New Orleans After the Deluge

Neufeld reports on the effects of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in detail as he follows six residents of New Orleans from a few days before the storm and through its horrific aftermath.  This graphic novel began as an Internet comic. Neufeld’s powerful drawings combined with the true stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances makes for a compelling read.

Palestine by Joe SaccoSacco, Joe.  Palestine

In late 1991, Joe Sacco spent two months living with displaced Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and turned his notes into a unique work of graphic journalism.  Some pages have more text than pictures; others utilize complex layering of drawings and words, while still others follow a more traditional comic structure.  Sacco’s technique allows him to more accurately depict his eyewitness accounts and the larger, complex issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art SpiegelmanSpiegelman, Art.  In the Shadow of No Towers

Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novelist Spiegelman wrote In the Shadow of No Towers in the days following the 2001 terrorist attacks.  Sitting at his home across the river from the World Trade Center, Spiegelman watched the attacks unfold in front of him and drew these comics as he waited for the world to end around him. Told in large color pictures with text and photographs, this work does not always stay within the confines of a more traditional paneled comic.

Blankets by Craig ThompsonThompson, Craig.  Blankets

Thompson depicts his life in a rigid, evangelical home in the Midwest.  His loving relationship with his brother is in the forefront, but Thompson also explores young love and his journey into an independent adulthood.  Blankets is told in black and white panels of non-uniform size.

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