Must Read Indie Graphic Novels
By Alexandra Wilson
Not every graphic novel is a superhero story. In fact, some of the best ones don’t’ have anything to do with superheroes – they have to do with human experiences told in a fun, fantastical way. And isn’t that what comics are really all about? The next time you’re looking for an atypical comic book read, grab one of these graphic novels and settle in.
Maus 1: A Survivor’s Tale, Art Spiegelman
This book frequently shows up on high school book lists, so if you didn’t read it then – you should read this ASAP. Spiegelman, the cartoonist who wrote and drew the story, follows his journey to discover his father’s experiences in World War II, and then draws his father’s story (as told by his father) in the novel. The metaphors are clear, but powerful; Maus reminds us that graphic novels are an incredibly powerful medium for storytelling.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel
Yes, you could just listen to the soundtrack from the Tony award-winning musical instead, but the graphic novel is told with Bechdel’s own words and art. Similar to Maus, this graphic novel details a creator’s experiences with their father, but the story of Bechdel’s father focuses on a different kind of oppression. As Bechdel discovers her sexuality and grows into her identity, her father languishes and it uncovers a series of family secrets that change Bechdel’s life forever.
Habibi, Craig Thompson
Thompson uses a Middle Eastern setting to create a love story that’s intertwined with themes about how our relationships with the world affect the way we see it. Habibi tells the story of two refugee child slaves, Dodola and Zam, that are bound together by chance and circumstance. As they try to build lives – both together and separately – they discover how their connection affects each aspect of their lives. This is an eye-opening read for anyone and everyone.
American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang
Yang tells three seemingly separate story in his coming-of-age graphic novel. First, the story of Jin Wang, who just wants to fit in and finds it even harder as he falls in love with an American classmate. Second, a traditional Chinese fable about the Monkey King who struggles with the desire to become a god. And lastly, cool kid Danny, who is utterly embarrassed by his cousin Chin-Kee, the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype. By the end of the book, these three separate tales come together in a way that nobody could see coming.
Patience, Daniel Clowes
This film rights to this graphic novel were almost immediately acquires by Focus Features after it was released, so you’ll want to read this book ASAP to stay ahead of the curve. The story follows Jack, who uses time travel to try to save his recently-murdered wife. But with each trip into the past, he learns more about his wife and the secrets that she kept from him. The psychedelic drawings are a must-see, making it the perfect book to lose yourself in an afternoon.