Graphic Novels, without the superheroes
The graphic novel format has produced some of the most compelling fiction and nonfiction of the last thirty years. Many think of superheroes when they think of these works, but there are a number of excellent more “down to earth” graphic novels.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Showa 1926-1939 : A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki
The first in a three part series tells the important tale of Japan slipped from a rapidly modernizing constitutional monarchy into a militaristic society that viewed all of Asia as it’s natural territory. The second and third parts are equally compelling, detailing the destruction of the war and how the Japanese national identity changed after the war to what it is today.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Perhaps the most well known “real world” GN is this autobiographical account of Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi writes about growing up as an upper class girl during the Iranian revolution and its aftermath. Her simple high-contrast art-style show her growth from a young girl living during the horrific war with Iraq and its aftershocks, to her teenage years in Austria, and finally to her return to her homeland of Iran as an adult.
Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn
Vaughn’s tale takes a real event, the escape of a lion pride from the Baghdad zoo after the breakdown of society during the toppling of Saadam Hussein in 2003, and anthropomorphizes the newly freed lions into an analysis of various viewpoints on the Iraq war, its after-effects and the nature of being “free”.
Palestine by Joe Sacco & Edward Said
A premiere piece of “graphic journalism” Sacco spent months living with and interviewing Palestinian Muslims and Christians, as well as Israeli Jews in order to create a picture that before could only be captured by a photojournalist or a documentary crew.
Waltz With Bashir by Ari Folman
A book adaptation of the Academy Award Nominated film of the same name, Waltz With Bashir tells a powerful tale of an IDF soldier searching his memories for his role in the 1982 Lebanese war. Waltz with Bashir explores PTSD, the faults of memory and carries a powerful anti-war message.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Three stories interwoven around the life of Jin Wang, a lonely middle schooler explore what it means to be proud of who you are, no matter how others might perceive you. Humorous, thought provoking, and an important message for teens and adults.
Lewis Parsons is a library assistant at the Sawyer Free Library.