5 Superhero-Free Graphic Novels That Will Make You Reconsider the Genre

If you’ve written off graphic novels because action heroes and onomatopoeias aren’t for you–think again. The genre of graphic novels is ever-growing, diverse, and bursting with stories worth taking in. These 5 gripping best-sellers will make you rethink the genre of illustrated literature.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel

Crack open Alison Bechdel’s closet and get a good look at her family’s skeletons in Fun Home. This graphic novel tells the true story of Bechdel’s coming out, followed by the shocking revelation that her father is also gay, and his tragic suicide. Within Fun Home’s black and grey graphic panels is a vulnerable and intimate look into dysfunctional family dynamics, gender roles, and sexuality

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel written by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel transforms Reynold’s award-winning narrative verse novel, Long Way Down, into an entirely new experience through its use of splashy watercolors that bleed across its pages. It tells the story of 15-year-old Shawn, who has recently witnessed his brother’s death by a stray bullet.

Intent on getting revenge and armed with his brother’s gun, Shawn boards his building’s elevator. On each floor, he is joined by a victim of gun violence who has come back to life to tell their story. This graphic novel brings to light the struggle of breaking generational violence through Reynold’s jolting verse.

The Complete Maus written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman

Maus, which is told in two parts, is the memoir of Vladik Spiegelman, the author’s father, who survived the Holocaust. This memoir is distinctive because of its dueling timelines (1970s and 1930s) and eye-catching depictions of Nazis as cats and Jews as mice. Maus gives readers a window into the deeply personal struggles of survivor’s guilt and post-Holocaust intergenerational trauma.

This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Flipping through this graphic novel’s pages, which are entirely illustrated with shades of indigo and cream, evokes feelings of nostalgia for the dreamy twilight “blue hour” between late adolescence and early adulthood. This One Summer is about Rose and Windy, childhood friends who reunite yearly when their families vacation at the same lake.

It’s also about the nuances of womanhood and sexuality told from the enlightening out-of-box perspective of a child and a pre-teen. This young adult graphic novel has won quite a few awards and it’s easy to see why.

Frida Kahlo: The Story of Her Life written and illustrated by Vanna Vinci

Frida Kahlo: The Story of Her Life, is a unique take on biography that tells Kahlo’s life story through her own posthumous perspective as she converses with death itself. Her colorful life, which features trials in romance, relationships, and pregnancy, is brilliantly illustrated in stunning hues. This novel is worth picking up for the illustrations alone, but its one-of-a-kind approach to biography makes it worth a read.

Give Graphic Novels a Try

While superhero-centered graphic novels are still prevalent and popular, the genre of illustrated literature has grown well beyond its manga and comic book roots. It branches into countless subgenres which include historical fiction, humor, science fiction, mystery, horror, romance, and so much more. Unlock an artful reading experience and pick up your first graphic novel today.

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