Upstanding Comics: The Best Graphic Novels


Art by Jasmin

I always find the story. I’ll go to the store and end up talking to someone for 20 minutes about politics, love, or anything really. Then, when I finally make my way home, I’ll go through the entire sequence of causes and effects that led me to that conversation, to that moment. I had to run out of peanut butter at exactly the right time, and procrastinate going to the store almost to the second for that event to take place. And that’s where the story is, that chain of cause and effect that leads to another chain of decisions and actions that finally culminates in some end result. Isn’t that literature? Isn’t that what draws us in? A story we can relate to, one in which we can place ourselves, so we can learn the lessons too.

I guess what I’m getting at is that literature doesn’t have to be big and fancy. It just has to be relatable. People don’t need huge ideas or abstractions. They need journeys. They need answers.

Sometimes I feel like that fundamental idea is lost, and certain stories are ignored because of the way they’re presented. I would venture to argue that any story that moves someone, regardless of its medium, is literature. So, here I am, presenting literature the only way I know how: as a list. This list contains various comics and graphic novels that I have always held on the same level as literature.

  1. The Unwritten by Mike Carey

– This series follows the story of Tom Taylor and his fight against a mysterious cabal known as The Unwritten. I highly recommend this to anyone who has dressed up for a Harry Potter premiere.

– Other great comics by Mike Carey: Lucifer

  1. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

– This comic follows the lives of Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer, two teenage girls with no direction. A coming of age story, this comic focuses on growing up and leaving the familiar behind.

  1. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

– This series follows Dream, one of the Endless, and his journey of atonement for past cruelties. Recommended for any fans of fantasy, Neil Gaiman, or just a good story.

  1. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

– This limited series follows a revolutionary named V in his effort to overthrow a corrupt government in a futuristic United Kingdom. This story focuses on an individual’s right and duty to question his or her government. A must-read for anarchists and libertarians, but also for everyone.

– Other great comics by Alan Moore: Batman: The Killing Joke, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Lost Girls, Watchmen

  1. Maus by Art Spiegelman

– This graphic novel tells the story of Spiegelman’s father and his experience as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. Spiegelman’s work stands as a testament to the potential of the medium and was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

  1. Blankets by Craig Thompson

– This autobiographical graphic novel follows Thompson’s life from childhood to adulthood. It is a coming-of-age story about love and religion, and I recommend it for anyone who grew up in a Christian family.

  1. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

– This series follows the last man on earth after a strange plague wipes out every other male mammal on the planet. Through his subversion of gender roles, Vaughan gives us a brilliant social commentary, which I recommend to anyone who’s ever used the phrase “I wouldn’t _____ if you were the last man on earth.”


About Patrick McDonald

Writer, human. I like to ruin TV shows.


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