One of my favorite things to do is introduce new readers to the world of comics and graphic novels. Now I realize how overwhelming it can feel to enter a new genre without guidance, and so I’ve prepared the following set of comics and graphic novels that I think are perfect for new readers. These comics and graphic novels will ease you into the genre with their diverse spectrum of stories, illustrators, and writers exploring exciting new forms of storytelling. These are some of my personal favorites that will hook you and keep you wanting more recommendations for this new-to-you genre!
Juliet Takes A Breath: The Graphic Novel by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote
A great way to ease into this genre is by starting with titles that were initially written as novels and are now being adapted into graphic novels. You might be wondering: “why read both editions when you’ve read one?” Well, I would counter that visuals add a whole new layer to the reading experience, and that is no exception with Juliet Takes A Breath, a graphic novel that follows a Puerto Rican teen that has just come out to her family. This queer coming-of-age story is one of my absolute favorites because it tackles what it’s like to stand at two intersectionalities, being asked to choose one when you really are both. This one is about learning to embrace all of you.
City of Clowns by Daniel Alarcón and Sheila Alvarado
This vividly illustrated black and white graphic novel with touches of bold red is set in Peru and follows Chino, a journalist that works at a local newspaper. While mourning and remembering his complicated father that has recently passed, Chino begins to notice and document the lives of Lima’s street clowns, making connections to the lives they live in a violent and corrupt city to his own life. I personally found this story stunning because it featured a complicated relationship with a father, and the ways in which that relationship can impact your own life choices.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher, and Matt Wilson
I first decided to pick up Paper Girls after devouring another series written by Brian K. Vaughan, Saga! And I was not disappointed! A group of paper girls is fulfilling their paper routes on Halloween when they come across something strange: strange human-like aliens that aren’t actually human or from the present. It’s all so unclear ,but you are immediately hooked and true to Vaughan’s interesting approach to storytelling. This isn’t just a story about a group of badass paper girls, but a delicate and more profound unfolding of their lives. If you are a fan of the Netflix series Stranger Things—this one is DEFINITELY for you.
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
I have never fallen so hard for a superhero before Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, who starts off as just the typical bookish girl next door from Jersey City until something happens to give her special powers. It’s a heartfelt comic full of secrets to uncover and a beautiful journey of self-discovery through the lens of a Muslim teenager. It has also recently been made into a Disney+ TV series, so you can read the comics first and then indulge in the series!
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV, Cris Peter, Clayton Cowles and Lauren Sankovitch
In this badass comic series we are introduced to a cast of femme characters struggling to make it on a planet-turned-prison by a group of patriarchal overlords looking to control Earth. If you think this sounds too close to home and the current slightly exaggerated reality of where things are heading, then you’ll want to pick this comic up to help with any rage you might be feeling or to validate any fears too. This feminist sci-fi futuristic series at it’s core is about refusing to conform and pushing against societal pressures.
Blue Is The Warmest Color by Julie Maroh and Ivanka Hahnenberger
Perhaps this title sounds familiar because you’ve heard of the controversial film? Well if you haven’t heard of the film, you can skip it and instead read the graphic novel from which it was adapted. Originally written in French, this graphic novel will leave you truly heartbroken. If you are looking for something that will make you cry, it’s this coming-of-age love story that details the difficulties of coming out and learning to accept yourself in a world that tells you differently. The images themselves will glue themselves to your brain.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Despite the weather and joyful summer vibes, this time of the year for me personally can sometimes get a little cloudy—which is why I immediately gravitated to This One Summer. The illustrations in this graphic novel give you the sensation that you are wading in the ocean, while the topics/themes covered—change, sorrow and grief—remind you that even the summer sun can’t hide the often-sadder realities of living. In this one, you’ll follow teen summer friends Rose and Windy as they explore Awago Beach with their families and the drama they bring with them, as well as the drama they create while there. This one is excellent for any teen/adult seeking comfort and looking to find hope/joy when dealing with tougher moments that might arise during summer family trips.
Tonta by Jaime Hernández
Tonta centers one of Hernández’s many characters from his comic series Love and Rockets: a punk teen trying to survive the weekend with her arrogant half- sister. A family weekend that would of course not be considered a family weekend with the discovery of family secrets that lead to an unfolding of drama. I was incredibly excited to discover Hernández, because I was looking for Latinx/e illustrators/authors in the comic and graphic novel genre. I feel so lucky to have found him; all his characters are created vibrantly and I hope you’ll consider reading this one!
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, Natacha Bustos, Tamra Bonvillain, Travis Lanham, Mark Paniccia, Emily Shaw
I often recommend this comic series to anyone looking for some joy in their life. Moon Girl aka Lunella Lafayette is deeply afraid of her latent Inhuman gene that might transform her into a monster. This super kid genius ends up finding a device that she thinks might prevent her from transforming into a monster—but instead it brings a Devil Dinosaur to the present along with some Killer-Folk that want to hunt them both down. The adventurous and sweet Moon Girl will have you rooting for her and Devil Dinosaur from the very first page.
Kindred: A Graphic novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy, Octavia E. Butler, John Jennings, and Nnedi Okorafor
I don’t know about you, but everywhere I turn these days, someone is recommending Octavia E. Butler. While some will say Butler’s fictional sci-fi worlds written in the 1970s to 1990s feel like a too eerily accurate depiction of the present, many will forget that a lot of the topics she covers in her work have existed for centuries. This is exactly why I would recommend that anyone and everyone read something by Octavia E. Butler. Originally written as a novel, Kindred is one of Butler’s most well known works. It centers the main character Dana, who has been summoned from the 1970s to save the son of a plantation owner. The graphics in this novel will sear themselves into your brain.