Not your father’s comic books

Graphic novels have been steadily expanding their scope — and their readership. No longer focused squarely on reluctant-reader boys, today’s graphic novels run the gamut from action to drama, comedy, and even some romance.

tennapel cardboard 200x300 Not your fathers comic booksIn Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard, Cam Howerton’s out-of-work father is so broke, the best he can do for Cam’s birthday is an empty cardboard box purchased from a toy seller with two mysterious rules: return every unused scrap of cardboard and don’t ask for any more. From the box, father and son construct “Boxer Bill” — who comes to life. When the neighborhood bully gets wind of the cardboard man, he steals the scrap materials and begins turning out an evil empire of cardboard monsters. The graphic novel format, with its dynamic panels and fast pacing, is a perfect vehicle for this imaginative, action-packed tale. (Graphix/Scholastic, 11–14 years)

pyle takewhatyou 200x300 Not your fathers comic booksTwo stories unfold in alternating threads throughout Kevin C. Pyle’s Take What You Can Carry. One is the wordless story, rendered in sepia tones, of a Japanese American boy’s experiences in an internment camp. The other, washed in two shades of blue, is the more contemporary tale of a wayward teen caught stealing from a store owned by a Japanese American man. The boy’s punishment involves working weekends at the store, where he slowly comes to respect the owner — who is gradually revealed to be the youth of the first narrative strand. The store owner, too, grows to empathize with the thief, creating a rewarding arc of forgiveness and redemption. (Holt, 11–14 years)

hicks friendswithboys 212x300 Not your fathers comic booksFaith Erin Hicks’s Friends with Boys finds Maggie starting her first day of high school after having been homeschooled her entire life, her mother (her only teacher and the only other female in the house) having left the family suddenly the year before. Maggie has to tackle making friends, figuring out cliques, and finding her place among long-established groups on her own. Hicks excels at showing everyday adventures and contemplative moments in expressive, sharp black-and-white ink work and careful pacing. Evocative mysteries involving a broken friendship and a restless ghost add layers to Maggie’s world. Strong characters and excellent art give teens a girl’s slice of life. (First Second/Roaring Brook, 13–16 years)

bellstorf babysinblack 212x300 Not your fathers comic booksIn this quiet, atmospheric biographical graphic novel, Arne Bellstorf depicts the brief, intense, real-life love affair between Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe — the man known as “The Fifth Beatle.” Set in Hamburg, Germany, Baby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles (translated from the German by Michael Waaler) tells of talented young photographer Astrid—drawn as a cool, calm beatnik in a black turtleneck—growing close to the band in its early years. Beatles lyrics and lore are incorporated within the narrative, and the panel compositions re-create the spirit of Kirchherr’s own iconographic Beatles photography. Subtle facial expressions, thick black lines, and swirling ribbons of white cigarette smoke create a mood befitting the time. (First Second/Roaring Brook, 13–16 years)

share save 171 16 Not your fathers comic books
Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine and online content editor for The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*