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10 Great Graphic Novels for Newcomers

If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, it can be hard to decide where to start.

You’ve got to think about genres and topics, art style, and length among other things. With so many graphic novels on the shelves, it can be overwhelming to know what’s worth your time.

If you’re a newcomer to graphic novels, never fear! I’ve put together a list of some really great graphic novels that would all be a safe choice for those that are thinking about getting into them. It needn’t be overwhelming knowing where to start; you’ll not go far wrong with one of these.

Hyperbole and a Half

I was given Hyperbole and a Half as a gift a few years ago and by page five I was laughing so hard I was crying. I can’t recall a book that has brought me more joy than this one. Written and illustrated by Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half is made up of half comics and half prose. Brosh writes about her life growing up, how strange she was as a kid and goes on to cover more serious topics like anxiety and depression.

Brosh’s prose is beautifully written and when it is combined with her adorably simple art style, it meshes together perfectly. For anyone looking for an easy read that is both funny and serious at different times, Hyperbole and a Half is a brilliant choice.

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Persepolis is quite a serious book, but it is such a powerful story that I always recommend it to those who consider graphic novels – or “comic books” as most people call them – to be only silly or about superheroes. Written by author Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is an autobiographical story about Satrapi’s life growing up during and after the Islamic Revolution.

Due to its controversial topics, Persepolis is one of the most challenged books of all time. Covering childhood in Iran and the political and social change that came with the Islamic Revolution, Persepolis is a must read for young adults and adults alike.

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Ghost World

When Ghost World released starting in 1993 it grew to critical acclaim, eventually becoming a cult classic. Created by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World follows the day-to-day lives of two best friends, Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer – both of whom are intelligent and witty, yet cynical, teenagers. Readers follow the two characters as they wander about their American town wondering what to do with their lives. (So pretty much every person right after high school.)

As the novel continues the characters find themselves getting into college, finding significant others, and growing apart. With an intriguing art style and easy-to-follow story it’s a great choice for new graphic novel readers.

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I think Watchmen might have been my very first foray into the graphic novel genre. It was when I was in middle school (maybe high school) and my next door neighbour – who was also my best friend so I wanted to read everything he was reading – was working his way through the large book. Peeking at the artwork and the words, I was truly obsessed.

Written by Alan Moore, Watchmen is a satirical look at superheroes. The story follows detective Rorschach as he investigates the murder of The Comedian, a hired “hero” for the U.S Government. Rorschach believes this to be a plot against all masked “heroes” and sets out to warn some of his past friends. Beautifully drawn and brilliantly written, Watchmen is a must have for beginners.

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Without even reading it I knew I would love Lumberjanes. A female-centric story about bad-ass ladies at summer camp? Count me in. The story follows Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley, a group of Lumberjane Scouts at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. The more adventures the girls go on, the more that these Lumberjanes realise that Miss Qiunzella’s might not be the “normal” summer camp they thought it was.

Some of the best parts about Lumberjanes are its little details, crazy creatures and wonderfully diverse characters. These lovely ladies are sure to win the hearts of anyone.

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Maus is another graphic novel that anyone who is a fan of the genre will be sure to recommend to you. Created by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman, Maus is a retelling of interviews that the artist had with his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. In the book, Jewish people are represented by mice, Germans are cats and the Polish are pigs.

Maus contains difficult topics for anyone to read but the book is so well written that you’ll likely want to read it in one sitting. It’s harrowing at times, but told so beautifully that it deserves to be on anyone’s shelves.

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Through the Woods

This title is a horror graphic novel for younger readers that contains five stories in one. Each of the five stories are connected by one thing – a dark, creepy forest. All of the book’s pages are dreamlike in nature and feature high quality art from artist Emily Carroll.

Released in 2014, Through the Woods is still one of the graphic novels that I’m always recommended by those that love the genre. It’s worth picking up over and over again.

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Just released last year, Pumpkinheads from author Rainbow Rowell and artist Faith Erin Hicks is a heartwarming story about two friends working at a pumpkin patch. It’s Josiah and Deja’s very last year ever working at the pumpkin patch before they’re off to college, and Deja is ready to seize the evening and make some memories. Josiah, on the other hand, is feeling depressed about their final day and wishing for nothing more than to have a good, chill final night on the job.

Pumpkin Heads is a great graphic novel for beginners because it doesn’t have a complicated storyline or dozens of characters to focus on. And there’s the fact that the entire book is filled with delicious-looking food to inspire the cooks out there. It is simply a feel-good, lovely story that will make you long for autumn.

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Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy

A retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy is a touching story of family and love. What’s nice about this particular retelling is that it’s a modernised version of the tale. These four sisters are having a tough year with their father serving in the military overseas.

This graphic novel follows the four sisters as they struggle through school, jobs, sickness and more only to realise that the little things are easy when you’ve got each other. If you love Little Women, this one is a must have.

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Scott Pilgrim

Talk about classic graphic novels and Scott Pilgrim is going to be brought up. Released between 2004 and 2010, Scott Pilgrim is a comic book series that follows Canadian part-time musician Scott who falls in love with American delivery girl Ramona Flowers. In order to have a chance to date Ramona, Scott has to battle and defeat her seven evil exes.

Cleverly silly and wonderfully funny, there’s a reason Scott Pilgrim lasted seven years. Anyone looking for an easy read that you’ll breeze through in no time, this is the one.

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