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24 Of The Most Powerful Graphic Novels

When visually creative worlds and powerful narratives collide.

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1. ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini

Dark Horse

"It taught me a worldview that I didn't get from school or religion. It taught me to embrace life and all its rich experiences. It taught me to choose love and acceptance over hatred and bitterness (even when being bitter and hateful is totally justified). It showed a world where gender and orientation differences were simply accepted as normal and celebrated. It taught me to love and appreciate the natural world. All without being preachy or saccharine. It was a major factor in coming out and becoming the adult that I am today."

Submitted by David Miz, Facebook

2. Blankets by Craig Thompson

Top Shelf Productions / Craig Thompson

"I read this in the midst of a terrible breakup. I stayed up one night reading all 600 pages of it in one sitting, sobbing my eyes out as my own failed experience in love was seemingly poured out on the pages in front of me. Every stroke of his brush is thoughtful, deliberate, and full of emotion. It’s an exquisite example of the graphic novel art form and remains my personal favorite."

Shea Standefer, Facebook

3. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

DC Comics / Vertigo

"It showed me how to grieve loss — even when that loss is the person you were before something irrevocably changed you. The death of a point-of-view. I have Tempus Frangit written into a tattoo of mine to honor my friend Ariel who passed away suddenly. Words and art are the most powerful combination. Sandman is an incredible masterpiece."

Submitted by meghanjlee

4. Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Vertigo

"This book was assigned to the entire incoming freshman class at my university last year. I even wrote a short story inspired by it for the project that was required. It makes you realize that life is short and messy. One choice can influence your entire life. Honestly it’s one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read."

Submitted by laurac796

5. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch

Simon & Schuster

"It let me know that I'm not the only person out there struggling with depression. That book expressed how I feel in ways I hadn't been able to articulate. It's an amazing book that everyone should read."

Submitted by Lindsay Moore, Facebook

6. Watchmen by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Dave Gibbons

DC Comics

"It was depressing and heart wrenching, but I felt so much more grown up after reading it. I feel like the idea that you should be skeptical of authority and never follow anything blindly was a good lesson for me to learn."

Submitted by Emily E. M. Crawford, Facebook

8. Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Glénat, Arsenal Pulp Press

"It shows the life of a teenager discovering and accepting her sexuality. It made me realize that it's OK to love someone, no matter who. It's my favorite and has a deep personal meaning to me."

Submitted by Diandl23

9. Maus by Art Spiegelman

Pantheon Books

"Maus I and II are the reason that I first began reading about the Holocaust and one of the reasons I'm studying it today. It's by far one of the most true and horrifyingly descriptive Holocaust memoirs I've ever read; it may be tough to read, but it's one of the most important books ever printed, in my opinion."

Submitted by TheresaMcSmackin

10. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

Verigo

"This was the first graphic novel I ever read and it cemented that graphic novels were going to be a part of my life from that point on. I was completely captivated by this true story of a group of lions navigating the desimated streets of Baghdad after the zoo in which they live is destroyed by bombs. The story is a gut wrenching, heartbreaking and surreal glimpse into the Iraq War that is perfectly illustrated in the gorgeous artwork of Niko Henrichon."

Submitted by Lisa Koski, Facebook

11. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephan Collins

Macmillan Publishers

"It helps me to remember that you don't have to conform and it's OK to be who you want to be. And that those who judge you for it are different, not you."

Submitted by evelynwo2000

12. The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

Self Made Hero

"Not only because it's beautifully drawn, but mainly because of the topic and the subject of the story. It's about a young woman that suffers from OCD and she hates herself for that. The whole story is about accepting ourselves and learning to live with our defects in order to improve from them."

Submitted by Mosi Simão, Facebook

13. Lost At Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Oni Press

"It literally felt at the time like he was the only person in the world that fully understood how I was feeling. And [could] make me laugh about it."

Submitted by Meg Darlig, Facebook

14. Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz

Three Rivers Press

"I found this gem when I had first moved to New York City, so it spoke to my soul. Great novel for anyone dealing with moving, adjusting to an entirely new place and feeling alone, or struggling to transition to adulthood. Made me laugh, cry, and I related to Julia's misfortunes all too well."

Submitted by Jared Redman, Facebook

15. Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown

Top Shelf Productions

"It's short and sweet and beautifully captures all the emotions involved in a long distance relationship. His style is so true to life, capturing the intimacy involved in just 'hanging out' with someone. I read it as a teen, and it still has a place on my bookshelf today."

Submitted by maddisonmccauleyh

16. The Runaways

Marvel Comics

"I first read it at that age where I loved my parents but was starting to question them, and seeing these kids struggling with the knowledge that their parents weren't as right and all-knowing as they thought spoke to me. Now that I'm older, the themes about not wanting to grow up and become like the people who raised you really get to me. And I'm sure if I ever have kids I'll probably understand the parents a little better with regards to the things they were willing to do to secure a better world for their children."

Submitted by pinkrobin

17. American Splendor by Harvey Pekar

Ballantine Books

"The premise that 'You can do anything with words and pictures' opened my mind. What really attracted me the most and still helps me is that he portrays with raw honesty what being a human being is like: 'Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.' Reading it makes you understand that you are not alone and that what you are going through can be dealt with (without being a chicken soup for the soul)."

Submitted by Loreley Loreley, Facebook

19. All-Star Superman

DC Comics

"I first read it at a pretty dark time in my life and everything about it, from the engaging story to the emotional weight of it, helped pull me back into the light. Especially the moment when Superman rushes across Metropolis to stop a girl from killing herself and he tells her how much stronger she is than she'll ever know. I cry every time I read it. Every. Stinking. Time."

Submitted by alexp4b091b3c3

20. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Image Comics

"It kept me inspired to pursue a career in illustration and storytelling, as well as offering lessons about family, racial prejudice, war, and, of course, love. It's beautifully drawn and written. It's also hilarious, unique, emotional, and sometimes ridiculous. Fiona Staples is a goddamn queen."

Submitted by sarahthefax

21. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

DC Comics / Vertigo

"Alan Moore's commentary on the government, and the ways we are willing (or not) to participate (and to feel) will always stick with me."

Submitted by lizt452474798

22. Mail Order Bride by Mark Kalesniko

Fantagraphics

"When I was younger I was afraid of growing up because I'd have to do things by myself. The main character, Kyung, is also afraid of doing things by herself, but she never gets over her fear and she stays in an unhappy marriage to a man she can't stand who has friends she doesn't like because she let her fear rule her. It didn't teach me to do things alone so much as it taught me that letting your fear rule you will always make you unhappy."

Submitted by Bunnywith

23. The Phoenix by Osama Tezuka

VIZ

"It was the first time I was really introduced to ideas about life and how we think from a totally different perspective and culture. That book helped me through a time where I was struggling with my religion. It helped me open up my mind and be OK with taking my time to understand things which can seem incomprehensible."

Submitted by andcar301

24. I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura

Image Comics

"I read the entire book in one day and cried myself to sleep after finishing it. Barbara is such a great character and her story is just heartbreaking. The whole theme of 'killing giants' was a great metaphor for overcoming life's obstacles. This book really helped me get through a tough time, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a solid and compelling story."

Submitted by mjewels

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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