New to Graphic Novels? Start With These 11 Titles

by Amy Sachs

The comic book world — graphic novels in particular — can be an intimidating one, especially if you've never branched out there before. Comic book stores themselves can be daunting. All of those shelves with those tiny volumes organized by... what? Genre? Author? Is it like the book store? It seems more complicated than that. And everyone seems to know exactly what they want. How is that possible? Where did they start? But as someone who was new this year to comic books and graphic novels herself, I'm here to tell you things don't have to be incomprehensible.

The most surprising thing for me was that there were graphic novels for literally everything. Everything I love about novels and memoirs was just as great in graphic novel form. How had I not known? Here are 11 graphic novels to get you into the comic book store (or the comic book section of your favorite book store), no matter what you usually like to read.

For the Memoir-Reader

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is the true story of a daughter's complicated relationship with her parents, and her father in particular. Alison Bechdel deals with topics familiar to any memoir reader: gender and sexuality, family and relationships, life, and literature. The graphics bring the story to life as you read, giving a new dimension to the memoir genre.

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For the Feminist

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

The comic book world is arguably dominated by male characters. Sure there's Wonder Woman, and Black Widow, but few others have the fame of those two. Ms. Marvel breaks down not just that wall but the barriers of diversity as well. A 16 year old Pakistani girl, Kamala Khan, is trying to balance the expectations of her immigrant parents, her own desires, and her undying love of superheroes, when she becomes Ms. Marvel, a modern incarnation of Captain Marvel. If you've been looking for a strong female role model amidst the comic book world, look no further!

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For Fantasy Fans

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

With its incredible artwork and story line, not to mention its humor and wit, Saga is a world of its own. Literally. The story of two parents from warring planets, this series is especially perfect for fans of Star Wars and other fantasy books such as Game of Thrones. Winner of numerous awards with four graphic novel volumes already released, Saga is a great introduction to the comic book world.

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For the Hipster

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

This book is completely unique. Whether or not you read graphic novels, the title alone is enough to draw you into this one. It's a look at society as we know it, the way we look at the people around us, and the villain of the story is ... a beard.

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For the Superhero Fan

Civil War by Mark Millar

This one is coming to the big screen sometime in the next couple of years, so you might as well get a jump on reading it now! Civil War is a look at what would become of the Marvel universe if all of the heroes we've come to know and love, turned against each other.

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For the YA fanatic

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer is likely to draw in new comic book readers with just the artwork alone. Beautifully drawn in purple and blue ink, This One Summer is the story of two young friends, Rosie and Windy, as they grow up and face the complexities of adolescence together at their summer homes on Awago Beach.

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For the Chef

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley is a self defined foodie. Relish is a memoir, with each section opening with a detailed recipe, and each life event is outlined by what food Lucy was making at the time. Told with humor and detailed artwork done by Knisley herself, Relish is the story of a love affair with food.

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For Those Looking for a Laugh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh's well loved Hyperbole and a Half was a Goodreads Choice Award winner last year, and will have comic book readers old and new laughing out loud. Based on the blog of the same name, Hyperbole and a Half tells anecdotes and stories from Brosh's life, with hand drawn illustrations done on Paintbrush, and featuring the ever popular ALL THE THINGS! meme throughout.

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For the Fairy Tale Fan

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

"It came from the woods. Most strange things do." With these chilling lines, Emily Carroll's Through the Woods draws readers into the fantastic, mystical world she creates. It's something out of your favorite childhood fairy tale, it just takes a turn for the chilling, and sometimes, the macabre.

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For the Classic Reader

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Po Tse

If you're just not ready to let go of your well worn, much loved copy of Pride and Prejudice yet, but still maybe want to give graphic novels a try, pick up Po Tse's illustrated edition of the beloved story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet!

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For the Young Reader

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Skottie Young

This one is tiny, but completely hilarious no matter what age you are. This is perfect for younger readers who are new to comics and graphic novels, or older readers who are fans of Neil Gaiman and looking to branch out. Fortunately, the Milk is the story of a dad left alone with his kids for a few days, and despite his wife's best laid plans, forgets to buy the milk. What ensues are his fantastic adventures as he tries to obtain the milk and return home in time for breakfast.

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Image: Morebyless/Flickr