By Audrey Quinn
Have you ever thought about writing your own comic or graphic novel, but are intimidated by the process?
Unlike other genres, comics, illustrated books, and graphic novels rely on both text and images to tell a story–you must be skilled in storytelling in both writing and drawing! So it’s normal to feel daunted by the process of starting a graphic novel.
If you’re feeling stuck, or just want some good book recs, check out these five graphic novels perfect for audiences of a variety of ages!
Five Graphic Novels for People of All Ages
Nimona by ND Stevenson
Nimona is a wonderful, hilarious, occasionally tear-jerking graphic novel about a shapeshifter of the same name who is determined to be the evil sidekick to “villain” Ballister Blackheart (who it turns out, isn’t actually such a bad dude at all).
Over the course of the story, Nimona and Ballister grow closer as they work to expose the systemic injustice and illegal experiments carried out by The Institute, a school that trains knights…among whichis Blackheart’s old love interest turned nemesis, Ambrosius Goldenloin.
sing sci-fi and fantasy elements, non-binary author ND Stevenson has crafted a masterpiece that explores what it’s like to be “othered,” and how power resides in the systems and people who are able to twist history for their own agendas.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
People who enjoy sci-fi stories set in space will love On a Sunbeam. It follows the main protagonist, Mia, who, after undergoing a painful separation from her girlfriend, Grace, at her boarding school, joins a group of architects restoring old buildings in outer space.
Each of the characters on the team–all women and non-binary people–has their own stories and relationships that Tillie Walden does a stunning job of zooming in on. So if you’re into Queer, space love stories with space ships that look like koi fish, family mysteries, fabulous castles, and crumbling ruins, and, On a Sunbeam is the graphic novel for you!
Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee
My little brother really enjoyed Reimena Yee’s Séance Tea Party graphic novel. It’s about Lora, a young pre-teen who feels alone after her friends start getting into more “cool teenager things,” like crushes, makeup, and cellphones.
Lora doesn’t understand those things, and is happy playing pretend with her dolls and stuffed animals, and taking them on awesome bike ride adventures (you go Lora)!
One day, she finds an old Ouijia Board, and decides to have a séance tea party…during which she meets her old imaginary friend Alexa, who is actually a ghost!
Lora and Alexa reconnect and bond over awesome imaginary adventures, and Alexa helps Lora make some human friends too. But, pretty soon, both girls must confront their fears about “growing up.”
This graphic novel is surprisingly deep, and I enjoyed it along with my brother. I would recommend it for kids ages 12 and up, and grown-ups too…especially those who are kids at heart, and maybe a little afraid of growing older.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Unlike the other graphic novels I’ve recommended so far, I haven’t yet read The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. I did, however, encounter it on another recommended books list, and after searching for it online, I got very distracted reading the free sample when I was supposed to be writing this blog post. It looks absolutely stunning.
The story is semi-autobiographical and follows Tiến Phong, a second-generation Vietnamese American teenager. Tiến has a crush on his best friend Julian, but doesn’t know how to come out to him, or to his mother, Helen (whose Vietnamese name is Hiến).
Throughout the novel, Tiến helps his mom practice English by reading her fairy tales–these end up being a way he, his mom, and their family connect with each other about their experiences of grief, otherness, and struggle to make their way through the world.
From what I’ve read so far, this is an excellent novel for teens and grownups alike.
Black AF: America’s Sweetheart by Kwanza Osajyefo
I’ve also only read a sample of Kwanza Osajyefo’s graphic novel, Black AF: America’s Sweetheart but, again, was immediately infatuated with it!
The story is about Eli, a fifteen-year-old Black girl living in rural Montana. Eli is adopted by a white family, and as she grows up, develops superpowers that her adopted father, a US government worker, forces her to hide “for her own safety.”
Eventually, a news story breaks about a secret U.S. prison detaining Black people with superpowers. It’s revealed that only Black people have superpowers, which makes many white citizens fearful.
Eli realizes she needs to help protect Black people who are being attacked by white people accusing them of having superpowers and threatening society as they know it, and make white people understand that they shouldn’t be afraid of empowered Black people.
To do this, Eli transforms into a superhero known as Good Girl, and sets out to help people across the country. Everything seems to be going well, until confronts a super-terrorist who threatens to upend all the good Eli has accomplished.
I thought the premise of this book was so cool, and it looks like a great book for people of all ages, especially those who like superhero stories!
Hopefully, you’ll be inspired enough by these awesome graphic novels to break out some pens and paper and start your very own!
Remember, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to make art and tell your story–just be you and write and draw from your heart!
Upcoming classes you might enjoy
Starts Dec 2 | Learn to write immersive stories intuitively in this 9-month online intensive fiction writing program.
Tuesdays 9:15-11:45 am | Get the butt in chair time you need to get your writing done.
From November to March, Join the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House and more to read, talk about, and create art around Roz Chast’s memoir in comics, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant.
Dec 9 | Join Nina Kiriki Hoffman to create a magical holiday story just for young writers!
Dec 10 | See StoryHelix stories come to life at a Minority Voices Theatre production of community stories
Dec 21 | Roll the dice and write a magical story for the holidays with award winning sci-fi fantasy author, Nina Kiriki Hoffman.