Graphic Novels, Rachel and Rebecca

Graphic Novels in the Real World

12.11.13 | Comment?

Superheroes and fantastical worlds aren’t the only things that are depicted in graphic novels. They’re also a great way to explore the ‘harder’ issues that real life throws up at us. Sometimes they’re a realistic, straightforward depiction of events and problems; other times they’re more allegorical. Some inspiring, some heart-rending, all of them well worth reading. Here are Nicola’s picks for the best graphic novels set in the real world:

When the Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs

Last year this graphic novel celebrated its twentieth birthday. Depicting an elderly couple’s response to a nuclear attack, it manages to feel as relevant today as it did when it was published, during the tail end of the Cold War. It is utterly heartbreaking, and probably is one of the most affecting graphic novels ever produced. Hilda and Jim seem not to comprehend the situation; they’re perfect stand-ins for ordinary people caught in events out of their control.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Arrival, Shaun Tan

There’s no dialogue in The Arrival, but Shaun Tan’s art more than carries the story. A man flees his homeland, leaving his wife and child behind. He struggles to adjust in a new place, eventually finding happiness and a sort of peace. This isn’t a land you’ve ever seen before; buildings twist into strange shapes and oddly shaped creatures live as pets and pests in a forest of a city. This doesn’t detract from the central theme, however. In a strange way, by removing it from a recognisable setting, Tan makes the story more universal.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsThe Resistance series, Carla Jablonski

If your homeland was invaded and occupied, what would you do? Would you fight for your country? Or would you say nothing and try to carry on? This series tells of a group of siblings growing up in a small town during the Nazi Occupation of France. They struggle to answer these questions, as the lines between enemy and friend become ever more complicated. There are three books in this series; Resistance, Defiance and Victory.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsHeart Transplant, Andrew H. Vachss

Sean is one of those kids who’s fallen through the cracks. He lives with his alcoholic mother and her dead-beat boyfriend, until their murder, which threatens to isolate him more. He finds a home with his mother’s boyfriend’s father “Pop”, and learns to defend himself against bullies. Right at the beginning of this graphic novel, Sean rejects the Hollywood outsider-gains-respect narrative. He doesn’t finish off the book being any more popular than he is. That’s not what this book is about. Instead, Pop helps him learn the hard lessons about being a man, and not letting the darkness inside you destroy your future.

book cover courtesy of SyndeticsFax from Sarajevo : a story of survival, Joe Kubert

The siege of Sarajevo lasted from 1992 to 1996, making it one of the longest sieges in the history of modern warfare. Thousands were killed in the siege, which part of the Bosnian war. This book is based off faxes a man called Ervin Rustemagic sent his friends, which detail the brutal conditions his family have to endure. Starvation, danger from snipers and mortar fire destroy any chance of a normal life for the citizens of Sarajevo. This is a fascinating book about modern conflict.

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