Illustrated Lives: Biographies and Memoirs in Graphic Novel Form

If you have never read a graphic novel – maybe because you find yourself reluctant to pick one up or assume that they’re all superhero stories or just for kids – perhaps an illustrated biography or memoir might tempt you to give them a try. Illustrated biographies are a very popular genre and there are plenty of them to get into. Perhaps you could give one or two of these suggestions a go?

Johnny Cash : I see a darkness : a graphic novel / Kleist, Reinhard
“Cash was a 17-time Grammy winner who sold more than 90 million albums in his lifetime and became an icon of American music in the 20th century. Graphic novelist Reinhard Kleist depicts Johnny Cash’s eventful life from his early sessions with Elvis Presley (1956), through the concert in Folsom Prison (1968), his spectacular comeback in the 1990s, and the final years before his death on September 12, 2003.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

It’s lonely at the centre of the Earth : an auto-bio-graphic-novel / Thorogood, Zoe
“The 2023 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award winning cartoonist, Zoe Thorogood, records six months of her own life as it falls apart in a desperate attempt to put it back together again in the only way she knows how. It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth is an intimate and meta-narrative look into the life of a selfish artist who must create for her own survival. A poignant and original depiction of a young woman’s struggle with mental health–through the ups and downs of anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome–as she forges a promising career in sequential art and finds herself along the way.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Andre the Giant : closer to heaven / Easton, Brandon M.
“He was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and became an inspiration for millions of wrestling fans all over the globe. While his in-ring exploits were full of flash and spectacle, the personal life of Andre “The Giant” Roussimoff was complicated by an excess of partying and the devastating physical toll of his deteriorating health. This graphic novel biography explores the bookmarks of Andre’s story.” (Catalogue)

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir / Bui, Thi
“The author describes her experiences as a young Vietnamese immigrant, highlighting her family’s move from their war-torn home to the United States in graphic novel format. “Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.” (Catalogue)

Josephine Baker / Bocquet, José-Louis
“Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires. After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally. She led by example, and over the course of the 1950s adopted twelve orphans of different ethnic backgrounds: a veritable Rainbow Tribe. A victim of racism throughout her life, Josephine Baker would sing of love and liberty until the day she died.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Che Guevara : a manga biography / Shimano, Chie
“An extraordinary illustrated graphic novel about the legendary political figure Che Guevara. His name is equated with rebellion, revolution, and socialism. Che Guevara’s life has been explored and portrayed in numerous books and films, including The Motorcycle Diaries, and he continues to captivate the public imagination more than forty years after his death. Guevara became politically active in his native Argentina, but gained notoriety after he met Fidel Castro and became instrumental in Castro’s efforts in Cuba. Guevara then went on to Bolivia, where he was captured and killed by the Bolivian army while trying to incite revolution. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Calamity Jane : the calamitous life of Martha Jane Cannary, 1852-1903 / Perrissin, Christian
“Return to the real-life days of the wild, wild West where the living wasn’t so easy… especially for women. Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Cannary) was a bona fide frontierswoman, a professional scout, a drunk, and sometime sex worker, doing whatever it took to stay alive in the hardscrabble days of American expansion.” (Catalogue)


California dreamin’ : Cass Elliot before the Mamas & the Papas / Bagieu, Pénélope
“Before she was the legendary Mama Cass of the folk group The Mamas and the Papas, Ellen Cohen was a teen girl from Baltimore with an incredible voice, incredible confidence, and incredible dreams. She dreamed of being not just a singer but a star. Not just a star–a superstar. So, at the age of nineteen, at the dawn of the sixties, Ellen left her hometown and became Cass Elliot. At her size, Cass was never going to be the kind of girl that record producers wanted on album covers. But she found an unlikely group of co-conspirators, and in their short time together this bizarre and dysfunctional band recorded some of the most memorable songs of their era. Through the whirlwind of drugs, war, love, and music, Cass struggled to keep sight of her dreams, of who she loved, and – most importantly – who she was.” (Catalogue)

Hyperbole and a half : unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened / Brosh, Allie
“Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices. This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written. Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Leonard Cohen : on a wire / Girard, Philippe
“A young Cohen traded in the promise of steady employment in his family’s upscale Montreal garment business for the unlikely path of a literary poet. His life took another sharp turn when, already in his 30s, he recorded his first album to widespread international acclaim. Along the way he encountered a who’s who of musical luminaries, including Lou Reed, Nico, Janis Joplin, and Joni Mitchell. And then there’s Phil Spector, the notorious music impresario who held a gun to Cohen’s head during a coke-fueled, all-night-long recording session.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The big book of losers : pathetic, but true tales of the world’s most titanic failures / Kirchner, Paul
“For everyone who thinks they have it bad, there’s someone else who has it worse – except for the people profiled in this wonderful new collection who’ve had it worse than ANYONE! The bottom of the heap in misfortune, the end of the line in unlucky, the last word in pathetic; their stories as interpreted by some of the world’s finest comic artists, are all gathered here in this bumper compendium of mankind’s most amazing failures. There but for the grace of God go you!” (Catalogue)

To explore our collection of graphic novels further, go to: Comics | Popular Topics (

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