18 Graphic Novels Every Guy Should Read

The days of graphic novels being relegated to superhero fanboys are long gone. Many are works of art that rival classic novels when it comes to story and structure. If the last time you read a picture book was when you were in some OshKosh B’gosh overalls, it’s time to change that. Some of these are collections of comics, some were originally produced as books, and some, despite the term “novel,” are tremendous true stories. Here are 18 to get you started.

The Invisibles

The Invisibles has a cult-like following, and you might already be a fan without knowing it. Read through enough of the series and you’ll start to see lots of similarities with The Matrix like to the point where it seems obvious the Wachowski brothers used ideas and looks from The Invisibles series. Link

Black Hole

Mix a bit of teenage sex drive with drugs and murder, and you’d cover the basics of Black Hole. Of course, just saying those things doesn’t really encapsulate the genius of the story. As a strange STD rips through Seattle, you’ll oddly be transported back to your teenage years courtesy of the story and stunning art. Link

Watchmen

The movie got people into the graphic novel, and the graphic novel got people into, well, graphic novels. It can be your gateway drug as well whether you’ve seen the film or not. Link



Maus

Perhaps the most important graphic novel ever, Art Spiegelman’s Maus is based on Spiegelman’s father’s tales about being Jewish in Hitler’s Europe. It’s not light reading, but by giving each group their own animal, Spiegelman brings an odd sense of approachability to such a heavy topic. Link

Sin City

If you were a fan of the first movie, and plan on seeing Sin City: A Dame to Kill For this weekend, you should probably read the series. The movies follow very closely to what’s on the page, and that’s a good thing. Link

Blankets

Looking for a graphic novel on the exact other end of the spectrum from Sin City? Blankets is a good choice. With the raw emotion of a classical novel, Blankets is a sprawling coming-of-age story by Craig Thompson that clocks in at a cool 600 pages. Link

The Sandman

In some circles, Neil Gaiman is like Daniel Day-Lewis: a celebrity somehow bigger than celebrity itself. A large portion of this acclaim comes from The Sandman series. It’s like being sucked down a storytelling rabbit hole but enjoying the complexity of the dream world Gaiman created. Link

Box Office Poison

Characters are like layers in this graphic novel, each adding something new as they’re introduced and developed. Don’t let the daunting size fool you, you’ll tear through the 600+ pages of city life quickly. Link



The Dark Knight Returns

We tried to make it a point to keep the superhero talk to a minimum, but The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is just that good. Time goes by, Batman retires, and slowly Gotham sinks back into chaos, and so begins the Dark Knight’s return. This and Batman: Year One are worth a read to satisfy that superhero-loving kid inside you. Link

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

This graphic novel is what happens when an author has a fully realized vision for an experimental work before he even begins putting pen to paper. Complete with instructions, paper cut-outs, and other unique elements, the novel is about a lonely “everyman” who fantasizes about being The Smartest Kid on Earth. Spend some time with it, let it get to you, and it will sink under your skin. Link

Building Stories

Let’s knock out two Chris Ware “books” in succession. Building Stories came out in 2012 and won numerous awards for its cleverness and its narrative. If you liked Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth but wanted more of Ware’s creativeness, this is where you should turn. The whole thing arrives like a board game box full of pieces for you to devour and put together. Link

From Hell

While we did enjoy V for Vendetta, for our money, From Hell is Alan Moore’s masterpiece. Based on the story of Jack the Ripper, the book somehow beautifully matches the art with the feel of the story. It’s gorgeous in a gruesome sort of way. Link

Asterios Poly

The finest thing about Asterios Polyp is Polyp himself and the character development throughout the graphic novel. At the center of this grandiose tale is a character who keeps you drawn to the page. The second you finish it, you’ll want to start it right back up again. Link

The Great Outdoor Fight

The rise of web comics has given the art a new lease on life. One of the cult classics is Achewood, and even if you’ve never heard of it, this book will make you hop online the second you finish it. The book contains the comic’s story arc of the Great Outdoor Fight, a yearly no-holds-barred competition among 3,000 men. The art is simple but the story is great. Link

It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken

The greatest art is created from real emotion, and while Seth (Gregory Gallent) has said It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken is a work of fiction, it’s impossible not to imagine the author’s search for place and purpose didn’t filter into the work. It’s moody, nostalgic, and infused with cigarette smoke. Link

Ghost World

Unbeknownst to some, the film Ghost World was actually inspired by this epic graphic novel from Daniel Clowes. One of the few works that actually nails the complexities of being a teenager. Link



The Planetary Omnibus

The safe Warren Ellis pick is Transmetropolitan, and while it’s pretty damn stellar, we couldn’t get enough of Planetary. The story follows a collection of characters on their search for universal secrets like monsters and super computers. The art is tremendous and the story is odd and brilliant. Link

Fun Home

A self-professed “tragicomic,” Fun Home is the epic graphic novel from the author of the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” The story blends moments of sadness with clever humor all while twisting and turning through the mysterious death of the protagonist’s father. Link

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  • gregoire

    Where’s Preacher? Clearly an incomplete list. Next a list with mangas.

  • A. Eaton

    “Y: The Last Man” is also a fantastic read.

  • WW

    and Corto Maltese

  • Midnitegin

    Great list – Building Stories has such depth, and often times without a single line of text. I would also suggest Jeff Lemire’s “Underwater Welder.”

  • gOOdGame

    Absolutely. This list is nothing without that one on it.

  • Ali

    Black Sad

  • 4d3d3d3

    Completely agree. Y still remains one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read.

  • MK

    Preacher should be on this list

  • Jonny Bernstein

    That is an understatement. It should be atop this list.

  • nicholas1987

    Superman Red Son and Old Man Logan should be on this list.

  • Erin

    I hope it’s okay that I most all of these.

  • John Smith

    Both DMZ and 100 Bullets were really good also.

  • Modi

    “Kingdom Come” although a super hero graphic novel, the panels by Alex Ross coupled with the story of an aged Justice League fighting a younger more reckless generation of super heroes has enough heavy drama to suck any reader into a world where billion dollar block buster films of today only wish they could accomplish.

  • Brandywine

    Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.