2019 has been a huge year for comic book adaptations, from Avengers: Endgame which was released earlier this year, to Joker, which is set to release this October. However, not all iconic comic books are based on superheroes. With the current overflow of Marvel and DC superhero movies, we tend to forget that some of the best graphic novels don’t necessarily revolve around characters with supernatural abilities. Here are some classics you may already be familiar with, but still need the recognition they deserve.
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Persepolis is a graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi. It portrays the author’s development from her childhood years up to her years as an early adult. It takes place during and after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and it tackles the complex political and social aspects of uprisings. What makes this piece so unique is that it is an autobiography written as a graphic novel. It also uses “visual literacy”, which is the notion that pictures can be “read”, to strengthen what the piece represents. TIME magazine included Persepolis in its “Best Comics of 2003” list for its heartfelt storytelling and unique art style, and it is definitely worth a read.
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Maus is an incredibly powerful graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, originally published in 1980. The story is a depiction of Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. It also includes in depth interviews that Spiegelman conducted with his father on the topic. All of the characters in the book are illustrated as anthropomorphic animals, yet it still maintains its dark and monstrous tone. It is a deep-rooted, complex narrative, dealing with identity and racism, and it is the first graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. The Comics Journal called it the fourth greatest comic book work of the 20th century. It takes a significant part of our world history and depicts it in a creative, yet brilliant way.
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The Adventures of Tintin is a series of comic books that started in 1929 by Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known as Hergé. Arguably the most popular European comic albums of the 20th century, the series has been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies. It has also been adapted for the theater, television, radio, and film. The most recent adaptation is Steven Spielberg’s 3D motion capture film released in 2011, based on the two albums The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws. The albums are set throughout a predominantly realistic depiction of the 20th century. They follow the hero, Tintin, a brave young reporter from Belgium, accompanied by his faithful dog Snowy (Milou in the French albums) as they travel around the world fighting crime and solving mysteries. The stories are well researched and have narrative elements that range from political thrillers, to science fiction mysteries. The albums are especially overlooked in the United States, and deserve more recognition than they get.
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