How to Comic: Comics that teach you something

Introduction

When we typically think of comics and manga, we think of fictional stories. A dog who’s a cop or a pirate who can stretch his limbs like rubber. If you are more familiar with comics you’d likely read a graphic memoir, or a comic that is about someone’s real life experiences. But the world of comics is also filled with lots of informational nonfiction, from cookbooks to how-tos there are many comics out there that can help you learn.

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Archie Bongiovanni

Archie Bongiovanni

In the theme of comics that teach, the Quick & Easy Guide series are great, and the Guide to They/Them Pronouns in particular breaks down the idea of pronoun options and how to use them in an approachable format. It's like a conversation with friends that happens to help people better understand the existence and usage of pronouns beyond she and he. Though it's focused of course on they, the lessons it teaches can easily be applied to neopronouns and other gender-neutral pronouns like xie or ey.

Appeals to

This series and this comic in the series in particular is great to have on hand in a classroom, especially since it's available as a bundle, as a resource for anyone with questions on how to be better allies or build empathy, or start learning about a topic they may not want to ask someone about just yet. The smaller size of these comics makes them unobtrusive and approachable as well since it's not a giant academic-looking book. None of the guides are exhaustive, of course, but they have further resources at the back of each comic and can serve as ways to get conversations started.

Creator Identities:

Gay |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Gay |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Embrace Your Size

hara

In an autobiographical story, hara chronicles her struggles with accepting her body and fighting against society's standards of beauty. It's part guide for anyone reading to help them along their own journeys and part confessional of how hara's fight has had its ups and downs. Hara goes over harmful dieting and the mental side effects of being treated as less for her size and is expected to get thinner, but she also shows her process of turning that around and finding joy in her size.

Appeals to

There are few people who wouldn't benefit from reading about how harmful beauty standards are and how important it is to embrace the bodies we have, but this is especially helpful for teens and adults who are facing these struggles. Hara's illustrations are sweet and sad, and though of course there's not one easy answer to these problems, seeing hara's process is beautiful.

Content Notes

Discussions of extreme dieting, mental breakdowns

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Cynthia Levinson

Ally Shwed

What’s up with the Electoral College? What powers does the president actually have? Why can it be so difficult to pass laws? These are just a few of the questions Fault Lines in Our Constitution covers! With examples throughout U.S. history up through Trump’s term, Fault Lines in the Constitution explains the framers’ rationale behind the Constitution and the impact their decisions have had on the American government, and, by turn, American society. Fault Lines in the Constitution asks how effective the Constitution has been and what changes might improve our system.
Fault Lines in the Constitution is part of First Second’s World Citizen series, a series of graphic novels focused on political and civic issues, such as voting rights, misinformation, and immigration.

Appeals to

Teens and adults curious about modern politics and civics--specifically the Constitution and its impact on modern politics--will want to check out Fault Lines in the Constitution.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections

Ian Rosenberg

Mike Cavallaro

Everyone, whether they are correct or not, feels they know what the First Amendment is and what rights it protects, but how many of us actually understand those protections and the Supreme Court cases that have both defined and refined what "free speech" means? Frequently using contemporary comparisons to frame the discussion, this graphic novel takes the reader through 10 Supreme Court cases throughout American history that have shaped how we as a nation understand and interpret the First Amendment.

Appeals to

Required reading for anyone who wants to better understand, defend, and uphold the First Amendment.

Content Notes

Occasional use of profanity.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day

Dan Nott

Every day, people use the Internet, get water from the tap, flush the toilet, and power all of their gadgets with electricity. But how much do you know about these systems? With illustrations that capture these systems’ massive scale and individual details, Dan Nott tells the story of these three systems and their impact on wider issues such as social inequality and climate change.

Appeals to

Older tweens, teens and adults interested in these essential services’ history and current impact will want to pick this approachable guide.

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Let's Make Dumplings: A Comics Book Cookbook

Hugh Armano

Sarah Becan

When was the last time you read a cookbook cover to cover? Probably never, right? Well with "Let's Make Dumplings" you won't want to miss any of the colorful illustrations or interesting tidbits about dumplings across Asia. This cookbook meets graphic novel not only depicts the food, but all the steps along the way, making things like intricate folding techniques easy to understand. Ten Speed Press has put out two other Let's Make titles: "Let's Make Ramen" and Let's Make Bread as well as "Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes".

Appeals to

Aspiring chefs and food lovers of all kinds!

Creator Identities:

Japanese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Maker Comics: Draw a Comic!

J P Coovert

Young readers can learn how to bake, make a costume, survive outdoors, and so much more with the Maker Comics series! In Maker Comic: Draw a Comic, Cooverts uses the medium of comics to show reading what goes into making a comic. This title covers planning and storyboarding, creating thumbnails, inking your work, what supplies you'll need to get started, and how to copy your work to share with others. It also encourages readers to practice along with the characters in the book, so by the time they finish they will have made a comic themselves.

Appeals to

Comic fans will love this behind-the-scenes peek at how they are made, whether they are interested in drawing their own or not.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo

Yuko Uramoto

Have you been curious about The KonMari Method but the idea of reading a book on cleaning sounds a little...dry to you? Now you can enjoy the wisdom of organization guru Marie Kondo in the form of a manga. In each chapter, our author and tidying consultant takes us from deciding to tidy up our space to keeping our space orderly once we've organized everything. There is even a narrative element to this how-to guide. Marie is helping 20-something Chiaki Suzuki tidy her space so that she can feel better when she's home and even make room in her life for romance.

Appeals to

Anyone who is looking for a little more order in their lives in 2024.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

What the Font?!

Kuniichi Ashiya

Marusu is a sales rep who suddenly has to take over designing logos at her company with no experience dealing with fonts or anything relating to logos. A personification of the Helvetica font appears to guide Marusu through the world of fonts, introducing her to different fonts often used in graphic design or visual art. The reader learns alongside Marusu about the history of different fonts, terminology for typography, and all kinds of factoids about the history of printing, publishing, and design. Learn about serif versus sans serif, what serif even means, and what difference those fonts have when used on a page.

Appeals to

While of course this book can be a helpful way for students of graphic design or visual art to learn a bit more about fonts and maybe more easily remember things about them with the anthropomorphized characters, it can also be a great pick for people who enjoy learning more of the technical side of font choice in comics and manga, or anyone interested in learning more about the history surrounding printing and publishing.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Hidden Gems: history

Introduction

In this latest installment of Hidden Gems, the Features Team has pulled together a list of history comics. We hope this list will introduce some unknown historical figures and titles that you may have missed.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- And Steal -- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Nick Bertozzi

In this graphic adaptation of the novel of the same name, Bertozzi and Sheinkin work to emphasize the danger to all involved and the horror of so many parts of the process of creating the atomic bomb. The comic includes perspectives from other countries and breaks down some of the complex espionage that was so much a part of this story and includes a page at the end discussing where some of the major players went after 1950.

Appeals to

A recent movie release might be increasing interest in learning about the atomic bomb, and Bomb is a great way to start their research with something more simplified that still gets a lot of the story across effectively. It's also a good way to help younger readers start to understand the complexity of this moment in history; when they're ready they can then read the novel this is based on, which goes into more depth on aspects of the story.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Ms. Davis: A Graphic Biography

Sybille Titeux de la Croix

In a saturated art style that harkens back to the golden age of comics, French cartooning duo Améziane and Titeux de la Croix tell the story of Angela Davis, scholar, and political activist for the rights of black Americans. They begin by describing Angela's roots, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and the novel culminates with her wrongful imprisonment for her suspected involvement in the 1971 Marin County courtroom gunfight and the fight by her and other activists to get her out of prison. This graphic novel shows why Ms. Davis's name should be on the lips of all who want to discuss those who fought to bring about justice for Black America.

Appeals to

Fans of Améziane and Titeux de la Croix's Muhammad Ali will love this new addition to their chronicling of Black leaders.

Content Notes

Gun Violence, Racism, Discussions of conditions in the US prison system

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Queer As All Get Out: 10 People Who've Inspired Me

Shelby Criswell

Cartoonist Shelby Criswell introduces the reader to ten queer historical figures that have inspired them. As they introduce the reader to more famous figures such as Pauli Murray and Dr. Magnus Hirschfield as well as individuals barely present in the historical record, Criswell reflects on their own journey and the state of queer rights.

Appeals to

Readers looking for an uplifting look at queer historical figures should pick this up. Another plus is that Criswell incorporates a range of nationalities and queer identities, so this is a great read for people who want to learn about non-American queer historical figures!

Content Notes

Mentions of trauma around racism, homophobia, and anti-queer bigotry come up, but Criswell generally keeps things positive and does not dwell on negative images. There is also some violence in some of the chapters and brief nudity intended to humiliate a queer person (although nothing is really visible).

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

African-American, Black |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Joel Christian Gill

A Black Union soldier rescues his child from slavery. Bass Reeves was one of the United States' most skilled marshals. These are just a few of the stories from Black history that Joel Christian Gill covers in his collection, Strange Fruit. With humor and expressive, impactful artwork, Gill brings to life these relatively unknown stories of African American success and triumph in the face of great adversity.

Appeals to

Teenage and adult readers who are interested in lesser-known American history and positive Black representation will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism; violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Hendrix

In a dangerous and unjust situation, how should individuals of faith respond? That is the question German priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer must answer when confronted with Adolf Hitler and his atrocities. Vividly drawn and richly researched, illustrator John Hendrix traces Bonhoeffer's personal journey and eventual involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

Appeals to

Readers looking for historical stories of resistance will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Discussion of death and violence, but little actual violent imagery--Hendrix relies a lot on powerful symbolic imagery to tell Bonhoeffer's story and discuss the historical elements.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Alicia Elliott

Natasha Donovon

Reconsider the last 150 years of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens with This Place, and not just one tribe but Métis, Inuit, Dene, Cree, Anishinaabe, Mi’kmaq, and Haudenosaunee perspectives. Each comic takes a different point in history and zooms in, focusing on a particular person or moment, whether external or internal, giving context the history books likely aren't. There's also a bibliography and works cited in the back of the book, for readers interested in taking deeper dives into these moments.

Appeals to

Readers who prefer nonfiction and are getting into comics may find this an approachable way to start, since it is an anthology so each story is told by a different author and artist or art style, so if they don't love one they can move on to another. Readers who already enjoy graphic memoirs will appreciate this entry into the world of nonfiction comics that while still giving a personal perspective, is less focused on one person's story and is instead the chorus of many voices on a similar topic. Also, feels like required purchasing for any school library in North America, to make sure students are getting as many perspectives on what they're learning as possible.

Creator Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Main Character Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Tokyo Rose-Zero Hero: A Japanese American Woman's Persecution and Ultimate Redemption after World War II

Andre Frattino

Kate Kasenow

If you were stranded in an enemy country, what would you do? Iva Toguri was forced to remain in Japan after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She refused to renounce her American partnership, and she put a defiant spin on her role as one of the women known as Tokyo Rose, a radio personality intended to demoralize American soldiers fighting the Japanese. When she returned to the United States, Iva was tried for treason.

Appeals to

Readers interested in stories of ordinary people confronting injustice and difficult odds should pick up Tokyo Rose.

Content Notes

Use of a racial slur

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice

Tommie Smith

This graphic memoir tells the story of Tommie Smith, who at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City decided to peacefully protest the treatment of black athletes and black Americans as a whole. This narrative covers Tommie's rise to fame as a track star, his path to the '68 Olympics, and the fallout from his discussion to protest.

Appeals to

Sports fans, young activists, and fans of graphic memoirs will find something to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

African-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Rebecca Hall

Hugo Martinez

In this compelling graphic novel, historian Rebecca Hall describes her experiences tracking down the history of women-led slave revolts. Readers follow Rebecca's journey as she struggles to locate resources and reconstruct these brave Black women's stories all the while wrestling with the slave trade's legacy.

Appeals to

Readers who are interested in "hidden" history and the process of researching and reconstructing history will be engaged with Wake. Readers who are interested in stories of Black resistance and the legacy of slavery will also want to read this as well.
Teaching resources and lesson plans are available on Rebecca Hall's website, https://rebhallphd.org/

Content Notes

Frank discussion and portrayal of slavery and the slave trade and the resulting emotional trauma; the portrayal of violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Emei Burell

Emei Burell's mother was sixteen when she was sent to the countryside as part of China's Down to the Countryside Movement. In We Served the People, Burell shares her mother's stories of life during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution--including working in the countryside before finally returning to her hometown, Beijing, to navigate complicated social pressures and work dynamics and fight for the education she desperately wanted.

Appeals to

We Served the People will appeal to teen and adult readers looking for stories about the Cultural Revolution and/or stories of women who overcame the odds.

Creator Identities:

Swedish |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Yummy: A History of Desserts

Victoria Grace Elliott

Peri, a sprite with a passion for food and excitement for the history of it, guides the reader through the history of some of the most popular desserts with the help of some of her fellow sprites. They wander through each dessert, providing commentary and looking into myths surrounding the desserts, giving readers a wider perspective of where modern desserts came from and how things can happen simultaneously across the world. It's cute, fun, and even has kid-friendly recipes.

Appeals to

Yummy is such a fun comic for young readers, making history approachable and a little silly as well as hands-on since they can try making things they're reading about. This would be a great choice for school libraries, as it could be used in history and science classrooms potentially, or for in-library programs partnering with those classes. It's not comprehensive, but it doesn't try to be; Yummy is focused on a few iconic desserts, and it does that well.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Lone Wolf and Cub

A samurai epic of staggering proportions, the acclaimed Lone Wolf and Cub begins its second life at Dark Horse Manga with new, larger editions of over 700 pages, value priced. The brilliant storytelling of series creator Kazuo Koike and the groundbreaking cinematic visuals of Goseki Kojima create a graphic-fiction masterpiece of beauty, fury, and thematic power.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Lone Wolf and Cub
By Kazuo Koike
ISBN: 9781616551346
Dark Horse, 2013
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Volumes available: 12 (Series complete)


Akira

Akira is set in the post-apocalypse Neo-Tokyo of 2019, a vast metropolis built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by an apocalyptic blast of unknown power that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when dormant paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, who becomes a target for a shadowy government operation, a group who will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like that which leveled Tokyo. And at the core of their motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear: a fear of someone — or something — of unthinkably monstrous power known only as…Akira. And Akira is about to rise.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Akira
By Katsuhiro Otomo
ISBN: 9781569714980
Dark Horse, 2000
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Volumes available: 6 (Series complete)


La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo

LA VOZ DE M.A.Y.O: TATA RAMBO is based on the oral history of Ramon Jaurigue, an orphan and WWII veteran who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization, which successfully lobbied the Tucson City Council to improve living and working conditions for members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, paving the way to their federal recognition. Meanwhile, Ramon’s home life suffered as his focus was pulled from his family to the wider community, and from domesticity to the adrenaline of the campaign. A resonant, neglected slice of American history is brought to life for the first time with art by J. GONZO, letter art by BERNARDO BRICE, editing by CLAIRE NAPIER, and a script by HENRY BARAJAS—the great-grandson of Ramon Jaurigue, a.k.a. Tata Rambo.

(Publisher Description)


La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo
By Henry Barajas
Art By J. Gonzo
ISBN: 9781534313637
Image, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Our Review

La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo

Fruits Basket

After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, plucky high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out…into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Sohma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret. But, as Tohru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Sohmas have a secret of their own–when touched by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Fruits Basket
By Natsuki Takaya
ISBN: 9780316360166
Yen Press, 2016
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Volumes available: 12 (Series complete)


Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team. Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely?until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders and the cheerleaders retaliate by making Charlie their figurehead in the ugliest class election campaign the school has ever seen. At stake? Student group funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms, but not both.

Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot deathmatch? Let’s do this!

(Publisher Description)


Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
By Prudence Shen
Art By Faith Erin Hicks
ISBN: 9781250779618
First Second, 2021
NFNT Age Recommdnation: Teen (13-16)


Our Review

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Dancing at the Pity Party

Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.

From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing–but also often funny–details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Dancing at the Pity Party
By Tyler Feder
ISBN: 9780525553021
Dial Books, 2020
NFNT Age Recommdnation: Teen (13-16)


Kiss Number 8

Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It’s everything she hoped high school would be… until all of a sudden, it’s not.

Her dad is hiding something big?so big it could tear her family apart. And that’s just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn’t want to kiss Adam… because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat.

(Publisher Description)


Kiss Number 8
By Colleen AF Venable
Art By Ellen T. Crenshaw
ISBN: 9781596437098
First Second, 2019
NFNT Age Recommdnation: Teen (13-16)


Our Review

Kiss Number 8

I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants tells the story of Barbara Thorson, an acerbic fifth-grader so consumed with fantasy that she doesn’t just tell people that she kills giants with an ancient Norse warhammer ? she starts to believe it herself. The reasons for Barbara’s troubled behavior are revealed through the course of the book, as she learns to reconcile her fantasy life with the real world.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


I Kill Giants
By Joe Kelly
Art By Ken Niimura
ISBN: 9781607069850
Image, 2014
NFNT Age Recommdnation: Teen (13-16)