The world of comics isn’t limited to superhero battles or Archie and Jughead stories. They can be the gateway to learning about historical events that took place decades ago.
Graphic illustrations in comics about history can capture the essence of historical events, addressing prevalent issues by looking into the past visually.
If you want to dive into a history lesson without the boredom, take a look at the following best graphic novels about modern history, detailing historical events from a unique perspective.
MAUS, by Art Spiegelman, depicts the events of the Holocaust from a survivor’s perspective. The author, however, takes a completely postmodern approach while trying to narrate his father’s story as a Polish Jew survivor of World War II.
Spiegelman uses animals such as Mice, Cats, Pigs, Dogs, etc., to depict different identities, such as Jews, Germans, Poles, and Americans, and recounts events of the War and Nazi concentration sites from 1933-1938. This makes the illustrations more captivating and unique.
An autobiographical take visualizing the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, Persepolis is written by Marjane Satrapi, who draws upon her life’s years in Iran and Austria. The title refers to the Persian Empire’s historical capital.
Through a series of black-and-white images, Satrapi lets readers picture her rebellious, alter-ego personality in Islamized and war-torn Iran. The series of comics follow her life’s journey to Europe, where she navigates Western life and then makes her way back to a Post-Islamic Revolution Iran.
3. They Called Us Enemy
This autobiographical memoir illustrates George Takei’s Japanese American identity subjected to legalized racism as his family gets imprisoned in American Concentration Camps during World War II in mid 1940s.
Takei retells his childhood and events in the camp surrounded by barbed wires, where he witnesses fights, arrests, and states of emergency. As Takei’s mother denounces her citizenship, the end of the war brings concerns of heightened racism.
Readers can get enthralled by visual depictions of conversations that stem from fear of persecution in this historically packed graphic novel.
4. Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts
In this graphic memoir, Rebecca Hall tells the story of Black women and their significant role in leading slave revolts. She employs research in archives to create a story that describes the lives of Adono and Alele, two black slave women who rebelled for freedom.
The comics utilize a superhero style of illustrations to depict stories of other enslaved women who were part of the rebellion of 1712 and led slave movements for freedom in New York. Hall uses her historical imagination to draw attention to their narratives.
This graphic novel by Joe Sacco sketches the events taking place on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 90s, marked by the failure of the peace process initiated by the Clinton government before the end of the first Uprising.
The somewhat cartoonish illustrations deviate from mainstream perceptions of the conflict between Israel and Palestine and explain the stories of many Palestinians who have suffered tremendously due to it. Sacco’s storytelling is exceptionally comical but, at the same time, genuine and hard-hitting.
6. Mark: Trilogy
John Lewis, a U.S. congressman and a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, gives an account of his life’s story through this autobiographical comic trilogy. The black and white illustrations provide an insider view of protests raged by Civil Rights Activists in America as they confronted state troopers in the 1960s.
The illustrations in this trilogy sequentially follow Lewis’ life as a young boy in the fields of Alabama. It goes up to his role as an activist and finally as a U.S. congressman preparing for the inauguration of America’s first Black President.
7. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood
This graphic novel by Nathan Hale engages readers in its true stories of World War I. Similar to ‘MAUS’, Hale uses animals for people to describe famous battles, world leaders, and various technological developments on the cusp of WWI from 1914-1918.
Focusing on the Western Front, the author portrays himself as a war spy about to be hanged and retells the war’s incidents to the provost and executioner. The comics use intelligent humor while adding complexity to unknown aspects of the past.
These best historical comics that explore historical events from thought-provoking angles are perfect for people who want to add to their knowledge. Choose the ones you’re the most excited about, and let the fun begin.