Books Historical Fiction History History Adventures Learning Materials

Discover the 7 Best Graphic Novels About Modern History

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.


Image by Amazon

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.

2. Persepolis

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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

mage by Amazon

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

Image by Amazon

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.

5. Palestine

Image by Goodreads

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

Image by Vox

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

Image by Amazon

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.

Final Word

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.

Historical Fiction Historical Movies Southeast Asia

3 Best Historical Historical Movies on Netflix: Southeast Asia Edition

No one can deny that Southeast Asian movies never fail to impress our typical Western taste on cinematography. You might be running out of best historical movies on Netflix to watch, but you may be missing some of the most plausible ones to view. Read through our list of 3 Best Historical Movies on Netflix: Southeast Asia Edition below.

1.) First they Killed my Father (2017)

“First They Killed My Father” by Angelina Jolie is her best directorial work so far: a rare film that tells the tragedy of the country through the eyes and heart of a child, and it is also the best war film ever. The dramatic Cambodian historical movie is adapted from a girl named Loung Ung’s memoirs about his family experience after the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. The movie is directed by Jolie and co-authored by Loung Ung herself, it differs from most works in this respect not only in that it is well done, but also in some extraordinary cinematographic details it possesses.

When the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh, Ung was 5 years old. Her young mind was tainted by memories of hunger, cruelty and sudden death. She learned skills no kid should know, like how to bury landmines, how to throw an AK47, and how to pierce a spear into the chest of a Vietnamese soldier.

Understandably, the US military expressed disinterest or hostility towards Cambodia, then President Richard Nixon insisted there was no American war there, and then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger coldly promised “The final solution” is in this area. The mix of languages ​​in this section reinforces the notion that this era is a tragedy of international concern, regardless of whether or not people alive at the time noticed it.

Luong’s story begins in relative peace. The little girl and her bourgeois family are in the capital, led by a military police father (Phoeung Kompheak), wondering what changes the end of the American war will bring. The Khmer Rouge, a branch of the North Vietnamese People’s Army led by the future dictator Pol Pot, arrived in the town, shattered the remnants of the country’s weak official government, and began a purge that would kill millions of people. Loung’s father saw the writing on the wall and took his wife (Sveng Socheata) and children out of town.

 From then on, “First They Killed my Father” became a survival story about a suddenly helpless family spending a day at all costs. Their efforts are obscured by their knowledge, because they know that not everyone can survive, and even seemingly plain interactions can lead to family separation, imprisonment, cruel treatment or murder. The first scene in which Luong’s mother, father, and siblings took off most of their possessions (including some beloved clothes and toys), which sends a heartbreaking message to viewers knowing that these events are from the lens of a curious, innocent child.

2.) General Antonio Luna (2015)

Heneral Luna pays tribute to the heroic military commander who led the Philippines in the struggle for freedom in the late 19th century. It is a powerful and moving, sometimes simplistic, historical epic about the bravery and betrayal of a country at war. In the last years of Antonio Luna, the European educated scientist became a soldier and was killed by his betraying subordinates at just 32 years old. Jerrold Tarog’s Big Budget blockbuster sparked a sensation in the Philippines. Local audiences are warm with John Arcilla’s highly transformed role as Luna and how his story reflects the chaos of contemporary Philippine politics.

 A drama featuring introductory readings and two hours of relentless bragging about the history of Southeast Asian countries, Heneral Luna has been selected as the best foreign language film in the country for 2016’s Oscar presentation. Although the film thrives on some universal truths about the futility of political ideals, its appeal outside of the Philippines and the global diaspora may be limited. At the same time, its core production values ​​and domestic achievements, considering its status as a major local studio’s independent production, may hinder its search for festival tours of genre masters like Eric Marty.

 Avoiding the disturbing truths of Luna’s early life and passing politics (he started advocating political reforms rather than full-scale revolutions), the film began in 1898, when he was already immersed in armed struggle and was the commander of the Republican Army. By then, the US military had defeated the Spanish colonists and was preparing to annex the Archipelago, while Luna was busy leading the independence movement towards direct confrontation with a superpower aimed at gaining a foothold in Asia.

 Such a movie that landed on our 3 best historical movies on Netflix list tells the story of a person who had the witness of the very first Philippine President and Dictator Emilio Aguinaldo killing fellow dissidents, such as the execution of the rebel commander Andrés Bonifacio. A brutal murder, which foreshadows what is about to happen. Following Luna’s doomed disappearance, Tarog’s film tells a whirlwind of accusations in which one of the fighters ignores his two-faced opponents, furious at the dying light, and staggers towards a terrible ending.

 Just as Woodrow Wilson’s 1920 “Manifestation of Destiny” speech was used to reinforce the argument that the United States expanded in the 1890s, the message here is undoubtedly noble and affirmative. Heneral Luna moves forward without blinking, his trade is as subtle as his nominal hero.

1.) Kartini, Princess of Java (2017)

This third movie from our 3 best historical movies on Netflix list is about a Javanese Princess, Kartini, one of the most iconic Indonesian heroines that contributed to the patriotic struggle for Indonesian independence from The Netherlands and Japan. Since the film focuses on Kartini’s life when she reached the age for marriage, she talks about the nominal role in achieving her goal of studying abroad and seeing the world. The story of the struggle is outside the walls of his palace, his place of confinement. She negotiated and engaged with her father and other older male relatives so that she could play on the beach, continue the relationship with her Dutch friends, and then maintain relationships with her future husband in the scheduled marriage so that she could open schools for the disadvantaged groups of women.

Kartini’s idea is to show the world the art of Jepara woodcarving, the iconic crafts of the area are known today, as well as her understanding of Islam and her suggestion to translate the Qur’an into the local Javanese language so that the people can avoid mistakes in interpreting it and commit crimes in the name of religion.

119 minutes were filled with all content, the conflict was tense from the start, and some narratives that affected character development were excluded, which is understandable. It is obvious from the title that Hanung (The Director) adapted the novel Panggil Aku Kartini Saja (Just Call Me Kartini) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, which tells how Kartini decided to give up his noble title, Raden Ajeng, while the status of his birth mother Ngasirah was lowered.

The Princess is played by actress Dian Sastrowardoyo as Kartini, Ayushita as Kardinah and Acha Septriasa as Roekmini.

The Princess’ close relationship with his younger brother Sos Roctono (Reza Rahadian), who was studying in the Netherlands, was mainly reflected in the film in the schoolbag he sent to the three sisters.

Big History History

The Real Story Behind Let Them Eat Cake!

“Let them eat cake” is a phrase famously attributed to Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France during the French Revolution. At some point in 1789, after being told that the French population was facing a bread shortage, because of the poor crop harvest and the rodents, and as a result, was starving, Marie Antoinette replied with “let them eat cake!” Cake, obviously being a more expensive item than bread just went on to show how out of touch she was with her subjects. With this callous remark, the Queen became a hated symbol of the monarchy which fueled the French revolution and ultimately led to her (literally) losing her head a few years later.

Let Them Eat Cake

However, the question still remains: did the much-beloved French monarch actually occur those words? For starters the literal translation of the phrase from French to English is inaccurate. Marie Antoinette is said to have said “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” which literally translates to let them eat Brioche. While Brioche is a buttery, sweet french breakfast bread much more expensive than a basic Baguette, it is no multi icing layered gateaux one imagines.  However, this still doesn’t change the fact that it showed how arrogant and out-of-touch the French Queen was from her subjects. Now the matter of whether Marie Antoinette actually occurred those words come to question. Well according to historians she did not! Lady Antonia Fraser, the author of a biography of the French queen, believes the quote would have been highly uncharacteristic of Marie-Antoinette. She states Marie Antoinette was a sensible woman who despite her lavish lifestyle showed sensitivity to her subjects. But keeping that aside, this quote has been circulating since before 1789 and was told in a slightly different form about Marie-Thérèse, the Spanish princess who married King Louis XIV in 1660. She allegedly said that the French people eat la croûte de pâté” (or the crust of the pâté). This story first appeared in philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau “Confessions” in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was just 10 years old! Thus, whoever occurred those words was definitely not Marie Antoinette.

Characters History Adventures voice acting

Finding the Voice of History

The process for finding the perfect voice talent for the original historical characters that we introduce in History Adventures, World of Characters, is always fascinating. When designing the original characters, we always start by trying to answer the question: what is the spirit of the age, and who are the people who define it? We then composite together plausible historical characters–who are not famous, not kings or queens–but rather “real” people, living through extraordinary circumstances. Everything about our fictional non-fictional characters is rooted in historical research and plausibility. But then of course, it is empathetic projection and imagination that dusts off the pages of history, and brings these ancient people to life. And this is where casting the right voice talent becomes so key–finding the dramatic reading that will make the story  jump off the page, to make the reader sense the beating heart of history. Within this multimedia digital learning product, it’s critical that students can not only see these amazing characters of history, but also hear their voices. 

Agent 355, a slave turned spy, becomes a key member of General Washington’s shadowy Culper Spy Ring, and thereby risks everything for the cause of revolution and the principle of freedom.

Revolutions & Industrialization

In our product, Revolutions & Industrialization, we have a mysterious character called Agent 355, a slave turned spy, who becomes a key member of General Washington’s shadowy Culper Spy Ring, and thereby decides to risk everything for the cause of revolution and the principle of freedom. For this character, we needed to find a voice that could convey a complex balance of quiet heroism, profound sensitivity, and genuine bravery in the face of grave danger. A woman truly inspired by these newly articulated ideals of individual liberty, her goals transcended self-interest, but were concerned with a deeper sense of human possibility. Next, we sought to find the voice of a social reformer called Thomas Brown who lived 150 years after Agent 355, at the dawn of the 20th century. He was a muckraking journalist, inspired by Upton Sinclair. For this character, we needed to find the voice of an ink-stained, coffee-swilling, sleep-deprived, morally driven crusader of sorts. A uniquely American character, with that sort of old timey Chicago accent that you can hear when you watch archival TV broadcasts of grainy, early 20th century, black and white Cubs games. You can hear an echo of this nostalgic mode of speaking in works like Boardwalk Empire and Road to Perdition. Thomas was an educated, street smart, city boy–balancing realism with a bold idealism–and willing to disguise himself as a janitor in order to infiltrate and expose the truth about the infamous Chicago meat packing district. He uncovers a world of filth, corruption and reckless disdain for human life that leads him to question what the future will bring. 

Thomas was a muckraking journalist, inspired by Upton Sinclair. For this character, we needed to find the voice of an ink-stained, coffee-swilling, sleep-deprived, morally driven crusader of sorts.

Empires & Interconnections

For our new product that we’re currently developing, History Adventures, World of Characters, Empires & Interconnections, we’re trying to tell the story of the world over a vast, transformative period concerning the three centuries from 1450-1750. We begin this process by first trying to determine what are the major themes of the age, and where they are happening most intensely around the world. And then from there, our goal is to try to conjure and visualize characters at the crossroads of history–geographically, intellectually, culturally, and so on. Whose lives intersect profoundly with these broader themes of the age. During this period of colossal change, the world got smaller. The age of exploration, gunpowder, and international trade took hold. Epic empires expanded, and followed trade routes–as European nations battled to control as much of the world’s wealth as possible. The dark side of this explosion of wealth and consolidated power and influence, meant enslavement and ruin for many, as Europeans unknowingly brought diseases that killed millions and meanwhile initiated the gruesome, inhumane Atlantic Slave Trade. Some nations remained autonomous and isolated, such as the Tokugawa of Japan–but this took huge effort to throw off this tide of increasing global interconnectedness. 

In Tokugawa Japan, a young woman, Fuyuko, is a key advisor to the powerful warlord, Tokugawa, who strives to achieve the first Shogunate.

A World of Characters

We strive to identify a key question that will confront each of our major characters, to connect them thematically, and to the broader themes of the age. For Empires & Interconnections, we have developed 6 characters–each of whom confronts the question: how to deal with this tidal sweep of rising empires, will they fold into this interconnectedness, or will they somehow resist? We begin our journey in 1453, as Ioannina, a woman of Byzantine and Turkish ancestry, experiences the Ottoman Siege of Constantinople, led by Sultan Mehmed II. The battle hangs by a thread, but ultimately the ancient capital falls, heralding the final death knell of the Roman Empire, and the rise of the Islamic empires of the Middle East, whose control of this critical crossroads will push the emerging mercantile empires of Western Europe to search for a Western route to Asia. Our next character, Luis Felipe Gutierrez, is a Spanish adventurer, who dreams of achieving wealth and glory in the New World–while spreading the word of God–as Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro had done before him. In the disease-stricken, war-torn mountains and jungles of Peru, he finds instead madness, confusion, and death. In 1619, we introduce William, a man forcibly brought to the new settlement of Jamestown in Virginia, by Portuguese Slave traders. Captured by English pirates in the Caribbean, William was sold along with 16 other Africans to the struggling Jamestown colony–and there he would be the first to confront an international slave trade that would last for centuries, and grip the lives of millions. On the other side of the world, in the Indian subcontinent, a Bengali tax collector must decide whether to remain loyal to the Mughal Emperor or side with the rapidly expanding British East India Company. We will find that our zamindar fails a moral test, and learns the true weather of his heart is villainy. In Tokugawa Japan, a young woman, Fuyuko, is a key advisor to the powerful warlord, Tokugawa, who strives to achieve the first Shogunate. She will advise Tokugawa on how to deal with these strange, fanatical European missionaries: should we grant clemency, or should we deal with them harshly, and with violence, to stamp out their looming threat. 

Big History Characters History Adventures News

Our official launch trailer!

History Adventures, World of Characters, Book 3, (1750-1900).

A fresh approach to history education, designed for today’s digital generation.

This interactive, multimodal learning experience combines the latest in mobile entertainment with the power of narrative design—bringing the pages of history to life.

History Adventures foregrounds the power of story, narrativizing the experiences of people who lived in past centuries—in different epochs and locations around the globe. Students will witness the very real moments these very real people lived through, as if they were there. And via the empathy inspired by quality storytelling, students will feel the life or death stakes of decisions made in the moment.

The January 2020 release of History Adventures covers the Period from 1750-1900 through the lens of 5 amazing people living through complex flash-points in time.

Book 3 Features

  1. Agent 355, (a slave… and an American Revolutionary War spy)
  2. Jiemba, (an indigenous Australian at Botany Bay when the British convict ships arrived)
  3. Fei Hong, (a Chinese family man, surviving the Opium Wars)
  4. Khari, (a native rebel resisting Belgian oppression during the (so-called) Congo Free State)
  5. Thomas Brown, (a muckraking reporter, working to expose the malpractice of the Chicago Meatpacking Industry).

History Adventures, World of Characters, Book 3 (1750-1900), will go live on iTunes, January of 2020, available for download around the world!

History Adventures: The Stories of People in Time, Connected by Eternity..

Created by Spencer Striker, PhD

#history #digitallearning #historyeducation #digitaldesign #learningdesign #illustration #americanrevolution #congofreestate #peopleshistory #bighistory #mobilelearning #multimodality #interactivelearning #powerofstory #narrativedesign #historicalfiction #characterdesign #washingtonsspies #opiumwars #revolution #rebellion #Imperialism #exploration #clashofcivilizations #muckrakers #botanybay #gunboatdiplomacy #indigenous #chicagomeatpackers #historyadventures

Characters History Adventures Narrative Excerpts Spencer Striker PhD

Introducing: Agent 355, American Revolutionary War Spy

United States of America, 1778 CE

“I am not a soldier. I will never wield a musket nor face cannon fire. My place is not upon the battlements nor cutting across a battlefield. I am a spy. Intent upon serving my young nation. As it tears itself away from its infuriated progenitor, Great Britain, I take pride in helping save it from itself. And who better to sneak throughout the halls, eavesdropping conversations as I fill bathtubs and stoke hearths for the chilly evenings? We have a traitor in our midst. An officer by the name of Arnold…”

— Excerpted from History Adventures, World of Characters, Book 3, 1750–1900, created by Spencer Striker, PhD

..coming to iTunes, January 2020..

The future of the book is now.

History Adventures — a next gen digital book experience being developed by an international team of animators, artists, designers, and historians — represents an enhanced, multimodal learning design for 21st Century students.

This media-rich learning experience combines the latest in mobile entertainment — and the power of narrative design — with a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching history: awakening student fascination for the past…bringing the pages of history to life.

The narrative structure will be like zooming in through portals in time, to observe — and feel the drama and excitement — of little slices of lived human experience.

And from these stories, we will extract curricular concepts relevant to a bigger picture understanding of history and its fascinatingly interwoven, cross-disciplinary themes.

History Adventures: the Stories of People in Time, Connected by Eternity..

Characters History Adventures Narrative Excerpts

Luis Felipe Gutierrez, Spanish Conquistador, the New World (Modern Day, Peru), 1537 CE

“He was strolling through the jungle; he had to reach the other side of the mountains. Luis knew that he faced a long journey to reach the last outpost of the Spanish Empire – at the edge of civilization, where the map fell off into legend. It was the Anno Domini 1537, and Luis Felipe Guiterrez had arrived in the New World the year before, sent by his majesty Charles V to help his fellow countrymen complete the conquest of the land we now call Peru. The world he encountered now was nothing like he’d expected..”

– Excerpted from History Adventures, World of Characters
..coming to iTunes, January 2020

The future of the book is now.

Drawing inspiration from Robert Garland’s The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (2010): History Adventures conjures snapshots of compellingly real historical scenarios. The characters will not be world famous, like Alexander, Cleopatra, or Napoleon. Rather, they will be relatable, normal people – living in extraordinary circumstances.

The narrative structure will be like zooming in through portals in time, to observe – and feel the drama and excitement – of little slices of lived human experience.And from these stories, we will extract curricular concepts relevant to a bigger picture understanding of history and its fascinatingly interwoven, cross-disciplinary themes.

History Adventures: the Stories of People in Time, Connected by Eternity..

coming to itunes, January 2020