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December 13, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for graphic novels that can be considered activist works.

I'm interested in the graphic novel as a form of activism and am looking for new works for my collection. Books could deal with anything from politics, gender identity, feminism, racial identity/racism, environment and any other likely subject. There are almost certainly other areas I haven't considered. Obscure or small press are fine, as long as they can be easily ordered or are otherwise available (legally) online.

I've already read these titles, can you suggest others?

Art Spiegelman's Maus trilogy
Alison Bechdel Fun Home
Keiji Nakazawa Barefoot Gen
Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis series
Guy Delisle Pyongyang: A Journey into North Korea

and I've ordered Joe Sacco's Palestine
posted by Cuke to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
V for Vendetta
posted by ejazen at 10:39 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Love and Rockets. In some sort of weird backhanded satirical way, probably Transmet.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


DMZ, by Brian Wood
Depending on your definition/threshold of "activism," I'd also nominate Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man, Pride of Baghdad and Ex Machina.
posted by Etrigan at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2012


The Tintin parody Breaking Free, wherein Tintin is transplanted to England as a young revolutionary leader, is an example of this. It is available online, but you can buy it as an actual book in activist bookshops.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Y: The Last Man
posted by hmo at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2012


Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby.
posted by Frowner at 10:49 AM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This article is probably of interest to you, although it does cite a couple novels already mentioned here. Ditto this.

Stephanie McMillan's The Beginning of the American Fall has been on my to-read list for a few months.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2012




As the World Burns by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 10:53 AM on December 13, 2012


Have you read Guy Delisle's other books - Shenzhen, Burma Chronicles, and Jerusalem?
posted by mskyle at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2012


American Born Chinese.

I don't think Drama was intended to be an activist book, but practically speaking it's become one, just by virtue of being a middle grade book with explicitly gay characters.

Large parts of DAR, which is also available in print.

Palestine (NOTE: I haven't read this yet myself, but I own it and a flip-through confirms it's the sort of thing you're looking for.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2012


Also: When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs. It's an anti-nuclear (war) graphic novel.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a comic adaptation of Zinn's A People's History of the United States and another graphic adaptation of the history of Students for a Democratic Society.
posted by gerryblog at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2012


In a sort of backwards way, the Italian magazine Colors published an issue last year ('Superheros') that took the stories of activists and had them illustrated into comic-book style. It's available completely online; the primary language is Italian, with 'subtitles' at the bottom of each page for the in-comic words, and bilingual at the beginning and end of each story. (Paper editions can sub Spanish or French for the 'primary' language and retain the subtitles.)
posted by cobaltnine at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2012


Luz Sees the Light is a surprisingly subversive little not-so-distant future tale with an eye towards environmental activism.
posted by redsparkler at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2012


I'm not sure I'd call it an activist graphic novel, exactly, but there's been a re-imagining of Unknown Soldier set in 2005ish Uganda dealing with the Lord's Republican Army. If your definition of activism could extend to supporting work about folks who are generally ignored by graphic novels and sort of mainstream culture, Aya of Yop City is about life in a working class neighborhood in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in the 1970s and 1980s and it is fantastic.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2012


Seconding Stuck Rubber Baby. Really amazing book about the civil rights movement, still think about it 10+ years after reading it ...
posted by lunasol at 11:27 AM on December 13, 2012


The short-lived Crisis had a bunch of these, including Mills & Ezquerra's Third World War, and Ennis & McCrae's Troubled Souls. Quite remarkable for a mainstream publication from 20+ years ago (but then, maybe that's why it was short-lived).
posted by scruss at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2012


In The Shadow Of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
posted by Daily Alice at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2012


Spike Trotman's Poorcraft (in the straightforward instructional manual sense) and Templar Arizona (in the sense that it has characters of almost every racial identity and sexual orientation you can think of.)
posted by MsMolly at 11:41 AM on December 13, 2012


Faxes from Sarajevo.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2012


Joe Sacco has done a bunch of stuff worth checking out.
posted by juv3nal at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2012


The Golem's Mighty Swing. It's absolutely terrific.
posted by Skot at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2012


Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. It's a trip through various economically abandoned parts of the US, and some stories of resistance. Includes pieces on Camden NJ, the Pine Ridge reservation, Immokalee Florida and Occupy Wall Street. Good interview/article on the book is here.
posted by cushie at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2012


This article has some good suggestions: Illustrate! Educate! Organize!: Recommended Reading in Recent Radical Graphic Novels

My personal recommendations:
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:10 PM on December 13, 2012


There's never enough love for Hutch Owen, in my opinion, and it fits your bill nicely.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:18 PM on December 13, 2012


The graphic adaptation of Studs Terkel's Working.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2012


Oesterheld's El Eternauta.
posted by dr. boludo at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2012


Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine. Racial identity of Asian-Americans.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:33 PM on December 13, 2012


Guy Delisle also has a graphic novel on his time spent in Burma. So if you liked Pyongyang you may like this as well.

We3. Easily one of the best graphic novels period. And it's different from a lot of the other suggestions here as it has beautiful full-colour illustrations (by Frank Quitely no less). See also Animal Man.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2012


American Terrorist: "With no way out, four activists become fugitives from the law and go on the offensive against corruption and injustice."

Available as a printed graphic novel, or as a six-issue digital miniseries. The first issue is available free.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:59 PM on December 13, 2012


Also Channel Zero by Brian Wood. This is even more focused on activism than his later work DMZ (already mentioned above), with "themes of freedom of expression, hacking, cutting-edge media manipulation, and police surveillance."
posted by mbrubeck at 2:02 PM on December 13, 2012


One more! The Killer by Luc Jacamon and Matz (original published in French as Le Tueur). This title isn't primarily about activism, but parts of the story are about US involvement in Latin America, and about violence in politics more generally.
posted by mbrubeck at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2012


The Rabbits by Shaun Tan
posted by bq at 3:55 PM on December 13, 2012


Oh these are great. And thanks for the articles too. I've started clicking through and there is so much stuff here I'd never have found on my own. I'm going to start digging in and I probably won't surface for a good long while.
posted by Cuke at 6:49 PM on December 13, 2012


Parkour for Commies and Cats, by blackcatfactory. I’ve mailed this to prisoners.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2012


Zahra's Paradise.

American Born Chinese is great too-- a really sweet coming of age story, well worthy of the acclaim it's received.

You might also check out Dykes to Watch Out For, which is the comic the Beschel Test came out of. I don't know a lot else about it though.

I wouldn't qualify Y The Last Man as activist. I mean, it's decent sci-fi? But I wouldn't put it in the same category as a lot of these other ones.
posted by NoraReed at 4:38 AM on December 14, 2012


Naughty Bits was a comic book series rather than a graphic novel, but there's a strong feminist tone and a plotline about abortion and the sexual revolution.
posted by mippy at 4:53 AM on December 14, 2012


Just to follow up I've come back and marked as best answer the books I've managed to get my hands on so far. Stuck Rubber Baby was amazing and I'm now part way through V for Vendetta, most of the way through Palestine and have cracked open Shortcomings (yes, reading several books at the same time). I have no plans to stop after those and will come back and mark more answers off as I move on. Great stuff everyone, thanks so much.
posted by Cuke at 10:52 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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