As a bookseller and an avid reader there are few things on the planet that make me more confused and angry than people who want to ban books. I refuse to believe there is any book on the planet that should not be available to read, by anyone, anytime. I realize that’s a big statement but reading only expands the mind, it may take time but one book tends to lead to another and another and suddenly your worldview has shifted. The thing that aggravates me the most is that the people who tend to challenge books rarely seem to understand the material. Instead they see a paragraph, or in this case a panel or page and make a snap judgment about what the book is depicting. The books are often accused of advocating the very things they are denouncing. So this holiday season make a statement supporting the First Amendment and give a graphic novel that has been banned.
The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is a great introduction to the comic book format. Reluctant readers often love it because it’s potty humor which is big in this age group. While it has been challenged because of that it is completely innocent and appropriate for kids. Grown-ups sometimes forget their sense of humor as they get older.
Bone is a classic series by Jeff Smith. It follows the adventures of three cousins as they travel away from home. It’s definitely got a hero’s journey vibe which appeals to kids at this age. Originally done in black and white it has since been released in color versions as well by Scholastic. (check your local comic shop or bookstore or pick up volume one from Amazon)
For Non-Comic Reading Older Teens and Adults:
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman is one of the most amazing series in comics. It elevated the comic form to literature. I have known a great many people who were not into comics at all who discovered this series and fell in love with it. They often go on to become regular comic readers. Think of it as a gateway drug. (check your local comic shop or bookstore or pick up volume one from Amazon)
Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn is a beautiful book that bravely touches on the truth of war through the eyes of zoo lions in Baghdad after an American bombing sets them free. Each lion representing a different viewpoint, it doesn’t take sides or give answers. It just makes you think. With spectacular art and wonderful storytelling it is a great example of what the comic form can do. (check your local comic shop or bookstore or pick it up from Amazon)
For newly minted but becoming hardcore fans:
Watchmen by Alan Moore is a classic in the graphic novel genre. Every comic book fan should own it, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It is dark and violent but grapples with issues no comic before it ever had when it came to superheroes. The art is fantastic but it’s the story that keeps you turning the pages. (check your local comic shop or bookstore or pick it up from Amazon)
Batman: The Killing Joke also by Alan Moore. My favorite Batman story of all time. Moore re-imagined the Joker’s origin and made him far more three dimensional but also far more threatening. This story created repercussions throughout the Bat-universe and led to Batgirl becoming Oracle. Brilliant, bold and painful it is a must read for any Batfan. (check your local comic shop or bookstore or pick it up from Amazon)
If you want to do more than just support the cause by reading then consider buying some gifts through the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund which fights these challenges whenever they arise.
Go forth and read banned comics and books! Happy Holidays!