For the average reader, graphic novels have become a widely acknowledged and respected mainstream source of reading and entertainment. Yet in the vast history of literature and storytelling, graphic novels are a teenager… nay, a child among men. The graphic novel movement is still in its youthful prime, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t often tread into the infinite reaches of history for inspiration. Some of the greatest graphic novels are centered on historical moments in our world’s past. Just like the classic literature that predates it, graphic novel storytelling banks on the rich adventures, heartbreaks, and horrors that the world has seen throughout its history. That being said, check out our list of some of the most incredible graphic novels based on real life history.
The Harlem Hellfighters
If you’ve ever been interested in war stories, this one is worth your attention. It covers the story of one of the most highly experienced but largely under-acknowledged groups of WWI soldiers, the entirely African American Harlem Hellfighters. These brave souls marched through Europe and back, blazing a trail and proudly representing the United States. In this story, we follow these valiant heroes on their journey, and witness their hardship, bravery, and sacrifices. It truly makes for a thrilling, informative read that sheds light on an aspect of the past that often gets overlooked by history books.
Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
Image Credit: Johnathan Fetter-Vorm/Hill and Wang
Tread the rich and unstable history of the atomic bomb, from the roots of an idea to the unsettling and horrifying drop over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This graphic novel takes you through the minds of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Harry Truman, and many, many others whose actions contributed to this controversial device’s creation. It really is compelling to see it all played out in graphic novel form, and gives the reader a deeper understanding of the story.
The 5th Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story
Image Credit: Andrew Robinson/Dark Horse Comics
With a nod to musical history, it would almost be a sin to not pay tribute to The Beatles. This visual re-imagining of history takes a look at the life of Brian Epstein, “fifth Beatle.” Noted for being the man who discovered the greatest rock band in history, Brian Epstein’s story is one of hardship and success. At a point when homosexuality wasn’t accepted like it is today, Brian’s story is a glowing nod to the long way the world has come in terms of acceptance and equal rights. Watch him struggle, grow, and enjoy this unique perspective on the greatest rock band that ever was.
Image Credit: Nate Powell/Top Shelf Productions
This autobiographical series takes into the midst of the African American Civil Rights movement. Author John Lewis takes the reader through his own life, highlighting major points in history as well as personal moments to bring light and remembrance for the men and women who fought so bravely to achieve equal rights and acknowledgement. Watch his story unfold, even leading to his eventual introduction to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Enjoy the beautiful artwork and deeply personal stories that make up just a small portion of the foundation for our modern day world.
Brian Michael Bendis
Image Credit: Brian Michael Bendis/Image Comics
You might have heard of some of Brian Michael Bendis’ work, but you might not be entirely familiar with the story of the Cleveland Torso Murderer. This gruesomely horrific true tale takes you back to the 1930s in search of the killer who left only his victims’ torsos behind. This bizarre and disgusting habit made detectives’ search even more difficult, with no finger prints or dental records at their disposal. Follow Cleveland Security Director Elliot Ness, as he tries to uncover the mystery behind these brutal murders.
And there you have it: history in graphic novel form, or at least a few examples. There are literally hundreds of titles like these available, whether at your local bookstore or online, so make sure you check out what’s available and what’s coming up on the horizon. Who said learning about history can’t be fun?
Cover Image Credit: Morebyless/Flickr