6 Great Graphic Novels for the Comics Virgin

Comics reading - easy when you know how
Category: Reading

If you've always wanted to get into comics and graphic novels but never known where to start, let Scottish Book Trust's in-house bevy of comics-lovers guide you. 

Specially selected as books you can pick up with no prior knowledge of the form, we guarantee there will be something in these 6 titles to pique your interest...


Frame from Sex Criminals
Sex Criminals
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky | chosen by Sasha DeBuyl @sashadebuyl

First off, don’t judge this book by the title; I promise it’s worth the read. Okay, I’ll admit it’s not your traditional comic. There are no superheroes, no capes, no tight costumes. In fact, it’s just about two regular people. Suzie, the protagonist, works in a library, loves books and lives a totally normal life... except for this one tiny thing. When she has sex, the world stands stands still. Literally. Sex Criminals is sweet, tender, sex-positive and riotously funny. Perfect for both inexperienced comic book virgins or hardened veterans looking for something a little different to spice up their routine.


Frame from Persepolis
by Marjane Satrapi | chosen by Celia Richards

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. This book takes the daunting subject of turbulent societal upheaval and brings it down to a very personal level, describing the impact it has on one girl and her family. Marjane is a girl who is desperate for the freedom to be herself, to listen to punk rock and voice her opinions, even if it gets her into trouble. Despite the heavy subject matter there is sometimes a light and whimsical touch to it - at points it is laugh out loud funny! The simple black and white drawings complement the story perfectly, and make the story all the more powerful.


Frame from Watchmen
by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons | chosen by Philippa Cochrane @flipforwork

For me Watchmen was the gateway drug for comic books. I wasn’t given it – in fact my friend, who had used it to mount a defence of comic books as a valid genre – point blank refused to lend it to me. When I got my own copy, I discovered a rich, confusing, challenging, riotous form of storytelling. Watchmen turns all of the assumptions about comic book superheroes on their heads by giving the larger than life characters human failings and frailties. I loved it and, unlike my very possessive friend,  it is always the first book I give to a booklover who doesn’t think graphic novels are for them.


Frame from Whiteout
by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber | chosen by Michael Merillo @merillo

If you’re thinking of getting back on board the comic train, or taking your first tentative steps into the world of graphic novels, I would recommend the award-winning Whiteout by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber (Oni Press, 2001). Please don’t judge the comic by the unfortunate film of the same name! There are no superheroes, and no background context is needed to jump right in to this graphic novel. It’s a detective/thriller story set in Antarctica. Rucka is a recognised talent known for excellent characterisation and gritty storytelling. Lieber’s black and white art is fantastic and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think the lack of colour only adds to the drama of the story. After all, Antarctica is a fairly monochromatic place.


Frame from The Underwater Welder
The Underwater Welder
by Jeff Lemire | chosen by Lynsey Rogers @lynseyrogers

Graphic novels always intimidated me because I didn’t have a clue where to start. I asked a well-versed friend to recommend some standalone titles and The Underwater Welder is my favourite. Jack Joseph, an underwater welder on an oil rig off the coast of Nova Scotia, is about to become a father but he is haunted by the tragic death of his own father. Strange things start happening to Jack on the ocean floor and the narrative takes a fascinating, fractured turn as his family history unfolds. The greyscale line drawing is so expressive and the sense of place vivid and atmospheric. If you’re drawn to character-driven narratives and a twist on the everyman tale, The Underwater Welder is one to treasure. 


Frame from Sandman
by Neil Gaiman | chosen by Claire Marchant-Collier @jasperlane

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman is often billed as a great way to get into graphic novels/comics, and it is! It has nothing to do with a kick-ass superhero made of sand and everything to do with myths and legends and deliciously gothic characters. The main narrative follows Dream – an old ‘concept’ also known as Morpheus, Oneiros, Lord of Dreaming and a variety of other names – as he struggles to regain his powers and find his place in an unfamiliar world. A modern horror tale, beautifully illustrated, the various stories set in this world are rich, complex and invariably epic, making it an absolute joy to read. 


For more graphic novels, have a keek at our pick of great Scottish graphic novelists, listen to Book Talk on Dotter of her Father's Eyes, and try our book list for beginners!

The Scottish Book Trust Team

The team is a many-splendoured thing. Find out more about who does what here.

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