12 Essential Historical Comics and Graphic Novels for YA

One of my favorite genres is historical fiction, as I enjoy reading about the human side of history and learning about details that are often omitted or glossed over in official documents. Historical fiction is a great way to look at history from the perspective of women, people of color, queer people, and others from marginalized identities, while telling important stories about the past and how which people lived – and it can be a lot of fun too! I love everything from slice-of-life fiction set against major historical events to speculative historical fiction, because I think all of these stories challenge any assumptions we might have about the past and challenge us to think about the past. history in a new light. .

With the growing popularity of the graphic format, I think it’s really exciting to see more and more historical settings and stories! As a visual learner, there’s something really powerful about seeing history come to life before your very eyes, and I think graphic novels accomplish that – kind of like seeing a colorized black and white photo, or looking at a digital remaster of a turn of the century video recording. History becomes more tangible and present in our minds, and we see people from the past in a slightly new light. While historical fiction in graphic format isn’t as popular as other genres, there are some great graphic novels and historical comics on a wide range of topics, from the Boxer Rebellion to WWII! Here are some titles not to be missed!

Fiction

The phantom twin by Lisa Brown

Isabel and Jane have only known life together, and they are part of a traveling circus known as the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters: conjoined twins. But when a surgeon claims he can separate the girls, Isabel doesn’t just lose limbs – she loses Jane in the process, and Jane comes back as a ghost. Isabel was never alone, but now she faces the prospect of having to build a life only she can live.

The Legend of Aunt Po cover

The Legend of Aunt Po by Shing Yin Khor

Set in the late 19th century, Mei is one of the Chinese working in a logging camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Her father is the camp cook and Mei helps him while enduring the racism faced by the Chinese in her community and also struggling with the rift between her and her friend Bee, who is the daughter of the camp foreman. She tells stories of Aunt Po, a larger-than-life Chinese matriarch, and her bull, who pull off miraculous feats of bravery and strength. But what happens when something so terrible happens that even Aunt Po can’t help?

Displacement cover

Shift by Kiku Hughes

Kiku is in San Francisco on vacation when she unexpectedly finds herself drawn back to the 1940s, where she discovers she is in an internment camp – the same one her grandmother was held in. As she finds herself continually displaced, she learns how difficult life is. was in the internment camps, examples of resistance, and the community that her grandmother built that allowed them to survive.

Delilah Dirk and Tony Cliff's Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

In this funny and adventurous anachronistic adventure, Delilah Dirk is an adventurer turned Robin Hood who plans to rob the corrupt Sultan in order to give to the poor, and comes face to face with Selim, a Turkish lieutenant who becomes her reluctant companion as they embark . on the hunt across Europe, always trying to stay one step ahead of trouble.

Cover of Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

In two complementary volumes, Gene Luen Yang recounts two facets of the Boxer Rebellion in China, which occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. Boxers follows Bao, a boy who is angry that his village is being mistreated by Westerners and is inspired by the growing movement of boxers to drive them out of his home. But in Saints, Vibiana is a girl who was rejected at a young age and found kindness and a home with the Christian missionaries who took her in, and now has to wonder where her allegiances lie.

Superman crushes the Klan

Superman crushes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

Based on a classic Superman story, this graphic novel is about siblings Tommy and Roberta Lee, who have just arrived from Chinatown in Metropolis. For Tommy, the move means new friends and new opportunities, but Roberta struggles to adjust. Then one night the family’s home is attacked by the Klan and they are rescued by Superman…but Superman remains weak after the attack and it’s up to the teenagers to help him defeat the Klan once and for all.

Cover of the graphic novel Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Grey: The Graphic Novel by Ruta Sepetys, Andrew Donkin, Brann Livesay, Chris Dickey and Dave Kopka

Adapted from the first novel of the same title by Ruta Sepetys, this story follows Lina, a teenager living in Lithuania in 1941. One night, the Soviets arrest her entire family, separating Lina, her mother and her brother from her father and deporting them to La Siberia, where they face unimaginable hardship and Lina clings to her love of art and the hope that one day her family will be reunited.

book cover of The Prince and the Seamstress

The Prince and the Seamstress by Jen Wang

In this alternate history set in historic Paris, Prince Sebastian is in town because his parents are looking for a bride for him. But he’s busy with his secret alter ego, Lady Crystallia, who shows up in town wearing the most gorgeous dresses. Sebastian’s confidante and seamstress is Frances, who is responsible for these daring dresses, but to keep Sebastian’s secret, Frances must also put off her dreams – and how long can they both afford to keep their secrets before does anyone get hurt?

nonfiction

March cover

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

In this award-winning graphic memoir and first of a trilogy, Rep. John Lewis shares his personal story of working in the civil rights movement as a young man alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how his early experiences have driven on a lifetime. journey to fight against segregation, racism and injustice.

cover of The Faithful Spy

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Although this YALSA Nonfiction Excellence in Nonfiction Award finalist is richer in text than the other books on this list, it is still powerful, graphic text that explores Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and how a pastor , Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was horrified by the general complacency of the people. for Hitler’s evil and struggled to reconcile his faith with the terrible events unfolding in Germany, deciding to take a stand against Hitler once and for all.

Redbone graphic novel cover

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band by Christian Staebler, Sonia Paoloni and Thibault Balahy

Most of today’s young people might know the group Redbone from their hit song “Come and Get Your Love”, which became popular again when it appeared on the guardians of the galaxy film franchise, but what they may not have known was that the band itself was made up of members of the native band that influenced many other musicians in the 1960s and eventually took a stand for their beliefs about the promise of financial success. This book tells their story and their impact on the musical world and society.


Want more great YA graphic novel and comic book recommendations? Check out our roundup of the best YA graphic novels and fantasy comics.

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