Comic Books as Journalism: Outstanding Graphic Nonfiction

Comics get a bad rap. Say the words “comic book” to anyone who’s unfamiliar with the breadth of the medium and all the many forms it takes, and an image of Action Comics or Archie or X-Men comes to mind. But some of you know that comics are as varied as their non-illustrated counterparts (that is, books), even including nonfiction in an endless array of variety. Essentially, Rule 34 of the Internet can be translated to comics as well: if it exists, there’s a graphic novel of it.

On Wednesday, The Atlantic featured “Comic Books as Journalism: 10 Masterpieces of Graphic Nonfiction” by Kristin Butler; these are a few of the books covered, but you should take a few minutes to check out the rest.


The Beats invokes the immediacy of 1940s and ’50s art, music, and writing; even better, it provides political context and introduced us to an entire panoply of artists whose contributions to the era are lesser known. From painting sessions in Jay DeFeo’s flat to strains of mental illness throughout the movement, The Beats is an invaluable addition to our picture of a charged moment in creative history.



If only all biology textbooks were as cool as The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. [. . .] The book starts with the mind-boggling story of how an inchoate mass of chemical elements formed into life over five billion years ago, and then drills down to the cellular level before getting into applied genetics (even Dolly the Sheep makes an appearance).


Written by Brooke Gladstone, longtime host of NPR’s excellent On the Media, and illustrated by cartoonist Josh Neufeld (yup, he of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge fame), The Influencing Machine takes a refreshingly alternative approach to the age-old issue of why we disparage and distrust the news. And as the book quickly makes clear, it has always been thus.

As a writer who frequently finds herself trying to ascertain the level of truthiness behind news stories, I find Brooke Gladstone’s book especially appealing, but I recommend the list in its entirety to everyone who enjoys nonfiction.

[The Atlantic]

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