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Comic Books for Those Who Don't Like Superheroes

Updated on March 28, 2014

I love comic books. I read them whenever I get the chance, I own my own collection of single issue and trades, and there are times when I can’t get enough. Admittedly, the reason I got into comics was because of superheroes, mainly the X-Men, and most of what I read are superhero books. But, I know full well that some people just don’t like superheroes. The problem is that they then stay away from comic books all together.

Comic books are a medium, not a genre. Television is the medium, sitcoms are the genre. Just because you don’t like sitcoms doesn’t mean there’s nothing on television to watch. The same goes for comic books; while superhero books make up the majority of comics, due mainly to Marvel and DC, there are plenty of other genres to catch the skeptical reader’s attention. Since I love helping people find the right comic for them, I’m going to suggest a few non-superhero books to get them interested.


Fables by Bill Willingham

Fables takes our classic fairy tales and folk stories and puts them in the modern day world. Outcast from their homelands, the fables now live in a place called Fabletown and work at keeping a low profile from the regular folks. Finding out how each fable has adapted to the world and where they’ve been since their folk tales ended is half the fun in this series. It starts with the Big Bad Wolf being the town sheriff, Old King Cole is the mayor, and Prince Charming is a vagabond living from fling to fling.

This may sound like ABC’s Once Upon a Time, but this comic came long before the show and does the job better. The dialog is crisp, the characters are easily relatable, and the twist and turns can be terrible. There are moments of true sorrow as we realize what some characters have lost and there are times when it gets creepy as we realize how dark some fairy tales really are.


Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man starts with the annihilation of every man on Earth, with the exception of our hero Yorick. Now, he’s traveling the globe, trying to find his fiancée in a world of women, all while being hunted by those who would study, mate with, or kill him. Throughout the story, Yorick meets up with some women who will help and protect him and his pet monkey.

This series is one of Brian K. Vaughan's best and is definitely an adult tale. As you can imagine, focusing on the last man alive leads to some sexual stuff, even if that’s not the point of the tale. This book is extremely political and shows how the world would change if those who put themselves in power suddenly disappeared. Yorick is a likable guy and there are some sad moments throughout the book, mainly because you feel close to him.


The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

At this point, very few people haven’t heard of The Walking Dead. AMC’s zombie-drama is a big audience grabber and has a huge following right now. Still, I’ve talked to those who love the show and they still have no interest in the comic book. It’s sad, because the book is easily better than the show, keeping the creepy zombie moments without the poor acting or the mundane writing.

The Walking Dead comic follows Rick and his family as the simply fight to survive. The series is one of the stories that takes place after the big zombie movie, where the credits end and the audience is left wondering, “What’s next?” This comic looks to answer that question. Kirkman’s writing is intense and always has you on the edge of your seat, sometimes too afraid to turn the page. His characters are well-rounded and that’s what makes it hard to read as they die. No one is safe in this comic, including the reader.


The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

I could write an entire article on the greatness of The Sandman. When I first read this series, I was sucked into Neil Gaiman’s world. The comic follows the story of Morpheus aka Dream. He’s an Endless, very old godlike beings who represent life. Dream interacts with those of our realm and his own, but no matter where he is, this series never loses its magic.

The Sandman is layered with lore; of stories we’ve told, we tell, or have forgotten. Morpheus influences Shakespeare, Lucifer, and Orpheus. There are some truly terrifying tales in this book, as Morpheus doesn’t just deal with dreams but nightmares as well. We see the very bottom of human nature, as well as the top, but it’s always darkest before the light in this series. Even Dream’s story is a tragic one, as he makes his own mistakes that will lead to problems down the road. His sister, Death, is a scene stealer, but many of his siblings are fun to read, and Gaiman never wastes a supporting character. There’s nothing to critique with this series, it’s not only one of the greatest comic books, it’s one of the greatest stories ever told.


Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo is a period drama set in a fantastical version of Japan. Usagi is a wandering ronin, who's also a rabbit. All the characters in this series are animals but not in a cute Disney way. A samurai is a lion because they have a noble heart, the character defines the design. Sakai's art is wonderful, simple when it needs to be and beautiful when it wants to be. Usagi Yojimbo is an Akira Kurosawa film put down of comic paper.

Throughout the series, Usagi meets friends and enemies, get drawn into wars and feuds, but he's always the same noble spirit looking for his next meal. There are sad moments, regarding his past, as well as those of his friends. All the characters in this book are fun to learn about, especially Usagi's friend Gen. While the drama gets intense, the humor is charming and will win over even the grumpiest of readers. Plus, the Ninja Turtles guest star sometime!


Vertigo and Beyond

But those are just a few that I’ve read and am still reading. For those looking for more non-superhero books, the Vertigo line of publishing is a great place to start. Books like DMZ and 100 Bullets are easy to pick up, and comics like Swamp Thing and Hellblazer started the dark and supernatural storytelling that led to series like The Sandman and Fables. I didn’t even mention books like Sin City or American Splendor, or comics that blur the line between superheroes and contemporary stories like Powers and Ex Machina.

Also, I only suggested series, hoping to keep readers looking for a while. One shot graphic novels are everywhere and there are plenty of non-superhero stories to be found in them; Ghost World, Blankets, Persepolis, and V for Vendetta are wonderful stories told in single format stories. For those who don’t want capes and superpowers in their stories, there are plenty of choices in the world of comic books. I just hope you give them a try.

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    • Jazzy Quicksilver profile image

      Jazzy Quicksilver 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      So many amazing series (Fables is one of my favorites)! One worth mentioning, I think, is The Boys, because in some ways it's a parody of superhero comics. Yes, superheros ("supes") play a role, but it's a much darker take on it; the main characters police the debauched behavior of the supes.

      That being said, it is rather debauched and gory, so it's not really for everyone, especially for an audience under 16 (18 really).

      You should seriously check it out if you haven't already. :)

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 4 years ago from New England

      I'll have to look for it. I remember hearing about it a while ago but never got around to reading it. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 4 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Thanks for writing this, I'll check some of these out. :) Voted Up and Useful (as usual). Always a pleasure,

      -Aubrey.

    • Missmusicbox profile image

      Missmusicbox 4 years ago

      I think I'll give Fables a try. It sounds like its right up my alley and Ive never read anything that wasn't superheros

    • Keith Ham profile image

      Keith Ham 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, Ontario

      Good selection! I'm partial to Y, I read the first volume and it was GREAT. I need to read it again!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      When I was a teenager I loved reading Superhero comics too so I don't have problems with that. But hey this looks interesting too! :)

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Read and check it out today http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hub/HubNuggets-... and have a blast! Best of luck!

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 4 years ago from New England

      Kendra, Fables is a great book and would be right up your alley!

      Keith, Y was a great series and the ending had an emotional punch other series lack.

      Ripplemaker, I'm glad you like superheroes too! If it weren't for superheroes, I wouldn't have got into comics! Thanks for the congrats and for reading!

    • Keith Ham profile image

      Keith Ham 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, Ontario

      I'm going to have to check it out Eric, I'll pick up the second volume at the end of the month and get right back into it.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 4 years ago from New England

      Good call! I hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

    • profile image

      PJ Van Galen 4 years ago

      Great list! I'd add daytripper by Fabio moon and saga by Brian k Vaughn. Comics are reaching such widespread recognition now a days. I love the fact that they're becoming less and less limited to superheroes.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 4 years ago from New England

      I haven't read Saga yet, though I tend to favor Vaughan's work. It is nice to see comics get the attention they once had. I'll never stop reading superheroes but it's good to remember the medium can do anything.

      Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Jim D 3 years ago

      Solid list with lots of good stuff, but it is incomplete without Preacher. I'll second the Saga recommendation and will throw in East of West, Chew and The Manhattan Project as three of the best things I'm reading right now.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 3 years ago from New England

      Thanks for reading! Truth be told, I never liked Preacher but to each their own. I would have suggested Saga but I only just read the first volume!

    • Projectlazy profile image

      Projectlazy 2 years ago

      If you liked Y then you should try Saga. My favorite non-cape series right now.

    • Eric Mikols profile image
      Author

      Eric Mikols 2 years ago from New England

      I wrote this Hub awhile ago, but I can tell you I'm loving Saga write now. I'd probably read anything that Brian K. writes.

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