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Presentation: Adult Graphic Novels for Teens

Kobane Calling

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the Mass Library Systems Teen Summit, where I made a presentation on “Adult Graphic Novels for Teens.” Here’s the PowerPoint deck, which is mostly book recommendations.

I started out with a brief discussion of the topic and what sorts of adult books work well for teens—keeping in mind, of course, that “teens” vary widely. What I’m thinking of here is books that would probably be shelved in the adult section but that can be recommended for teens. In terms of problematic content, I suggested a quick way to get a sense of how intense the level of sex and violence in a book can be: Look it up on the digital-comics service ComiXology, which provides an age rating for every comic, even adult titles.

Many of the books I suggested came from articles I have written for SLJ in the past:

The People’s Comics: Using the Graphic Format to Teach About Current Events

Teaching with Science Comics

Graphic Novels Portray Bicultural America

I’ve included a few comments and links along with the slides. I hope this is helpful!

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Many graphic novels with teens as lead characters are reflections by adults on the teen experience and not necessarily appropriate for teens. All three of the books pictured above are great stories that are better appreciated by adults. My Friend Dahmer is a great story but it has some disturbing content (obvious to you and me, although a friend pointed out many teens may not know who Dahmer is); Ivy features a teen going through some tough things and coming out the other end; Lighter Than My Shadow, which is just out this month, is the memoir of a woman with an eating disorder who was sexually abused by a therapist during treatment. This may be appropriate for some teens but again, probably more relatable for adults, in addition to having potentially disturbing content.

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Threads began as a webcomic.The book is much longer and extends the story.

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I don’t know how much longer this will last, but you can get the Kindle version of the first 45 pages of Kobane Calling for free.

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That’s a Tom Gauld cartoon.

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Kate Beaton posts her webcomics at Hark! A Vagrant.

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There’s plenty more of this on Tom Gauld’s Tumblr, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack (also the title of his previous book).

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Darryl Cunningham has just completed another graphic novel, Graphic Science, which is due out this week. He also posts comics on his blog.

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Brookline teen librarian Robin Brenner tells me that her teens really love superhero comics. The two pictured here, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and Mark Waid’s Daredevil, are graphic novels anyone can enjoy without having to know a bunch of complicated backstory, and both have really good stories. The rest of my suggestions are for non-Marvel/DC superhero comics.

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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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