The idea that comics are ‘just for kids’ has become even older, and when news surfaced earlier this year that the board of trustees of McMinn County Schools in East Tennessee voted unanimously to remove the Pulitzer Prize winner. Mouse The syllabus suggests that this illustrated story is very dangerous for young readers.

Comics clearly deal with a range of complex subjects, so a ‘best’ list isn’t necessary here, but it’s worth considering the 10 things we live in.

LR: When the wind blows and V for Vendetta

When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs (Penguin) 1982

This period of East-West tensions reminded me of the Cold War-era nuclear concerns abroad in the 1980s, and films like these were born. War games, The day after that, ThreadsAnd Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s 1984 single ‘Two Tribes’.

Following his beloved The Snowman, Briggs uses every tactic in his arsenal to capture the response of a middle-aged English couple to a nuclear attack on Britain. It looks a bit like going to a graphic novel, but in less than 40 pages, Briggs captures the mind-numbing detailed complacency of the ‘keep calm and keep going’ attitude.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (DC Comics / Vertigo) 1982-1989

There is nothing like the idea that the time has finally come and this became apparent during the Occupy movement in the United States in 2011 where the bizarre presence of the Guy Fox mask was prevalent. It stems from Moore and Lloyd’s 1980s comics V for Vendetta. With its distinctive cinematic Chiaroscuro art and dense storytelling, the book is set in Fascist-controlled Dystopian England and deals with the search for revenge of the permanently masked and morally skeptical V and his support of anarchist ideology. No wonder it has become a symbol of protest and treason. “Ideas are bullet-proof,” declares a winning V.

LR: Watchman and Maus
LR: Watchman and Maus

Watchman 1986, 1987 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics / Titan Books)

The list includes two books written by Alan Moore, which shows Moore’s great contribution to the expansion of comics as a medium. But, in this time of heightened tensions between East and West, when the end of the world never felt close to midnight, it was a dense, multi-layered and visually sophisticated Vedunit, conceived in an epoch-making era. The fear of the Cold War, like the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction, seems as contemporary as it was then and still haunts the mind. A great satisfying experience, regardless of whether you like superhero comics or not.

Mouse: I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Penguin) 1987 and 1992

It is interesting to note that the vast majority of off-market graphic novels occupied by superhero titles and manga are related to non-fiction and memoirs. I believe this is a mouse effect, and as rare and valuable as all other books are they rarely, if ever, match Spiegelman’s ambitions.

The mouse covers some big topics, thorny father-son relationships, family tragedies, interpersonal trauma and the Holocaust.

The scope of the mouse is matched by an innovative post-modern storytelling that cast Jews as rats and Nazis as cats. Essential reading.

LR: Understanding Comics and Safe Area Gorazade
LR: Understanding Comics and Safe Area Gorazade

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (Paradox Press) 1993

You may have almost missed the subtitle: ‘The Invisible Art’, but in nine chapters, McCloud examines the mechanics of comics, line work, color, speech bubble and gutter – the place in the panel where the magic takes place.

McCloud is a perfect cartoonist and has read extensively and thought deeply about the medium, delivering enlightening observations on the imagery and representation of time and place in comics. The industry of educational work about comics has evolved since it was published 30 years ago, but this scholarly and entertaining comic about comics is as accessible and important as ever.

Protected area by Joe Sacco (Fantographic Books) 2000 Gorazed

The use of cartoons for critical journalism, covering topics such as the migration crisis, environmental concerns and the conflict in Palestine, is one of Joe Sako’s greatest achievements. But as the war rages in Ukraine, it is time to recall his life in the besieged cities of Gorazede and Sarajevo.

It does not shy away from graphic depictions of the brutal brutality inflicted on the Muslim population of Gorazde, but it also captures humor, hope and resilience. Like a man surrounded by an American rock songbook, he meets characters who gratefully linger longer in memory than visual horrors.

LR: Pinocchio and Red Rosa
LR: Pinocchio and Red Rosa

Winshluss (Knockabout) 2010 by Pinocchio

The best cartoons and the worst of humanity clash wonderfully in the re-imagining of the French painter Winsells of the Carlo Collody fairy tale. While it has little to do with the Walt Disney version, Gepeto is an inventor, and Pinocchio is a child-like robot designed for military use. Gimini is a subplot consisting of a dissolved cockroach that resides in Pinocchio’s head.

Mankind’s most bizarre impulses spread these largely wordless, pitch black, macabre stories, but the dynamic art and coloring is excellent. You can easily get lost in the story if you don’t have a strong pace.

Red Rosa by Kate Evans (Verso) 2015

In the book My Living Short History, Rosa Luxemburg has two references: her desire to impose a socialist state in Germany and her assassination in 1919. History can look so dry. Through her writings and contemporary thoughts about her, Evans’s character puts flesh and blood on this great social philosopher and revolutionary.

Bursting from the Leaves is a passionate, charismatic and terribly intelligent character who has become an intellectual firebrand by overcoming physical weakness and social prejudices that practically illuminates his path through this book. Her philosophy is easily felt, and while her demise seems extremely shocking, the book offers hope.

LR: Savage Town and Hound
LR: Savage Town and Hound

Savage Town by Declan Shalwe and Philip Barrett (Image Comics) 2017

Is Savage Town A milestone in Irish comic book history? So far, and outside of the indie scene, the Irish graphic novel has been the prerogative of a single publisher, who has entertained nothing outside of historical and mythological theory. Published by an American company supporting the manufacturer’s proprietary work, Savage Town Opposes the supremacy of nation-defined and mythological by setting in Limerick and having a goon as its protagonist. Pacey, written in retail and in the vernacular, shows that there is a complete market for contemporary Irish stories – not only here but also abroad.

Hound of Paul J. Bolger with Barry Devlin (Dark Horse) 2022

Originally released separately between 2014 and 2018 as a limited-edition trilogy, Cú Chulainn’s Bolger’s Epic Treatment was released this year by the respected American comics publisher Dark Horse as a weighty single volume.

A plaque depicting Queen May’s combined forces on the field is eye-popping for Louis Le Brockie’s paintings for Thomas Kinsella’s The Ten. Otherwise, Bolger’s moody black and white artwork, reminiscent of Frank Miller, complemented by a strange dramatic dash of red. Sin City. Thankfully for its lack of hyperamuscularity, it balances memorable design with rip-roaring storytelling that blends everything.