I have always been fascinated by the concept of memories, big and small, and what they mean to people. Even a story shared by a stranger can be relatable if the listener opens their ears and finds moments where they can relate.
Autobiographical comics and graphic memoirs have held my hand for as long as I can remember, lending me experiences that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Their black and white printed panels guided me through life, and a cartoon face met mine that felt abstract enough for me to sympathize with.
Historically there has been a stigma against comics. The public has maintained an assumption that reading comics doesn’t count as real reading, that comic books are not worth time or money, or that they are picture books meant for children.
Lately, these ideas have been fading — as superhero comics, manga, and webtoons have become increasingly popular and accessible in the West, partly thanks to television and film. Though, the stigma against comics has not disappeared.
Graphic novels and comics are not a genre, they are a medium. We can differentiate them the same as we do art — sculpture, film, oil painting, interpretive dance, and beyond. If Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins focused on graphic novels, then perhaps The Umbrella Academy would be just as successful as Jane Eyre.
Perhaps a comic is a real book after all.
Autobiographical comics can illustrate tough discussions about politics through the combined power of words and images, which function separately and uplift each other. When words feel too simple to depict a memory, art can emphasize ideas that prose fails to capture.
These stories can act as an investigation, a recollection of an experience around an important event, a life, or a niche subject. Stories about a memory, disastrous or joyful, can be better interpreted through imagery in comparison to a written description.
Perhaps the nostalgic scent of a satsuma orange can come flooding back to you with the help of an image.
The trust between you and your one confidant.
Or sunsets from your childhood room window don’t have to be intangible memories anymore.
Comics articulate what humans have trouble saying, because reality can be hard to put into words. Nonfiction stories ranging from eccentric to brutal help us understand what it means to be human.
- Johnny Wander (Free-to-read webcomic)
- My Giant Nerd Boyfriend (Free-to-read webtoon)
- Persepolis & Persepolis 2
- Something New, Tales From a Makeshift Bride
Comic Recommendations (for Entertainment):
- Sakana (Free-to-read webcomic)
- Barbarous (Free-to-read webcomic)
- Gourmet Hound (Free-to-read webtoon)