The best comic strip books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about comic strips and why they recommend each book.

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Society is Nix

By Peter Maresca,

Book cover of Society is Nix: Gleeful Anarchy at the Dawn of the American Comic Strip 1895-1915

Warning: This book will make you build a new bookshelf. Like other oversized offerings from Peter Maresca’s Sunday Press Publishing, you need a tape measure, not a ruler, to determine its dimensions. This means that you can read this startling collection of strips from 1895 to 1915 in the grand size in which they first appeared in early newspapers, back when the colors and characters screamed off the page, reflecting and refracting the frenetic dawn of a new century. These old newspaper comics pages are where Americans first learned to laugh together. Society is Nix can be difficult to find but is well worth the effort.


Who am I?

I was walking across the country in 1986 when I met a journalist named Mike Sager who showed me that writing can also be an adventure. Since then, I’ve edited an alternative weekly newspaper and written books about zydeco, Hurricane Katrina, comics, and old Kodachrome photos. So far, most everything I write seems to be centered in some way around my adopted home state of Louisiana, a place that never seems to run out of stories. Also, I still like to walk.


I wrote...

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

By Michael Tisserand,

Book cover of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

What is my book about?

In 2007, living in the Midwest following the New Orleans floods, I attended the Masters of American Comics exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When I walked into a room filled with George Herriman’s original, hand-drawn pages of his masterpiece “Krazy Kat,” I immediately knew I had to learn everything there was to know about this amazing, inscrutable cartoonist and New Orleans exile. Ten years of research later, I published the first full-length biography of Herriman, revealing the story of his precarious position on the American color line and especially the transcendent “Krazy Kat,” in which Herriman created art from a personal history that could not be spoken out loud.

Krazy was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and won the Eisner Award for best book about comics, and has been optioned by filmmaker Jonathan Hock for a documentary.

Little Nemo in Slumberland

By Winsor McCay,

Book cover of Little Nemo in Slumberland: 302+1 full-page weekly comic strips (October 15, 1905 - July 23, 1911)

Now c’mon, was this guy Winsor fer-real? This stuff is off the charts other-realm, lucid sleeping material. His work was done as comic strips, but can now be found in book form in a variety of volumes. It may be the century between us, but these images and text make me feel a little tilted, off-center, and in the best way possible.


Who am I?

My books may never be a child’s favorite nighty-night story, but I think they offer fresh minds opportunities to visit some unusual places. There are goblins in the forest; so let’s go there together, in delight, holding hands. My poems and illustrations have been featured in numerous books and magazines and honored by the National  Council of Teachers of English and the Society of Illustrators. I live with my youngest son in upstate New York, in a house filled with bikes and balls, color, and music.


I wrote...

A Song

By James Christopher Carroll,

Book cover of A Song

What is my book about?

A girl hears a song and follows its call into the woods where she happens upon a wild band of animals, and receives a wondrous gift that changes her life forever. The story serves as an example to those who have forgotten how to listen to their lives, how to discern music from noise, how to follow the path of mystery and adventure set before them. A Song is an encouragement for readers to listen and to follow their passions in life.

You need help, Charlie Brown

By Charles M. Schulz,

Book cover of You need help, Charlie Brown

I bought this book in a charity shop to help me maintain my knowledge of French! I deliberately chose a children’s book because my level of French is modest, but I don’t really need a reason to pick up a Charlie Brown book. Charles M Schultz created an entire world of personalities with the peanut characters. They began life as a comic strip which makes it perfect for dipping in and out of, sometimes just for one joke! Beneath the humour and childlike simplicity, there are complex topics like mental wellbeing and self-esteem, all delivered via fiendishly clever punchlines. Like all the best illustrators, Schultz is able to convey emotion and energy with a few strokes of his pen. The Charlie Brown books are works of genius, in any language. 


Who am I?

There is nothing more gratifying when you are reading your own books to a group of children to see that they are eager to know what is going to happen next. My top priority is to create a story that is a page-turner. My second wish is to include social topics that provoke ideas and questions. After I read to a group of schoolchildren, I like to encourage them to discuss the themes in the story; the children are always keen to give their views. Nonetheless, adding social topics to my children’s books needs to evolve naturally; ultimately, for me, the story is king! 


I wrote...

The Adventures of Cedric the Bear

By Lucia Wilson, Anne Bowes (illustrator), Katie Eggington (illustrator)

Book cover of The Adventures of Cedric the Bear

What is my book about?

In the first story, Cedric is enjoying being the centre of attention in the V&A Museum, until he gets bear-napped! In the second adventure, Cedric discovers the Button Bear who lives a miserable life with a mean tailor. Cedric vows to rescue BB and help him find his way home. 

In Cedric in Paris, we meet Cedric’s cousin Velours, a velvet cat. She is a Pet Paralympian and the favourite to win Le Grand Dash. Unfortunately, Olivier (a disabled human) goes missing and Velours must make a choice; to help Capitaine, Olivier’s support pet, find Olivier and miss the race or to follow her dream of winning a gold medal at the Pet Paralympics. (Cedric is inspired by a real-life, prize-winning teddy bear).

75 Years of DC Comics. the Art of Modern Mythmaking

By Paul Levitz,

Book cover of 75 Years of DC Comics. the Art of Modern Mythmaking

Paul Levitz was a writer, editor, editor in chief, publisher, and president of DC Comics for decades. This oversized coffee table book is a treasure trove of his insights, memories, and analysis. It’s the definitive history of DC, which only he could write. And it’s full of fun colorful images, making it interesting to younger readers as well as a perfect gift to any pop culture or comics lover.


Who am I?

I’m the author of Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World's Greatest Hero, which won the 2021 Diagram Prize, and The Darkness in Lee's Closet and the Others Waiting There. I write about pop culture for The Forward and CNN.com. My writing has appeared in a range of publications, including New York Daily News, Jerusalem Post, and Philosophy Now. I’ve taught English and writing at the City University of New York and am a former writer-in-residence fellow at the New York Public Library.


I wrote...

Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World's Greatest Hero

By Roy Schwartz,

Book cover of Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World's Greatest Hero

What is my book about?

Superman is the most famous character in the world. He's the first superhero, an American icon—and he's Jewish! Exploring the underlying themes of a beloved modern mythology, Is Superman Circumcised? is a fascinating journey through comic book lore, American history, and Jewish tradition, sure to give readers a newfound appreciation for the Mensch of Steel!

The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics

By Bill Blackbeard (editor), Martin Williams (editor),

Book cover of The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics

Bill Blackbeard was the Harry Smith of comics. Just as Smith’s landmark Anthology of American Folk Music helped launch a folk music revival, so did Blackbeard’s massive volume of old newspaper comics spark a new generation of comics fandom and scholarship. This was also the first book of old newspaper funnies I ever read, during a childhood Saturday afternoon in the Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana, when I discovered the magical “741.5” shelf that held books of comics. Other big, beautiful anthologies of old newspaper funnies have been compiled by comics creators like Jerry Robinson and Brian Walker, but Blackbeard is the granddaddy.


Who am I?

I was walking across the country in 1986 when I met a journalist named Mike Sager who showed me that writing can also be an adventure. Since then, I’ve edited an alternative weekly newspaper and written books about zydeco, Hurricane Katrina, comics, and old Kodachrome photos. So far, most everything I write seems to be centered in some way around my adopted home state of Louisiana, a place that never seems to run out of stories. Also, I still like to walk.


I wrote...

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

By Michael Tisserand,

Book cover of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

What is my book about?

In 2007, living in the Midwest following the New Orleans floods, I attended the Masters of American Comics exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When I walked into a room filled with George Herriman’s original, hand-drawn pages of his masterpiece “Krazy Kat,” I immediately knew I had to learn everything there was to know about this amazing, inscrutable cartoonist and New Orleans exile. Ten years of research later, I published the first full-length biography of Herriman, revealing the story of his precarious position on the American color line and especially the transcendent “Krazy Kat,” in which Herriman created art from a personal history that could not be spoken out loud.

Krazy was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and won the Eisner Award for best book about comics, and has been optioned by filmmaker Jonathan Hock for a documentary.

In the Shadow of No Towers

By Art Spiegelman,

Book cover of In the Shadow of No Towers

Unlike the other books on this list, this isn’t primarily a reprint collection of early-twentieth-century comics. Rather, Art Spiegelman (whose essential memoir Maus was the first comic to win a Pulitzer Prize), re-introduces old comics characters in a very personal story of the 9/11 attacks and the political fallout. Figures like the Happy Hooligan, Jiggs and Maggie, Little Nemo, and Krazy Kat and Ignatz float through these stories like New York City’s awakened ghosts. Spiegelman also adds a masterful essay on comics and curates a few selections of the original strips. No work better demonstrates how the early cartoonists can speak through the rubble of history with vitality and humor.


Who am I?

I was walking across the country in 1986 when I met a journalist named Mike Sager who showed me that writing can also be an adventure. Since then, I’ve edited an alternative weekly newspaper and written books about zydeco, Hurricane Katrina, comics, and old Kodachrome photos. So far, most everything I write seems to be centered in some way around my adopted home state of Louisiana, a place that never seems to run out of stories. Also, I still like to walk.


I wrote...

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

By Michael Tisserand,

Book cover of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

What is my book about?

In 2007, living in the Midwest following the New Orleans floods, I attended the Masters of American Comics exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When I walked into a room filled with George Herriman’s original, hand-drawn pages of his masterpiece “Krazy Kat,” I immediately knew I had to learn everything there was to know about this amazing, inscrutable cartoonist and New Orleans exile. Ten years of research later, I published the first full-length biography of Herriman, revealing the story of his precarious position on the American color line and especially the transcendent “Krazy Kat,” in which Herriman created art from a personal history that could not be spoken out loud.

Krazy was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and won the Eisner Award for best book about comics, and has been optioned by filmmaker Jonathan Hock for a documentary.

Invisible Emmie

By Terri Libenson,

Book cover of Invisible Emmie

This graphic novel literally illustrates many ways in which the average school day is challenging to introverts, from the bus, to school hallways, to the cafeteria, to navigating pre-class chatter. Emmie is very in tune with her feelings and able to focus on drawing no matter the noise all around, but still questions her own value: “Does anyone ever see me? Do I want them to?” When the author drew Emmie with a disappearing mouth to show how others view her as mute—ooh, I got goosebumps. I adore a book that makes me go back and read it again the moment I finish it. 


Who am I?

Every one of my books is centered around characters finding a place where they can be fully, unapologetically, joyfully themselves. If you had asked my child self where my happy place was, I would have told you it was my room, empty of other people but full of books. I am very friendly and would love to meet you, but I also delight in solitude, and my imagination sparks and cartwheels when I am quiet. It turns out there’s a word for this inborn trait of mine: introversion. I’m always looking for stories that celebrate the strengths of us quietly powerful introverts. 


I wrote...

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

By Christina Uss,

Book cover of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle

What is my book about?

One girl. Two wheels. Four thousand miles to go. Introverted Bicycle has lived most of her life quietly—and happily—at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C. When her guardian says she must attend a summer friend-making camp, Bicycle seeks a different path. She sets off on her bike for California to prove she can make her first friend her own way.

Who knew that a ghost would haunt her handlebars, or that she would have to contend with bike-hating dogs, a bike-loving horse, and bike-crushing pigs? Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, Bicycle discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

By Peter Cameron,

Book cover of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You

This book tells the dead-on truth about what it feels like to be a kid who can’t find a single place in the world where he feels like he belongs. I love, love, love James Sveck’s smart, funny, cynical voice and how it made me laugh and cry—sometimes simultaneously. I love how this book shows that even young people with every advantage can be lonely, unhappy, and unseen, too, and that, like everyone else, they have to make themselves vulnerable to change that is going to be painful. But that sounds so—ugh, what adults are always saying to kids. The truth is, I love this book because it’s honest and hilarious and I came to the end feeling like I knew James and had a real stake in his getting his act together.  


Who am I?

When people find out I write YA novels, they sometimes ask, “How do you remember what it was like to be that age?” I want to respond, “How do you forget?” I’m still—many years past my own adolescence and after 25 years of teaching teenagers—trying to figure out how high school works. I’m pretty sure I won’t find a satisfying answer, but I hope that, if I keep asking the question (actually, I can’t help asking it), I’ll write some YA books that make kids feel a little less alone. Who am I? Clearly, a person who hopes it’s never too late to be popular in high school.


I wrote...

Looking for Jack Kerouac

By Barbara Shoup,

Book cover of Looking for Jack Kerouac

What is my book about?

In 1964, Paul Carpetti discovers Jack Kerouac’s On the Road while on a school trip to New York; upon returning home, he learns his mother is seriously ill. Both rock his world and make him begin to question his long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Kathy, and what he wants his life after high school to be. The summer after graduation, he meets Duke Walczak, a volatile, charismatic Kerouac fan, who convinces him to take off on a road trip to St. Petersburg, Florida to look for Jack—and Paul’s life is forever changed when they find him. 

Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny

By Paul C. Tumey,

Book cover of Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny

Paul Tumey is one of our pre-eminent comics scholars, but like the cartoonists he honors in this work, he mainly wants to make you laugh. To this end, he’s assembled cartoons, comics, and old photos, mostly dating to the early 1900s, to build a case for a comics genre he calls Screwballism. It’s all a very funny read, and if the names of genius creators like Frederick Burr Opper and Gene Ahern aren’t yet household names, don’t blame Tumey.


Who am I?

I was walking across the country in 1986 when I met a journalist named Mike Sager who showed me that writing can also be an adventure. Since then, I’ve edited an alternative weekly newspaper and written books about zydeco, Hurricane Katrina, comics, and old Kodachrome photos. So far, most everything I write seems to be centered in some way around my adopted home state of Louisiana, a place that never seems to run out of stories. Also, I still like to walk.


I wrote...

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

By Michael Tisserand,

Book cover of Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

What is my book about?

In 2007, living in the Midwest following the New Orleans floods, I attended the Masters of American Comics exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When I walked into a room filled with George Herriman’s original, hand-drawn pages of his masterpiece “Krazy Kat,” I immediately knew I had to learn everything there was to know about this amazing, inscrutable cartoonist and New Orleans exile. Ten years of research later, I published the first full-length biography of Herriman, revealing the story of his precarious position on the American color line and especially the transcendent “Krazy Kat,” in which Herriman created art from a personal history that could not be spoken out loud.

Krazy was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and won the Eisner Award for best book about comics, and has been optioned by filmmaker Jonathan Hock for a documentary.

The Right Word

By Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet (illustrator),

Book cover of The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Sometimes pencil and paper and a lot of scribbling can reveal a passion. As someone always searching for the right word, I love this book. Young Peter Roget became a word collector when he discovered that words “were powerful things.” With a passion to find the best word, the one that really fits, he made lists. At 8, he wrote his first book, but it was not a story. He wrote lists. Then he wrote more lists. A lifetime of lists. His efforts to create one place where everyone could find just the right word are illustrated scrapbook style in this book that is incredible, stunning, splendid, remarkable, and fun.   


Who am I?

I'm an award-winning, best-selling children’s author who writes about unexpected “wow” moments that stick with me. I look for books and articIes that take me on a deep journey into unknown environments. I aim for nonfiction that reads like a story with an emotional connection to new creatures with fascinating lifestyles. As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research. The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for those struggling to survive on our changing plant.  


I wrote...

Into the Sea

By Brenda Z. Guiberson,

Book cover of Into the Sea

What is my book about?

One day I went snorkeling and had a moment with a magnificent sea turtle. “Wow!” Where did she come from? What did she eat? What dangers did she face? I had so many questions and didn’t stop until I had answers. This led to a book about an endangered sea turtle that hatches on a sandy beach and finds ways to survive in the beautiful but dangerous ocean.  

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