Non-fiction comics

  (Redirected from Graphic nonfiction)
Paul Revere was profiled in this King Features comic strip (September 27, 1936). "Heroes of American History" by Nicholas Afonsky.

Non-fiction comics, also known as graphic non-fiction, is non-fiction in the comics medium, embracing a variety of formats from comic strips to trade paperbacks.

Comic strips and comic booksEdit

Traditionally, comic strips have long offered factual material in this category, notably Ripley's Believe It or Not!, John Hix's Strange as It Seems, Ralph Graczak's Our Own Oddities, King Features' Heroes of American History, Gordon Johnston's It Happened in Canada, and others. Dick's Adventures in Dreamland was another attempt by King Features to teach history with comics. Clayton Knight created a strip about aviators, The Hall of Fame of the Air (1935–40), later collected in a book. Texas History Movies, which began on October 5, 1926, in The Dallas Morning News, received praise from educators, as did America's Best Buy: The Louisiana Purchase, a 1953 daily strip in the New Orleans States, distributed nationally by the Register and Tribune Syndicate, which also handled Will Eisner's The Spirit supplement for Sunday newspapers.[1][2]

Contemporary nonfiction comic strips include Biographic, Health Capsules, The K Chronicles, and You Can with Beakman and Jax.

Non-fiction was published in numerous comic books in the 1940s, notably Picture News (Lafayette Street Corporation), True Comics (Parents' Magazine Press) and Heroic Comics (Eastern Color Printing). A notable scripter of this material for 1940s comic books was novelist Patricia Highsmith, who wrote for Real Fact (DC Comics), Real Heroes (also Parents' Magazine Press), and True Comics.[3]

A notable nonfiction comic from the 1950s was the 1957 one-shot Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a 16-page comic book about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Fitzgerald Publishing Co. produced the Golden Legacy line of educational black history comic books from 1966 to 1976. Golden Legacy produced biographies of such notable figures as Harriet Tubman, Crispus Attucks, Benjamin Banneker, Matthew Henson, Alexandre Dumas, Frederick Douglass, Robert Smalls, Joseph Cinqué, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Pushkin, Lewis Howard Latimer, and Granville Woods. Golden Legacy was the brainchild of African American accountant Bertram Fitzgerald, who also wrote seven of the volumes. Many of the other contributors to the Golden Legacy series were also black, including Joan Bacchus and Tom Feelings. Other notable contributors included Don Perlin and Tony Tallarico.[4]

Harvey Pekar's originally self-published comic book series American Splendor (published from 1976 to 2008) "helped change the appreciation for, and perceptions of, the graphic novel, the drawn memoir, [and] the autobiographical comic narrative."[5] He was the first author to publicly distribute "memoir comic books."[6]

Larry Gonick (The Cartoon History of the Universe) produced graphic non-fiction about science and history for more than 30 years.

Joe Sacco's nine-issue series Palestine (Fantagraphics, 1993–1995) — about his experiences in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in December 1991 and January 1992 — broke new ground in the realm of comics journalism.

Other contemporary nonfiction comic books include the For Beginners series and The Manga Guides.


Since the publication of Art Spiegelman's Maus in 1986,[7] there have been many non-fiction "graphic novels" published in the realms of history, biography, autobiography, education, and journalism. Francisca Goldsmith, writing in the School Library Journal in 2008, assembled a "list of essential titles for high schoolers" and reviewed graphic nonfiction by a variety of creators, including Rick Geary (Treasury of Victorian Murder), Harvey Pekar (Students for a Democratic Society), Stan Mack (The Story of the Jews), Joe Sacco (Palestine), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Osamu Tezuka (Buddha) and Howard Zinn (A People’s History of American Empire).[8]

Other examples are The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (2006) and After 9/11: America’s War on Terror (2007), both by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón.[8] Hill & Wang, which published the 9/11 books, has published several other works of graphic non-fiction.

In A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (2009), Josh Neufeld documented true stories of survival during Hurricane Katrina as witnessed by the survivors: Denise, a counselor, social worker and sixth-generation New Orleanian; friends Abbas and Darnell, who await the storm in Abbas’s family-run market; pastor's son Kwame, entering his senior year of high school; and the young couple Leo and Michelle, who both grew up in New Orleans. Each confronts the same decision–stay or flee.[9]

In Italian Winter (2010), Davide Toffolo documented a story of two children from Slovenia in Fascist concentration camp in Italy.

In March (2013), U.S. Rep. John Lewis recalled his childhood, his entry into the American civil rights movement and his first encounter with Martin Luther King Jr., and his first experiences with nonviolent resistance.[10] March: Book One (2013) was followed by Book Two (2015) and Book Three (2016).

In The Forgotten Man Graphic Edition: A New History of the Great Depression (2014), Amity Shlaes recounted her earlier history of America's Great Depression.

Red Quill Books has published a series of political, non-fiction comics including an illustrated version of the Communist Manifesto (2010-2015), a Manga version of Das Capital (2012) and the Last Days of Che Guevara.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Markstein, Don. Toonopedia: Dick's Adventures in Dreamland
  2. ^ The Hall of Fame of the Air.
  3. ^ The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith, by Joan Schenkar, 2009; ISBN 978-0-312-30375-4
  4. ^ Christopher, Tom. "Bertram A Fitzgerald and the Golden Legacy Series of Black History Comics" (originally published in edited form in Comics Buyer's Guide), (2004).
  5. ^ "HARVEY PEKAR: Remembering the man — and legacy — one year later" by Michael Cavna, The Washington Post, 7/13/2011
  6. ^ "Graphic Memoir: The Legacy of Harvey Pekar" by JT Waldman, The Prosen People, The Jewish Book Council, July 3, 2012.
  7. ^ Kaplan, Arie (2008). From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books. Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 978-0-8276-0843-6, p. 171.
  8. ^ a b School Library Journal, November 1, 2008.
  9. ^ Smith: Josh Neufeld
  10. ^ "U.S. Rep. John Lewis Discusses His Graphic Novel March, August 2014 interview". Archived from the original on 2014-09-09. Retrieved 2014-09-08.

External linksEdit