6 Essential Comic Books for Grown-Ups

It may come as no surprise to film fans that on the list of the top ten grossing films of 2014 there featured no less than six comic book movies, it seems that audiences just can’t get enough of movies based on superhero comic books. Despite this, very few adults actually read the comic books these blockbusters are based on. Despite a subtle re-naming of some comic book series as ‘graphic novels’ in the 80s –  a clear attempt to market comics at a more adult audience – the sales are still far outstripped by conventional novels.

But why is this? Although it would be easy to assume that the superhero genre is the only genre staple in comic books there is a wealth of high quality story telling present in the medium in a variety of genres. This year may prove to be another successful one for comic book movies at the box office, but if superheroes aren’t your thing let’s consider some of the non-superhero stories that – should a movie version be made – could carry more punch and zap at the box office.

1. A Small Killing (1991) by Alan Moore and Oscar Zarate.

Alan Moore, best known for must reads V for Vendetta and Watchmen, presents the story of yuppie Timothy Hole; an advertising executive responsible for marketing coca cola to the Russians. The pressure of work and a mid-life crisis seems to be getting to Timothy and to make matters worse he is being stalked by a rather malevolent little boy. Zarate provides wonderfully painted interiors to match Moore’s unique style.

2. The Tale of One Bad Rat (1994) by Bryan Talbot.

Written and drawn by Bryan Talbot, The Tale of One Bad Rat is the story of Helen Potter, a teenage victim of child abuse who runs away from home with her giant imaginary rat. The story heavily references the work of Beatrix Potter and has earned several awards and nominations. An excellent read.

3. Maus (1991) by Art Spiegelman.

Maus provides a fascinating memoir for the experiences of Jewish people in World War II. The story involves Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences during the Holocaust and the years preceding it. Throughout the story Spiegelman uses minimalist line work and portrays the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats. It plays out like a nightmarish fairy tale. It is a must read.

4. Love and Rockets (1982-present).

This comic book series by brothers Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez which successfully demonstrates the depth and potential of the medium. Love and Rockets has explored issues including, suicide, racism, transgender issues and relationships set against the backdrop of a fictional Mexican Village and Los Angeles. The characters are multi-layered and the stories wonderfully nuanced. A fantastic body of work well worth investing in.

5. Strangers in Paradise (1993-2007).

Written and drawn by Terry Moore, Strangers in Paradise tells the story of a confused love triangle between two women, Francine and Katchoo, and their friend David Qin whilst also including elements of a thriller and a conspiracy to infiltrate the American government in a shadowy organisation Katchoo used to work for. Excellent writing and artistry meant this was an award winning and long running series long before it was collected into paperback.

6. Sex Criminals (2013-present).

Written by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, this extraordinarily imaginative series tells the story of Suzie and Jon who, after sleeping together, realise that they have the ability to freeze time when they orgasm. They plan to use their powers to rob a bank and save the failing library Suzie works for. However they face resistance in the form of the straight laced ‘Sex Police.’ Witty, wildly creative and a lot more tasteful than it sounds, it was voted Time magazine’s number one comic series of 2013.

If you have never picked up a comic book in your life then you may be surprised to find these as imaginative and entertaining as any movie or mini-series out there today. Comic books can easily cater for a mature adult audience without the staple heroes clogging up the multiplexes and once you have a look into some of these, you’ll see why.

Header Image Rights; Chris r3v || cls


About the author

Bernard O'Shea


I'm like George Clooney, only without the face, physique or the charm. I have a passion for writing, sport and film.