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31 Days of Comics – Nonfiction Comic You’d Recommend to People Who Don’t Do Nonfiction

Our pal Seth Hahne, of GoodOKBad fame, came up with this 31 Days of Comics challenge, one of those things where each day of the month you’re given a different category that you then make a choice of a comic to fill that category. I figured it would be a fun bit to do, so here we are! Click here to see each of the categories so far!

We continue with Day 6, which is a Nonfiction Comic You’d Recommend to People Who Don’t Do Nonfiction.

Read on for my pick and then you can share yours!

I’d definitely recommend Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s work, but since it is their most recent project, I’ll specifically recommend Action Presidents #1…


I think it is fair to say that by now Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have gotten the “Action” approach down to a science.

Van Lente does a significant amount of research into his subjects and then delivers a whole ton of information to you in just twenty pages. Dunlavey, meanwhile, is brilliant in his ability to take this ton of information and make it appear fresh and vibrant and dynamic instead of just a series of talking heads.

The key to a great Action work, though, is the way that Van Lente doesn’t just resort to simply regurgitating the facts. No, sir, but he attempts to place the historical events of Washington’s life within the context of his times.


In addition, Van Lente does a strong job comparing Washington’s life and times to modern days.


What I am always curious about with any given Action work is seeing what approach Van Lente will take with the subject, in terms of an overall narrative. I was really impressed with the approach he took with Washington. The key angle he worked was the notion of Washington as mythical figure. That’s a really great way to look at Washington. Here’s the striking opening (Dunlavey again is just outstanding here in the page design)….




This is a fun and very smart, thoughtful comic book.

Van Lente and Dunlavey are selling this comic themselves online. You can buy it for just $2 from Comixology here


I still need to get Comic Book Comics.

Meanwhile, I’d recommend Stagger Lee, if it’s allowed (there are some fictionalized elements, but it’s also a great look at the genesis of a popular legend).

That mythos bit was great. I’ll have to check this out.

My choice was Clan Apis (The One About Bees). It surprised me by how fun and warm and interesting it was. I know a good book because it can make me interested in something I have no interest in at all. Clan Apis did that for me.

Really though, there are so many great non-fiction books out there that could be good for people who don’t like non-fiction. Ottaviani’s Feynman seemed pretty close to the wonderful style of Eric Larson (author of the Devil In The White City, Isaac’s Storm, Thunderstruck, etc). I recommend it to all my friends who are in math and sciences.

Ottaviani’s Primates is just a plain cheerful look at Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. Maris Wicks art and colours positively glow. For the politically interested I recommend either Palestine or Footnotes In Gaza—heavy subjectmatter but engaging, esp Footnotes. The two Nate Powell books dealing with the civil rights movement (Silence Of Our Friends and March) are both great with good storytelling. Tough call between them as Silence has the better, more engaging narrative, but March is co-authored by an actual Congressman. Katherine Wirick’s No One Is Safe is a fabulous meditation on the Kent State shooting (but it’s dimensions as a 36″ single square sheet make for awkward reading/storage). Oh, and all of Rick Geary’s murder treasuries are deliciously morbid fun.

My pick is Cartoon History of the Universe for younger readers, Safe Area Gorazde for adults.

(Though Cartoon History is also great for grown-up history nerds like me.)

Fax From Sarajevo is the first thing that came to mind. And, I guess, 300.

Persepolis. The way her art style subtly shifts as she grows older on the page is amazing, and the cultural conflicts within Iran are absolutely fascinating. At it’s core it’s the story of a girl growing up in a changing world. The fact that it’s true just makes it more interesting.

I already picked Understanding Comics for Day 1, so I’d also go with Cartoon History of the Universe. It’s a surprisingly in depth look at history for trying to cover so much of it. And it’s well written and drawn.

Michael P: I was going to say Stagger Lee. It’s such a fascinating book, with enough clarity and humor to keep people’s interest.

My pick is Crecy, a short Warren Ellis story (more like a lecture, actually) about one historical battle and the way it showed how warfare evolved. I knew nothing about the battle beforehand and am not a history buff, but I loved it.

It’s an obvious choice, but a good one: Maus. While it ‘s a true account, it reads like a work of fiction, perfect for those who don’t usually like the genre.

I can’t understand the popularity of the Cartoon History of the Universe. It always struck me as both weak as history and weak as comics. To each his own, though.

Pedro and Me

Pyongyang by Guy Delisle

Nat Turner by Kyle Baker

The Plot by Will Eisner

Willie Everstop

January 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm

The Big Book of Bad

Another vote for Crecy.

Though… Persepolis, Maus, Pedro and Me and Understanding Comics are all good too.

Captain Haddock

January 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I loaned Fun Home to my friend and she wouldn’t stop crying for days, in a good way.

I loved Blankets and Stitches and have always recommended those, along with Maus. Now the new one I would show people is Boxers & Saints- while not strictly a “true” story, it’s based on true circumstances and is a helluva read.

Understanding Comics. If they are interested in reading comics, they will be interested in that one.

This skirts the line between fiction and nonfiction but I’ve been reading Eric Shanower’s “The Bronze Age” in trade and it’s amazing.

(1) “Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth”. The history of how Bertrand Russell, David Hilbert, Kurt Godel, and others in the early 20th century searched for the logical foundations upon which all modern mathematics could be constructed by proof, only to discover that it is provable that not everything is provable.

(2) “Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb”. Give it to your friends who are fans of “The Manhattan Projects”.

“21: The Story of Roberto Clemente” by Wilfred Santiago


“Green River Killer: The True Detective Story” by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case

Maus, it deserves all the awards and raves

Fun Home. It’s so tightly constructed that it doesn’t /feel/ like a memoir.

Agree with most of the excellent suggestions here. I also just read and would recommend Noah Van Schiver’s The Hypo because who doesn’tlike Lincoln? And who knew he was anxious, depressed, and nearly suicidal at one point in his early career?

Clemente Wilfred Santiago
Louis Riel by Chester Brown
The Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm
King by Ho Che Anderson

There’s an absolutely incredible all-ages (truly all-ages, every adult who reads these goes crazy for them) graphic novel series that I’ve never seen mentioned on this blog, which is a crime: NATE HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES.

The premise is that the Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale (who happens to have the same name as the writer/artist Nathan Hale) has a visionary flash of all of America’s future heroes while he’s on the gallows, so he tells his executioners about them in a wildly entertaining fashion to forstall said execution. The writing and art on these things are just superb, and the history comes vividly to life.

The Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm

Is that non-fiction? I thought it was pure fiction, though I could be wrong.


There is a reason it is often listed as one of the best comcis ever created.

I guess Brian covers it indirectly, but Action Philosophers would be my pick – it is resolutly non-fiction, but a quick and exciting read. Crecy is also a great place to start for people who specifically say they ‘don’t do non-fiction’.

It’s a bit of a cheat, but Fraction and Sanders’s ‘Five Fists of Science’ is a complete work of fiction which contains quite a lot of non-fiction info in it – again, this would appeal to people who say they can’t/won’t read full-on non-fiction. (In contrast to the excellent Jim Ottaviani, whose works reads as hard non-fiction with little bits of fiction added. Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder-Lizards is my favourite)

Im someone who doesnt read nonfiction comics, so I will have to check some of these out. On the top of that list would be Maus.

Since we seem to be including heavily fictionalized non-fiction, “From Hell” is a pretty damn good choice. Dense and sometimes hard to get through, but still full of good stuff.

From Hell is pure fiction. Alan Moore has even said he picked the wrong guy for the murderer because it made a more interesting story.

I hate to repeat myself but Understanding Comics. It is a really good read.

Any comic by Marjan Satrapi, particularly Persepolis.

Fun Home. Great musical too.

I’m gonna go with Archaia’s “Revere” graphic novel…because everyone should know the truth about Paul Revere’s primary occupation of werewolf hunter.

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