Graphic novels have evolved greatly. They have become a medium in which writers and illustrators can discuss serious political issues or important events from our histories. Veering aside from the path of superheros in capes and costumes has come graphic novels that have been bold enough to tackle controversial wars and characters, and debatable themes that have existed in reality. Viewed as comic books for adults, graphic novels are certainly more diverse and indeed, much more controversial. Here is the list of 10 of the most controversial graphic novels.
A French-language autobiography by Marjane Satrapi. The graphic novel tells the story of her childhood up to her early adult years growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution and life after it had ended. Controversy was raised over Satrapi’s views on religion and her proclamations that she was a prophet from God.
Another autobiographical tale told by Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is the story of Spiegelman’s father Vladek, a Polish Jew surviving Hitler’s rule. Spiegelman cleverly depicts the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats, which retells the horror of the Holocaust in a much subtler manner. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
3. I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors
The title alone is strong enough to capture one’s attention immediately. A combination of Persepolis andMaus, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors is a brutally honest account of Eisenstein’s childhood, growing up in the aftermath of the Holocaust. The story describes how the author came to terms with the stigma set against her parents by some people in society. Despite the controversial theme the author manages to recount her parents terrible past with humour, intelligence and searing honesty.
4. Che: A Graphic Biography
It’s unsurprising that Che Guevara has had a graphic novel written about him. Mike Gold, a reviewer of ComicMix, said of Spain Rodriguez’s book, “I’m surprised it took this long.” The graphic novel only came out last year so you can only agree with his surprise that something similar has not been done sooner. As celebrated as the book is though and as glorified as Che was as a rebellious political figure, the revolutionist still divides opinion to this day on whether he was a hero or a controversial man with a questionable legacy.
5. Shooting War
Shooting War has courted controversy in the USA over its “What if…” scenario that is the core theme of the story. What if John McCain had become U.S. president instead of Obama? What if in 2011 there was a terrorist suicide bomb attack on a Starbucks in Brooklyn? What if the protagonist of the story, Jimmy Burns, had videoed the carnage and became a media star overnight? You get the gist of the controversy by now?
6. Death Note
A Manga graphic novel that has courted controversy, now there’s a surprise! Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, has been turned into a series (the 12th and final novel was published in the U.S. in 2007). The novel has attracted attention over its theme – death – and their central characters; a psychotic serial killer and the world’s greatest police detective, who both happen to be teenagers. So offended were China by the concept and the content, they have banned the entire Death Note series from their country.
Some people deem Preacher to be blasphemous while others regard it as one of the top ten greatest graphic novels of all time. The story is about Jesse Custer, a preacher who becomes possessed by Genesis – the unnatural lovechild of an angel and a demon. God abandoned heaven as soon as Genesis was born so Custer travels all around America in search of Him – literally. Supernaturally far fetched, highly imaginative, deeply controversial.
Despite being recently made into a huge blockbuster movie, the story is controversial all the same because it glorifies extreme violence and the protagonist is just a teenager. Dave Lizewski is Kick-Ass and decides on becoming a crime fighter after becoming sick and tired of bullies. He takes inspiration from the comic books he reads and soon links up with Big Daddy and his highly trained, combative daughter and sidekick – Hit-Girl.
9. Uncle Sam
The depiction of American hero Uncle Sam as a distressed homeless man who talks to himself and is obviously detached from reality in this graphic novel did not go down too well with some Americans. Yet the story is immensely clever and very educational as Uncle Same often encounters flashbacks of American history, such as the Indian wars, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and more. Apart from the overly patriotic who were offended simply because they were too ignorant to open their minds, the graphic novel was well received by critics and was even nominated for an Eisner Award.
10. V for Vendetta
Written by the master of the graphic novel Alan Moore, V for Vendetta is about a dystopian future set in the UK. A mysterious revolutionary who goes by the name of V and wears a Guy Fawkes mask sets out to bring down the totalitarian government in power. Much of this is controversial; from the murderous protagonist to the terrorist attacks he inflicts, from the depiction of governmental rule to even the Guy Fawkes mask V wears. Despite all of this it is still a work of genius and is arguably one of the greatest graphic novels of all time.