Below is a list by genre of influential or popular graphic novels that you might want to consult as you create your own.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – Marjane Satrapi tells her story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman – Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer winning account both of his father’s experiences in the Holocaust and of his attempts to reconnect with his father. Spiegelman takes the unique approach of depicting all characters as anthropomorphic animals, with Jews portrayed as mice and Germans as cats.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Bechdel’s story of dealing with her father’s death, his homosexuality, and her own coming out.
Stitches by David Small – Small describes in vivid detail the story of his developing cancer as an adolescent due to his radiologist father’s unethical medical procedures. A dark memoir of physical abuse and family secrets.
Superheroes and Beyond
Superman Chronicles by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster – The superhero that started it all. This collection of early Superman stories defined the genre and are a must for any aspiring comic book fan.
Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko – After developing his alter ego, Spider-Man, Peter Parker struggles to juggle a double life. The original, Spider-Man stories.
Batman Chronicles by Bob Kane and Bill Finger – The collected works of the early Batman stories.
Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean – The Caped Crusader takes a journey through Arkham Asylum, the famed mental institution where Gotham’s villains are sent upon capture. The narrative is interspersed with the story of Arkham’s founder, Amadeus Arkham. Gorgeous, dark-hued painted illustrations give this story an even darker, more horrifying feel than the comics most readers are accustomed with.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – What if superheroes were real? An original take on the superhero mythos.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller – Batman returns from retirement to take on both old and new foes.
Tales from the Crypt (published by EC Comics) – A comic book series from the 1950s known for its gory, violent sensibility. Staples of these comics included the living dead, vampires, werewolves, and gruesome revenge stories.
From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell – A comic book series about the Jack the Ripper murders based on a real life theory that the killings were committed by a member of the British royal family.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – When Anya falls down a hole, she accidentally disturbs the ghost of a girl named Emily. A unique take on the idea of being haunted.
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore – A monthly comic book series in a world where zombies have taken over and the remaining humans attempt to survive.
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – Upon their high school graduation, two outcasts, Enid and Rebecca, spend their summer mocking the motley crew of freaks and weirdos who pepper their small town. Enid and Rebecca’s crush on a boy they both know, as well as Enid’s desire to leave town for college, threatens to drive a wedge between the two. Funny and offbeat.
The Complete Crumb by Robert Crumb – Robert Crumb’s work was pivotal in the underground comic movement. Many of his characters, like Devil Girl, Mr. Natural, or Fritz the Cat, had a huge impact on indie comics.
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar – A series of autobiographical comics by misanthrope Harvey Pekar, all illustrated by different artists.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware – By turns hilariously funny and bleakly depressing, the parallel narratives of two men and their fractured paternal relationships.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata – A twelve volume series about a high school student, Light Yagami, who stumbles upon a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. A dark, gripping cult classic.
Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi – An incredibly popular series about a high school girl with the ability to transform into a crime fighting heroine.
7 Billion Needles by Nobuaki Tadano – A series about an outcast high school student who needs to overcome her misanthropic ways in order to help save the human race.
Babymouse by Jennifer Holm — An immensely popular series about an anthropomorphic young mouse. As Babymouse makes friends and goes to school, her wild imagination makes each book in the series a hilariously fun experience.
Bone – A comical and fantastical series about the Bone cousins who leave their home of Boneville to embark upon adventures.
Robot Dreams by Sarah Varon – A wordless book about a dog and his best friend, a robot. When the two are separated, the narrative details their independent experiences and dreams. A fun, surprisingly poignant story.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier – The author’s account of getting braces as a middle schooler. Telgemeier incorporates friendship and first crushes into the story as well.
The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon – A graphic version of the 9/11 report. Despite the format, this book is amazingly faithful to the actual report.
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon – Authors Jacobson and Colon have used the archives and knowledge of the Anne Frank House in order to create a graphic account of the life of Anne Frank.
Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer – A graphic novel that explains the context of the Gettysburg Address and that uses illustrations to convey the deeper meaning of Lincoln’s speech.