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Boom! pow! Comics can be so dazzling with colors and figures that seem larger than the pages they’re printed on, whether it’s superheroes battling villains or a world swirling with color from a household appliance. But while we’re used to seeing what’s on the page, there’s so much going on behind the scenes in the comics. There’s the comic book world itself where creators imagine new characters and worlds. There is also the politics of writers and artists competing for gigs.
And then there’s the world of comic book stores that fuel our love of comics and the beauty and madness of comic book conventions where fans and creators come together and celebrate their favorite works. Sure, there are text books that take a page from the superhero world we’re used to seeing on floppy disks (and yeah, I see how many times I can use the page as a pun) and books about people who really like comics.
In honor of the comic world, I’ve put together a list of fictional books about the comic world. These books span a variety of genres, from murder mystery to young adult fiction.
Secret identity by Alex Segura
I totally wrote this list in honor of this recently published work. While we now live in a world of blockbuster comic book movies, this murder mystery is set in 1975 New York, when people thought the comic book industry was dying. Carmen Valdez loves comics and all she wants is to be a part of them. She got a job as assistant head of Triumph Comics, but he doesn’t even consider her ideas. When a friend from work comes to her with the idea of collaborating, she dives in to find a new superhero, the Lethal Lynx. But when her friend is murdered, she also discovers that he submitted the material without her credit. She decides to do justice to her colleague and to herself. On top of all that, there are amazing illustrations of the Lethal Lynx by artist Sandy Jarrell with lettering by Taylor Esposito. There’s going to be a Lethal Lynx-focused follow-up, like Chabon’s. The escapist.
Verona comics by Jennifer Dugan
Think Romeo and Juliet, but with comic book stores. Jubilee works at her mother’s independent comic book store when she’s not practicing her cello, and Ridley’s parents own the largest chain of comic book stores in the country. When the two accidentally meet at a comic book prom, they fall in love with each other, despite the fact that their families can’t stand each other. Can they be together despite the daggers on both sides? Can Jubilee win the big contest or will she have to choose?
The Incredible Absorbent Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
When Samuel’s mother dies, he is sent from his home in Trinidad to live with his father in Toronto. As he finds he’s not particularly welcomed by his father, he explores this new town using his love of comic books as a guide. It’s a story about Toronto, about self-discovery, and how comics can be a bridge between childhood, adulthood, home, and new places.
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michel Chabon
This book had to be on the list. Segura has stated in several interviews how inspired he was by this book. It’s easy to see why. In pre-WWII America, two cousins from different backgrounds team up to create new superheroes. Joe Kavalier is an escape artist/magician who uses his skills to break out of Europe when the Nazis take over. His cousin Sam Clay was born and raised in Brooklyn. The two combine their skills to make the escapee, moon moth, and others. It’s a real window on the neighborhood, the comic book industry in its heyday and the lives of these two men. Additionally, there is a standalone comic by the escapee.
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Graham and Roxy first met during a fantasy series and became best friends. Eight years later, they are now great comic book aficionados. And Graham has a huge crush on Roxy. So when their favorite comic book creator comes to their local comic book convention, he gets tickets and plans to profess his love. But comic book convention is even weirder than he expected… including his beloved Roxy. Can he understand?
hundred thousand worlds by Bob Proehl
This book is set in the world of comic book conventions as creators and stars travel from scam to scam. It shows behind the scenes of creators forming friendships, partnerships, even enemies. While it largely focuses on the story of Valerie Torrey, an actress from a hugely famous sci-fi show, who leads her son across the country to his father. The narrative flows in and out of different characters attending the show.
Comics will break your heart by Faith Erin Hicks
It’s another Romeo and Juliet story, but this time it’s about intellectual property. Miriam’s grandfather created the incredibly popular The TomorrowMen, but he sold his rights decades ago. Now Miriam tries to figure out if she can even think about college while her family struggles. But when a new boy comes to town, she has a new distraction until she learns he’s the grandson of the man who bought the rights to The TomorrowMen…
Not your sidekick by CB Lee
Finally, here’s a book that looks like a comic with a wonderful twist. Despite having superhero parents, Jessica Tran is an ordinary kid with no super skills. She still manages to get an internship, which will help her apply to college. But she finds out it’s with her town’s super villain… so it’s not ideal. But she will continue until she discovers a secret that could impact everyone. It is the first in a series of four books called Sidekick Squad.
I hope you find these books about the world of comics as fun and engaging as the pages of the comics you read! I hope we will also see more books in this genre in the future.
Want more comics? Here’s a dive into the history of comics, and here’s a list of books about comic book creators.