In this uncharted period of social distancing and self-isolation, many of us are using this time to dive into something new, whether that's finding distraction in our Netflix queues or in the pages of that book you never got around to reading. But we're here to recommend the colorful world of graphic novels.
Graphic novels and webtoons offer a litany of different settings and premises to quench just about anyone's thirst for great writing, memorable characters, and fantastical sagas. From paper girls uncovering life-changing secrets while delivering the day's news to a high school wallflower transforming herself into a top influencer through the power of makeup, there's a little something in here for everyone.
So take a little time for yourself to sit back, relax, and lose yourself in dynamic storytelling and rich new universes. Just don’t be surprised when you’re hungry for more by the time you finish devouring these suggestions.
Paper GirlsImage Comics
The premise: No-nonsense teens uncover the story of a lifetime, all while delivering the newspaper.
Imagine Stranger Things with a cast of young punks biking around suburbia, facing down aliens and other bizarre events while grappling with the trials and tribulations of growing up.
The year is 1988, and Erin Tieng is the newest resident of Stony Stream. On her first delivery route, she meets a group of fellow paper girls: Mac, KJ, and Tiffany. When they stumble upon a time machine, they become embroiled in a strange battle against a time-traveling gang called the "Old-Timers" in a raucous journey through the ages.
Throughout the series, the "Paper Girls" end up frequently displaced throughout the distant past and future, coming face-to-face with different versions of themselves. In order to save the present, they've got to face their future — even if it's too out-there to believe.
Read Paper Girls at ComiXology.
Gotham HighDC Comics
The premise: A salacious mashup of DC Comics and Gossip Girl.
You've never seen Batman like this before. Gotham High is a fierce reimagining of classic characters like Batman, Catwoman, the Joker, and more. Before they grew into the iconic DC characters we know, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were your typical teens, navigating lunchroom politics and school dances.
When Bruce finds himself kicked out of boarding school, he returns to a very different Gotham. Ever since his parents' murder, he lives a lonely existence, and public school isn't any better. Here, he's a bit of an outsider. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle rules Gotham High, and class clown Jack is at her beck and call.
But Bruce leaps into action when a kidnapping rocks the student body. What follows is some seriously twisted (and addictive) teen drama that’s a wholly different experience than anything you’ve seen from the DC Universe before. And you thought your high school years were wild.
Read Gotham High via DC Comics.
True Beautyvia Webtoons.com
The premise: A shy geek binge-watches beauty tutorials online and revamps her style, then keeps her "real self" a secret.
High school student Jugyeong Lim has always been self-conscious about her looks. One day, she set about completely transforming her appearance after learning how to apply makeup and dress well by watching a series of online videos. She was then wholly embraced as the "pretty girl" at school, and felt forced to always put on her manufactured front.
While she's able to win hearts and make new friends (even becoming a social media influencer), she's terrified of letting anyone see who she really is: a manga-loving girl who can’t live without fried chicken.
It's a story that reminds us you should never be embarrassed to share your most authentic self with the world, and while Jugyeong can turn herself into a true beauty queen, she ultimately realizes that looking good isn't the solution to all of life's little problems.
Read True Beauty via Webtoon.
Kiss Number 8First Second
The premise: High schooler Mads wants more than anything to have her first kiss with Adam, the boy next door… until she doesn't.
Mads leads a pretty uneventful life: She loves to hang out with her wild childhood friend Cat (who isn’t particularly nice to her) and play baseball with her dad. And things are just fine until she discovers that he's been harboring a huge secret, one that threatens to tear her entire family apart.
While Mads is sent reeling by the revelation, she finds herself drifting into a free-spirited group of new friends. Their colorful, unapologetic attitudes are inspirational for Mads, and in the end they move her to a shocking realization: She's been harboring feelings for Cat the whole time.
Read Kiss Number 8 via Amazon.
Let’s Playvia Webtoons.com
The premise: A young video game developer gets a scathing review from a popular streamer, who turns out to be her neighbor.
Sam is a young video game developer who dreams of hitting it big. But when she puts her labor of love out into the world, it's ripped to shreds by a popular streamer. Sam is distraught, and has no idea how she's going to pull herself out of the slump she finds herself in. But it gets worse: said streamer is her new neighbor.
Sam must navigate her resentment toward the streamer next door while coming to terms with the fact that, as it turns out, creating games is a much more difficult endeavor than she initially thought. With the help of her boss and supportive group of friends, she's going to have to figure out the best way forward — even if that means pursuing a different career path entirely.
Read Let’s Play via Webtoon.
Tower of Godvia Webtoons.com
The premise: A young boy loses his only companion to a mysterious, enormous tower and must ascend to the top to find her again.
Twenty-Fifth Bam is a young man who's spent most of his life living in the shadow of a strange tower. Lonely and abandoned, he found his only solace in a young woman named Rachel. When Bam finds himself separated from Rachel, he knows there's only one thing he must do: go after her.
The tower is a bizarre puzzle that Bam must climb to reach Rachel. But it's riddled with magical energy, shady characters, potential allies, and plenty of enemies. Bam forms a party and works alongside his companions to search for Rachel, navigating around the Regulars — the tower's citizens — and the potential takedown of King Jahad, ruler of the tower.
Bam forms a party and works alongside his companions to search for Rachel. As they say, however, it's not about the destination, but the journey.
Read Tower of God via Webtoon.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With MeFirst Second
The premise: Young love is confusing — but it's even more confusing when your girlfriend keeps breaking up with you.
Frederica "Freddy" Riley has been dating Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school. There's no denying Laura Dean's charm, but she also happens to be flaky, flirtatious, and a bit uncaring — plus, she’s broken up with Freddy four different times.
It may be time for Freddy to cut Laura Dean off for good. After Freddy's best friend Doodle convinces her to consult the "Seek-Her" for advice, she realizes she needs to stop this dangerous circle where she keeps sauntering back to her ex to try and fulfill her every need. Doodle needs Freddy more than ever, and that means Freddy finally has to make a choice about who and what's the most important to her, even if it means losing the girl she thinks she loves.
Read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me via Amazon.
Stage DreamsGraphic Universe TM
The premise: A queer western adventure where an outlaw and a runaway work to throw a wrench in the Confederates' plans.
Set in the 19th century, Flor and Grace, a Latinx rebel and a trans runaway, set off on a cowboy-tastic adventure as they work to overthrow a plot by the Confederate army in the New Mexico Territory. Grace narrowly avoids conscription into the army and decides to take on another challenge: bringing the whole group down.
Their fateful meet-cute happens when Flor, known in outlaw circles as the Ghost Hawk, ends up robbing the very stagecoach that Grace left her Georgia home in. When the pair come together, Grace convinces Flor to let her join in on the heist and take the Confederates by storm. What follows is a whirlwind adventure and a blossoming romance that feels just as fragile as the alliance between the girls.
Read Stage Dreams via Amazon.
Giant DaysLissa Treiman/BOOM! Studios
The premise: Three young women become best friends and work to reinvent themselves as new college students.
Giant Days is an entertaining slice-of-life series that follows three young women: Susan, Esther, and Daisy. After a chance meeting unites them, they decide to reinvent themselves in any way they possibly can. This is their first time living away from home, after all.
The story finds the trio meeting potential love interests, experimenting with a variety of new lifestyle choices, and generally getting into trouble. It's a deeply relatable story that should feel immediately familiar to anyone who's ever gone off to college or set off on an adventure far from home, needing someone to talk them through the awkwardness of it all.
Read Giant Days via ComiXology.
I Kill GiantsImage Comics
The premise: A young girl evades the perils of everyday life by escaping into a magical world all her own.
Fifth grader Barbara Thorson is a witty, sharp-tongued young woman with few friends who needs an out from her daily life. So, she descends into a fantasy world where she carries a Norse hammer of the gods and beats up on giants for a living.
As a result, Barbara has difficulty connecting to others in real life and only talks about her giant-killing escapades. She's convinced that giants are not only real, but that an attack is coming in real life — and she must be on the front lines to keep them from advancing when they do show up. How will it all come to a head? You'll have to read and find out.
Read I Kill Giants via ComiXology.
The premise: An openly gay student meets up with a shy rugby player and romance quickly blossoms.
Charlie, a chronic over-thinker, is one of the few openly gay students at his posh all-boys school in England. He meets Nick, a sprightly and shy rugby player, and the fast friends find themselves quickly falling for each other.
Watching the pair wrestle with their feelings is touching, and seeing them go from close friends to two parts of a strong, iron-clad relationship is absolutely adorable. Plus, the inviting, warm artwork makes for a cozy little serialized love story that feels uniquely personal.
Read Heartstopper via Tapas. Additionally, Heartstopper is publishing on May 5 in the U.S. with color interiors via Graphix/Scholastic.
Scott PilgrimCourtesy of Oni Press
The premise: A slacker must defeat his new girlfriend’s evil exes for the privilege of dating her.
You’re probably familiar with this one, brought to life in 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In the graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim follows the 23-year-old slacker throughout his misadventures with his new girlfriend Ramona Flowers. The magical Ramona can use special powers to travel through "subspace," has colorful hair, and completely upends Scott's normal, boring life. When Scott and Ramona start dating, he has to answer to the League of Evil Exes, six of Ramona's past lovers, before they can truly be together.
The six volumes of the story are rife with pop culture references, not to mention a free-for-all of boss fights and awkward encounters. Reading it feels more like playing a video game than anything else, which will undoubtedly delight plenty of readers.
Read Scott Pilgrim via Amazon.
This Was Our PactFirst Second
The premise: A group of classmates decide to investigate where the paper lanterns the town floats down the river each year actually go.
On the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, a young man named Ben joins up with his friends to float paper lanterns down the river. It's a yearly tradition, with legend stating that as soon as the lanterns are out of sight, they'll fly into the night sky and turn into stars.
Ben wants to believe this, but he's always been suspicious of its plausibility. So, he and his classmates form an operation to uncover the truth: Where do the lanterns really end up? Together, they all form a pact: No one looks back as they ride their bikes along the river searching for answers.
Those who stay the course uncover strange magic and a world of fantastical discoveries.
Read This Was Our Pact via Amazon.
The premise: In a world where you could simply "reset" your life, how far would you go to change things for yourself?
Dongtae is an unlucky boy who's upset with the lot that life has given him. He can't get a girlfriend, he’s bullied most of the time, and he's unhappy. But one day, he meets Taebin, a Dicer — someone with the power of a mysterious die that can change absolutely anything about them and their life. When Dongtae is granted this strange power, it kickstarts a very interesting chain of events.
Our protagonist decides to change most of the things he dislikes about his life, which sets into motion a butterfly effect of alterations he wasn't expecting. Would you change your life with a simple roll of the die? It's an intriguing premise, and yet another Korean webtoon you won't be able to stop scrolling through.
Read Dice via on Webtoon.
Cheese in the Trapvia Webtoons.com
The premise: An independent girl gets off on the wrong foot with a senior who attends the same college she does, but they eventually fall in love.
Hong Seol is a hard-working college senior who's never needed anyone — that is, until she meets Yu Jung. Yu is Hong Seol’s peer, but is known by many as "Mr. Perfect," and for a reason. He's popular, handsome, sweet, and seemingly flawless – though there's something off about him as well. After Hong Seol gets involved with Yu, she suddenly finds her life taking something of a downturn.
What's the reason behind all of this, and is Yu Jung somehow responsible? With twists and turns on every page, this addictive webtoon is one of the best.
Read Cheese in the Trap via Webtoon.
The premise: An image-obsessed social media influencer with spectacular green hair finds herself embroiled in a cool girl's mysterious life.
Lottie Person is an influencer with bright, green hair and chronic allergies. Online, she seems like she doesn't have a care in the world, but when it comes to the real world, she's impossibly neurotic and hung up on her own insecurities.
When she meets a woman named Caroline, whom she nicknames "Coolgirl," she falls down a rabbit hole that soon envelops her in a web of lies and deceit — as well as some very scary consequences. What to expect? Fake death, murder, fabulous fits, meta social media jokes, and a veritable emotional roller coaster for Lottie. Oh, and lots of spontaneous snot. It's a ride and a half.
Read Snotgirl via Amazon.
There’s a wide world of graphic novels out there. For further reading, consider checking out ComiXology or services like DC Universe and Marvel Unlimited for some other awesome gems. You never know what story you’ll fall in love with next. Happy reading!