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Bam! Pow! The comic books can be so dazzling with colors and figures that seem larger than the pages they are printed on, whether it is superheroes fighting the bad guys, or a swirling world of colors from a household appliance. But while we are used to seeing what’s on the page, there’s so much that happens behind the scenes of comic books. There’s the comic book world itself where creators dream up new characters and worlds. There’s also the politics of writers and artists vying for gigs.
And then there’s the world of comic book stores that feed our love of comics and the beauty and wackiness of comic book conventions where fans and creators gather and celebrate their favorite works. Of course, there are text-based books that take a page from the superhero world that we are used to seeing in floppies (and yes, I am seeing how many times I can use page as a pun) and books about people who really love comics.
In honor of the world of comics, I have put together a list of fiction books about the comic book world. These books cover 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’re now living in a world of blockbuster comic book films, this murder mystery takes place in 1975 New York when people thought the comic industry was dying. Carmen Valdez loves comics, and all she wants to do is be a part of it. She’s gotten a job as an assistant to the head of Triumph Comics, but he won’t even consider her ideas. When a work friend comes to her with the idea of collaborating, she dives in to come up with a new superhero, the Lethal Lynx. But when her friend is murdered, she also finds out he submitted the material without her credit. She decides to find justice for her colleague and herself. On top of it all, there are incredible illustrations of the Lethal Lynx by artist Sandy Jarrell with lettering by Taylor Esposito. There’s going to be a follow up focusing on Lethal Lynx, 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 indie comic book shop when she’s not practicing her cello, and Ridley’s parents own the biggest chain comic book shop in the country. When the two accidentally meet at a comic convention prom, they fall for each other, despite the fact that their families cannot stand each other. Can they be together despite the daggers from both sides? Can Jubilee win the big competition or will she have to choose?
The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj
When Samuel’s mother dies, he is sent from his home in Trinidad to live with his father in Toronto. While he discovers he is not particularly welcomed by his dad, he explores this new city using his love of comic books as his guide. It’s a story about Toronto, finding oneself, and how comics can be a bridge through childhood, adulthood, home, and new places.
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
This book had to be on the list. Segura has said in several interviews how inspired he was by this book. It’s easy to see why. Set 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 get out of Europe when the Nazis take over. His cousin Sam Clay is a born and bred Brooklyn-ite. The two bring their skill sets together to make the Escapist, Luna Moth, and others. It’s a real window into the area, the comic book industry in its Golden Age, and the lives of these two men. Plus there’s a standalone comic of the Escapist.
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Graham and Roxy first met over a fantasy series and became best friends. Eight years later, they are now big comic aficionados. And Graham has a huge crush on Roxy. So when their favorite comic book creator is coming to their local comic book convention, he gets tickets and plans to profess his love. But the comic book convention is even stranger than he may have expected… including his beloved Roxy. Can he figure it out?
A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl
This book takes place in the world of comic book conventions as creators and stars journey from con to con. It shows the behind the scenes of creators making friendships, partnerships, even enemies. While it focuses largely on the story of Valerie Torrey, an actress of an extremely famous sci-fi show, who is driving her son across the country to his father. The narrative weaves 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 is trying to figure out if she can even think about college while her family struggles. But when a new boy comes to town, she got a new distraction until she learns that he is the grandson of the man who bought The TomorrowMen rights…
Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee
Last but not least, here’s a book that feels like a comic book with a wondrous twist. Despite having superhero parents, Jessica Tran is a regular kid with no super skills. She still manages to get an internship, which will help her with college applications. But she finds out it’s with her town’s super villain… so that’s not ideal. But she’ll roll with it until she discovers a secret which might impact everyone. It’s the first of a four book series called Sidekick Squad.
I hope you’ll find these works about the world of comics as fun and engrossing as the pages of the comics you read! I hope we see more books in this genre in the future as well.
Want more comics? Here’s a dive into the history of comic books, and here’s a list of books about comic book creators.