6 Offbeat and Quirky Graphic Novels

Here’s a little roundup of the most quirky, offbeat, and one of a kind graphic novels I’ve read and loved. These books were previously scattered around the blog, but I wanted to make a little space for when you’re looking for something different and unique. Hope you find something to enjoy!

Before we jump in:

  • All comics here can be bought as graphic novels/collections, not only as single issues. Your library may own many of these!
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  • Any questions, corrections, recommendations? Let me know via the comments or my contact form.
  • If you need to know whether a book has certain content that would make it a bad fit for you, I’m happy to check!

Louise Brooks: Detective (Amazon/Comixology / Goodreads) By Rick Geary.

This is such an intriguing little book. Louise Brooks was a film actress in the 1920s. In 1940, she moved back home to live with her parents in Wichita, Kansas. In this graphic novel, Geary creates a fictionalized account of her time in Wichita, including Louise getting involved in a murder mystery. The murder itself happens fairly late in the book, because Geary spends a luxurious amount of time building Louise’s world and character first. And, it turns out, giving the reader information that will be useful later! Overall the book feels like a crisp modern movie set in the 1940s, recreating the period in detail without feeling dated. Geary’s black and white cartooning is precise and clear. It’s a short, fun read, especially for those fond of the “parlor scene” where detectives reveal whodunit and how they figured it out.

Down. Set. Fight! (Amazon/Comixology / Goodreads) By Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, illustrated by Scott Kowalchuk and lettered by Josh Krach.

Yes, the cover of this book is a guy punching a football mascot. But hear me out! “Fearless” Chuck Fairlane was a superstar football player until a brawl he started with a football mascot (and his refusal to shift the blame) ended his career. Now he’s a high school sports coach with a good life… until football mascots start attacking him, and the cops want to know why. From the setup for the book, I expected a fun romp and nothing more. What I got was a much deeper book about growing up with a parent who doesn’t have your best interests at heart and what it takes to move past that legacy. Also, a book with two people of color for main characters: Fearless is biracial African-American, and the female cop working the case is a woman of color.

Non-content but a warning: Chris Sims has admitted to and apologized for online harassment of writer Valerie D’Orazio.

The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West (Amazon/Kindle / Goodreads) By Steve Sheinkin.

This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a good long while, but it’s more than humor. Whatever your faith or lack thereof, Rabbi Harvey is one of those teachers that we can all benefit from. The wacky antics of his neighbors (and rivals) are no match for his smarts. There are moments where my husband and I literally laughed out loud, and there are moments that you need a minute to process because there’s so much depth – in so few words! It’s a remarkable book with a lot of heart. We bought the whole series after checking the first volume out from the library, and it’s one of my favorite re-reads. There are three books in the series. The second is less wacky than the first, the third is a balance between the two, and we enjoy them all.

The Motherless Oven (Amazon/Kindle / Goodreads) By Rob Davis.

This is possibly the strangest comic I’ve ever read and liked. I’m not sure how to describe it without giving things away. The narrative begins with this sentence: “The weather clock said ‘Knife O’Clock’ so I chained Dad up in the shed.” Scarper Lee, a teenager, is the “I” in that sentence. Chaining up his father is actually a good thing to do, since in Lee’s world, the weather can kill you. So can many other things. It’s a bleak world, with a seemingly authoritarian government of some kind, but everyone seems to just accept how things are. But when Vera Pike enrolls at his school, his world changes. New friends mean new ideas, and the possibility of a change in his destiny, if he’s willing to try.

I really don’t know what more to say without spoiling. The art is dark and brooding, like Scarper’s own personality, and it doesn’t change, because this is not a happy book. If you’re down already, don’t read it. But it’s a unique, amazing little world with a trio of fascinating characters – Scarper, Vera, and their new friend Castro Smith, one of the few POC characters with a disability that I’ve ever seen in comics.

The second book, The Can Opener’s Daughter, centers Vera, and I enjoyed it just as much. We get more revelations about the world, and I’m so hopeful for a third book because I want to know more.

Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero by Fred Chao (Amazon / Goodreads)

The adventures of Johnny Hiro, everyman busboy who’s just trying to pay the rent and enjoy some time with his girlfriend Mayumi. If only giant rampaging monsters, enraged chefs, and various other calamities didn’t keep getting in his way. It’s an absurd book sometimes, seriously funny, but mixed with these still moments of reflection and clarity that just about made me shiver. If you’re down with slice of life mixed with weird NYC, celebrity encounters (David Byrne what?), car chases, and a nice guy at the middle of it all just trying to live life, this is for you.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (Amazon/Kindle / Goodreads) By Stephen Collins.

“It’s beautiful,” I thought to myself when I finished it. C-Man said, when he was halfway through it: “It’s like a Shel Silverstein book gone totally mad, and I’ve never read anything even remotely like it.” The title of the book would have you believe that the gigantic beard is evil, but is it really? Dave, on whose face it suddenly grows one day, sure thinks so. It costs him his job and his freedom on the island of Here, where everything is neat and orderly. The beard is not neat or orderly. The beard is against everything that Here stands for.

The back cover calls this book a parable, and that’s clearly true, but it’s an understated one. I think this would make a great book club discussion, because there is so much going on with Dave, his community, and the much bigger themes at play.

That concludes today’s roundup of quirky and offbeat comics that I love and recommend! If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing this post on social media or with friends.

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