Need some comics about magical happenings? Spells, witches, mysterious forces? I’ve got you covered. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)
I originally posted this list in 2015, but it’s been refreshed and expanded in 2023 after I re-read most of the books here to make sure I was still enthusiastic about recommending them. However, please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.
“A brilliant and imaginative debut graphic novel that brings to life a fantastical Cairo where wishes are real. Author, illustrator, and translator Deena Mohamed presents a literary, feminist, Arab-centric graphic novel that marries magic and the socio-political realities of contemporary Egypt.
Shubeik Lubeik–a fairytale rhyme meaning ‘Your Wish is My Command’ in Arabic–is the story of three characters navigating a world where wishes are literally for sale; mired in bureaucracy and the familiar prejudices of our world, the more expensive the wish, the more powerful and therefore the more likely to work as intended. The novel’s three distinct parts tell the story of three first class wishes as used by Aziza, Nour, and Shokry, each grappling with the challenge inherent in trying to make your most deeply held desire come true.”
I fell in love with this book based on the gorgeous cover by Travel Foreman. It helped that Jen Van Meter was writing it, since her Hopeless Savages is one of my favorite books ever. It did not disappoint! A gorgeous story of love, loss, and the journey between them and back again. Dr. Shan Fong-Mirage and her husband Hwen Mirage were two parts of a whole – not in a dysfunctional way, they just that relationship where something just clicks when they’re together. When Hwen was killed, Shan was at a loss until she finds a way into the underworld and sets out to find him, no matter the dangers.
Fans of strong women in comics will find Shan’s character and de la Torre’s depiction of her so satisfying. Shan is undeniably female, and solid and real rather than posed for the (male gaze) viewer’s enjoyment. Many of his panels are composed like interesting photographs, and the coloring is perfect for the spooky atmosphere.
The sequel, Second Lives (Amazon / Goodreads), is just as satisfying. Shan and ghost-Hwen trip over some dark magic while tracking down a scroll to give Hwen more materiality, and they end up battling a juiced-up ghost to prevent Very Bad Things from happening. If you enjoy the first book, definitely get the second! (The second volume has, in addition to de la Torre, additional artist credits for Diego Bernard, Tom Palmer, Al Barrionuevo, and Brian Level in various issues.)
If you need a road trip comic about witches, this is perfect. (I’m not sure how anyone can NOT need a road trip comic about witches, honestly.) Jolene, Claire, and Andy are magical co-workers, housemates, and best friends. When their home is burgled of magical objects, they set out across New England in a convertible to track down their stuff and find out who’s behind the thefts. Along the way, as one does, they meet all kinds of interesting (and only sometimes dangerous) people (and not-people), solving problems with magic and the power of female friendship.
It’s not too deep (though there are references to a past abusive boyfriend), it’s fun, and there are plenty of great outfits and hairstyles in addition to gals being awesome. Everybody wins.
Heart in a Box opens with a woman in a brutal fight, which ends in the death of her opponent, and a promise there’s an explanation for this. The explanation? Emma had a terrible breakup, and made a really bad decision. She made a magical/supernatural deal to keep herself from feeling so terrible. Which, it turns out, keeps her from feeling anything at all. What follows is her quest to reclaim her heart, which leads to some pretty dark places. I rooted for Emma all the way, even as she wrestled with her conscience about the fallout from her choices. Life isn’t always pretty. But by the end of the book, she’s grown, and I doubt she’ll make the same mistakes twice.
I first came across Thompson from her comics blogging, and I’m so thrilled to see her pursuing this path with her writing. She’s very talented. McClaren’s art may not be for everyone. It’s a bit complicated. But it makes you love the characters, since it’s clear she loves them so much herself. They all have great hair, too.
O’Malley is famous for Scott Pilgrim, and truth be told I was expecting something pretty similar. But Seconds is its own thing, so good on him for that. Katie is a chef whose second restaurant should be opening soon… but then things start to get bumpy. So when she’s offered the chance to make one past choice differently, she goes for it. But things start to get strange.
There’s a lot of funny in this book, but also a lot of strange magic and plenty of emotion. Life is hard, people! Katie doesn’t always make the best choices. She’s impulsive and has a temper, and she’s a little self-centered. But she’s not a bad person, and I was rooting for her the whole time through the twists and turns and “what if” changes the magic brings about.
The series Hex11, story and art by Lisa K. Weber, script by Kelly Sue Milano, colors by Samantha Carrasco (Get Issue #1 digitally for free or buy HEX11 digitally or in print directly from the creators / Amazon / Goodreads)
A fascinating blend of magic with a sci-fi-esque dystopian setting. Witch in training Eleanor is running an errand for her teacher one evening when she sees a demon attacking someone in an alley. She shouldn’t get involved. But she totally gets involved. Unfortunately for her, the demon is a mercenary and the victim is a smuggler, so things get real complicated real quick.
I like how dangerous the magic in this world – and how cool it looks, not gonna lie! Elanor is impetuous but not to the point of carelessness, so you can still root for her. Her teacher is hilarious. The creepy assassin is pitch perfect. Everyone has interesting hair.
Two volumes have been printed, covering issues 1-12, and issues 13-15 are available digitally. The story has not yet concluded.
I love how K. Lynn Smith draws people, and this grumpy/sunshine paranormal road trip graphic novel series hit all the right notes for me. Rayne seems to be a hippie chick on a wander, but she’s got a lot more going on than it initially appears. Thatcher is running not just from other people, but from his own guilt, but he’ll be damned (more) if he’ll admit it. I thought the resolution moment towards the end was simple and perfect. And darkly funny.
Bonus: Thatcher is bi, and a bit slutty about it (love this), and that has literally nothing to do with him being cursed.
This series is complete in three volumes, or one omnibus edition.
Spare Keys for Strange Doors by Lucy Lyall. (Buy the 244-page ebook from Lyall for astonishingly cheap / Read as a webcomic)
“Two experts in the supernatural help ordinary people with their extraordinary problems.
Your local Specialists are: Toby Hathaway and Marion Sark. Highly experienced and skilled professionals, experts at handling the uncanny, supernatural and subnatural. Some experience of the natural, but discussion of your exact needs is advisable.
Specialities include visitations, disappearances, compulsions, manifestations, transformations and removal of uninvited guests. We can be diplomatic or more persuasive as the situation requires. Extensive and varied contacts within the police force, gifted groups, and the non-human community. Horse, dog, cat and rodent whispering undertaken. However, there is an extensive waiting list. Please note: no chihuahuas.
Pricing is on a case by case basis; please contact us for further details. Your complete confidentiality is assured. Not available for speculative seances.”
The PDF includes all but two of the stories that are online as part of the webcomic, as of February 2023.
And that’s the list!