Skip to content

Off Beat Graphic Novels

I’ve never really been into comics.  The comics published by Marvel and DC never really appealed to me.  I’ve been working around books for the past 10 years and someone always tried to convince me to give them a try, and I would hold firm. Manga never really appealed to me either.

This means that I am relatively new to comics and their library friendly counterparts, graphic novels.  I didn’t read my first one until I was in grad school (Fray by Joss Whedon) and the only reason I started reading comics was because Buffy the Vampire Slayer was doing a season 8 via comics.  All that changed this past year.

A friend suggested I read The Goon by Eric Powell.  I loved it.  It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s hilarious and soon found myself reading all 9 volumes in less than a month.  Soon I was hungry for more non-mainstream comics.  Then I was reading Chew by John Layman and am currently making my way through Hellboy and B.P.R.D by Mike Mignola.  In addition to all of the above being great reads, all authors have won Eisner Awards for their works in Goon, Chew and Hellboy.

Do you have any “off beat” graphic novels that I should check out?  I’m always on the look out for new stuff!

The following two tabs change content below.

Faythe Arredondo

Latest posts by Faythe Arredondo (see all)


  1. Since you seem to enjoy quirky takes on genre fiction with some horror elements, I would recommend a manga called The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. It’s about a group of students at a Buddhist university who use their unique abilities to help misplaced dead bodies and their associated restless spirits reach their desired location. It’s very funny, sometimes scary, and always smart. It’s written by Eiji Otsuka, illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, and published in English by Dark Horse.

    • Nicole Dolat Nicole Dolat

      I second David’s recommendation…I absolutely LOVE the Kurosagi series! I’ve read all 11 released volumes (12 is coming shortly), and have yet to be disappointed in any of the plots or characters…and the art work is very well done.

  2. Erin Daly Erin Daly

    Perhaps not your particular genre of choice, but I would call the work of Bryan Lee O’Malley “off-beat”. He is well known for the Scott Pilgrim series, which follows the escapades of lovable loser Scott, who must fight and defeat seven evil exes in order to win the heart of mystery girl, Ramona. It is full of old school video game humor and just a bit of the fantastic- Ramona uses a subspace shortcut through Scott’s dreams to make deliveries for Amazon. This is never fully explained, which just makes it better. The movie adaptation captures the story to some degree and is a fun spectacle, but I found the comic much more engaging and extremely funny.

    Even better is his previous more atmospheric comic, Lost At Sea, a road trip story where depressed eighteen-year-old Raleigh muses on her personal darkness and maybe makes friends with her fellow college road trippers. It felt, to me, exactly like how being eighteen felt.

  3. My husband (who’s a big comics fan, but likes less super-hero oriented stuff too) really enjoyed the Fables series by Bill Willingham. It uses traditional fairy tale characters in very non-traditional ways.

    I’m a big fan of graphic novel memoirs – I like French Milk by Lucy Knisley and and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel are a couple of favorites. Again, they’re pretty different from the ones you’ve mentioned above, but one of the great things about graphic novels is the huge variety available!

  4. Michael J. Martens Michael J. Martens


    Michael from Dark Horse here. So glad you liked the Goon. You might be interested to know director David Finch is working with Goon creator Eric Powell to produce a Goon movie.
    The trailer can be found here:

    I’d also like to add a shameless plug for our Blacksad graphic novel, my favorite of all the books we released in 2010. Thanks for your post.

    • Faythe Arredondo Faythe Arredondo

      Hi Michael!

      I was at the Goon movie panel at last year’s Comic Con and saw the trailer. Really hoping the movie gets made.!

      Dark Horse is my favorite comic publisher! I’ll look into Blacksad. Thanks!

  5. I really love the Hellblazer comics – so much snark! – and I’d also recommend Umbrella Academy which is sort of like the Incredibles only more dysfunctional. Those are both ‘super hero’ sort of comics but a bit different than typical Spiderman/Batman/whatever.

    Also seconding Scott Pilgrim, Fables, Fun Home & French Milk!

    Oh and Skim by Jillian Tamaki. It’s about a highschooler who falls for her English teacher, but it’s also just a good coming-of-age story. My OPAC calls it, “Suicide, depression, love, being gay or not, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers — the whole gamut of tortured teen life is explored in this masterful graphic novel by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.”

  6. Mark Flowers Mark Flowers

    Jeff Smith’s Bone series remains the gold standard of off-beat GNs for me. Starts out very funny, but seemingly aimed at a pretty young audience, and gets quite heavy duty by the 9th volume. Really amazing.

  7. Jackie Jackie

    Practically everything Vertigo puts out is a weird to some degree, not traditional superhero fare, and definitely offbeat. One series I’m really enjoying right now is House of Mystery, a darkly humorous horror series with great characters and a different story-within-a-story in each issue.

    If you’re interested in traditional superheroes that are really bizarre, I’d recommend Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol. Animal Man starts off following a (relatively) typical superhero, then gets progressively weirder once he realizes he’s a comic book character. Doom Patrol…well, there’s a group of villains called the Brotherhood of Dada that more than live up to the name. And the gay love story between a genius French gorilla and a brain in a jar. And that’s not even mentioning the heroes.

    Less quirky than the others, but I can’t pass up the chance to recommend The Unwritten. It’s focuses on the son of the author who wrote an incredibly popular series about a boy wizard (named after his son); after his father disappears, he’s soon confronted with characters from the books showing up and starts to wonder if he’s actually flesh-and-blood himself. It reads a lot like Sandman, but centered on the written word instead of storytelling as a whole.

  8. Maria Kramer Maria Kramer

    I second The Unwritten and Grant Morrison.

    If you like off-beat comics, I would recommend you start reading manga. Many series, even mainstream series, have a certain ‘wtf’ element. Try Black Butler — where a young man makes a deal with a demon (who becomes the titular butler) to avenge his family’s murder in exchange for his immortal soul. The twist? It’s kind of a comedy — and the butler and the boy sort of become friends. Or you could read Moyashimon — a freshman at an agricultural school has the power to see microbes with the naked eye and speak with them. Hijinks ensue.

  9. Anna D. Anna D.

    I’d like to suggest “Cairo” by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Parker and the “Flight” anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi.

    “Cairo” is a mix of militants, a quirky djinn, a crimelord, and good people who don’t wear spandex. It mixes Egyptian mythology, Arabic folklore, and the modern day in really cool ways.

    “Flight” is a series of short story anthologies featuring shiny new artists in many genres. I haven’t read all of them yet, but several have been nominated for awards and the ones I have read have been excellent showcases of talent and really amazing stories.

  10. Faythe Arredondo Faythe Arredondo

    Thank you all so much for the suggestions! I can’t wait to try them out!

  11. Jessica Pryde Jessica Pryde

    Check out today’s post. I mention both Incognegro and Nat Turner, which I think qualify as Off-Beat.

Comments are closed.