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Comics & Big Ideas

More than one big idea applies to each comic in this list. We have organized them into these categories based on what we thought would be the most effective overarching concept to teach with.



Dragon Ball Z

Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon Naoko Takeuchi A manga told left to right follows Sailor Moon and her friends on adventures through space, time, and dimentions to unfold a story of power struggles and friendship. Other Potential Big Ideas: Good & Evil Heroes Fantasy & Reality Myth Relationships


Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis w/ art by Darick Robertson Transmetropolitan details protagonist Spider Jerusalem's battles against a corrupt government using his fame and power brought about by his articles. Other Potential Big Ideas: Good & Evil Heroes Conflict/War

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and illustrated mostly by David Lloyd V for Vendetta is the story of the terrorist "V," who is attempting to overthrow the totalitarian government of a dystopian future United Kingdom. Other Potential Big Ideas: Good & Evil Identity (meaning of the mask) Heroes Conflict/War

Humans & Nature

Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya An orphaned girl finds a new home with a family possessed by the varying animals of the Japanese traditional zodiac. Action scenes are balanced by introspection and challenging, relationship-building dialog between characters. Other Potential Big Ideas: Myth Relationships Change Authority/ Power

Fantasy & Reality

Bone. Bone by Jeff Smith Three cousins go on an amazing adventure that tests their personal limitations as well as their friendship. The Bones, a group of bald, human-acting, cute, white creatures, are kicked out of Boneville after another one of Phoney Bone's dodgy schemes. Smiley Bone serves as a comical figure, while the main story follows the every man character, Fone Bone. The cousins get separated from one another in a valley after crossing a desert. The valley reveals its many mysteries throughout the series, including strangely humaniod rat creatures, a beautiful girl named Thorn and her deceptively powerful grandmother. Fone Bone is usually caught between wanting to throttle Phoney for his immorality and wanting to confess his love for Thorn. Later reunited, the Bones find themselves caught in a war between rat creatures and humans, mitigated by the evil Lord of the Locusts, the human's Royal family, and the dragons. Other Potential Big Ideas: Hero's Journey Myth Relationships Story-telling Good & Evil Conflict. Earthboy Jacobus. Earthboy Jacobus by Doug Tennapel Earthboy Jacobus is a bizzare, touching, but surely action-packed, coming-of-age story. A boy gets lost in a parellel universe, a trip that actually saved him from the terrible Ectoids on the other side. This is a case where the monsters under the bed are real! Jacobus is stranded, an orphan in a strange new world. A tough ex-marine and retired police Chief Edwards takes the awkward boy under his wing. Jacobus is ostracized by his peers who see his strange hand and think him too different. As Jacobus becomes an adult, he realizes that the things which make him different are strengths, not faults. Other Potential Big Ideas: Allegory Patriotism / Identity Good & Evil Change Heroes Power Conflict. Sandman. Sandman By Neil Gaiman Morpheus, ruler of the dream world, also known as the Sandman is one of seven siblings called the Endless. These comics are full of literary and cultural references from Shakespere to Greek myth. More intellectual than a typical comic book or grahpic novel, these comics are more appropriate for advanced high school students. Other Potential Big Ideas: Myth History Relationships Life & Death Power Good & Evil. Flotsam. Flotsam by David Wiesner In this visual story without words, boy finds an underwater camera at the beach, develops the film inside and discovers images of fantastical underwater life. The last photo is of a girl holding a photo of a boy holding a photo. As the boy examines this image under his microscope, he sees children through time who have encountered this camera and taken photos of themselves with it. Finally the boy takes a picture of himself and tosses the camera back into the ocean so it can find it's way to the next child. Other Potential Big Ideas: Humans & Nature Change Time. Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson A syndicated comic strip detailing the exploits of the six year old Calvin and his stuffed Tiger Hobbes, who is alive to Calvin and a child's toy to the rest of the world. The strip often shifts between the real world and the alternate universe that is Calvin's imagination, putting him in the shoes of a pulp fiction hero, a dinosaur, and a sci-fi hero among others. Often, the strip uses Calvin, his imagination, and the situations in which he becomes involved to make social commenary, although it is kept within the context of the comic. Other Potential Big Ideas: Humor Communication/ Social Commentary Environment.


Kabuki. Kabuki By David Mack An adult graphic novel beautifully illustrated in ink, watercolor, or collage, Kabuki embarks on a Le Femme Nikita-style journey of self-discovery, leaving a trail of blood in her wake. A group of trained female assassins police futuristic Japan, an operation run by an elite group called the Noh. Kabuki deals with complex idenity issues relating to the knowledge of being raised by the father of her mother's rapist as well as being of mixed race. A story riddled with sex, assassination, and political scandal, Kabuki shows how a mask and femininity can be just as deadly as the scythes she carries. Other Potential Big Ideas: Good & Evil Power Heroes Life & Death Conflict Change. Creaturetech. Creaturetech by Doug Tennapel.

Good & Evil

Batman. Batman: Year One Frank Miller This dark tale is retold in an even more sinister way in the hands of famous comics master Frank Miller. The story begins with Bruce Wayne, 25, and his return to Gotham City after a decade of traveling and learning all forms of combat. He has vowed to transform the vile city of Gotham and to take revenge for the death of his parents. Adopting the superidentity of Batman, he begins restoring order to the streets filled with miscreants and taking down corrupt politicians. The politicians consider him a threat to their convenient disorder, and the police attempt to capture and kill Batman. At the same time, Leutenant Gordan moves to Gotham with his pregnant wife Barbara in tow, presumably to further his career. Gordan doesn't fit in with the corrupt police force and faces brutal attacks by co-workers. Nearing the end of this volume, Ltn. Gordan and Batman recognize each other for who they really are-- vigelanties. Other potential big ideas: Power Heroes Conflict. Runaways. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa When are parents wrong? How can children assert themselves? The offspring of supervillians discover their parents' pasts as they come of age. The children run away together, forming their own new family. They are challenged to save the world from their parents as well as confront issues of who they can trust. In this modern day superhero fantasy, one family is from the future, one is from another planet, one is a mutant, one is geniouses, and one is a group of witches. Other Potential Big Ideas: Identity Power Heroes Life & Death Interdependence Conflict Change. Watchmen. Watchmen by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons Watchmen is set in an alternate future where super heroes exist and nuclear war threatens to break out between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Super heroes, only one of whom actually posesses "super powers," investigate the murder of a colleague, which is only a piece of a much larger puzzle. Other Potential Big Ideas: Power Heroes Conflict/War.


The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom. The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom by Katherine Arnoldi A history of abuse does not always have to end in tragedy. This unfortunate and couragous girl shares her story as an instruction book on how to turn lemons into lemonade. The story begins with a girl sent to live with her sister.... She stops her mother's boyfriend from abusing her little brother, and thus finds herself kicked out. When neither her mother or her aunt will take her in, she finds herself homeless. A passer-by takes advantage of her, an implied rape that results in her teenage pregnancy. Despite her misfortunes, including working terrible jobs to pay for her baby's food and escaping an abusive boyfriend, she continues to seek her dream of higher education. The book culminates in her self-realization and reaching her goal of going to college. Other Potential Big Ideas: Interdependence Relationships Identity Conflict Change.

Life & Death

Pride of Baghdad. The Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon In the bombing of Bagdad, the lions at the zoo are freed. Refusing the flesh of the human race which has so long provided them food, they wander through the demolished city, starving. The humanized lions recognize their interdependence upon one another for survival even as their relationships are strained. In a surprising moment, American troops shoot and kill all four lions, emphasizing the breivity of life, the unexpectant nature of death, and the cruelty of war. Other Potential Big Ideas: Conflict War Humans & Nature Good & Evil Power Relationships Change.


The Red Book. The Red Book Barbara L. Lehman Caldecott Honour Book.


Fullmetal Alchemist. The Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa This is a touching story of the love between two brothers, their longing for their parents, and the comprimise between helping self and setting moral standards. The anime is unique in that the characters change, learn, and grow throughout the series. Full Metal Alchemist is about two mysteriously orphaned brothers, one in a suit of armor, the other with a false metalic arm. In an alternate early 20th century Earth, Edward and Alphonse Elric aspire to become great alchemists like their father. Later in the series, the viewer discovers that Alphonse lost his body and Edward his arm in a tragic alchemy attempt to bring their late mother back to life. Their motivation throughout most of the series focuses upon returning themselves to their former bodies. Driven to do the right thing, they travel around the country helping the people with alchemy as they go. Other Potential Big Ideas: Interdependence Good & Evil Power Change Humans & Nature Fantasy & Reality. Inu Yasha. Inu Yasha by Rumiko Takahashi A 14-year-old Japanese girl, Kagome, was a normal student until she discovered her amazing connection to Feudal Japan. Upon falling through a well at her family home, an ancient temple, she finds herself in demon-ridden Feudal Japan where she has superpowers as a Miko (priestess). There she makes friends with many people on her journey with Inu Yasha, a half-demon, in order to defeat the evil Naraku and find all the pieces of the powerful, sacred jewel, the Shikon-no-tama. Other Potential Big Ideas: Humans & Nature Identity (Race) Conflict Good & Evil Power Life & Death.

Conflict / War

MAUS. Maus by Art Speigelman The story of Nazi Germany is retold from the perspective of the son of two concentration camp survivors using animals to symbolize the role of each nation. The Nazis are cats, the Jews are mice, the Polish are pigs, etc. Other Potential Big Ideas: Identity Good & Evil Power Heroes Life & Death Relationships Interdependence Change. The Wall. Other Potential Big Ideas: Identity Good & Evil Power Relationships Change.


Persepolis. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi Persepolis chronicles an Iranian girl's life from age 8 to age 28. Readers witness the cultural and societal change that happens before, during and after the Iranian revolution. These simple, autobiographical, black and white drawings poignantly communicate the author's experiences as a young person growing up in Iran, traveling to boarding school, observing her family's political existence and personal repression. Other Potential Big Ideas: Identity Good & Evil Power Heroes Life & Death Relationships Interdependence Conflict/War.


The Yellow Jar. The Yellow Jar: 2 Tales from Japanese Tradition (Songs of Our Ancestors) by Patrick Atangan Two traditional Japanese tales unfold in beautiful graphic format. The Yellow Jar tells about a fisherman who finds a precious jar in his fishing nets one day. Upon opening it, he discovers a beautiful maiden. He traps her on land by hiding her traveling vessel, the yellow jar, lies to her about its whereabouts, and makes her his wife. When she discovers the jar and thus the lie, she cries until she washes away in a river of her tears. The fisherman looks for her for years, finally discovering that she is being held in a castle by an evil and powerful samuri. The maiden and fisherman reconcil through the walls of her jail cell in the castle, and together conquor the samurai. Other Potential Big Ideas: Relationships Truth/ Honesty. American-Born Chinese. American Born Chinese Gene Luen Yang It starts out with three seemingly different tales, and then merges them all together at the climax in the style of a graphic novel. The first tale is the legendary folk tale of The Monkey King, which is renowned all through China and throughout the world. The second tale is the story of a second-generation immigrant from China named Jin Wang, who still is heavily influenced by Chinese culture. The story follows his life through the making of his best friend, to him falling in love with an American girl, and many adventures in between. The third tale follows the story of a white boy named Danny, whose Chinese cousin Chin-Kee comes and visits every year. Chin-Kee is the ultimate Chinese stereotype in terms of accent, fashion sense, hairstyle, appearance, and hobbies. Many chapters later, it turns out, Chin-Kee is really the Monkey King. Wei-chen is actually the Monkey King's son, and Danny is really Jin Wang. The Monkey King then relates that his journey ended in a meeting with Christ and an acceptance of Jesus (a major deviation from the original story, in which the Monkey King becomes a disciple of Buddha). Later, Jin goes to a bakery in Oakland, CA and meets Wei Chen; the two resolve their differences and become friends once more. Other Potential Big Ideas: Identity Culture Relationships. The Tree of Love. The Silk Tapestry.


Japanese comics, known as manga, are generally read back to front and right to left. Popular with all ages and social backgrounds in Japan, manga has been increasingly flooding the American comics market. Shonen / Men Shonen Jump / Boys Girls Women Both Within this web, the following are manga: Fruits Basket Dragon Ball Z Fullmetal Alchemist Inu Yasha