While graphic novels are mostly known for their grimdark plots and dystopian nightmares, there are an equal number of titles out there that cast a particularly sunny outlook on life and humanity — and such positive vibes might be just what readers need during these scary times. Here are eight optimistic offerings to lessen the quarantine boredom and deliver worlds of wonder.
This list includes soaring tales of the Big Blue Boy Scout in All-Star Superman and the whimsical antics of Jeff Smith's Bone, as well as friendships born one perfect autumn in Pumpkin Heads and Moebius' eager interstellar investigators of The World of Edena. We promise escapism for all to temporarily wash away the woe.
The World of Edena, by Jean "Mœbius" Giraud
From the fertile mind of Mœbius — aka Jean Giraud, the legendary French artist whose concept work inspired Tron, Alien, The Abyss, and The Fifth Element — comes this much more upbeat odyssey aboard a flying saucer.
Dark Horse Books compiled all five chapters of his old Edena comics into one remastered graphic novel titled The World of Edena. The story follows interstellar investigators Stel and Atan as they stumble upon the mythical paradise planet of Edena while attempting to locate a lost space station and its vanished crew. It's a great intro to the trance-like territory of Mœbius and flipping through the pages offers a dreamlike vacation into his fantastical worlds.
Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley
O'Malley is better known as the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, but here he delivers another classic in a much simpler form that still retains the style and tone of his more notable works.
Katie Clay is the head chef at a bustling restaurant called Seconds. Thanks to the sorcery of a white-haired witch named Lis, she gains the power of "do-over" spells to change the outcome of past mistakes by jotting them down in a journal, munching one mushroom at a time, and drifting off to sleep. But, in attempting to make her life perfect in every respect, she accidentally upends the balance of time and space.
It's a refreshing antidote to a worn-down world that reminds us that we are the choices we make, for better and for worse.
All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Considered by many to be the best Superman story ever told, All-Star Superman delves into poignant questions of life and death in a fresh take on the Golden Age character.
When the Man of Steel becomes irradiated by a close encounter with the sun, granting him new powers but also a death sentence, Superman has a year to live and strives to leave Earth on a high note. Morrison and Quitely layer their Eisner-winning saga in bold colors, wonder, hope, and humanity.
Bone, by Jeff Smith
The Bone cousins first stepped out of Boneville and onto the road to high adventure back in 1991, and in the years since, Smith's comic has been celebrated as a masterpiece.
Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone trek into a vast forest inhabited by crazy creatures and sweet surprises. After being split up on their quest, the trio reunites at a tavern run by the mysterious Gran'ma Ben and her granddaughter Thorn. But an evil entity known as the Lord of the Locusts has other plans for this fairy tale valley.
Bone is filled with unexpected pathos and gentle humor, and the collected edition is extremely thick, so you'll be able to spend a lot of time getting lost in this strange, delightful world.
Pumpkin Heads, by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Sure, we know we're barely into spring, but it's never too early to get into the comforts of fall and Halloween. Pumpkin Heads is a heartwarming slice of life centered around Deja and Josiah, who are seasonal best friends working at the best pumpkin patch in the world in Omaha, Nebraska.
But since they're seniors in high school, this is their final shift together. So, the pair decide to blow it out in style by sampling all the treats and goodies the farm stand has to offer. Pumpkin Heads is at once nostalgic, romantic, and makes you long for the normal simplicities of life.
Park Bench, by Chaboute
Park Bench —a nearly wordless graphic novel by French author and illustrator Christophe Chaboute — might just be a perfect meditation on life when the world seems completely upside down.
It tells the story of life as seen from the perspective of a simple park bench.
Originally released in 2012, this English version is a poetic observation of human life and its myriad characters, including skateboarders, dogs, lovers, and the downtrodden. This graphic novel is both intimate and touching, especially when self-isolation has most people saying away from park benches.
Space Riders, by Fabian Rangel, Jr. and Alexis Ziritt
If you're looking for a high-octane blast into the cosmos, consider all four issues of Black Mask Studios' psychedelic sci-fi fantasy Space Riders.
Soaring out of the heart of the galaxy in his Skullship Santa Muerte, the noble Capitan Peligro and his dauntless crew drift among the stars dispensing their brand of frontier justice while hunting for universal truths.
It's pure pulp drenched in Day-Glo colors to brighten your mood.
Astro City, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross
In 1995, Busiek, Anderson, and Ross first teamed up and introduced readers to the world of Astro City, a sparkling utopia in which gallant superheroes streak across the skies.
This Eisner Award-winning anthology touches on the better angels of human nature as we explore the adventures of dozens of crime-stopping vigilantes like Air Ace, Samaritan, Jack-In-The-Box, Silver Agent, and Winged Victory.
It's a treasury of original superheroes and supervillains living amid ordinary citizens leading normal lives in an unnamed western state. This is the first volume collected when the series was published by Image Comics and begins a satisfying saga firmly planted in pulpy roots.