5 Non-Superhero Graphic Novels to Read for National Day of Unplugging

What is this “National Day of Unplugging” you speak of?

I know there was a time when I wasn’t tethered to the internet, mainlining gifs, memes, headlines, and pop culture into my brain, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it. Personally, I’ve found that when I take a step back from something I’m so involved in, it can give me new insight into a project that I’m working on. The National Day of Unplugging  (#NDU) is essentially a formalized semi-celebration of doing just that. On March 9-10, participants take a momentary step back from technology and appreciate all the good things in the physical world.

So what’s a tech-junkie like myself to do on a day unplugged from all the knowledge of the world? Well, I plan to catch up on my reading and if you’re looking for some non-superhero graphic novels to read during your temporary release from the electric coil, here are a handful of my favorites:

1. On The Camino — Jason

On The Camino By Jason from Fantagraphics
Source: Fantagraphics

The Norwegian cartoonist John Arne Sæterøy, AKA “Jason”, is one of my favorites and the subject matter of his latest work, On The Camino ,coincides well with celebrating National Day of Unplugging. To my knowledge, it’s also Jason’s first overtly-autobiographical work in English.

“The Camino de Santiago is a 500 mile, historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. It is walked by thousands every year, both Christians and non-believers. To mark his 50th birthday, the brilliant Norwegian cartoonist Jason decided that walking the length of the Camino was what he needed to do. On the Camino is Jason’s memoir of that trek—32 days and 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port to Finisterre, observing with the eye of an artist, chronicling both the good (people, conversations) and the bad (blisters, bedbugs).” (Fantagraphics)


2. Vapor — MAX

Vapor by Max Fantagraphics
Source: Fantagraphics

Vapor by the award-winning Spanish cartoonist MAX is a funny surreal and absurdist discussion on discovering the meaning of life by way of a semi-solitary quest through the desert. The book’s publisher offers a much more literal and straightforward description of the book:

Disgusted and appalled with the today’s noisy and noisome world in which all is spectacle and surface sensation, Nick flees into the solitude of the desert. But even as he manages to recover some sort of spiritual balance thanks to an ascetic regimen of fasting and meditation, Nick is seduced by the most spectacular and mesmerizing spectacle of all time: The procession of the Queen of Saba.


3. The Rime of the Modern Mariner — Nick Hayes

The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes from Penguin Random House
Source: Penguin | Random House

Yes, I’ll admit, it was the English Major in me that prompted this purchase—but don’t let the title or leftover literature-class-nightmares dissuade you from this one because it’s really good. You can read Nick HayesThe Rime of the Modern Mariner in a flash, because the verse is written so well and the art communicates so clearly to the reader, but you can also spend days studying the illustrations and reflecting on the book’s words. It’s one of those books I picked up because I thought, ‘Eh, looks like a quick read and I liked the original,’ and after reading it, fell in love with it.


4. Mooncop — Tom Gauld

Mooncop By Tom Gauld from Drawn & Quarterly
Source: Drawn & Quarterly

Tom Gauld is another one of my favorites and his book Mooncop is a bittersweet comedy about loneliness on an untrendy space rock. Drawn & Quarterly put together a little motion comic to promote the work and if you like that, you’ll love the book.

Mooncop: A New Graphic Novel by Tom Gauld from Drawn & Quarterly on Vimeo.


5. A Contract With God — Will Eisner

A Contract With God By Will Eisner from W. W. Norton
Source: W. W. Norton

This year is the 40th anniversary of the first mass-market graphic novel A Contract with God by Will Eisner. I’ve already detailed the inspiration behind this book here, and the book has been written about thoroughly by many. By now, I think the book is de facto required reading for graphic novel studies, so if you haven’t read the book, reading it on March 9th, just two days after Will Eisner’s 101st post-humous birthday would be a pretty appropriate time to do so.

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Author: Kris Madden

Kris Madden is an American professor, writer, and artist whose work has garnered press and media attention from the likes of The Independent, Lifehacker, and Boing! Boing! among others. In the past, he has written for network blogs GearLive, FlushLife and PeevishPenman. His short fiction has appeared in Astonishing Adventures and in 2010, his short memoir was a winner in the William Saroyan Writing Contest. He currently lives in Fresno, California with his wife and three kids.

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