Five Great Comics Without Words
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then why bother with writers at all? Comics without words require literacy and empathetic ability. Where narration and dialog would tell a reader the context of each graphical passage, readers must instead navigate the significance of images and the passage of time between them in order to understand the comic’s full meaning. In the following five examples, readers of all ages will find plenty to enjoy in the universal language of visual art.
1. The Arrival, Shaun Tan
The experience of immigration is captured here in all of its excitement, confusion, fear, discovery, and determination. Without words, the migrant protagonist could be leaving from anywhere to anywhere, except the new country in The Arrival is filled with wonders great and small. Each page could stand on its own in a museum gallery, but combined they form a tale able to draw in any reader. This book is a personal favorite and a go-to title for convincing others the power of comic narratives.
2. Gon, Masashi Tanaka
Gon is a dinosaur out of time, having somehow survived the extinction of all other dinosaurs. He is a squat omnivore with no specific origin or goal besides survival. He regularly befriends or challenges a gathering of animals and comes out of each confrontation with a new friend. The artwork is detailed and sumptuous, with line work that comes close to lifelike portraits if not for Gon’s exaggerated mug. There are more laughs and page-turning cliffhangers than most comics (or dinosaurs) of larger size. Tanaka has said about the series: “What I set out to do with Gon was to draw something that was more interesting than anything you could say in words. Manga [Japanese comics] still has great potential that does not exist in other media. I plan to continue developing the art of expression.”
3. Owly, Andy Runton
Owly, the unassuming but friendly star of his own series, has been doing something right. The series has won Harvey, Ignatz, and Eisner awards for creator Runton’s talent and as best series for young people. Owly’s optimism and love of meeting others comes across via adorable artwork and gentle tone.
4. Korgi, Christian Slade
The corgis of Korgi Hollow live in coexistence with fairies, or “Mollies.” A young Mollie named Ivy explores the world around her village with her Korgi cub Sprout, stumbling upon creatures both friendly and dangerous, as well as the secret history of Korgi Hollow. This series is for anyone with a sense of adventure who would not mind moving to a city populated by large corgis.
5. I’m Not A Plastic Bag, Rachel Hope Allison
Where does garbage go? What happens when everyday items meet each other in the ocean and form a large, floating mass? Here, a small island of garbage comes to life, greeting different life firms it comes across, sometimes smothering creatures without realizing it. Allison’s colorful artwork makes for a clear, breezy read that can go by in minutes. The book also contains further information about environmental responsibility. As Jeff Corwin notes in his foreword for this book, "the world we inhabit today is not inherited from our ancestors, but borrowed from our children."