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Some of us have grown up with comic books. From reading Tintin and Asterix paperbacks to adventuring with the superheroes from the Marvel and DC universe, graphic novels are an integral part of our lives. But for most people graphic novels are often synonymous with superhero comics, although the medium is ever-growing and rich with originality and experimentation. Here are some non-superhero beautifully written and illustrated comics that you can easily finish in one or two hours.

1. Through the Woods by Emily Caroll: This collection of five stories delicately balances the fine line between dark fairytales and horror. The stories are unsettling and magical at the same time with a distinct Angela Carter flavour and Caroll’s style of drawing is subtle and evocative with a clever use of silhouettes and negative space. The forests in her tales are ‘lovely, dark and deep’, carefully concealing childhood monsters and nightmares and unleashing them at unexpected moments. ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’ and ‘The Nesting Place’ are particularly memorable. If you have a taste for the gothic, check this out.

2. This One Summer created by Mariko and Tamaki Jilian Tamaki : Summers have a strange quality of nostalgia and wistfulness associated with them, of seemingly endless holidays and ephemeral childhood. This graphic novel explores this idea of a perfect summer and a perfect childhood through the lives of two pre-teen girls , Rose and Windy who meet every summer at a cottage by the beach. But are their lives as picture-perfect as the pages that tell the tale? A mesmerizing coming-of-age story that will tug at your heart sleeves, even if you aren’t into contemporary young adult fiction.

3. Arrival by Shaun Tan: Perhaps the most innovative and unconventional of the lot, ‘Arrival’ is a story told completely without text, each page a work of art in itself. The author grapples with the theme of immigration and presents the story of a father immigrating to a new land. His alienation and solitude is reflected in the way he perceives the new land- as something out of myth and fancy and populated with fantastical creatures. The sepia-tone colour schemes that evoke old-fashioned aesthetics further make the journey surreal and unforgettable.

4. Beasts of Burden created by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson: If you’re an animal lover, then you can’t give this series a miss. The stories feature a team of intelligent dogs and cats who investigate various paranormal happenings in their neighbourhood and contain elements of adventure, humour and slight horror as well. If you’re looking for some genuinely delightful fun and good storytelling, then these stories will not disappoint you.

5. The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman is one of the big names in the graphic novel industry along with Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Frank Miller and is known mostly for his ten-volume Sandman series and its various spin-offs. But he is also the author of several novels, short story collections and other graphic novels. The Last Temptation is a collaborative comic book  between Gaiman and rock singer Alice Cooper and features a boy named Steven who is afraid of everything until he meets the mysterious Showman and his ‘Theater of the Real’. Steven must now learn to conquer his fears and use his powers of imagination to escape the nightmarish travelling show and save his life. Beautifully rendered in black and white, this comic is best experienced listening to Cooper’s concept album of the same name.

What are your favourite graphic novels? Let us know in the comments below!