Graphic Novels Set in New York City

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Happy birthday to comic book legend Jack Kirby. We have the artist to thank for our modern imagining of superheroes, many which Kirby co-created with editor Stan Lee and imbued with human characteristics (the Hulk, for starters). The New York City-born Kirby’s surroundings influenced his vision of comic book rooftop battles, which were inspired by the real-life thuggish neighborhood characters he grew up around that would chase each other on the rooftops of his apartment building and fight. For more New York City-inspired stories, here are several other graphic novels that take the setting and vibe of the Big Apple into consideration.

Comix icon Robert Crumb was illustrating his character Fritz the Cat as early as the 1950s when he was only 16 years old, but the naughty con-artist feline appeared in the men’s magazine Cavalier and Help! during the mid 1960s. The character gained a fan following for his bad-boy behavior. The comix version is set in a “supercity” inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, but filmmaker Ralph Bakshi’s adaptation of the counterculture tale brought the raunchy cat to New York City.

A Contract with God by Will Eisner was published in 1978 and explores the lives of Jewish characters in a tenement house.

David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik’s City of Glass adapts Paul Auster’s novella of the same name — a metafictional, surreal detective tale that is one part of the author’s New York Trilogy.

From The Hairpin’s review of Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary:

The book is a series of true stories: the first time Julie has sex, her year at a junior arts college in Montreal, and her years living in New York struggling to work while living with a truly terrible boyfriend. She meets artists she admires and is afraid to leave her apartment and misses the cat and friends she left behind in Montreal. I re-read it in one sitting and thought, again, about how true everything in the book feels; more than just labelling it a true story, the book feels very honest, which are two different things. Like she figured out a way to tell us something real while also telling something personal.

Joey Esposito’s slice-of-life story about the intersecting lives of four NYC strangers who connect at a pawn shop captures the ebb and flow of city life.

Cyberpunk in the big city, with a cynical antihero battling political and social corruption. From the Guardian:

Get ready to have your stomach turned by the picture of our political life Transmetropolitan offers. Spider Jerusalem is the antihero: a shaven-headed, heavily inked journalist who spends much of the story wearing only pants (he’s not an easy character to forget). Jerusalem is something of a homage to Hunter S Thompson, but also a portrait of his creator Warren Ellis – a political activist who can’t resist calling out the powers that be on their brands of bullshit.

Superhero Mitchell Hundred becomes the Mayor New York city after the heroism he displayed during 9/11 and deals with the ups and downs of his political career and mystery behind his powers in Ex Machina. Creator Brian Vaughan has said that the story was “born out of [his] anger with what passes for our current political leadership (on both sides of the aisle).”