The animal kingdom is a diverse panoply of organisms, with human beings representing just one point on a broad lattice of creatures that run, swim, crawl, and fly. Humankind's fascination with the world's fauna has persisted for centuries, yet despite ample progress in understanding their ways of life, animals can still elicit wonder and intrigue. When comics focus on animals (and don’t just make them analogues of humans), creators have chosen different ways to tell their stories by employing various narrative devices. When humans and animals interact, comics often reflect the complicated relationship that exists in real life between man and beast. So take a walk on the wild side with these 10 animal comics.
Life in the jungle is unforgiving, even for alpha predators. Brremaud and Bertolucci offer a fictional glimpse into the daily life of a tiger in their wordless graphic novel, the first in a series depicting animals in their natural habitats. The titular tiger spends its days both hunting its prey and defending its territory, all beautifully rendered in Bertolucci’s lush visuals. Winner of the Special Jury Award at the 2011 Lucca Comics Festival.
Humanity’s relationship with animals is thrown into sharp relief when animals can think and talk as they do in Hines’s 400-page debut opus. The book (the first in a planned series) sees animals fighting for a more equitable place in society, even engaging in terrorist activities to have their voices heard. The book’s nuanced prodding of morality made it a critical darling and earned Hines the 2009 Xeric Award.
A diminutive dinosaur survives extinction and interacts with creatures of a more modern era in Tanaka’s wordless series. Despite his size, Gon is remarkably powerful and resilient, and he uses his power to protect small, friendly animals from big, menacing predators. In addition to a lack of words, Tanaka also eschews onomatopoetic words, relying solely on images to tell the story.
Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business”
During Fraction and Aja’s popular run of Hawkeye, an entire issue was told from the viewpoint of Clint’s dog, Lucky (a.k.a. Pizza Dog). While Lucky can only pick out a small number of words, Fraction and letterer Chris Eliopoulos communicate the dog’s thoughts and motivations through a series of pictographs, offering an innovative and surprisingly entertaining method of storytelling.
Chi's Sweet Home
A stray kitten becomes separated from her family and ends up in the care of a young boy and his family who live in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets. The precocious Chi is enthralled by her new domestic life, interacting with her new owners and other animals to comedic effect. An animated series of shorts based on the manga aired on Japanese TV in 2008 and 2009, and a recently announced 3D computer generated animation series will begin airing in Fall 2016.
Age of Reptiles
Delgado’s wordless epic follows carnivorous dinosaurs during the Mesozoic and Cretaceous eras. Like Gon, the series is devoid of any words or written sound effects, instead using Delgado’s highly detailed artwork to convey the plot, which frequently finds its saurian subjects embroiled in brutal combat. For his work on the series, Delgado received the Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition in 1997.
Inspired by the true story of four lions that were freed after the zoo they lived in was destroyed during the Iraq War in 2003. As the lions roam the war-torn streets in search of food, they contemplate freedom and liberation, thus commenting on the geopolitics and morality of the U.S.-led invasion.
A middle-aged man in ill health becomes homeless and decides to go on a road trip with his dog, Happie. The situation deteriorates as the trip goes on, yet Happie’s chipper attitude and unconditional love offer his owner a slim ray of happiness. The touching story (told from Happie’s point of view) became a bestseller in Japan and was adapted into a live action film in 2011.
A dog, cat, and rabbit that were military prototypes escape captivity and use their weaponized exoskeletons to outrun and overcome their pursuers. Neural implants allow the animals (known as We3) to primitively speak with people they encounter in the outside world as they discover the cruel meaning behind their existence. The book stands out for its poignant story and Quitely’s kinetic visuals.
After the death of her own offspring, a tanuki (raccoon dog) comes upon an abandoned baby boy and decides to raise him as her own. As the boy, named Taroza, grows, he becomes fully acclimated to the animal world, taking up their plight and uniting the many fractured tribes of animals. Winner of the 37th Kodansha Manga Award for Best Children’s Manga in 2013.